It’s the last few weeks in January and for film lovers around the world, that means one thing in particular – a new Sundance Film Festival. Every year, patrons venture to the frosty mountains of Park City – or tune in online during a pandemic – to catch a first look at the freshest and hottest new independent films. And this year, an impressive virtual lineup once again promises a smorgasbord of cinematic delights which we’ll be talking about for the rest of 2022 and beyond. With little over a day to go, most attendees would already have their schedule locked in. But for those who are still making the final decisions, here are 22 intriguing films we have our eyes on:
Sundance has long been known as a major launchpad for new American directors and for good reason. Across the US Dramatic Competition and Premieres sections this year, there are several promising filmmakers making their debut and vying to be the next Jordan Peele or Ryan Coogler. Having already secured US distribution, Alice could be such a breakout for director Krystin Ver Linden and star Keke Palmer, who plays an enslaved woman who becomes aware that she is actually living in the year 1973. If you’re a fan of Regina Hall, then Sundance has a perfect double feature for you courtesy of Mariama Diallo’s Master and Adamma Ebo’s Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul. Meanwhile, Jesse Eisenberg makes his directorial debut with When You Finish Saving the World, an A24 pickup starring Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard as a mother and son with clashing personalities.
And if you’re still craving more star power, John Boyega headlines Abi Damaris Corbin’s 892, based on the true story of a US marine veteran who is driven over the edge. Finally, Bradley Rust Gray’s blood should quieter counter-programming with a poignant story about a young European widow (Carla Juri) coming to terms with love and loss in Japan.
While the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section arguably draws the least attention at Sundance, this slate has historically premiered some of the most outstanding films, including The Souvenir and Animal Kingdom. At the top of this section’s most anticipated list is Goran Stolevski’s You Won’t Be Alone, starring the always compelling Noomi Rapace in a witchy horror tale set in 19th century Macedonia. Also generating early buzz is Gabriel Martins’ Mars One from Brazil, depicting the lives of a Black family as they cope with their increasingly intolerant society. Latin America will also be represented by the Bolivian drama Utama, in which an elderly indigenous couple is threatened by an extensive period of drought.
From Europe, two films to get excited about are British comedy Brian and Charles and the Finnish coming-of-ager Girl Picture. And if you’re looking for daring Asian cinema, look no further than Martika Ramirez Escobar’s Leonor Will Never Die, about a filmmaker who becomes an action hero after a television falls on her head.
Any Sundance veteran will tell you that the festival’s documentaries are consistently some of the strongest films on offer. And this year’s non-fiction slate once again features an enticing selection of gems from across the world. Kicking off the fest with coveted Day One screenings are Alon Schwarz’ Tantura, Ed Perkins’ The Princess and Fire of Love, exploring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Princess Diana and an ill-fated couple who are volcanologists. Another hot ticket is The Janes from Oscar nominee Tia Lessin, which recalls the early fight for safe and legal abortions in the 1970s. And finally, two of the most culturally relevant films of the festival are sure to be Shalini Kantayya’s TikTok, Boom and Joe Hunting’s We Met in Virtual Reality, about the popular social media app and finding love in a virtual world respectively.
If you’re looking to head off the beaten path at Sundance, then the Midnight and NEXT sections are the ones for you. Showcasing genre fare and more idiosyncratic storytelling, these sections have premiered the likes of Cryptozoo, His House and Selah and the Spades in recent years. This year’s crop includes a pair of fascinating horror films with Mimi Cave’s Fresh and Carlota Pereda’s Piggy, telling provocative stories about modern dating and bullying. In a case of “you’d have to see it to believe it,” Sierra Pettengill’s Riotsville, USA looks at the bizarre creation of a fictional town by the US military in the 1960s. And finally, you won’t want to miss Max Walker Silverman’s A Love Song, which stars beloved character Dale Dickey in a rare leading role opposite the equally esteemed Wes Studi.
Staye tuned to Awards Radar for coverage of these and more titles at the Sundance Film Festival from January 20th to 30th, 2022.