On January 19, eleven films will open the first in-person Sundance Film Festival since 2020. After the first five days, around three quarters of the program of 101 features will be available online through the day the 2023 edition wraps, January 29. Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente tells the Hollywood Reporter’s Mia Galuppo that, after two virtual editions, the team will “prioritize” the sort of social event that will allow filmmakers and attendees to mingle in Park City—but they still want to carry on reaching out to audiences that, for whatever reason, can’t make it up to the Utah mountain resort.
The U.S. Dramatic Competition will open with Sometimes I Think About Dying, directed by Rachel Lambert (In the Radiant City) and starring coproducer Daisy Ridley as an introverted office worker. This is the second adaptation of cowriter Kevin Armento’s play Killers, and reviewing the 2019 short for Eye for Film, Jennie Kermode noted that it “explores a kind of horror rarely touched upon in cinema: the empty ache of anhedonia.”
Teaming up with A24, Barry Jenkins and Adele Romanski are coproducing Raven Jackson’s first feature, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, a life-spanning portrait of a Black woman in the American South. “It’s such a complete artistic achievement by a first-time filmmaker who is really taking risks in telling a poetic story in Mississippi,” Sundance program director Kim Yutani tells IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. “It’s a film that takes its time in how it unfolds across several decades.”
Erica Tremblay (Reservation Dogs) directs Lily Gladstone (Certain Women,Killers of the Flower Moon) in Fancy Dance, the story of a Native American hustler who kidnaps her niece from the child’s white grandparents. “Building from my own experiences as an Indigenous and queer woman and drawing from the stories of my relatives, Fancy Dance offers a spotlight on the matriarchal bonds that hold our communities together,” Tremblay told Deadline in August.
Actor and comedian Randall Park, who starred in Fresh Off the Boat and appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Agent Jimmy Woo, is making his directorial debut with an adaptation of Shortcomings, the 2007 graphic novel about three Asian American friends by Adrian Tomine, who wrote the screenplay. “Tomine has always been attracted to love gone wrong among the hesitant young men and women of the bourgeois-bohemian set, but he gets his subject across in the unsentimental style of an anthropologist’s report,” wrote Jim Windolf in his review of the book for the New York Times. “I’ve just been obsessed with [Shortcomings] since the day it came out,” Park told Forbes’ Rob Salkowitz last year.
Lisa Cortés’s Little Richard: I Am Everything will open the U.S. Documentary Competition, which will include Amanda Kim’s Nam June Paik: Moon is the Oldest TV and Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project. In Joonam, filmmaker Sierra Urich spends a summer with her mother Mitra and grandmother Behjat and explores her own identity. Joonam is one of three films in the festival’s lineup by Iranian women; the other two are Maryam Keshavarz’s The Persian Version (U.S. Dramatic Competition) and Noora Niasari’s Shayda, which will open the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. In Niasari’s debut feature, a young Iranian mother and her six-year-old daughter take refuge in an Australian women’s shelter.
Another eye-catcher lined up for this competition is Bad Behaviour, the debut feature from Alice Englert, an accomplished actress who happens to be Jane Campion’s daughter. Jennifer Connelly plays a former child actor who seeks enlightenment from a spiritual leader played by Ben Whishaw. The World Cinema Documentary Competition features two films from Ukraine, Mstyslav Chernov’s 20 Days in Mariupol and Roman Liubyi’s Iron Butterflies, an investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
NEXT, the program for more formally adventurous fare, will open with Kim’s Video, David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s documentary tracking a quest to find the 55,000-title collection believed to have been lost in Sicily. Steven Soderbergh produces Eddie Alcazar’s Divinity, the story of two brothers (Moises Arias and Jason Genao) who abduct a mogul (Stephen Dorff) during his quest for immortality. Soderbergh and Alcazar last teamed up on Perfect, which premiered at SXSW in 2018. The Midnight program will open with Laura Moss’s birth/rebirth, in which a single mother and a morgue technician reanimate a dead little girl. Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth star in Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool as a couple vacationing at an all-inclusive island resort when weird and terrible things start to happen.
Alexandria Bombach’s Indigo Girls documentary It’s Only Life After All is one of two films that will open Premieres, the festival’s starriest section. The other is The Pod Generation, a speculative fiction starring Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor and directed by Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls). William Oldroyd (Lady Macbeth) directs an adaptation of Ottessa Moshfegh’s 2015 novel Eileen. Thomasin McKenzie stars as a secretary working at a Massachusetts prison in 1964 when she befriends a counselor (Anne Hathaway) with a dark secret.
Cat Person is Susanna Fogel’s adaptation of Kristen Roupenian’s viral New Yorker short story, and the cast features Hope Davis and Isabella Rossellini. Anthony Chen, who won the Camera d’Or in Cannes for Ilo Ilo (2013), directs Cynthia Erivo, Alia Shawkat, and Honor Swinton Byrne in Drift, his first English-language feature. Erivo plays a refugee starting over on a Greek island.
Franz Rogowski and Ben Whishaw play longtime lovers who strike up an affair with a woman (Adèle Exarchopoulos) in Ira Sachs’s Passages. Another hot ticket will surely be Nicole Holofcener’s new comedy, You Hurt My Feelings, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as a New York novelist who happens to overhear her husband admitting that it’s been years since he’s actually liked anything she’s written.
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