Let the Winter Festivities Begin

Richard Beymer’s The Innerview (1973)

Joana Vicente, CEO of Sundance Institute, tells the Los Angeles TimesMark Olsen that the festival “kind of sets the tone for the year.” Whether or not the tone for all of 2023 will be set over the next eleven days, Sundance, quickly followed by Rotterdam and Berlin, does launch the winter festival season. Opening today, Sundance will be an in-person-only event for the first five days before most of the lineup becomes available online starting next Tuesday. Contributors to the Film Stage, the Guardian,Hammer to Nail,IndieWire, the Playlist,ScreenAnarchy, and Women and Hollywood have put together annotated lists of the titles they’re most looking forward to catching.

Among the features turning up on more than a couple of these lists are Eddie Alcazar’s Divinity, a dystopian vision driven by a quest for a serum that promises immortality; Savanah Leaf’s A24-backed debut feature, Earth Mama, a portrait of a single mother struggling for her children’s future; Eileen, an adaptation of Ottessa Moshfegh’s 2015 novel starring Thomasin McKenzie and Anne Hathaway and directed by William Oldroyd (Lady Macbeth); and Raven Jackson’s All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, the childhood-to-adulthood story of a Black woman in Mississippi.

The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee finds “something uniquely intriguing about a young director who changes tack with each of their movies, refusing to stick to one genre or tone.” Cory Finley debuted with Thoroughbreds (2017), “a Heathers-adjacent dark comedy,” and returned two years later with the public school embezzlement drama Bad Education. This year’s Landscape with Invisible Hand is “an ambitious sci-fi satire about a future where aliens control the world by only giving their advanced tech to the wealthiest humans.”

For Variety, Martin Dale talks with the team behind Drift, starring Cynthia Erivo as a Liberian refugee who befriends an American tour guide (Alia Shawkat) on a Greek island. Discussing his work with Erivo, director Anthony Chen, who won the Camera d’Or in Cannes for Ilo Ilo (2013), says that “when an actor comes in and inhabits a character completely and takes over, and you just see her blossom, you’re so moved. There have been a couple of times where I was moved to tears on set, because I think it’s a very brave, very generous, a very naked performance.”

The documentary mentioned most often is Kim’s Video, in which David Redmon and Ashley Sabin tell the story of what happened to the 55,000-title collection of tapes and DVDs after the three New York stores closed. “Palpably directed by people who paid for their film education in Kim’s rental fees,” writes IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, “and steeped in the genres that Kim’s made it possible for its customers to devour en masse, Kim’s Video offers a surprising look at the role that movies can play in our lives apart from the time we spend watching them.”


On January 25, a few days before Sundance wraps on the 29th, Rotterdam will open with Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken’s Munch, which presents four chapters from the life of Edvard Munch, each written by a different screenwriter and featuring a different actor portraying the Norwegian painter. Alongside the Tiger and Big Screen competitions and conversations with cinematographer Hélène Louvart and directors Steve McQueen and Albert Serra, the festival will showcase emerging talent in its Bright Future program.

The Limelight section is front-loaded with some of last year’s most critically acclaimed works—Jafar Panahi’s No Bears, Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO, Joanna Hogg’s The Eternal Daughter, and so on—but also offers a handful of world premieres, including Muayad Alayan’s third feature, A House in Jerusalem. A young British girl, Rebecca, and her father move to her grandfather’s home in a Jerusalem neighborhood known as the Valley of the Ghosts. One day, Rebecca discovers that another girl her age is already living there.

One highlight of the Cinema Regained program of fresh revivals will be Richard Beymer’s The Innerview (1973). Beymer played Tony in Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s West Side Story (1961) before turning his back on Hollywood to make documentaries. Even after he returned to acting—he played Ben Horne in all three seasons of Twin Peaks—he carried on revising The Innerview. Renowned preservationist Ross Lipman calls this unclassifiable experiment “one of my most challenging and exciting restoration projects to date . . . At times the film evokes thoughts of Bruce Conner, Bruce Baillie, Jack Smith, or Barbara Rubin, at other times ribs if not skewers his own Hollywood past. But in the end it’s its own thing entirely.”


In the run-up to Monday’s presentation of the Competition and Encounters lineups, the Berlinale has spent this week filling out the programs for its other sections. Forum organizers note that this year’s features “can be loosely divided into two groups: films that pare down their narratives, avoid big dramatic shifts and give a key role to the composure of camerawork and montage on the one hand and those with a penchant for the absurd on the other.” Yui Kiyohara’s Remembering Every Night, falling into the former category, is a study of the daily lives of three suburban women, while Melisa Liebenthal’s The Face of the Jellyfish is a comedy about a woman who literally loses her face.

More Forum highlights include James Benning’s Allensworth, a study of California’s first self-administered Black municipality; Claire Simon’s Our Body, an exploration of a gynecological clinic in Paris; Luke Fowler’s Being in a Place: A Portrait of Margaret Tait; Dick Fontaine’s I Heard It Through the Grapevine, which follows James Baldwin’s tour of sites in the American South that played a key role in the civil rights struggle; and Forms of Forgetting, an attempt at reconstructing a relationship from Burak Çevik, one of the three filmmakers behind last year’s A Woman Escapes.

Forum Expanded, both an exhibition and a film program, will present new work from Deborah Stratman, Kevin Jerome Everson, and Ana Vaz as well as a restoration of Yvonne Rainer’s The Man Who Envied Women (1985) and an installation of video works by Takahiko Iimura, the pioneering artist who passed away last summer. Lineups are also set for Generation, the section programmed for younger viewers, and Panorama, the audience-friendly strand with a political bent. The Berlinale’s seventy-third edition will run from February 16 through 26, and the film program for the separate but complementary Berlin Critics’ Week is now set and features work by Masao Adachi, Sharon Lockhart, Raúl Ruiz, and Shinji Higuchi.

And Beyond

Taking a quick glance further down the calendar, let’s note that Locarno (August 2 through 12) has just announced that its retrospective, Spectacle Every Day: The Many Seasons of Mexican Popular Cinema, will be “an in-depth exploration of film production in Mexico from the 1940s to the 1960s, three decades of exceptional creativity populated by screen gods and goddess and extraordinary filmmakers that have inspired subsequent generations of moviegoers.” And the New York Film Festival has announced dates for its sixty-first edition: September 29 through October 15. Artistic director Dennis Lim will have a new teammate in Matt Bolish, who has been appointed to the newly created position of managing director. Former NYFF director Eugene Hernandez will be the new director at Sundance when the festival presents its fortieth anniversary edition next year.

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