Sundance is upon us once again. In this virtual world, I am looking to a break from my ‘day job’ work to partake in the festival atmosphere.
Below I share a list of films on my list so far. For those able to attend virtually, in the USA, I hope we can partake in the festival energy together even if remotely.
In no particular order, except by date, here are my picks.
FLEE (Dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen)
An Afghan refugee agrees to tell a remarkable personal narrative of persecution and escape on the condition that his identity not be revealed. As a means of fulfilling that wish, his filmmaker friend uses striking animation to not only protect this young man but also enhance his tale, bending time and memory to recount a visceral, poetic, and death-defying journey dictated by deception, loneliness, and a relentless will to survive.
The film is part documentary and archival footage mixed with ’80s pop music and hand-drawn scenes. Sounds quite interesting to me.
HOMEROOM (Dir. Peter Nicks)
Oakland High School’s class of 2020 confronts an unprecedented year. Anxiety over test scores and college applications gives way to uncertainty springing from a rapidly developing pandemic. Efforts to eliminate the school district’s police force unfold against the backdrop of growing nationwide demands for systemic change.
The film’s synopsis piqued my interest. I am looking forward to this.
RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT
(Dir. Mariem Pérez Riera)
Talented, energetic, and full of joy, Rita Moreno has been dazzling audiences for over 70 years. Whether showcased on television, film, or stage, her artistry transcends singing, dancing, and acting, as she continuously reinvents herself and pushes creative limits. Moreno is a pioneer and one of the most authentic performers of our time, and she has the EGOT status to prove it.
Ms. Moreno is an icon in her own right, there was no way I miss this film.
WILD INDIAN (Dir. Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.)
Makwa, a young Anishinaabe boy, has a rough life. He often appears at school with bruises he says he got falling down, but no one believes him. He and his only friend, Ted-O, like to escape by playing in the woods, until the day Makwa shockingly murders a schoolmate. After covering up the crime, the two boys go on to live very different lives. Now, as adult men, they must face the truth of what they have done and what they have become.
This is the first feature by Corbine, which I am curious about. It also stars Michael Greyeyes, whose work I respect and never disappoints.
THE DOG WHO WOULDN’T BE QUIET (Dir. Ana Katz)
Sebastian politely faces his neighbors, who complain about his dog’s cries, and similarly reacts to his employers, who forbid pets in the workplace. A series of peculiar and challenging moments like this follow as Sebastian changes jobs and reconnects with his mother. At one point, along with the new responsibility of being a father, Sebastian must contend with an unknown pandemic—one that requires the bizarre preventive measures of walking crouched down and wearing expensive bubble headgear
I’m going by the film’s description here, which I often do. I also like to support filmmakers from Latinamerica as often as possible.
NIGHT OF THE KINGS (Dir. Philippe Lacôte)
A new arrival at Ivory Coast’s infamous MACA prison is quickly anointed the institution’s “Roman”—a griot instructed to tell stories for the population at the command of reigning inmate king, the ailing Blackbeard. Roman must ascertain his place in the prison’s dangerously shifting inmate politics, embrace his inner Scheherazade, and weave a tale that will get them all through the night and stave off impending chaos.
This film has has won accolade at major festivals, since premiering at the Venice International Film Festival. I have heard so many good things about this film.
AMY TAN: UNINTENDED MEMOIR (Dir. James Redford)
Literary titan Amy Tan analyzes her life, her work, and her family—in the present and past tense. As Tan traces her childhood through The Joy Luck Club and her later compositions, she dissects issues of representation, multigenerational trauma, and the stigma and challenge of illness. The film moves through generations of Tan’s family.
I have been a fan of Tan’s writing for some time. Another woman whose work I admire.
SON OF MONARCHS (Dir. Alexis Gambis)
Enchanted by the monarch butterflies of Michoacán, Mexico, since he was a child, Mendel (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) dedicates his career as a scientist in New York to mapping out the monarch’s genetics. But he is haunted by flashbacks of being orphaned alongside his older brother, Simon, when their parents died in a flood. When Mendel travels home to attend the funeral of his grandmother, it’s clear Simon harbors deep resentment toward him for having left.
As a science major, I am curious about this film. As a fan of Tenoch Huerta Mejía’s work, I am curious to see him in a leading role.
I have other film titles on my list, including short films, which I hope I get to screen and share with you all.
For festival details like schedule and passes, please visit sundance.org.