New Discoveries & Innovative Cinema at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival | FirstShowing.net

New Discoveries & Innovative Cinema at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival

by Alex Billington
May 15, 2024

Another year, another Cannes Film Festival. The 77th Festival International du Film de Cannes has begun this week in the South of France in the lovely beach city of Cannes on the Mediterranean coast. We’re back again, along with thousands (and thousands) of film critics, journalists, cinephiles, industry members, filmmakers, students, and more. Cannes remains the BIGGEST film festival in the world, not only with the most prestigious line-up and the most attendees. It’s always an exciting time, just to be here in the midst of it all. In the weeks leading up to Cannes, it’s particularity challenging to gauge whether everyone is actually excited about coming back, or if there’s some other controversy or snag that will disrupt the festival… With its pandemic years now in the rear-view, Cannes is powering forward with another full-on, fireworks-filled two week celebration of the power of cinema. Artistic director Thierry Frémaux also stated during the announcement of the official selection that due to the strikes in Hollywood last year, there are not as many American films, but there are plenty of other new discoveries and surprises ready to shine on the big screen.

Every year when I return to Cannes (or Venice or Sundance) I always wonder, is it still possible to innovate anymore in cinema? With limitations on production, budgetary problems, changes in the industry, many major crises around the world, can cinema still remain relevant and reinvent what visual art can be? Yes, of course! Cannes is the place to be in May every year because they still have the power to program and screen some of the best films that really are innovative & exhilarating. Of course, they’re showing George Miller’s Furiosa and Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis, two new creations made by Cannes veterans already well known as masterminds of cinema. Yet here they are, returning again decades later to the Croisette, still challenging cinema as we know it with movies that are visually stunning and hard to pull off. It’s important to be in Cannes because it’s the right place to be to get a first look at all this fresh new cinema. Maybe that small film from India might be the most innovative creation? Maybe some other film from no one expected to matter will blow us all away? Better to be here now and find out before any of the marketing kicks in, to go in with an open mind and hope Cannes has brought some truly great filmmakers from around the world.

There’s an interesting quote in a very dour Cannes postmortem article published by Roger Ebert in 2010. He ends his wrap-up saying: “I’ve been to 35 festivals in Cannes. I’ll tell you the truth. I doubt if there will even be a Cannes Film Festival in another 35 years. If there is, it will have little to do with the kinds of films and audiences we grew up treasuring. More and more, I’m feeling it’s goodbye to all that.” Well, first things first, it’s 14 years later and Cannes is still going strong. However, he does bring up a good point – is Cannes moving in a good direction, are they still playing these kind of films that “we grew up treasuring”? Or have they drifted off course? Everyone seems to have a different answer. One thing is for sure – there’s absolutely way too much French control over Cannes these days, with the country’s films dominating the line-up but also everything else about how the festival runs (e.g. no Netflix films because of archaic, oppressive laws about films playing in cinemas in France). However, I do believe that Cannes does still make its mark by having first dibs on incredible movies and giving them a chance to reach audiences by showing them to the huge number of attendees these two weeks. I do hope they don’t drift too far off course in the next decade…

In terms of my most anticipated films at Cannes 2024, aside from Furiosa and Megalopolis, there’s a handful of others I cannot wait to watch. I have high hopes for the two big horror films in the competition line-up: David Cronenberg’s The Shrouds (teaser trailer here) and Coralie Fargeat’s The Substance. I’m always looking forward to animation in Cannes, including Claude Barras’s Sauvages, Yôko Kuno & Nobuhiro Yamashita’s Ghost Cat Anzu (teaser trailer here), Michel Hazanavicius’ The Most Precious of Cargoes, and Gints Zilbalodis’ Flow. As a big fan of her 2017 film I Am Not a Witch, I’m excited to watch Rungano Nyoni’s On Becoming a Guinea Fowl. I’ve also got a really good feeling about all of these films playing at the festival this year: Jacques Audiard’s Emilia Perez, Zhangke Jia’s Caught by the Tides, Ali Abbasi’s The Apprentice, Mohammad Rasoulof’s The Seed of the Sacred Fig, Payal Kapadia’s All We Imagine as Light (teaser trailer here), Sean Baker’s Anora, and Paolo Sorrentino’s Parthenope (which was already picked up by A24). The rest we’ll have to wait and see and find out if they’re any good (or not).

I invite you to please follow along as I make my way from screening to screening at #Cannes2024, watching films from all kinds of different countries, catching up with friends and colleagues. And please make sure to follow updates, read reviews, and keep an eye on all of the film critics / journalists in Cannes this year. One thing I love about this festival is that it brings us all together! We fly in to be here at the same time. There’s different voices, different takes, different kinds of coverage, different reviews, always more to read, always more to consider. As strange as it is to say this out loud, I do love arguing about films here! Sometimes it’s fun to have a healthy debate, sometimes it’s fun to disagree about a new film, sometime it’s interesting to think about what someone else saw in a film, and how their interpretation is different (or similar). Festivals should always be about this kind of intriguing discussion, encouraging a vivacious discourse, where any/all voices can participate in the conversation about cinema. Thankfully the Cannes Film Festival is a beautiful place where conversations happen on every street, in bars, in restaurants, in apartments, and yes even in queues for the next screening. I’m ready to start watching, dedicating myself fully to two full weeks of films.

You can follow all of my Cannes 2024 coverage and reviews right here and on my Letterboxd with ratings and thoughts posted daily. I’m also still on Twitter @firstshowing. The festival begins on May 14th and runs until May 25th, and I’ll be watching as much as I can while the films are still playing on the screens in town.

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Top 10 Most Anticipated Films at Sundance 2024 – Cinema in the Snow | FirstShowing.net

Top 10 Most Anticipated Films at Sundance 2024 – Cinema in the Snow

by Alex Billington
January 16, 2024
Source: Sundance.org

It’s January again, which means it’s time for yet another Sundance Film Festival. The 2024 festival is about to kick off in a few days, and FS is back in Utah, ready to start watching. Ready to dive into the enthralling line-up of new films this year. This is the 18th time we have covered Sundance, ever since 2007, bringing attention to good films and the festival experience. I am always looking forward to wading through all the good films the fest. Packing in as many as I can catch. Out of the 90+ films showing at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, I’ve picked 10 films that I’m looking forward to the most. To keep things well balanced, I’ve chosen 5 feature films and 5 documentaries from the line-up. For 2024, the fest has once again programmed a compelling selection of unknown directors, first-time filmmakers, and potential hits that could breakout. As usual with Sundance, you never can really tell what’ll good or bad before watching anything, but here’s my early picks anyway. I recommend adding these 10 films to your festival schedule / or to your watchlist.

For the full line-up of films showing at Sundance 2024 – click here. Follow my reviews on Letterboxd. This will be my 18th year in a row covering Sundance, starting back in 2007 then ever since. I’m still excited to be watching the latest indie films, even from afar, and I’m hoping there’s some good discoveries despite the chaotic times we’re living in. The fest is just about to begin, here’s my Top 10 most anticipated 2024 films.

Alex’s Most Anticipated ~Sundance 2024~ Feature Films:

Exhibiting Forgiveness
Exhibiting Forgiveness
Directed by Titus Kaphar

This is perhaps my most anticipated film at Sundance 2024 because it really feels like it’s going to be one of this year’s cinema gems that will go on to have a beautiful life beyond the festival. It’s the feature directorial debut of an artist named Titus Kaphar, starring André Holland, John Earl Jelks, Andra Day, and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor. What it’s about: “Utilizing his paintings to find freedom from his past, a Black artist on the path to success is derailed by an unexpected visit from his estranged father, a recovering addict desperate to reconcile. Together, they learn that forgetting might be a greater challenge than forgiving.” Yep that sounds like it’s going to be a winner. Sundance adds: “this soulful, sophisticated, and beautifully crafted debut feature blossoms a hard-to-tell story about destructive parenting, the seasons of angst weathered by an abused child becoming a successful human being, and the deep meaning and salve of creative practice.” I’ve heard enough! I’ve got my ticket, ready to watch this with the Sundance audience at the world premiere.

Love Me
Love Me
Directed by Sam Zuchero & Andy Zuchero

This is my favorite “wait, what?!” film of the festival line-up this year (since there’s quite a few). Here’s the synopsis: “Long after humanity’s extinction, a buoy and a satellite meet online and fall in love.” Okayyy I’m sold. I’ll be at the world premiere. I have to find out what this is, I have to see where story goes, I have to see how they visualize this in a film. The strange thing is it’s not just beeping machines, there are actors playing the two main roles: Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun. I’m not sure which is playing which, the satellite or the buoy, but I’m intrigued to find out and watch their performances. Sundance drops this nice tease: “[the film’s] whimsically philosophical, shape-shifting structure ingeniously weaves together the real, the virtual, and the surreal.” Adding that after collecting data for all these years: “Awash in these mediated experiences and fabricated expressions of love and identity, they yearn to understand who they are, whether their feelings are real, and for that matter, whether they are real.” My kind of intelligent cinema – can’t wait.

My Old Ass
My Old Ass
Directed by Megan Park

Another favorite Sundance trope is: a stuck-in-life character reexamines themselves after going through a major (and usually hilarious) mind-opening experience. This one sounds like a fun one: “The summer before college, bright-yet-irreverent Elliott comes face-to-face with her older self during a mushroom trip. The encounter spurs a funny and heartfelt journey of self-discovery and first love as Elliott prepares to leave her childhood home.” So it’s about a woman encountering her older self and ending up on a coming-of-age love story journey. It could perhaps be another a lo-fi sci-fi concept, similar to the Sundance 2021 film How It Ends, but it actually just seems like another drug trip film with all the usual rediscover-yourself bells and whistles. Sundance adds this tidbit about the cast that should convince anyone to watch: “Maisy Stella and Aubrey Plaza have a terrific unlikely chemistry, as the sass and self-assuredness of the young Elliott, as played by Stella, blends and overlaps with Plaza’s sardonic humor as a more mature Elliott.” Yep I’m there.

Thelma
Thelma
Directed by Josh Margolin

A 93-year-old gets revenge! Ha! I’m all for this, it sounds like such a fun time, just the kind of film we all need right now. June Squibb taking on her first lead role in her very long career as an actor is incredible! I’m still amazed that this is even true. “When 93-year-old Thelma Post gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson, she sets out on a treacherous quest across the city to reclaim what was taken from her.” Best part about this is it’s inspired by the filmmaker’s own grandmother, named Thelma, though I’m not quite sure if that actually means she went out for revenge and found the guys who scammed her, too. This is beginning a pretty common plot (Jason Statham’s The Beekeeper is also about him getting revenge on old person scammers) but I have a very good feeling this film is going to handle it just right, letting the actual elderly person (who got scammed) be the star of the show as she goes out on her own to make her mark. I definitely won’t be missing this – I think audiences at the festival are going to flip for this film, too.

Sasquatch Sunset
Sasquatch Sunset
Directed by David Zellner & Nathan Zellner

Wait, what?! A whole film about a Sasquatch family? With people in suits playing the Sasquatches the entire time? Get out of here! This is the kind of weird, wacky, have-to-see-it Sundance film that I love discovering and experiencing with an audience during the festival. The description is purposefully vague: “A year in the life of a singular family.” But early word is that it is as bonkers as we’re all hoping, and sticks close to the premise. More from one early review: “Sasquatch Sunset may be entirely conveyed through errant grunts, failed sexual overtures, and prolific amounts of pissing and shitting, but it somehow manages to cohere into a heartbreaking — and all too human — story about a species oblivious to its own demise.” If you need any more convicning this is worth seeing, the family of Sasquatches is played by actors Jesse Eisenberg, Riley Keough, Nathan Zellner, and Christophe Zacaj-Denek – all completely unrecognizable under their make-up and costumes. Yes, for the whole film. Yep, I’ve got my ticket for the premiere already ready to go.

Other Feature Films I’m Looking Forward To: The Outrun with Saoirse Ronan, Steven Soderbergh’s Presence, Thea Hvistendahl’s Handling the Undead, Jane Schoenbrun’s I Saw the TV Glow, the midnight horror In a Violent Nature, Krazy House with Nick Frost & Alicia Silverstone, Realm of Satan, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Rob Peace, Mikko Makela’s Sebastian, Stress Positions, Suncoast, Tendaberry, The Moogai, The American Society of Magical Negroes (view a trailer), Freaky Tales, A Different Man with Sebastian Stan.

Alex’s Most Anticipated ~Sundance 2024~ Documentaries:

A New Kind of Wilderness
A New Kind of Wilderness
Directed by Silje Evensmo Jacobsen

I am a HUGE fan of the Sundance 2016 film Captain Fantastic, it’s one of my all-time favorites for many reasons (my original review). It seems a bit of an obvious pick for Sundance to now program A New Kind of Wilderness, which sounds exactly like the real-world documentary version of Captain Fantastic, and that’s why it’s one of my most anticipated docs. A family with a bunch of kids living off-the-grid (in Norway) on a sustainable, grow-everything-yourselves lifestyle must deal with life-changing upheaval when one of the parents passes away. Yeah this is exactly what Captain Fantastic is like, but I’m especially interested to see how an actual, real family deals with this and what insight the film will offer as it follows them through this moment in their lives. The Sundance description makes it sound like it’ll be an emotional experience. “[Director Silje Evensmo Jacobsen] crafts a sensitive, affectionate, and completely heartfelt experience that is as much about navigating grief as it is about graciously accepting change.” It’s one of my must watch docs.

Every Little Thing
Every Little Thing
Directed by Sally Aitken

I have no idea what this film is going to be like or what it’s going to show us, but a documentary about how hummingbirds have changed one woman’s life? Yeah I’m intrigued. I want to find out more. The initial Sundance intro: “Amid the glamour of Hollywood, Los Angeles, a woman finds herself on a transformative journey as she nurtures wounded hummingbirds, unraveling a visually captivating and magical tale of love, fragility, healing, and the delicate beauty in tiny acts of greatness.” They have only released this one hazy, glitzy image (seen above) of the hummingbird, so it’s really hard to tell where this film where go or what else it’s going to explore in its 93 minute runtime. But I want to be there at the premiere to find out, it might be another sensational, life-affirming doc just like last year’s Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (which I also highly recommend discovering). The birds even have names: “The viewer becomes emotionally invested in Cactus, Jimmy, Wasabi, Alexa, and Mikhail, celebrating their small victories and lamenting their tiny tragedies.”

Never Look Away
Never Look Away
Directed by Lucy Lawless

This film wins the award for 2024 for having the greatest got-your-attention promo images. The couple of shots they’ve released for Never Look Away are all I need to be convinced that this is a must see doc at Sundance 2024 (which is why the teaser image at the top of this article is one of these images). Kiwi actress Lucy Lawless (who was the original “Xena: Warrior Princess”) is making her directorial debut profiling an intrepid journalist. “New Zealand–born groundbreaking CNN camerawoman Margaret Moth risks it all to show the reality of war from inside the conflict, staring down danger and confronting those who perpetuate it.” I’m always fascinated by stories like this, about incredibly brave people doing incredibly brave things, especially journalists who risk it all to cover important stories. The Sundance intro makes it sound like a profound film about more than journalism: “Lawless creates a distinctively female, Kiwi lens to cover this titanic career, showing both the horrors & life-affirming dimensions of war from a woman’s point of view.”

Black Box Diaries
Black Box Diaries
Directed by Shiori Ito

I’m interested in this one solely from the description and also that it sounds like it’s going to an important, powerful film retelling a major #MeToo story. Here’s the initial intro: “Journalist Shiori Ito embarks on a courageous investigation of her own sexual assault in an improbable attempt to prosecute her high-profile offender. Her quest becomes a landmark case in Japan, exposing the country’s outdated judicial and societal systems.” It’s the story of the woman at the center of Japan’s #MeToo movement. Not only is it telling her entirey story in complete, unfiltered detail, it’s also directed by Shiori Ito herself, which hopefully means she will dig deep into showing us just how hard it is to confront patriarchy. This line from Sundance is what should make anyone want to watch this: “it is an impressively crafted, concise piece of filmmaking — guided by a strong sense of purpose and broken up by occasional moments of joy. Ito came forward to challenge her high-profile abuser despite knowing the risks.” this film’s premiere is going to be an emotional experience.

Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story
Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story
Directed by Ian Bonhôte & Peter Ettedgui

Early word is that this is going to be one of the best documentaries at Sundance 2024, right up there with last year’s Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie. It’s not as if we haven’t heard Christopher Reeve’s story, everyone knows what happened to him, and he made many, many appearances over the years before passing away in 2004. However, my hope is that this film expands upon his story, adding to it by giving us a more intimate, and more honest examination of his unique life than ever before. This seems to be the case, as the Sundance description hints at exactly that idea: “Never-before-seen home movies and extraordinary personal archives reveal how Christopher Reeve went from unknown actor to iconic movie star as the ultimate screen superhero. He learned the true meaning of heroism as an activist after suffering a tragic accident that left him quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator to breathe.” This doc film is also not available to view online at all during the online portion of the festival, so it’s an important must-see-while-at-Sundance experience.

More Docs I’ll Be Watching: Amanda McBaine & Jesse Moss’ Girls State, Benjamin Ree’s Ibelin, Yance Ford’s Power, Skywalkers: A Love Story, moth doc Nocturnes, Bhutan’s Agent of Happiness, J.M. Harper’s As We Speak, Chris Smith’s music biopic Devo, Emily Kassie & Julian Brave NoiseCat’s Sugarcane, Luther: Never Too Much, Union about unionizing at Amazon, Johan Grimonprez’s Soundtrack to a Coup d’Etat.

For ALL of Alex’s Sundance 2024 updates: follow @firstshowing or follow @alexb.bsky.social

For more Sundance 2024 previews around the web, highlighting early picks and potential breakouts, also see: The Film Stage’s 20 Most-Anticipated Premieres, Indiewire’s 26 Must-See Films at This Year’s Festival, Rolling Stone’s 20 Most-Anticipated Movies from Sundance 2024, and also Nylon’s The 13 Most Anticipated Films of Sundance 2024. You never know what might be a big hit, and it’s vital to have a pulse on the early buzz – even before the fest starts. There’s plenty of intriguing films found in the selection this year, tons of discoveries from first time filmmakers and up-and-coming talent, so let’s jump right in and start watching.

You can follow our Sundance 2024 coverage and reviews right here and on Alex’s Letterboxd. The festival begins on January 18th and runs until January 28th, with films premiering online + locally. Glad to be back.

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‘Divides More Than Unites’: Indian Film Festivals & a Shrinking Space of Dissent

“A film festival run by the money collected from taxpayers should treat them with dignity as a basic minimum,” Archana Ravi, an illustrator from Kerala told The Quint  one of the two detained by the Goa Police on 27 November for what they claimed to be a ‘peaceful protest’ staged against Sudipto Sen’s The Kerala Story that screened as part of the Indian Panorama Section at the 54th International Film Festival of India (IFFI).

Ravi is one of the several accounts at IFFI which hinted at the anomalies in the nine-day long festival.

Responding to the above incident, a senior official from ESG who does not wish to be named, told The Quint that it “takes two to tango”.

Ravi and the other attendee Sreenath wore a meme that touched a raw nerve with the director who was present at the film’s red carpet event. It read: “Sudipto Sen: The Kerala Story. Source: Trust Me Bro.”

Soon after, an argument broke out regarding the figures quoted in the trailer. These were the number of women who disappeared from Kerala and were converted to Islam.

Citing reports from fact-checking site Alt News, as Ravi countered Sen, he defended, saying he never claimed the numbers to be strictly “32,000” which were in fact, “50,000 or more”. He also asked her if she had watched the film or been to Kerala for that matter.

The duo was then called to the police outpost at the ESG complex where they were reprimanded for “spreading hate” and “harassing other delegates” and threatened that they would be blacklisted if the meme wasn’t removed. Both their cell phones, IDs, and delegate cards were confiscated on the spot.

“The IFFI officials were mute spectators all along when we were quizzed and detained,” Ravi said.

The Quint reached out to Director Sudipto Sen who commenting on the matter, said, “The tale of three women, as shown in the trailer, is merely representative of a sizeable lot who faced manipulative conversion,” adding that he is ready to have a conversation on the condition that one has watched his film.

Does that make the prestigious forum “anti-dissent”? NFDC jointly with ESG told The Quint that thousands who attend IFFI every year have the liberty to express freely. It was only upon receiving public complaints who thought the duo was disrupting the atmosphere, that the office had to intervene and inform the cops when they refused to ‘settle down’, adding that the police action was not within their purview.

Not just IFFI, the arrest of three delegates who staged protests at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) last year on being denied seats they had reserved created a stir and became the talking point for if film festivals are turning into ‘autocratic spaces’.

“It’s a political decision not to watch The Kerala Story. Our aim was to simply strike a dialogue but most bystanders were too afraid to ask,” Sreenath, a documentary filmmaker himself, told The Quint.

Turns out the duo wasn’t alone as others took to social media to condemn the screening of a film which stirred massive controversy for making exaggerated estimates of women who were lured into joining the Islamic State (IS) group. The film had received backlash from several quarters for its ‘propagandist and Islamophobic’ content, following which its YouTube trailer descriptor stood revised from 32,000 to just 3, reports suggest.

In 2022, Israeli Jury head Nadav Lapid’s critical remarks on Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files created buzz on social media and eventually, the Israeli envoy to India had to step in and apologise.

For instance, a Palestinian movie titled A House in Jerusalem had its festival synopsis look different from its IMDb version as the former didn’t mention the identity of a lead character as ‘Palestinian’. One of the 10 films nominated for the ICFT – UNESCO Gandhi Medal Award globally, the origin country found mention only in the PIB Press Release issued by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.

Another film Mandali which depicted the challenging lives of Ramlila artists had members of the audience allegedly chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram‘ at its screening. Cut-outs of Lord Ram from the movie RRR were also put up at various parts of the theatre halls which to many, postured “saffronisation of democratic spaces”.

Speaking on the matter, NFDC told The Quint that no such incident has been brought to their notice, and otherwise too, it is impossible to control public reaction.

This begs the question of what exactly entails the selection process for these films. When The Quint reached out to Shyam R Raghavendran, who handled the Indian Panorama Section at IFFI this year, he said, “Any Indian film which has completed production or censored by CBFC between 1 August 2022 to 31 July 2023 is eligible for submission, the final selection of which is in jury’s hands.”

Delhi-based illustrator-columnist Siddhesh Gautam aka @bakeryprasad on Instagram known for bringing Ambedkar’s ideas to life in his artworks didn’t see it coming when his proposal for a column around Dalit Author Vishnu Surya Wagh’s poem ‘Secular’ was scrapped last minute from the festival’s official publication due to ‘creative reasons’.

However, for Siddhesh, this wasn’t the case from the get-go. “Vivek Menezes, the magazine editor shared an anti-caste vision which encouraged perspectives such as say, invisibilisation in cinema. He was quite receptive towards my ideas which inspired an allyship,” Siddhesh told The Quint why the decision came as a surprise, adding that it is only steps like this that convert a democracy into a ‘police state’.

He later shared the translated poem and illustration on his Instagram page which received an overwhelming response.

Seven sound designers from Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) – a reputed film school in the country – were invited to assist in the sound recording of the films being made by the contestants of “75 Creative Minds of Tomorrow” – a Ministry of Information and Broadcasting initiative to “identify, encourage and nurture young creative talents from across various aspects of filmmaking.”

Once the group landed in Goa on 20 November, things seemed to go haywire as they reported mishandling, coordination, and communication issues with the hospitality team. From accommodation and transport woes to delays in printing ID cards and reimbursement, they brought forth several grievances in their official communication mail to the NFDC.

Aman Parikh (name changed on request), a sound professional, mentioning the “48 hours filmmaking challenge” told The Quint, “Me being the only sound guy in the team, I had a tight schedule for my deliverables despite which, basic recognition seemed a tall ask.”

Saptak Sarkar, a final year student at the institute who received his return ticket to Kolkata less than six hours before onboarding his flight, told The Quint that this was just one of many instances of mismanagement, recollecting how the bags and T-shirts distributed during the opening ceremony which were taken away later left them embarrassed.

Not just these sound designers, such an approach was also flagged by those attending the ‘Film Bazaar’ – a global film market event where either someone was asked to vacate a pre-booked seat for an “important reservation” while in some other screening, one did not even get to sit on the floor of the theatre hall due to authority protocol.

Responding to the matter, NFDC told The Quint that the partnership of SRFTI is of utmost importance to IFFI, which is working towards addressing some of the concerns raised, as of the date of filling this report.

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Sundance 2024: Official Selection of All 91 Feature Films Announced | FirstShowing.net

Sundance 2024: Official Selection of All 91 Feature Films Announced

by Alex Billington
December 6, 2023
Source: Sundance.org

Time for a peek at how the next year in cinema is shaping up. Every new year brings another Sundance Film Festival and with less than two months until Sundance 2024 kicks off on January 18th, it’s time to find out what is premiering at this prestigious fest in Utah. Sundance has revealed their 2024 selection of official feature films premiering this January, featuring 91 films playing across these 11 main categories (including their usual four Competition categories), ranging from new documentaries to quirky comedies, compelling dramas, and everything else good. The 2024 festival is taking place both as an in-person festival returning to snowy Park City, UT, as well as a virtual festival with online premieres only available for the second half. Sundance is still one of my favorite festivals in the world, and we’ll be returning for our 18th year in a row to cover it. Keep an eye out for more fest updates. “Curation is Sundance’s secret sauce and we’re energized by the range of films, stories, & artists we’ve watched and selected from around the world.”

Eugene Hernandez, the brand new director of the Sundance Film Festival & Public Programming, states: “This Festival has had a vital history of first impressions: introductions to new talent, new friends, new worlds — our commitment to our artists and our audiences is fundamental to our work. Our programming team, lead by Kim Yutani, has curated 11 days of exciting new voices and stories for the many audiences we serve whether they’re joining us in Utah or experiencing the Festival offerings from afar. Sundance 2024 will be a special year for discovery and community.” There’s a sasquatch film, a Will Ferrell documentary, a new horror film with Kristen Stewart from the director Saint Maud, a “buoy and a satellite” love story, and some other strange films in the 2024 selection. What are you looking forward to so far out of all these films?

Browse through all the feature film selections for Sundance 2024 films – and visit Sundance.org for more.

U.S. Dramatic Competition:
Exhibiting Forgiveness

The U.S. Dramatic Competition offers Festivalgoers a first look at the world premieres of groundbreaking new voices in American independent film.

Between the Temples (Director & Screenwriter: Nathan Silver, Screenwriter: C. Mason Wells, Producers: Tim Headington, Theresa Steele Page, Nate Kamiya, Adam Kersh, Taylor Hess) — A cantor in a crisis of faith finds his world turned upside down when his grade school music teacher reenters his life as his new adult bat mitzvah student. Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Carol Kane, Dolly de Leon, Caroline Aaron, Robert Smigel, Madeline Weinstein.

Dìdi (弟弟) (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Sean Wang, Producers: Carlos López Estrada, Josh Peters, Valerie Bush) — In 2008, during the last month of summer before high school begins, an impressionable 13-year-old Taiwanese American boy learns what his family can’t teach him: how to skate, how to flirt, and how to love your mom. Cast: Izaac Wang, Joan Chen, Shirley Chen, Chang Li Hua.

Exhibiting Forgiveness (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Titus Kaphar, Producers: Stephanie Allain, Derek Cianfrance, Jamie Patricof, Sean Cotton) — Utilizing his paintings to find freedom from his past, a Black artist on the path to success is derailed by an unexpected visit from his estranged father, a recovering addict desperate to reconcile. Together, they learn that forgetting might be a greater challenge than forgiving. Cast: André Holland, John Earl Jelks, Andra Day, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor.

Good One (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: India Donaldson, Producers: Diana Irvine, Graham Mason, Wilson Cameron) — On a weekend backpacking trip in the Catskills, 17-year-old Sam contends with the competing egos of her father and his oldest friend. Cast: Lily Collias, James Le Gros, Danny McCarthy.

In The Summers (Director & Screenwriter: Alessandra Lacorazza, Producers: Alexander Dinelaris, Rob Quadrino, Fernando Rodriguez-Vila, Lynette Coll, Sergio Lira, Cristóbal Güell) — On a journey that spans across the formative years of their lives, two sisters navigate their loving but volatile father during their yearly summer visits to his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Cast: René Pérez Joglar, Sasha Calle, Lío Mehiel, Leslie Grace, Emma Ramos, Sharlene Cruz.

Love Me (Directors & Screenwriters: Sam Zuchero, Andy Zuchero, Producers: Kevin Rowe, Luca Borghese, Ben Howe, Shivani Rawat, Julie Goldstein) — Long after humanity’s extinction, a buoy and a satellite meet online and fall in love. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Steven Yeun.

Ponyboi (Director: Esteban Arango, Screenwriter: River Gallo, Producers: Mark Ankner, River Gallo, Adel “Future” Nur, Trevor Wall) — Unfolding over the course of Valentine’s Day in New Jersey, a young intersex sex worker must run from the mob after a drug deal goes sideways, forcing him to confront his past. Cast: River Gallo, Dylan O’Brien, Victoria Pedretti, Murray Bartlett, Indya Moore.

A Real Pain (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Jesse Eisenberg, Producers: Dave McCary, Ali Herting, Emma Stone, Jennifer Semler, Ewa Puszczyńska) — Mismatched cousins David and Benji reunite for a tour through Poland to honor their beloved grandmother. The adventure takes a turn when the pair’s old tensions resurface against the backdrop of their family history. Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kieran Culkin, Will Sharpe, Jennifer Grey, Kurt Egyiawan.

Stress Positions (Director & Screenwriter: Theda Hammel, Producers: Brad Becker-Parton, John Early, Stephanie Roush, Allie Jane Compton, Greg Nobile) — Terry Goon is keeping strict quarantine in his ex-husband’s Brooklyn brownstone while caring for his nephew — a 19-year-old model from Morocco named Bahlul — bedridden in a full leg cast after an electric scooter accident. Unfortunately for Terry, everyone in his life wants to meet the model. Cast: John Early, Qaher Harhash, Theda Hammel, Amy Zimmer, Faheem Ali, John Roberts.

Suncoast (Director & Screenwriter: Laura Chinn, Producers: Jeremy Plager, Francesca Silvestri, Kevin Chinoy, Oly Obst) — A teenager who, while caring for her brother along with her audacious mother, strikes up an unlikely friendship with an eccentric activist who is protesting one of the most landmark medical cases of all time. Inspired by a semi-autobiographical story. Cast: Laura Linney, Woody Harrelson, Nico Parker.

U.S. Documentary Competition:
Every Little Thing

The U.S. Documentary Competition offers Festivalgoers a first look at world premieres of nonfiction American films illuminating the ideas, people, and events that shape the present day.

As We Speak (Director & Producer: J.M. Harper, Producers: Sam Widdoes, Peter Cambor, Sam Bisbee) — Bronx rap artist Kemba explores the growing weaponization of rap lyrics in the United States criminal justice system and abroad — revealing how law enforcement has quietly used artistic creation as evidence in criminal cases for decades.

Daughters (Directors: Angela Patton, Natalie Rae, Producers: Lisa Mazzotta, Justin Benoliel, Mindy Goldberg, Sam Bisbee, Kathryn Everett, Laura Choi Raycroft) — Four young girls prepare for a special Daddy Daughter Dance with their incarcerated fathers, as part of a unique fatherhood program in a Washington, D.C., jail.

Every Little Thing (Director: Sally Aitken, Producers: Bettina Dalton, Oli Harbottle, Anna Godas) — Amid the glamour of Hollywood, Los Angeles, a woman finds herself on a transformative journey as she nurtures wounded hummingbirds, unraveling a visually captivating and magical tale of love, fragility, healing, and the delicate beauty in tiny acts of greatness.

Frida (Director: Carla Gutiérrez, Producers: Katia Maguire, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Loren Hammonds, Alexandra Johnes) — An intimately raw and magical journey through the life, mind, and heart of iconic artist Frida Kahlo. Told through her own words for the very first time — drawn from her diary, revealing letters, essays, and print interviews — and brought vividly to life by lyrical animation inspired by her unforgettable artwork.

Gaucho Gaucho (Directors & Producers: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw, Producers: Cameron O’Reilly, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Matthew Perniciaro) — A celebration of a community of Argentine cowboys and cowgirls, known as Gauchos, living beyond the boundaries of the modern world.

Love Machina (Director & Producer: Peter Sillen, Producer: Brendan Doyle) — Futurists Martine and Bina Rothblatt commission an advanced humanoid AI named Bina48 to transfer Bina’s consciousness from a human to a robot in an attempt to continue their once-in-a-galaxy love affair for the rest of time.

Porcelain War (Director & Screenwriter: Brendan Bellomo, Director: Slava Leontyev, Producers and Screenwriters: Aniela Sidorska, Paula DuPré Pesmen, Producers: Camilla Mazzaferro, Olivia Ahnemann) — Under roaring fighter jets and missile strikes, Ukrainian artists Slava, Anya, and Andrey choose to stay behind and fight, contending with the soldiers they have become. Defiantly finding beauty amid destruction, they show that although it’s easy to make people afraid, it’s hard to destroy their passion for living.

Skywalkers: A Love Story (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Jeff Zimbalist, Producers: Maria Bukhonina, Tamir Ardon, Chris Smith, Nick Spicer) — To save their career and relationship, a daredevil couple journey across the globe to climb the world’s last super skyscraper and perform a bold acrobatic stunt on the spire.

Sugarcane (Director: Julian Brave NoiseCat, Director and Producer: Emily Kassie, Producer: Kellen Quinn) — An investigation into abuse and missing children at an Indian residential school ignites a reckoning on the nearby Sugarcane Reserve.

Union (Directors: Stephen Maing, Brett Story, Producers: Samantha Curley, Mars Verrone) — The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) — a group of current and former Amazon workers in New York City’s Staten Island — takes on one of the world’s largest and most powerful companies in the fight to unionize.

World Cinema Dramatic Competition:
Brief History of a Family

These narrative feature films from emerging talent around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.

Brief History of a Family / China, France, Denmark, Qatar (Director & Screenwriter: Jianjie Lin, Producers: Ying Lou, Yue Zheng, Yiwen Wang) — A middle-class family’s fate becomes intertwined with their only son’s enigmatic new friend in post one-child policy China, putting unspoken secrets, unmet expectations, and untended emotions under the microscope. Cast: Feng Zu, Keyu Guo, Xilun Sun, Muran Lin.

Girls Will Be Girls / India, France, Norway (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Shuchi Talati, Producers: Richa Chadha, Claire Chassagne) — In a strict boarding school nestled in the Himalayas, 16-year-old Mira discovers desire and romance. But her sexual, rebellious awakening is disrupted by her mother who never got to come of age herself. Cast: Preeti Panigrahi, Kani Kusruti, Kesav Binoy Kiron.

Handling the Undead / Norway (Director & Screenwriter: Thea Hvistendahl, Screenwriter: John Ajvide Lindqvist, Producers: Kristin Emblem, Guri Neby) — On a hot summer day in Oslo, the newly dead awaken. Three families faced with loss try to figure out what this resurrection means and if their loved ones really are back. Based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Cast: Renate Reinsve, Bjørn Sundquist, Bente Børsum, Anders Danielsen Lie, Bahar Pars.

In the Land of Brothers / Iran, France, Netherlands (Directors, Screenwriters, & Producers: Raha Amirfazli, Alireza Ghasemi, Producers: Adrien Barrouillet, Frank Hoeve, Charles Meresse, Emma Binet, Arya Ghamavian) — Three members of an extended Afghan family start their lives over in Iran as refugees, unaware they face a decades-long struggle ahead to be “at home.” Cast: Hamideh Jafari, Bashir Nikzad, Mohammad Hosseini.

Layla / U.K. (Director & Screenwriter: Amrou Al-Kadhi, Producer: Savannah James-Bayly) — When Layla, a struggling Arab drag queen, falls in love for the first time, they lose and find themself in a transformative relationship that tests who they really are. Cast: Bilal Hasna, Louis Greatorex, Safiyya Ingar, Darkwah, Terique Jarrett, Sarah Agha.

Malu / Brazil (Director & Screenwriter: Pedro Freire, Producers: Tatiana Leite, Sabrina Garcia, Leo Ribeiro, Roberto Berliner) — Malu — a mercurial, unemployed actress living with her conservative mother in a precarious house in a Rio de Janeiro slum — tries to deal with her strained relationship with her own adult daughter while surviving on memories of her glorious artistic past. Cast: Yara de Novaes, Carol Duarte, Juliana Carneiro da Cunha, Átila Bee.

Reinas / Switzerland, Peru, Spain (Director & Screenwriter: Klaudia Reynicke, Screenwriter & Producer: Diego Vega, Producers: Britta Rindelaub, Thomas Reichlin, Daniel Vega, Valérie Delpierre) — Surrounded by social and political chaos in Lima during the summer of 1992, Lucia, Aurora, and their mother, Elena, plan to leave and seek opportunities in the United States. Their farewell involves reconnecting with their estranged father, Carlos, adding turbulence to the regrets, hopes, and fears of their emotional departure. Cast: Abril Gjurinovic, Luana Vega, Jimena Lindo, Gonzalo Molina, Susi Sánchez.

Sebastian / U.K., Finland, Belgium (Director & Screenwriter: Mikko Mäkelä, Producer: James Watson) — Max, a 25-year-old aspiring writer living in London, begins a double life as a sex worker in order to research his debut novel. Cast: Ruaridh Mollica, Hiftu Quasem, Ingvar Sigurdsson, Jonathan Hyde, Leanne Best, Lara Rossi.

Sujo / Mexico, U.S.A., France (Directors, Screenwriters, & Producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Producers: Diana Arcega, Jewerl Keats Ross, Virginie Devesa, Jean-Baptiste Bailly-Maitre) — When a cartel gunman is killed, he leaves behind Sujo, his beloved 4-year-old son. The shadow of violence surrounds Sujo during each stage of his life in the isolated Mexican countryside. As he grows into a man, Sujo finds that fulfilling his father’s destiny may be inescapable. Cast: Juan Jesús Varela, Yadira Pérez, Alexis Varela, Sandra Lorenzano, Jairo Hernández, Kevin Aguilar.

Veni Vidi Vici / Austria (Director & Screenwriter: Daniel Hoesl, Producer: Ulrich Seidl) — The Maynards and their children lead an almost perfect billionaire family life. Amon is a passionate hunter, but doesn’t shoot animals, as the family’s wealth allows them to live totally free from consequences. Cast: Laurence Rupp, Ursina Lardi, Olivia Goschler.

World Cinema Documentary Competition:
Never Look Away

These nonfiction feature films from emerging talent around the world showcase some of the most courageous and extraordinary filmmaking today.

Agent of Happiness / Bhutan, Hungary (Director & Producer: Arun Bhattarai, Director: Dorottya Zurbó, Producers: Noémi Veronika Szakonyi, Máté Artur Vincze) — Amber is one of the many agents working for the Bhutanese government to measure people’s happiness levels among the remote Himalayan mountains. But will he find his own along the way?

The Battle for Laikipia / Kenya, U.S.A. (Director and Producer: Daphne Matziaraki, Director: Peter Murimi, Producer: Toni Kamau) — Unresolved historical injustices and climate change raise the stakes in a generations-old conflict between Indigenous pastoralists and white landowners in Laikipia, Kenya, a wildlife conservation haven.

Black Box Diaries / Japan, U.S.A., U.K. (Director and Producer: Shiori Ito, Producers: Eric Nyari, Hanna Aqvilin) — Journalist Shiori Ito embarks on a courageous investigation of her own sexual assault in an improbable attempt to prosecute her high-profile offender. Her quest becomes a landmark case in Japan, exposing the country’s outdated judicial and societal systems.

Eternal You / Germany, U.S.A. (Directors: Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck, Producers: Christian Beetz, Georg Tschurtschenthaler) — Startups are using AI to create avatars that allow relatives to talk with their loved ones after they have died. An exploration of a profound human desire and the consequences of turning the dream of immortality into a product.

Ibelin / Norway (Director: Benjamin Ree, Producer: Ingvil Giske) — Mats Steen, a Norwegian gamer, died of a degenerative muscular disease at the age of 25. His parents mourned what they thought had been a lonely and isolated life, when they started receiving messages from online friends around the world.

Igualada / Colombia, U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Juan Mejía Botero, Producers: Juan E. Yepes, Daniela Alatorre, Sonia Serna) — In one of Latin America’s most unequal countries, Francia Márquez, a Black Colombian rural activist, challenges the status quo with a presidential campaign that reappropriates the derogatory term “Igualada” — someone who acts as if they deserve rights that supposedly don’t correspond to them — and inspires a nation to dream.

Never Look Away / New Zealand (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Lucy Lawless, Screenwriters and Producers: Matthew Metcalfe, Tom Blackwell) — New Zealand–born groundbreaking CNN camerawoman Margaret Moth risks it all to show the reality of war from inside the conflict, staring down danger and confronting those who perpetuate it.

A New Kind of Wilderness / Norway (Director: Silje Evensmo Jacobsen, Producer: Mari Bakke Riise) — In a forest in Norway, a family lives an isolated lifestyle in an attempt to be wild and free, but a tragic event changes everything, and they are forced to adjust to modern society.

Nocturnes / India, U.S.A. (Director & Producer: Anirban Dutta, Director: Anupama Srinivasan) — In the dense forests of the Eastern Himalayas, moths are whispering something to us. In the dark of night, two curious observers shine a light on this secret universe.

Soundtrack to a Coup d’Etat / Belgium, France, Netherlands (Director & Screenwriter: Johan Grimonprez, Producers: Daan Milius, Rémi Grellety) — In 1960, United Nations: the Global South ignites a political earthquake, musicians Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach crash the Security Council, Nikita Khrushchev bangs his shoe denouncing America’s color bar, while the U.S. dispatches jazz ambassador Louis Armstrong to the Congo to deflect attention from its first African post-colonial coup.

NEXT:
Kneecap

Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Unfettered creativity promises that the films in this section will shape the greater next wave in American cinema.

Desire Lines / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Jules Rosskam, Screenwriter: Nate Gualtieri, Producers: André Pérez, Amy E. Powell, Brittani Ward) — Past and present collide when an Iranian American trans man time-travels through an LGBTQ+ archive on a dizzying and erotic quest to unravel his own sexual desires. Cast: Theo Germaine, Aden Hakimi.

Kneecap / Ireland, U.K. (Director & Screenwriter: Rich Peppiatt, Producers: Jack Tarling, Trevor Birney) — There are 80,000 native Irish speakers in Ireland. 6,000 live in the North of Ireland. Three of them became a rap group called Kneecap. This anarchic Belfast trio becomes the unlikely figurehead of a civil rights movement to save the mother tongue. Cast: Liam Óg Ó hAnnaidh, Naoise Ó Cairealláin, JJ Ó Dochartaigh, Michael Fassbender, Josie Walker, Simone Kirby).

Little Death / U.S.A. (Director & Screenwriter: Jack Begert, Screenwriter: Dani Goffstein, Producers: Darren Aronofsky, Andy S. Cohen, Dylan Golden, Brendan Naylor, Sam Canter, Noor Alfallah) — A middle-aged filmmaker on the verge of a breakthrough. Two kids in search of a lost backpack. A small dog a long way from home. Cast: David Schwimmer, Gaby Hoffmann, Dominic Fike, Talia Ryder, Jena Malone, Sante Bentivoglio.

Realm of Satan / U.S.A. (Director & Screenwriter: Scott Cummings, Producers: Caitlin Mae Burke, Pacho Velez, Molly Gandour) — An experiential portrait depicting Satanists in both the everyday and in the extraordinary as they fight to preserve their lifestyle: magic, mystery, and misanthropy. Cast: Peter Gilmore, Peggy Nadramia, Blanche Barton.

Seeking Mavis Beacon / U.S.A. (Director & Writer: Jazmin Renée Jones, Producer: Guetty Felin) — Launched in the late ’80s, educational software Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing taught millions globally, but the program’s Haitian-born cover model vanished decades ago. Two DIY investigators search for the unsung cultural icon, while questioning notions of digital security, AI, and Black representation in the digital realm.

Tendaberry / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Haley Elizabeth Anderson, Producers: Carlos Zozaya, Matthew Petock, Zachary Shedd, Hannah Dweck, Theodore Schaefer, Daniel Patrick Carbone) — When her boyfriend goes back to Ukraine to be with his ailing father, 23-year-old Dakota anxiously navigates her precarious new reality, surviving on her own in New York City. Cast: Kota Johan, Yuri Pleskun.

Premieres:
Will & Harper

This showcase of world premieres presents highly anticipated films on a variety of subjects, in both fiction & nonfiction.

The American Society of Magical Negroes / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Kobi Libii, Producers: Julia Lebedev, Eddie Vaisman, Angel Lopez) — A young man, Aren, is recruited into a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people’s lives easier. Cast: Justice Smith, David Alan Grier, An-Li Bogan, Drew Tarver, Rupert Friend, Nicole Byer.

And So It Begins / U.S.A., Philippines (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Ramona S. Diaz) — Amidst the traditional pomp and circumstance of Filipino elections, a quirky people’s movement rises to defend the nation against deepening threats to truth and democracy. In a collective act of joy as a form of resistance, hope flickers against the backdrop of increasing autocracy. Documentary.

Devo / U.K., U.S.A. (Director: Chris Smith, Producers: Chris Holmes, Anita Greenspan, Danny Gabai) — Born in response to the Kent State massacre, new wave band Devo took their concept of “de-evolution” from cult following to near–rock star status with groundbreaking 1980 hit “Whip It” while preaching an urgent social commentary. Documentary.

A Different Man / U.S.A. (Director & Screenwriter: Aaron Schimberg, Producers: Christine Vachon, Vanessa McDonnell, Gabriel Mayers) — Aspiring actor Edward undergoes a radical medical procedure to drastically transform his appearance. But his new dream face quickly turns into a nightmare, as he loses out on the role he was born to play and becomes obsessed with reclaiming what was lost. Cast: Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve, Adam Pearson.

Freaky Tales / U.S.A. (Directors, Screenwriters, & Producers: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden, Producers: Poppy Hanks, Jelani Johnson) — In 1987 Oakland, a mysterious force guides The Town’s underdogs in four interconnected tales: Teen punks defend their turf against Nazi skinheads, a rap duo battles for hip-hop immortality, a weary henchman gets a shot at redemption, and an NBA All-Star settles the score. Basically another day in the Bay. Cast: Pedro Pascal, Jay Ellis, Normani Kordei Hamilton, Dominique Thorne, Ben Mendelsohn, Ji-Young Yoo.

Ghostlight / U.S.A. (Director & Screenwriter: Kelly O’Sullivan, Director and Producer: Alex Thompson, Producers: Pierce Cravens, Chelsea Krant, Ian Keiser, Eddie Linker, Alex Wilson) — When a construction worker unexpectedly joins a local theater’s production of Romeo and Juliet, the drama onstage starts to mirror his own life. Cast: Keith Kupferer, Dolly de Leon, Katherine Mallen Kupferer, Tara Mallen.

Girls State / U.S.A. (Directors & Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss) — Teenage girls from wildly different backgrounds across Missouri navigate a week-long immersive experiment in American democracy, build a government from the ground up, and reimagine what it means to govern. Documentary.

Look Into My Eyes / U.S.A. (Director & Producer: Lana Wilson, Producer: Kyle Martin) — A group of New York City psychics conduct deeply intimate readings for their clients, revealing a kaleidoscope of loneliness, connection, and healing. Documentary.

Luther: Never Too Much / U.S.A. (Director: Dawn Porter, Producers: Trish D Chetty, Ged Doherty, Jamie Foxx, Datari Turner, Leah Smith) — Luther Vandross started his career supporting David Bowie, Roberta Flack, Bette Midler, and more. His undeniable talent earned platinum records and accolades, but he struggled to break out beyond the R&B charts. Intensely driven, he overcame personal and professional challenges to secure his place amongst the greatest vocalists in history. Documentary.

My Old Ass / U.S.A. (Director & Screenwriter: Megan Park, Producers: Tom Ackerley, Margot Robbie, Josey McNamara, Steven Rales) — The summer before college, bright-yet-irreverent Elliott comes face-to-face with her older self during a mushroom trip. The encounter spurs a funny and heartfelt journey of self-discovery and first love as Elliott prepares to leave her childhood home. Cast: Maisy Stella, Percy Hynes White, Maddie Ziegler, Kerrice Brooks, Aubrey Plaza.

The Outrun / U.K., Germany (Director & Screenwriter: Nora Fingscheidt, Screenwriter: Amy Liptrot, Producers: Sarah Brocklehurst, Dominic Norris, Jack Lowden, Saoirse Ronan) — After living life on the edge in London, Rona attempts to come to terms with her troubled past. She returns to the wild beauty of Scotland’s Orkney Islands — where she grew up — hoping to heal. Adapted from the bestselling memoir by Amy Liptrot. Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Paapa Essiedu, Stephen Dillane, Saskia Reeves.

Power (Director & Producer: Yance Ford, Producers: Sweta Vohra, Jess Devaney, Netsanet Negussie) — Driven to maintain social order, policing in the United States has exploded in scope and scale over hundreds of years. Now, American policing embodies one word: power. Documentary.

Presence / U.S.A. (Director: Steven Soderbergh, Screenwriter: David Koepp, Producers: Julie M. Anderson, Ken Meyer) — A family moves into a suburban house and becomes convinced they’re not alone. Cast: Lucy Liu, Chris Sullivan, Callina Liang, Julia Fox, Eddy Maday, West Mulholland.

Rob Peace / U.S.A. (Director & Screenwriter: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Producers: Andrea Calderwood, Antoine Fuqua, Kat Samick, Rebecca Hobbs, Jeffrey Soros, Alex Kurtzman) — Robert Peace grew up in an impoverished section of Newark and later graduated from Yale with degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry while on scholarship. Peace led a dual life in academia and research while also earning six figures selling marijuana. Based on Jeff Hobbs’ bestselling biography. Cast: Jay Will, Mary J. Blige, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Camila Cabello, Michael Kelly, Mare Winningham.

Sasquatch Sunset / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: David Zellner, Director & Producer: Nathan Zellner, Producers: Lars Knudsen, Tyler Campellone, George Rush, Jesse Eisenberg) — A year in the life of a singular family. Cast: Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg, Christophe Zajac-Denek, Nathan Zellner.

Sue Bird: In The Clutch / U.S.A. (Director & Producer: Sarah Dowland, Producers: Emily Singer Chapman, Svetlana Zill) — In her 21-year professional career, WNBA basketball legend Sue Bird has won five Olympic gold medals and become the most successful point guard to ever play the game. Alongside her fiancée, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe, Sue confronts her next challenge: retiring from the only life she’s ever known. Documentary.

Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story / U.K., U.S.A. (Director & Producer: Ian Bonhôte, Director and Screenwriter: Peter Ettedgui, Producers: Lizzie Gillett, Robert Ford) — Never-before-seen home movies and extraordinary personal archives reveal how Christopher Reeve went from unknown actor to iconic movie star as the ultimate screen superhero. He learned the true meaning of heroism as an activist after suffering a tragic accident that left him quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator to breathe. Documentary.

Thelma / U.S.A. (Director & Screenwriter: Josh Margolin, Producers: Zoë Worth, Chris Kaye, Nicholas Weinstock, Benjamin Simpson, Karl Spoerri, Viviana Vezzani) — When 93-year-old Thelma Post gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson, she sets out on a treacherous quest across the city to reclaim what was taken from her. Cast: June Squibb, Fred Hechinger, Richard Roundtree, Parker Posey, Clark Gregg, Malcolm McDowell.

Will & Harper / U.S.A. (Director & Producer: Josh Greenbaum, Producers: Rafael Marmor, Will Ferrell, Jessica Elbaum, Christopher Leggett) — When Will Ferrell finds out his close friend of 30 years is coming out as a trans woman, the two decide to embark on a cross-country road trip to process this new stage of their relationship in an intimate portrait of friendship, transition, and America. Documentary.

Winner / U.S.A., Canada (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Susanna Fogel, Screenwriter: Kerry Howley, Producers: Amanda Phillips, Shivani Rawat, Julie Goldstein, Scott Budnick, Ameet Shukla) — Reality Winner is a brilliant young misfit from a Texas border town who finds her morals challenged while serving as an NSA contractor. A sarcastic, gun-lovin, vegan, yogi, and CrossFit fanatic, Reality is an unconventional whistleblower who ends up being prosecuted for exposing Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election. Cast: Emilia Jones, Connie Britton, Zach Galifianakis, Kathryn Newton, Danny Ramirez.

Midnight:
Krazy House

From horror flicks and wild comedies to chilling thrillers and works that defy any genre, these films will keep you wide awake and on the edge of your seat.

I Saw the TV Glow / U.S.A. (Director & Screenwriter: Jane Schoenbrun, Producers: Emma Stone, Dave McCary, Ali Herting, Sam Intili, Sarah Winshall) — Teenager Owen is just trying to make it through life in the suburbs when his classmate introduces him to a mysterious late-night TV show — a vision of a supernatural world beneath their own. In the pale glow of the television, Owen’s view of reality begins to crack. Cast: Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Ian Foreman, Helena Howard, Fred Durst, Danielle Deadwyler.

In A Violent Nature / Canada (Director & Screenwriter: Chris Nash, Producers: Peter Kuplowsky, Shannon Hanmer) — The enigmatic resurrection, rampage, and retribution of an undead monster in a remote wilderness. Cast: Ry Barrett, Andrea Pavlovic, Lauren Taylor.

It’s What’s Inside / U.S.A. (Director ^ Screenwriter: Greg Jardin, Producers: William Rosenfeld, Kate Andrews, Jason Baum, Raúl Domingo) — A pre-wedding party descends into an existential nightmare when an estranged friend shows up with a mysterious suitcase. Cast: Brittany O’Grady, James Morosini, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Gavin Leatherwood, Reina Hardesty, Nina Bloomgarden.

Kidnapping Inc. / Haiti, France, Canada (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Bruno Mourral, Screenwriter and Producer: Gilbert Jr. Mirambeau, Screenwriter: Jasmuel Andri, Producers: Samuel Chauvin, Yanick Letourneau, Gaëthan Chancy) — Tasked with what appears to be a simple abduction for hire, two hapless kidnappers find out that it’s anything but and end up in the middle of a political conspiracy. Cast: Jasmuel Andri, Rolaphton Mercure, Anabel Lopez, Ashley Laraque, Gessica Geneus, Patrick Joseph.

Krazy House / Netherlands (Directors & Screenwriters: Steffen Haars, Flip van der Kuil, Producer: Maarten Swart) — When Russian workers in Bernie’s house turn out to be wanted criminals, Bernie has to man up and save his ’90s sitcom family. Cast: Nick Frost, Alicia Silverstone, Jan Bijvoet, Gaite Jansen, Walt Klink, Kevin Connolly.

Love Lies Bleeding / U.S.A., U.K. (Director & Screenwriter: Rose Glass, Producers: Andrea Cornwell, Oliver Kassman — Reclusive gym manager Lou falls hard for Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder headed through town to Las Vegas in pursuit of her dream. But their love ignites violence, pulling them deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov.

The Moogai / Australia (Director & Screenwriter: Jon Bell, Producers: Kristina Ceyton, Samantha Jennings, Mitchell Stanley) — A young Aboriginal couple bring home their second baby. What should be a joyous time takes a sinister turn as the mother starts seeing a malevolent spirit she is convinced is trying to take her baby. Cast: Shari Sebbens, Meyne Wyatt, Tessa Rose, Jahdeana Mary, Clarence Ryan, Bella Heathcote.

Your Monster / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Caroline Lindy, Producers: Kayla Foster, Shannon Reilly, Melanie Donkers, Kira Carstensen) — After her life falls apart, soft-spoken actress Laura Franco finds her voice again when she meets a terrifying, yet weirdly charming, monster living in her closet. Cast: Melissa Barrera, Tommy Dewey, Meghann Fahy, Edmund Donovan, Kayla Foster.

Spotlight:

The Spotlight program is a tribute to the cinema we love, presenting films that have played throughout the world.

àma Gloria / France (Director and Screenwriter: Marie Amachoukeli, Producer: Bénédicte Couvreur) — Six-year-old Cléo loves her nanny, Gloria, more than anything. When Gloria must return to Cape Verde to care for her own children, the two must make the most of their last summer together. Cast: Louise Mauroy-Panzani, Ilça Moreno Zego, Abnara Gomes Varela, Fredy Gomes Tavares, Arnaud Rebotini, Domingos Borges Almeida.

Hit Man / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Richard Linklater, Producer and Screenwriter: Glen Powell, Producers: Mike Blizzard, Jason Bateman, Michael Costigan) — A strait-laced professor discovers his hidden talent as a fake hit man. He meets his match in a client who steals his heart and ignites a powder keg of deception, delight, and mixed-up identities. Inspired by an unbelievable true story. Cast: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta, Sanjay Rao.

How to Have Sex / U.K. (Director and Screenwriter: Molly Manning Walker, Producers: Ivana MacKinnon, Emily Leo, Konstantinos Kontovrakis) — Three British teenage girls go on a rite-of-passage holiday, drinking, clubbing, and hooking up in what should be the best summer of their lives. As they dance their way across the sun-drenched streets of Malia, they find themselves navigating the complexities of sex, consent, and self-discovery. Cast: Mia McKenna-Bruce, Samuel Bottomley, Shaun Thomas, Lara Peake, Enva Lewis, Laura Ambler.

The Mother of All Lies / Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar (Director and Producer: Asmae El Moudir) — On a handmade set re-creating her Casablanca neighborhood, a young Moroccan filmmaker enlists family and friends to help unearth the troubling lies built into her childhood.

Family Matinee:

Geared towards our youngest independent-film fans, this section of the Festival is programmed for children & adolescents.

Out of My Mind / U.S.A. (Director: Amber Sealey, Screenwriter: Daniel Stiepleman, Producers: Peter Saraf, Robert Kessel, Dan Angel, Michael B. Clark) — Melody Brooks is navigating sixth grade as a nonverbal wheelchair user who has cerebral palsy. With the help of some assistive technology and her devoted, exuberant allies, Melody shows that what she has to say is more important than how she says it. Cast: Phoebe-Rae Taylor, Rosemarie DeWitt, Luke Kirby, Michael Chernus, Courtney Taylor, Judith Light.

10 Lives / U.K. (Director and Screenwriter: Christopher Jenkins, Screenwriters: Karen Wengrod, Ken Cinnamon,Producers: Guy Collins, Sean Feeney, Yann Zenou, Adrian Politowski, Martin Metz) — A pampered cat takes for granted the lucky hand he has been dealt after he is rescued and loved by Rose, a kind-hearted and passionate student. When he loses his ninth life, fate steps in to set him on a transformative journey. Cast: Mo Gilligan, Simone Ashley, Sophie Okonedo, Dylan Llewellyn, Zayn Malik, Bill Nighy.

New Frontier Films:

New Frontier champions artists practicing at the crossroads of film, art, performance, and new media tech. This year, the section focuses on the powerful rise of AI, the role of artists on the rapidly changing landscape of technologies, and empowering narrative agency and sustainable creative practice through design.

Being (the Digital Griot) (Lead Artist: Rashaad Newsome) — In this innovative participatory experience, Being, an artificial intelligence digital griot, asks the audience to engage in unifying and challenging discussions. It features a soundscape and movement informed by a dataset from Black communities, theorists, poets, and activists, including bell hooks, Paulo Freire, Dazié Grego-Sykes, and Cornel West.

Eno (Director: Gary Hustwit) — Visionary musician and artist Brian Eno — known for producing David Bowie, U2, Talking Heads, among many others; pioneering the genre of ambient music; and releasing over 40 solo and collaboration albums — reveals his creative processes in this groundbreaking generative documentary: a film that’s different every time it’s shown.

Special Screenings:

War Game / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: Jesse Moss, Director: Tony Gerber, Producers: Todd Lubin, Jack Turner, Mark DiCristofaro, Jessica Grimshaw, Nick Shumaker) — A bipartisan group of U.S. defense, intelligence, and elected policymakers spanning five presidential administrations participate in an unscripted role-play exercise in which they confront a political coup backed by rogue members of the U.S. military, in the wake of a contested presidential election.

Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, comments on this year of Sundance films: “From the first edition in 1985, Sundance Film Festival has aimed to provide a space to gather, celebrate, and engage with risk-taking artists that are committed to bringing their independent visions to audiences — the Festival remains true to that goal to this day. It continues to evolve, but its legacy of showcasing bold work that starts necessary conversations continues with the 2024 program.” Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute’s CEO, on the selection: “The Institute takes great pride in the role the Festival plays in advancing our mission to support artists creating audacious work,. This year is especially significant as we look back on our history of showcasing stories that surprise and delight, spark empathy and reflection, and honor our shared humanity. We’re all thrilled for this opportunity to celebrate the power of storytelling as we gather in January to introduce captivating works from acclaimed filmmakers and discover more new voices.” Let’s go.

Sundance is one of my top festivals, and I’m excited to get a glimpse at all the films playing. This year looks as intriguing as always, with plenty of fresh discoveries and some unique premieres. Bring on another year of Sundance. Sundance 2024 runs from January 18th to January 28th, 2024. Visit Sundance.org for more.

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A Quick Visit to the 2023 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia | FirstShowing.net

A Quick Visit to the 2023 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia

by Alex Billington
November 21, 2023

Awooooo!! There’s a charming festival up in the Baltic country of Estonia called the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Also known locally as PÖFF (which stands for Pimedate Ööde Filmifestival in Estonian) the festival just celebrate its 27th year with a 2 and 1/2 week cinema celebration. It kicked off on November 3rd and ran through November 19th in downtown Tallinn, with tons of screenings & premieres every single day. It’s much longer than a regular festival because they like to let the films play and give locals a chance to come watch them in the evenings, with hundreds of films in the line-up to choose from. There’s also a big industry event at the end of the fest, which is when I was in town for a visit. PÖFF flew me up to Tallinn this year (from Berlin) and offered me a hotel room so that I can experience the festival in person. It was a very nice trip and I’m glad I could visit to watch some more films, though I arrived a bit late and couldn’t catch as many as I really hoped to watch. It’s a well-run festival overall, with a great selection of the year’s best films.

For anyone curious, the reason it’s called the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival is Estonia is located very far in the north in Europe – just across the Baltic Sea from Finland, and next to Saint Petersburg, Russia. At this time of the year, in the dark of winter, there is very little light – the sun rises around 8AM & sets just before 4PM every day. Most of the screenings take place in the afternoon & evening, so most of the fest is set during the “black nights” of November. While the fest is known for premiering a lot of Eastern European, Baltic, and Scandinavian cinema, they’re open to anything. There isn’t really a specific theme with regards to what they play. However, my favorite thing about the Tallinn Black Nights Film Fest is the logo – a howling wolf. Even their awards are howling wolves. There was a gigantic bronze statue sitting in front of the hotel that I wanted to “acquire” and stuff into my carry-on luggage and bring home so he could keep me company in my living room while I watch movies at home. Alas, don’t think it would make it through airport security.

Most of the screenings (that I attended) take place at big multiplex movie theaters downtown where the festival HQ is based (at the Nordic Forum Hotel). They have events in other Estonian cities, but the venues are not as unique as one might expect. It’s pretty much just going to a big movie theater every day to watch. Here’s a few of my photos from the trip – one of a cinema, the other showing a sign that’s promoting the fest:

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

The impressive 2023 selection for the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival includes new films in a variety of different competition sections (First Feature, Critics’ Picks Comp, Rebels With a Cause, Baltic Films, etc) as well as additional various Out of Competition, Critics’ Picks, Special Screenings, Gala Premieres, and more. It’s a diverse and engaging line-up, there’s no question about that. One of my favorite Estonian films that I already watched at Sitges called The Invisible Fight (here’s my full review) received a big gala screening, along with the excellent Estonian documentary film Smoke Sauna Sisterhood that initially premiered at Sundance (here’s the full trailer). I highly recommend watching both. These two are excellent examples of Estonia’s growing prominence in cinema, but of course they have plenty of other films to offer. During my quick 5 day trip up to PÖFF, I was able to watch 8 films in total. Here are my quick thoughts on these films:

Death Is a Problem for the Living (dir. Teemu Nikki) – A superrrrrrrr dark, superrrrrrrr dry Finnish black comedy. Quite draining to watch if I may say. Not quite my tempo… It’s about these two shady hearse drivers who get involved with an underground Russian roulette ring to help get rid of the dead and, yeah, it gets extra bleak. Doesn’t quite come together, feels a bit empty and emotionless despite the best intentions of telling this extra dark buddy story. I wanted to like it more.

The G (dir. Karl R. Hearne) – Despite a fantastic lead performance by actor Dale Dickey, I really did not care for this film. It’s way too dark and unsettling and just plain boring, with strange twists and turns that don’t really work. It could’ve been a more lighthearted yet thrilling comedy (similar to I Care a Lot) without all the crime and gangsters and wannabe Taken vibes. Already want to forget about this film…

All of Us Strangers (dir. Andrew Haigh) – A really beautiful film about loss and grief, it’s one of the best films of the year addressing these themes. Touching and tender and endearing, it’s a wonderful look at how memories can be both healing and haunting; and how memories can comfort us but also hold us back. Even though I wasn’t emotionally affected by it, I still admire and respect this film and all that it accomplishes with its illustrious cast – Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, and Claire Foy.

The Peasants (dirs. DK Welchman & Hugh Welchman) – This hand-painted follow-up to Loving Vincent is gorgeous to look at, every single frame is literally a spectacular painting. However, it’s just so depressing to watch. A town full of spiteful, angry, gossip-addicted, aggressive people who torture the only good soul around. It’s hard to watch because it just gets worse and worse and there’s so little hope… I don’t know why we need to tell stories like this when it all just feels so awful and I don’t feel better by the end.

Close Your Eyes (dir. Víctor Erice) – The best of what I saw during my visit. This Spanish film premiered in Cannes earlier this year, and was acclaimed by many there as one of the best films of that fest. I missed it during Cannes, but caught up with it here and was completely enamored. A long film that’s entirely worth sitting through. Absolutely breathtaking cinema. As rich and layered as Drive My Car, as moving and lovely as Cinema Paradiso. An instant classic. Seek out this film and watch it as soon as you can.

Pelikan Blue (dir. László Csáki) – A great discovery from this festival. An animated documentary about a group of young Hungarian teens who figure out how to create fake train tickets and travel all around Europe in the early 1990s after Hungary became an independent nation (and no one had any money). It’s a simple story told so well by charismatic characters with great enthusiasm. A reminder that everyone just wants to get out and see the world and we should all learn to embrace that desire rather than stifle it.

Light Falls (dir. Phedon Papamichael) – Solid thriller. Legit film about tourists visiting a Greek island who get into some trouble with locals. Though it makes me sad seeing what happens to them. But well done, very well done. Minimalistic but it works – effectively gripping. Great performances. I was caught up in this.

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World (dir. Radu Jude) – This Romanian satire is fun and captivating, while also being quite messy and boring. It’s way, way too long… I enjoyed most of it, but not all of it. Jude is trying to do way too much in one film, even though he is getting good commentary with Angela & Bobita. It loses all of its steam at the end, shifting the focus right when it’s getting really good.

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

🐺 This is the huge wolf statue sitting in front of the HQ hotel that I wanted to bring home. It’s beautiful! I’ve always loved wolves, I have so many stories about my obsession with wolves. There are currently around 150 to 300 wolves living in Estonia, and the grey wolf has been officially chosen as the “national animal” symbol of the country. This nice statue is also what the awards look like when filmmakers win a prize at the festival. I would go to this fest as a filmmaker just to win one of these! As for the vibe of the fest itself, it’s a bit lackluster, to be frank… There wasn’t much energy or excitement at the screenings, the audiences rarely ever clapped or cheered, even at the end of wonderful films. Is this how it usually is there? Perhaps this is what Estonian society is like, perhaps the festival needs to work more on cultivating greater enthusiasm for cinema. Some of my screenings were sold out, while others were barely half full. It seems to be more of an event for locals to attend, with an industry conference on the side, though it’s hard to say if it’s worth flying all the way up to Estonia when many of these films are also playing at other film festivals around the world.

Nonetheless, I am happy to have made the trek up to Tallinn and attended my very first PÖFF. I am thankful and grateful that the festival offered to bring me and show me what the experience is like in Tallinn. And as always, I’m happy I had the chance to watch some good films. For me personally, when I go to film festivals, the films are what matter the most. Not parties, not industry meet-ups, not red carpets, not sponsor events, nothing like that. I want to watch some of the best new films each year with excited audiences interested in all of the stories being told on the big screen. I want to dive into cinema and be immersed in the lively world of visual storytelling, discussing these great films and how they move us, entertaining us, enlighten us, and inspire us all. Would I recommend going to PÖFF? Only if you’re in the area, or only if you have the time to travel up to Tallinn to watch some superb films. The A-list selection makes it worth the trip. Other favorites including Poor Things, Daaaaaali!, Past Lives, La Chimera, The Holdovers, The Pot au Feu, Fallen Leaves, Perfect Days, The Old Oak, The Promised Land, The Teachers’ Lounge, Theater Camp, and many others, also played in Tallinn this year. No matter what it’s most important to relish all this top notch world cinema.

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An unfair practice

A still from the movie Sthal directed by Jayant Somalkar
| Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Interviews are not always for jobs. Many young, educated girls have to appear for ‘interviews’ to get married. Disguised as casual chats with the family members of a prospective groom, they face the same set of predictable questions thrown at them every few weeks until they pass the fairness barometer of a jury and their fathers have the money to fill the gap in expectations.

Director Jayant Digambar Somalkar has captured the irony of this atavistic social practice in his debut feature film Sthal (A Match) which will be premiered at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Jayant, who rose to fame with the critically acclaimed OTT series Guilty Minds, has seen the impact of patriarchy, colourism, and dowry from close quarters while growing up in Dongargaon village in the Chandrapur district where the film was shot. It helped him weave a compelling story that unravels the contours of farm distress in rural Maharashtra through the story of Savita, a final year graduation student who is preparing for a government job but her parents see her as a burden that should be disposed off with marriage as soon as possible.

Jayant has worked with non-actors to create a scenario that is realistic and relatable and is underlined with a subtle satirical tone. “Sthal is a very personal, you could say a passion, project for me. It features my people and my village and I feel honoured for the film to be selected at TIFF. The selection is a big thing for any independent film since it gives an opportunity for the filmmaker to showcase their work on a very prestigious and global platform.”

Director of Sthal, Jayant Somalkar

Director of Sthal, Jayant Somalkar
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Edited excerpts from an interview before Jayant takes the flight to Toronto.

What was the catalyst and motivation behind Sthal?


Being the youngest of four siblings, I saw my sisters going through this , but the idea for a film crystallised when I accompanied my cousin to one such ‘match’ meeting. It was a typical interview kind of scenario where a group of men made a young girl sit in the centre, on a stool, and asked her questions, starting from her name to her height and many more. I kept wondering what might be going on in her head as she sat there answering.

How did your background help in shaping the narrative? Your cinematic gaze captures the irony of the tedious process without being boring.


I was born in the same house which is Savita’s home in the film. I come from a farming community and the family still does farming. I spent my childhood in the village and then went to school in a nearby small town. So I was always connected to the people, the language, and the culture of the village. Though I live in Mumbai now, I visit my village a few times every year. I know this world so well that it helps me portray it realistically. Slice-of-life cinema excites me and I didn’t want to make it overly melodramatic or larger than life.

But at the same time, I didn’t want it to be boring. I think humour comes to me naturally; I like to write satire. Satire is a great tool to say something powerful even when dealing with the most grave and serious subjects. I try to find humour in the most mundane things in life. Even an awkward silence in the room can be humorous.

Is marriage still the be-all and end-all for the girl in rural India and romance is conducted from a distance, something urban India is perhaps ignorant about?


No, my intention is not to generalise. There has been some change but in rural India, marrying off the girl is still a burden on the parents’ shoulders and minds. The romance between a girl and a boy is still considered a lafda (trouble) and parents disapprove of it, nervous about gossip around them. For girls, arranged marriage is still considered the best honourable option.

The film raises significant questions on patriarchy, colorism, dowry, and farm distress…


The traditional matchmaking process is inherently patriarchal. It does look at the girl like a commodity. The men judge her on her looks, skin tone, height, etc. Often it can be somewhat humiliating for the girls. Even a dark-skinned man wants a fair girl. I think we Indians are obsessed with fairness. For a farmer parent, if a girl is dark-skinned and short, marrying her off is an added burden and as difficult as finding a fair price for their crop.

How important it is to make a film in the language where the story is set? Is the ecosystem changing?


Yes, it is very important to make a film in the language where the story is set, at least for me as a filmmaker. It makes the film authentic and realistic and audiences can connect to the characters and to their lives at a more personal level. They come to know about their region, culture, and language. It gives them an immersive experience.

For example, if the characters in a village in Maharashtra speak Hindi in everyday life, it will look fake and the audience will find it strange. Though these things were acceptable and common in the past, cinema is changing now. Filmmakers from small towns are coming to the fore and telling their own stories, stories from their villages and towns, stories of their people, in their languages.

Tell us about the experience of working with non-actors


All the actors in the film are first-time actors, or you could say they are ‘non-actors’. They are people from that very village and the nearby town. They had never faced a film camera before this experience. Most of them have never thought of working in a film even in their dreams. Working with non-actors was very challenging but also very exciting.

The best thing was that I never had to say to an actor, ‘You need to get into this character, go under his or her skin’ because they were literally already ‘in character’. A real-life farmer plays a farmer, a professor plays a professor, students play students, etc. That is the reason you can see honesty in their body language and in their speech too. I would tell them that they do not have to ‘act’ but rather just do what they do in real life. All I needed from them was to forget that we were shooting and that a camera was recording this.

A still from Sthal

A still from Sthal
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL AARANGEMENT

Sthal poster

Sthal poster
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

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Yep, The Karlovy Vary Film Festival is Still One of the Best in the World | FirstShowing.net

Yep, The Karlovy Vary Film Festival is Still One of the Best in the World

by Alex Billington
July 7, 2023

If you know, you know… If you’ve been, you’ll always want to go back… At least that’s how I feel. There is a wonderful film festival in Czechia called the Karlovy Vary Film Festival – they’re celebrating their 57th year, making it one of the oldest festivals in the world (it was originally founded in 1946). This is my fifth year attending KVIFF (as it’s known – the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival), returning to this lovely little spa town in the middle of the summer to watch more films and enjoy the full-on cinema lovers party ambience. Karlovy Vary is a famous town in the hills of west Czechia, right near the border of Germany. It’s only 6 hours by train from Berlin, where I live, and even less if you go directly from Prague. They’re an A-list event and the first major festival after Cannes in May to play the best of Cannes’ selection, including all the awards winnersAnatomy of a Fall, Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell, Perfect Days, and many others. I write about KVIFF every year nowadays, because this humble festival really is one of the best in the entire world.

What makes this particular film festival stand out from so many others is how much it really feels like going to cinema heaven. In addition to the picturesque town where it takes place, as well as their always-amazing selection of films from around the world, the audience at every screening at KVIFF is full of genuine film-loving fans. No matter what time it is or what film may be showing, every screening is completely packed. Sometimes they even let in extra people who sit on the floor or stairs just because they’ll sit anywhere and don’t want to miss whatever is showing. These audiences are also respectful of the experience, very rarely ever taking out their phone or chatting, and they always seem completely engaged in and focused on the film on the screen in front of them. It’s actually kind of awe inspiring to see, especially since phone use in movies has been getting really bad again post-pandemic. This festival is Czechia’s chance to dive head first into the world of cinema, with tons of Czech people pouring in from every corner of the country to watch new films.

My biggest complaint – the chairs suck. After spending a few days the festival, my back starts to hurt because the chairs in most of the venues are terrible. There are about four venues at the festival that are actual movie theaters they takeover and use for screenings. The rest of their key venues are gorgeous old hotels (like the Grandhotel Pupp) or vintage spa palaces (like the Lazne III) or big conference rooms. Unfortunately they put the cheapest plastic chairs in these places and it’s tough to sit in them. This year I went to watch the three-hour-long Argentinian film The Delinquents (which I loved) at a venue with chairs that barely have a rigid back on them and it was tough to make it through. I doubt my complaining will make them change the chairs, but I hope one day they’ll put some better seating in. At least the “Grand Hall” (which is their version of Cannes’ Grand Théâtre Lumière), located inside the famously clunky Hotel Thermal, is a nice place with nice seats and a huge screen. All that really matters is that I can get tickets & get in to watch all these films.

Karlovy Vary Film Festival

I was first introduced to the Karlovy Vary Film Festival by a film critic friend years ago. Ever since I started attending in 2017, I’ve been passing the torch and doing my best to introduce it to more people. I also follow film critic Robert Daniels, who went for his first time in 2022 and is back again in 2023. I love his writing anyway, but his coverage of KVIFF is especially invigorating. He opens his first review article from this year with this lovely intro: “oh, how I have missed its winding cobblestone streets, its canals, and its resplendent Renaissance style. But most of all, I’ve missed the jubilant crowds and bountiful movies.” Indeed, Robert, indeed. Even if you don’t believe me, I’m not the only one going on and on about how delightful this Czech film festival is. His wrap up article from 2022 also eloquently captures what makes KVIFF so unforgettable once you attend: “I was struck by the jubilant mood of the event, and the graciousness shown by the heads of the festival—the Festival President Jiří Bartoška, Executive Director Kryštof Mucha, and Artistic Director Karel Och—along with a film community so eager, so passionate to share their festival with the world.” Yep.

In addition to coming to Karlovy Vary to watch the Cannes films I might’ve missed, or a few world premieres of something that might be the next big international breakout, their retrospective selections every year are always remarkable. I caught a total of 11 films over the five days I was in town, with a few more screeners to catch up with this weekend as the fest winds down. I always make sure I watch at least one old film on the big screen – this is one of the most important aspects of great film festivals. This year’s key retrospective is a tribute to the movies of the Japanese master Yasuzô Masumura. Most have probably never heard of this filmmaker or seen his movies before, and I admittedly only learned about him from the festival itself. I was lucky to catch one of the 11 films they showed, called Kisses (from 1957), and it was splendid. Of course, as soon as it was over I checked the schedule to see if I could catch any more of Masumura’s films before leaving, alas, there was no way to fit them in. In the past I’ve watched some Czech classics on the big screen and it’s always a delight. It’s a refreshing experience to watch old films this way with an entranced audience.

There’s only so much I can write in a post like this before I start to sound too arrogant. Above all else, if you love film festivals, you have to book a trip to KVIFF one year and experience it for yourself… As long as it’s possible, I’ll continue to return. It feels so surreal, escaping from my apartment to visit this cute spa town to watch some excellent films every summer. It’s an enriching experience that feels vital to my yearly routine nowadays, reaffirming why I love doing this (talking about movies for a living) and reminding me why I am still so addicted to film festivals. Even if the seats suck, even if it’s hard to get good vegan food in Karlovy Vary, it’s still worth it. The films matter, the audiences matter, the festival matters. Cinema still matters. And it still has the power to pull us into unforgettable stories, to bring us all together, to teach us about the world, and different cultures, different perspectives. KVIFF is a testament to the true potential of festivals and how important they are in the world of cinema. For more info or to view their line-up, visit kviff.com.

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The Evolution of Film Festivals – Back at the 76th Cannes Film Festival | FirstShowing.net

The Evolution of Film Festivals – Back at the 76th Cannes Film Festival

by Alex Billington
May 16, 2023

Tonight in the lovely beach resort town of Cannes, France, the 76th Cannes Film Festival is kicking off with the world premiere screening of Maïwenn’s Jeanne du Barry after the opening ceremony. This is my 13th year attending and covering Cannes, starting back in 2009, and I am always happy to return. I skipped the opening film because it’s just not my jam, but I am excited to watch plenty more films over the next 11 days in France. I come to Cannes year after year, spending more than I have in my bank account to be here, because I am here for the films. For the love of cinema. For the spirit of discovery and for all the hours of watching and discussing new films with my friends and colleagues. This is why I always come back. Yes, it can be annoying and frustrating to deal with. Yes, it the festival has problems like EVERY festival does. But I come anyway and make the most of it. It makes me happy that we’re ALL here together to celebrate cinema.

The Cannes I attended in 2009 is not the same Cannes in 2023. The festival has been evolving and growing and changing, in good and bad ways. The pandemic caused a major disruption which lead to major changes which each & every festival is still dealing with. The biggest problem is the digital ticketing system – which every festival adopted in 2021 after the pandemic forced them to get rid of physical box offices and tickets, and shift entirely to tickets we scan from our phones. It doesn’t always work well: the site had errors the first few days, then they fixed the problems. Many colleagues have been having difficulty booking tickets for most screenings, but that’s unfortunately what happens when a festival outgrows itself. Thanks to Parasite winning all the Oscars after premiering in Cannes in 2019, they’re the indisputable #1 festival in the world – which means more people (press + industry + cinephiles) come to this festival than any other. Their venues haven’t changed, and they can only seat so many in each cinema. There’s no easy solution to this dilemma…

The prominent question at this festival is: what is cinema? Is this what cinema looks like, or is that? Or is it all of this? Perhaps the more pertinent question is: what can cinema be? Has it evolved again, and if so, can we appreciate what is has become now? Cannes prides itself on programming and premiering the best new films from anywhere they come from – innovative, edgy, fresh, groundbreaking work from old and new filmmakers alike. That means that there can be thrilling, rollicking adventures from Hollywood like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny screening alongside of contemplative, slow burn three hour dramas from the other side of the world. Some people appreciate new cinema that is slow, while others prefer films that are more energetic and lively. Some prefer films that are abstract and artsy, while others are more engaged with traditional narratives that have great performances and vibrant storytelling. All of this is cinema, and all of it can be exciting, and now we get a peek at where cinema will be headed next. Which filmmaker will make their mark, which films will emerge from France and find their audience everywhere else around the world?

Documentaries have been winning the top prizes at major festivals recently (All the Beauty & the Bloodshed at Venice last fall, and Sur l’Adamant at Berlinale a few months ago) and this has been shaking up the film festival world. Of course, everyone knows documentaries absolutely are cinema but it is not often they win the top prize. For years, Cannes was known as a place where they never showed docs in their main selection – especially in the competition. Nowadays, a few are playing. In the festival this year they have Wang Bing’s Youth (Spring) playing in the main competition, plus The Mother of All Lies in the Un Certain Regard category. There’s also an intriguing new film called Four Daughters that apparently blends narrative with documentary by casting two actors to play the two daughters who have disappeared from a Tunisian family. Cannes describes this one as “a unique cinema experience that will lift the veil on Olfa and her daughters’ life stories.” Will it be any good? Only time will tell… But this is what we are all here for – to dedicate our time to watching what they’ve decided to show us and find out what will change cinema forever. At least I hope this will get more people to start watching more documentaries, no matter what they might be about.

The other question on everyone’s mind this year – what about all of the protests? In addition to the Writers Strike in Hollywood (which I fully support), there are also ongoing protests in France – which began earlier this year when the government attempted to increase the retirement age. At the 1968 Cannes Film Festival, directors Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut lead a protest at the start of the festival. They showed up with an impassioned argument that because students and many other people in France were out protesting, it wouldn’t be right to ignore that and let the festival go on as normal. They were successful. The festival was cancelled that year (the Criterion Channel is featuring a selection of the films that were chosen that year but never got their chance to play) – along with 2020, it’s one of the only times in the festival’s 76 year history it has been cancelled. There’s now a number of major protests and progressive movements all over the world, and with the spotlight on Cannes for the next two weeks, they might want to borrow some of that attention as well. I’m all for it! But clearly the festival isn’t – and doesn’t want any disruptions to their event in 2023.

The spirit of Cannes is to be edgy and disruptive and progressive. I wish they’d embrace that more, but now it just seems they want to show to go on with all the celebrities and red carpets and premieres. They don’t want anything to get in the way of that glitz & glam, which is what matters the most to them. I’d prefer if festivals would focus primarily on the films and filmmakers instead… I rarely go to parties much anymore anyway, and I don’t have time for casual dinners – I just go to films all day, then come back and write. I just want to enjoy all these films and talk about how amazing the discoveries are. The best moments in Cannes are those when you watch something amazing, and emerge from the cinema to ecstatic people that want to chat about how amazing it was for hours & hours. I fondly remember emerging from screenings of films like Drive, Parasite, You Were Never Really Here, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The Lighthouse, The Florida Project, Jodorowsky’s Dune, Inside Llewyn Davis, Burning, and many others. I’m ready to queue up and watch and see what Cannes has in store for us this year. Follow all my updates on FS here.

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How the Mighty Fall: Berlinale is No Longer an A-List Festival Anymore | FirstShowing.net

How the Mighty Fall: Berlinale is No Longer an A-List Festival Anymore

by Alex Billington
March 7, 2023

This has been bothering me for the past few years, and it’s finally time to get this off my chest. I have been attending the Berlin Film Festival (known as “Berlinale” locally) for 10 years, it’s one of the oldest film festivals in the world, and I’m bummed out by how this fest has lost their way and . Berlinale is no longer an “A-list” festival, and should stop being considered one of “the most important film festivals in the world.” They’ve lost that title. They’ve lost their relevance, they’ve lost their importance, and they need to wake up and realize this is happening instead of go on pretending nothing is different. The 2023 edition of Berlinale was its 73rd, the festival has been around for a long time, but that doesn’t automatically make it A-list. Ever since they hired the most recent directors – executive director Mariette Rissenbeek & artistic director Carlo Chatrian starting with the 2020 edition – things have gotten much worse. The line-up has become extremely niche, more obscure, filled with mediocre-to-bad films (and a very limited selection of good ones), which is the key factor in their demise. If they wish to be relevant again, they need to completely rethink the festival.

I believe it is an important part of art analysis to criticize festivals – not just their line-up. However, this is considered a huge taboo within the film community – critics especially are afraid of being honest or critical about the festival experience. We can talk all day about the films, but don’t dare say anything bad about the festival itself – unless their ticketing website doesn’t work. I have been running FirstShowing for 17 years so far, and I have been attending festivals for 17 years as well. My first trip to Sundance was in January of 2007 (driving from Colorado / sleeping on my brother’s couch), my first trip to Cannes was in 2009, my first trip to TIFF was in 2007. I have spent almost 20 years of my life dedicated to traveling around this planet to the world’s greatest film festivals to watch world premieres of the world’s best films. I have seen the industry change first hand; evolving with the times, with good & bad decisions. I have participated in conversations, I have spoken with others in the community, and most agree – Berlinale is no longer an important or relevant festival. They are – and I would like to emphasize this – still a very successful big city festival and should be compared more accurately to the Rome, Zurich, Vienna, and London Film Festivals – not Cannes or Venice.

I also have a deep personal connection with this city and this fest. In 2014, I was invited by Fox Searchlight (as they were once known) to fly to Berlin to cover the press junket & world premiere of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. We had to get a press badge to be able to attend the screening, so I also caught a few other screenings while I was in town. I wrote a glowing recap of my experience, raving about it so much that Berlinale invited me back again as a “guest” of the fest – offering me a comp hotel room. After returning for a few years, I fell in love with the city of Berlin. It was these trips to Berlin every February that convinced me to finally move to Berlin in 2016, leaving New York (I could not afford it on my blogger budget). Ever since, I’ve been attending Berlinale as a “local” and it’s different. Not only do I go home to my own apartment and sleep in my own bed every night, I also don’t have to spend any extra money to attend. Over the years, my excitement has faded watching so many bad or forgettable films. I keep wondering why they keep making bad picks. I see people spending money to come to Berlin and I want to tell them: don’t, it’s not worth it. But I always hold my tongue – many cinephiles do find good films at this festival and do enjoy coming here. I love Berlin and really, if they want to enjoy a trip to the city and catch some new films, by all means go for it.

Berlinale was struggling for years before the current leadership, too. German film critic Dieter Kosslick was running the festival from 2001 to 2019, and while they tried to bring some major films to the festival, they could never maintain any momentum. I remember being at Berlinale to cover the premieres of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2014), Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special (2016), James Mangold’s Logan (2017), Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs (2018), Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow (2020). Nearly everything else at the fest in the last ~10 years has not gone to any major prominence. This German festival used to be a place for major works of cinema to premiere. Did you know all these films were major premieres at the Berlin Film Festival: the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski (in 1998 – after first premiering at Sundance), Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (in 2014), Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (in 2000 – after it already opened in the US), Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation (in 2011 – after originally premiering in Iran), Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (in 2002 – after it already opened in Japan), Barry Levinson’s Rain Man (in 1989 – after it already opened in the US). This era is over, however, and Berlinale is now insistent on programming mostly bland, forgettable artsy films that rarely make an impact on cinema outside of their very small festival runs.

At the end of 2017, a powerful group of German filmmakers published an open letter in German newspaper Der Speigel (read it here) criticizing Kosslick and his leadership. They were worried the fest was losing its prominence and its reputation was dwindling. In their letter, they stated they wanted to find new leadership that could “lead the festival into the future on an equal footing with Cannes and Venice.” Sadly, they failed to achieve this. Under the current leadership, the festival has faded even more, year after year burying itself with its selection of niche cinema rather than making ambitious picks. They hired the wrong directors. I would be very curious to talk to any of these German filmmakers (a list including Maren Ade, Fatih Akin, Ulrich Köhler, Volker Schlöndorff, Christian Petzold, Franz Müller, Margarethe von Trotta, Julia von Heinz, Christian Wagner) nowadays and ask if they feel if the festival has improved. The sad thing is that Berlinale was still somewhat meaningful and relevant when it was run by Kosslick, now they have drifted further from any importance. Among the many reasons they didn’t gain any new ground is a refusal to change anything regarding the fundamental structure or timing of the film festival. The various categories at the fest make no sense, and hosting the festival in February is no longer a good idea – but I’ll get into this issue more later on.

Most of the problems that Berlinale had, still exist with its current directors – Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian. They are wrong for this festival and it was a mistake to hire them. I sincerely hope that they do not extend their contracts, as it will only doom this festival further into irrelevance. Get them out… jetzt! Carlo Chatrian comes from the Locarno Film Festival, located in Switzerland – I’ve been once before in 2014. The Locarno and Rotterdam Film Festivals are both outstanding festivals within the world of cinema, but they’re not right for most people. They show extremely artsy, super strange, very weird, mostly experimental films. They are niche festivals for niche cinema lovers. They are minor in the grand scheme of things. It just so happens that the film critics that love these niche films also work for mainstream outlets, so they rave about these extremely niche films in a way that makes it seem like they’re important. But most people won’t ever watch these films, and that’s totally fine. Let them run as these niche fests, let the films play to niche audiences, but it isn’t worth trying to argue and defend Locarno and Rotterdam as if they’re that important. Letting Chatrian run Berlinale the same as he ran Berlinale is turning it into an unimportant, niche festival.

Berlin Film Festival 2023

The best film at the 2023 edition of Berlinale was Past Lives, which already world premiered at Sundance a month before. The festival’s position in February is becoming a hindrance. They’re right behind Sundance, which is an A-list fest that gets all of the best films; and they’re just a few months before Cannes, with most filmmakers choosing to wait until Cannes (or later until TIFF / Telluride / Venice) rather than premiering too early in February. None of the Golden Bear winners from the last 5 years have gone to become a success outside of the film festival circuit. Stop referring to the Golden Bear as one of the big three prizes – it’s not that major. The top festivals in the world are: Sundance, Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Toronto, Telluride, Venice, New York, Busan (in Korea). These are the only fests that can truly be considered A-list in 2023. There are tons of other great festivals that run each year – SXSW, AFI Fest, Sitges, Fantasia, Fantastic Fest, Tromso, Tallinn Black Nights, Melbourne, San Sebastian, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Tokyo, IDFA, CPH:DOX, True/False, Marrakech – but none of them are as prominent as the A-listers. Neither is Berlinale anymore.

“Berlinale is a festival where films go to die,” one friend remarked. Another colleague who has covered the festival for more than 20 years and studies German cinema is also tired of the lack of quality and worthwhile films year-after-year. This review of a film in the competition this year includes a line that sums up the fest: “a glum piece which feels like a relic of a European cinema that is no longer really attuned to the times.” Perfectly said. While there are always a few good films that can be found at any festival, much of the line-up from 2020 onward has been annoyingly mediocre, if not downright bad. Why do they choose these films? Where do they even find them? And why are they so opposed to playing better films instead of trying to highlight so much “artsy” trash? Most film critics agree – I spoke to many during the festival this year and they all feel the selection is consistently lackluster, nothing really stands out, save for one or two gems. It has become disheartening to talk about Berlinale without addressing the elephant in the room: it’s just not a top festival anymore. Yes, I adore “foreign films“, innovative indies, and artsy cinema – but I also want to watch good films, no matter where they’re from. Experimental cinema isn’t as good as it used to be.

My main suggestion on how to make Berlinale “A-list” again: move the festival to June or July. And most importantly, get rid of Chatrian as soon as possible. Replace him with an ambitious leader who can focus on more than obscure, niche films that a few people will ever watch or enjoy. All film festivals go through good times and bad times, and Berlinale needs to admit: they are going through a bad time… The best Berlinale experience I’ve ever had was in 2021 during the pandemic. They canceled their in-person event in February, and only let critics and jury members watch online screeners. Then waited until the summer and hosted a series of screenings at a number of gorgeous, outdoor venues around Berlin. I bought tickets to see a few of my favorites again, and a few others I missed, and it was wonderful. (Here is my full recap of that summer event.) It would be so much better if Berlinale moved out of the snowy, cold February timeframe and instead played the best of Sundance & Cannes in June, showing better films that aren’t world premieres, because that is what is most important – getting all the great films. This is why the Around the World in 14 Films event in December is now Berlin’s best festival. They are the ones who show all the best films, not Berlinale.

I certainly expect some critic colleagues to get angry and tear me down for saying this. I also expect the fest to get upset. Though I do think it’s important that the festival reflect on their prominence. If cinephiles want to fly in and see some experimental films, that’s great. However, Berlinale needs to step back and recognize that they aren’t an A-list fest and instead position themselves next to Locarno and Rotterdam. The European Film Market (“EFM“) drives a lot of the buzz during Berlinale – many industry members fly in to schmooze, take meetings, go clubbing, sell films, and maybe catch one or two of the main festival’s selection. Beyond that, I don’t think it’s worth coming to the Berlin Film Festival – there is not much worth seeing there, most of it truly is uninspired and insignificant. Even the best films won’t be talked about outside of Berlinale. Did anyone see Alcarràs? What about Synonyms? Everyone knows showing Tar months after it opened in every other country and celebrating Steven Spielberg with a German premiere of The Fabelmans even though it’s already out on Blu-ray in the US was an obviously desperate attempt to feign some relevance. It won’t help. Until the fest improves, there is a German word that nicely describes the relevance of Berlinale now: egal.

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Sundance 2023: Official Selection of All 99 Feature Films Announced

Sundance 2023: Official Selection of All 99 Feature Films Announced

by Alex Billington
December 7, 2022

Let’s find out what the next year in cinema looks like. Every new year brings us another Sundance Film Festival and with less than two months until Sundance 2023 kicks off on January 19th, it’s time to find out what’s premiering at this prestigious fest in Utah. Sundance has revealed their 2023 selection of ALL of their official feature films in the selection this year, including 99 films playing across these 10 categories (including their usual four Competition categories – now bumped up to 12 films in each), ranging from new documentaries to quirky comedies, compelling dramas, and everything else good. The 2023 festival is taking place both as an in-person festival returning to snowy Park City, UT, as well as a virtual festival with online premieres only available for the second half. Sundance is still one of my favorite festivals in the world, and we’ll be returning for our 17th year in a row to cover it. View the entire selection of new films below to get a sense of what the 2023 line-up contains. Some of the most exciting offerings are in the Premieres category.

Browse through all the feature film selections for Sundance 2023 films – and visit Sundance.org for more.

U.S. Dramatic Competition:
Shortcomings

Presenting 12 world premieres of fiction feature films, the Dramatic Competition offers audiences a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American independent film.

The Accidental Getaway Driver (Director & Screenwriter: Sing J. Lee, Screenwriter: Christopher Chen, Producers: Kimberly Steward, Basil Iwanyk, Andy Sorgie, Brendon Boyea, Joseph Hiếu) — During a routine pickup, an elderly Vietnamese cab driver is taken hostage at gunpoint by three recently escaped Orange County convicts. Based on a true story. Cast: Hiệp Trần Nghĩa, Dustin Nguyen, Dali Benssalah, Phi Vũ, Gabrielle Chan. Available online.

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Director & Screenwriter: Raven Jackson, Producers: Maria Altamirano, Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski, Mark Ceryak) – A decades-spanning exploration of a woman’s life in Mississippi and an ode to the generations of people, places, and ineffable moments that shape us. Cast: Charleen McClure, Moses Ingram, Kaylee Nicole Johnson, Reginald Helms Jr., Sheila Atim, Chris Chalk. Available online.

Fair Play (Director & Screenwriter: Chloe Domont, Producers: Leopold Hughes, Ben LeClair, Tim White, Trevor White, Allan Mandelbaum) — An unexpected promotion at a cutthroat hedge fund pushes a young couple’s relationship to the brink, threatening to unravel far more than their recent engagement. Cast: Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Ehrenreich, Eddie Marsan. Available online.

Fancy Dance (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Erica Tremblay, Screenwriter: Miciana Alise, Producers: Deidre Backs, Heather Rae, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Tommy Oliver) — Following her sister’s disappearance, a Native American hustler kidnaps her niece from the child’s white grandparents and sets out for the state powwow in hopes of keeping what is left of their family intact. Cast: Lily Gladstone, Isabel Deroy-Olson, Ryan Begay, Shea Whigham, Audrey Wasilewski. Available online.

Magazine Dreams (Director & Screenwriter: Elijah Bynum, Producers: Jennifer Fox, Dan Gilroy, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman) — An amateur bodybuilder struggles to find human connection as his relentless drive for recognition pushes him to the brink. Cast: Jonathan Majors, Haley Bennett, Taylour Paige, Mike O’Hearn, Harrison Page, Harriet Sansom Harris. Available online.

Mutt (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Vuk Lungulov-Klotz, Producers: Alexander Stegmaier, Stephen Scott Scarpulla, Jennifer Kuczaj, Joel Michaely) — Over the course of a single hectic day in New York City, three people from Feña’s past are thrust back into his life. Having lost touch since transitioning from female to male, he navigates the new dynamics of old relationships while tackling the day-to-day challenges of living life in between. Cast: Lío Mehiel, Cole Doman, MiMi Ryder, Alejandro Goic. Available online.

The Persian Version (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Maryam Keshavarz, Producers: Anne Carey, Ben Howe, Luca Borghese, Peter Block, Corey Nelson) — When a large Iranian-American family gathers for the patriarch’s heart transplant, a family secret is uncovered that catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past. Toggling between the United States and Iran over decades, mother and daughter discover they are more alike than they know. Cast: Layla Mohammadi, Niousha Noor, Kamand Shafieisabet, Bella Warda, Bijan Daneshmand, Shervin Alenabi. Available online.

Shortcomings (Director: Randall Park, Screenwriter: Adrian Tomine, Producers: Margot Hand, Randall Park, Hieu Ho, Jennifer Berman, Howard Cohen, Eric d’Arbeloff) — Following Ben, Miko, and Alice as they navigate a range of interpersonal relationships and traverse the country in search of the ideal connection. Cast: Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola, Ally Maki, Debby Ryan, Tavi Gevinson, Sonoya Mizuno. Available online.

Sometimes I Think About Dying (Director: Rachel Lambert, Screenwriters: Kevin Armento, Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Katy Wright-Mead, Producers: Alex Saks, Daisy Ridley, Dori Rath, Lauren Beveridge, Brett Beveridge) — Fran likes to think about dying. It brings sensation to her quiet life. When she makes the new guy at work laugh, it leads to more: a date, a slice of pie, a conversation, a spark. The only thing standing in their way is Fran herself. Cast: Daisy Ridley, Dave Merheje, Parvesh Cheena, Marcia DeBonis, Meg Stalter, Brittany O’Grady. Available online. 

The Starling Girl (Director & Screenwriter: Laurel Akira Parmet, Producers: Kevin Rowe, Kara Durrett) — Seventeen-year-old Jem Starling struggles with her place within her Christian fundamentalist community, but everything changes when her magnetic youth pastor Owen returns to their church. Cast: Eliza Scanlen, Lewis Pullman, Jimmi Simpson, Wrenn Schmidt, Austin Abrams, Jessamine Burgum. Available online.

Theater Camp (Directors & Screenwriters: Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman, Screenwriters: Noah Galvin, Ben Platt, Producers: Erik Feig, Samie Kim Falvey, Julia Hammer, Ryan Heller, Will Ferrell, Jessica Elbaum) — When the beloved founder of a run-down theater camp in upstate New York falls into a coma, the eccentric staff must band together with the founder’s crypto-bro son to keep the camp afloat. Cast: Molly Gordon, Ben Platt, Noah Galvin, Jimmy Tatro, Patti Harrison, Ayo Edebiri. Available online.

A Thousand and One (Director & Screenwriter: A.V. Rockwell, Producers: Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Lena Waithe, Rishi Rajani, Brad Weston) — Convinced it’s one last, necessary crime on the path to redemption, unapologetic and free-spirited Inez kidnaps 6-year-old Terry from the foster care system. Holding on to their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability in New York City. Cast: Teyana Taylor, Will Catlett, Josiah Cross, Aven Courtney, Aaron Kingsley Adetola. Available online.

U.S. Documentary Competition:
Bad Press

World-premiere American documentaries that illuminate the ideas, people, and events that shape the present day.

AUM: The Cult at the End of the World (Directors & Producers: Ben Braun, Chiaki Yanagimoto, Producers: Dan Braun, Josh Braun, Rick Brookwell) — On the morning of March 20, 1995, a deadly nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway sent the nation and its people into chaos. This exploration of Aum Shinrikyo, the cult responsible for the attack, involves the participation of those who lived through the horror as it unfolded. Available online.

Bad Press (Directors: Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Joe Peeler, Producers: Conrad Beilharz, Garrett F. Baker, Tyler Graim) — When the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring its free press, a rogue reporter fights to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian country. Available online.

The Disappearance of Shere Hite (Director and Producer: Nicole Newnham, Producers: Molly O’Brien, R.J. Cutler, Elise Pearlstein, Kimberley Ferdinando, Trevor Smith) — Shere Hite’s 1976 bestselling book, The Hite Report, liberated the female orgasm by revealing the most private experiences of thousands of anonymous survey respondents. Her findings rocked the American establishment and presaged current conversations about gender, sexuality, and bodily autonomy. So how did Shere Hite disappear? Available online.

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (Directors and Producers: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson, Producer: Tommy Oliver) — Intimate vérité, archival footage, and visually innovative treatments of poetry take us on a journey through the dreamscape of legendary poet Nikki Giovanni as she reflects on her life and legacy. Available online.

Going Varsity in Mariachi (Directors: Alejandra Vasquez, Sam Osborn, Producers: James Lawler, Luis A. Miranda, Jr., Julia Pontecorvo) — In the competitive world of high school mariachi, the musicians from the South Texas borderlands reign supreme. Under the guidance of coach Abel Acuña, the teenage captains of Edinburg North High School’s acclaimed team must turn a shoestring budget and diverse crew of inexperienced musicians into state champions. Available online.

Joonam (Director: Sierra Urich, Producer: Keith Wilson) — Spurred by a provocative family memory and a lifetime of separation from the country her mother left behind, a young filmmaker delves into her mother and grandmother’s complicated pasts and her own fractured Iranian identity. Available online.

Little Richard: I Am Everything (Director & Producer: Lisa Cortés, Producers: Robert Friedman, Liz Yale Marsh, Caryn Capotosto) — This celebration of Little Richard reveals the Black queer origins of rock ’n’ roll, finally exploding the whitewashed canon of American pop music. Through archival and performance footage, the revolutionary icon’s life unspools with all of its switchbacks and contradictions. Available online.

Nam June Paik: Moon is the Oldest TV (Director & Producer: Amanda Kim, Producers: Amy Hobby, David Koh, Mariko Munro, Jennifer Stockman, Jesse Wann) — The quixotic journey of Nam June Paik, one of the most famous Asian artists of the 20th century, who revolutionized the use of technology as an artistic canvas and prophesied both the fascist tendencies and intercultural understanding that would arise from the interconnected metaverse of today’s world. Available online.

A Still Small Voice (Director and Producer: Luke Lorentzen, Producer: Kellen Quinn) — An aspiring hospital chaplain begins a yearlong residency in spiritual care, only to discover that to successfully tend to her patients, she must look deep within herself. Available online.

The Stroll (Directors: Kristen Lovell, Zackary Drucker, Producer: Matt Wolf) — The history of New York’s Meatpacking District, told from the perspective of transgender sex workers who lived and worked there. Filmmaker Kristen Lovell, who walked “The Stroll” for a decade, reunites her community to recount the violence, policing, homelessness, and gentrification they overcame to build a movement for transgender rights. Available online.

Victim/Suspect (Director & Producer: Nancy Schwartzman, Producers: Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Alice Henty, Rachel de Leon, Amanda Pike) — Investigative journalist Rae de Leon travels nationwide to uncover and examine a shocking pattern: Young women tell the police they’ve been sexually assaulted, but instead of finding justice, they’re charged with the crime of making a false report, arrested, and even imprisoned by the system they believed would protect them. Available online.

World Cinema Dramatic Competition:
Sorcery

Fiction projects from emerging artists around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.

Animalia / France, Morocco, Qatar (Director & Screenwriter: Sofia Alaoui, Producers: Margaux Lorier, Toufik Ayadi, Christophe Barral) — A young, pregnant woman finds emancipation as aliens land in Morocco. Cast: Oumaïma Barid, Mehdi Dehbi, Fouad Oughaou. Available online.

Bad Behaviour / New Zealand (Director & Screenwriter: Alice Englert, Producers: Molly Hallam, Desray Armstrong) — Lucy, a former child actor, seeks enlightenment at a retreat led by spiritual leader Elon while she navigates her close yet turbulent relationship with her stunt-performer daughter, Dylan. Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Whishaw, Alice Englert, Ana Scotney, Dasha Nekrasova, Marlon Williams. Available online.

Girl / U.K. (Director & Screenwriter: Adura Onashile, Producers: Rosie Crerar, Ciara Barry) — Eleven-year-old Ama and her mother, Grace, take solace in the gentle but isolated world they obsessively create. Ama’s growing up threatens the boundaries of their tenderness and forces Grace to reckon with a past she struggles to forget. Cast: Déborah Lukumuena, Danny Sapani, Le’Shantey Bonsu, Liana Turner. Available online.

Heroic / Mexico, Sweden (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: David Zonana, Producers: Michel Franco, Eréndira Núñez Larios) — Luis, an 18-year-old boy with Indigenous roots, enters the Heroic Military College in hopes of ensuring a better future. There, he encounters a rigid and institutionally violent system designed to turn him into a perfect soldier. Cast: Santiago Sandoval Carbajal, Fernando Cuautle, Mónica del Carmen, Esteban Caicedo, Carlos Gerardo García, Isabel Yudice. Available online.

Mamacruz / Spain (Director & Screenwriter: Patricia Ortega, Screenwriter: José Ortuño, Producer: Olmo Figueredo) — With the help of her newly emigrated daughter, a religious grandmother learns how to use the internet. However, an accidental encounter with pornography poses a dilemma for her. Cast: Kiti Mánver. Available online.

Mami Wata / Nigeria (Director & Screenwriter: C.J. “Fiery” Obasi, Producer: Oge Obasi) — When the harmony in a village is threatened by outside elements, two sisters must fight to save their people and restore the glory of a mermaid goddess to the land. Cast: Evelyne Ily, Uzoamaka Aniunoh, Kelechi Udegbe, Emeka Amakeze, Rita Edochie, Tough Bone. Available online.

La Pecera / Puerto Rico, Spain (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Glorimar Marrero Sánchez, Producers: Amaya Izquierdo, José Esteban Alenda) — As her cancer spreads, Noelia’s ultimate decision is to return to her native Vieques, Puerto Rico, and claim her freedom to decide her own fate. She reunites with her friends and family, who are still dealing with the contamination of the U.S. Navy after sixty years of military practices. Cast: Isel Rodríguez, Modesto Lacén, Magali Carrasquillo, Maximiliano Rivas, Anamín Santiago, Idenisse Salamán. Available online.

Scrapper / U.K. (Director & Screenwriter: Charlotte Regan, Producer: Theo Barrowclough) — Georgie is a dreamy 12-year-old girl who lives happily alone in her London flat, filling it with magic. Out of nowhere, her estranged father turns up and forces her to confront reality. Cast: Harris Dickinson, Lola Campbell, Alin Uzun, Ambreen Razia, Olivia Brady, Aylin Tezel. Available online.

Shayda / Australia (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Noora Niasari, Producer: Vincent Sheehan) — Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her 6-year-old daughter. Over Persian New Year, they take solace in Nowruz rituals and new beginnings, but when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardized. Cast: Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Osamah Sami, Leah Purcell, Jillian Nguyen, Mojean Aria, Selina Zahednia. Available online.

Slow / Lithuania, Spain, Sweden (Director & Screenwriter: Marija Kavtaradze, Producer: Marija Razgute) — Dancer Elena and sign language interpreter Dovydas meet and form a beautiful bond. As they dive into a new relationship, they must navigate how to build their own kind of intimacy. Cast: Greta Grinevičiūtė, Kęstutis Cicėnas. Available online.

Sorcery / Chile, Mexico, Germany (Director & Screenwriter: Christopher Murray, Screenwriter: Pablo Paredes, Producers: Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Rocío Jadue, Nicolás Celis) — On the remote island of Chiloé in the late 19th century, an Indigenous girl named Rosa lives and works with her father on a farm. When the foreman brutally turns on Rosa’s father, she sets out for justice, seeking help from the king of a powerful organization of sorcerers. Cast: Valentina Véliz, Daniel Antivilo, Sebastian Hulk, Daniel Muñoz. Available online.

When It Melts / Belgium (Director & Screenwriter: Veerle Baetens, Screenwriter: Maarten Loix, Producers: Bart Van Langendonck, Ellen Havenith, Jacques-Henri Bronckart) — Many years after a sweltering summer that spun out of control, Eva returns to the village she grew up in with an ice block in the back of her car. In the dead of winter, she confronts her past and faces up to her tormentors. Cast: Charlotte De Bruyne, Rosa Marchant. Available online.

World Cinema Documentary Competition:
Fantastic Machine

Documentaries by some of the boldest global filmmakers capturing the world today.

5 Seasons of Revolution / Germany, Syria, Netherlands, Norway (Director: Lina, Producer: Diana El Jeiroudi) — An aspiring video journalist in her 20s finds herself already facing self-reckoning. Born in Damascus, Syria, Lina starts to report on the events around her until she is compelled to become a war reporter and, later, the unexpected narrator of her own destiny. Available online.

20 Days in Mariupol / Ukraine (Director & Producer: Mstyslav Chernov, Producers: Michelle Mizner, Raney Aronson-Rath, Derl McCrudden) — As the Russian invasion begins, a team of Ukrainian journalists trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol struggle to continue their work documenting the war’s atrocities. Available online.

Against the Tide / India (Director & Producer: Sarvnik Kaur, Producer: Koval Bhatia) — Two friends, both Indigenous fishermen, are driven to desperation by a dying sea. Their friendship begins to fracture as they take very different paths to provide for their struggling families. Available online.

The Eternal Memory / Chile (Director & Producer: Maite Alberdi, Producers: Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Rocío Jadue) — Augusto and Paulina have been together for 25 years. Eight years ago, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Both fear the day he no longer recognizes her. Available online.

Fantastic Machine / Sweden, Denmark (Directors & Producers: Axel Danielson, Maximilien Van Aertryck) — From the first camera to 45 billion cameras worldwide today, the visual sociologist filmmakers widen their lens to expose both humanity’s unique obsession with the camera’s image and the social consequences that lay ahead. Available online.

Iron Butterflies / Ukraine, Germany (Director: Roman Liubyi, Producers: Andrii Kotliar, Volodymyr Tykhyy, David Armati Lechner, Isabelle Bertolone, Trini Götze) — In summer 2014, sunflower fields and coal mines in eastern Ukraine turned into a 12 square kilometer crime scene. A multi-layered investigation into the downing of flight MH17, in which a butterfly-shaped shrapnel was found in the pilot’s body, implicated the state responsible for a war crime that remains unpunished. Available online.

Is There Anybody Out There? / U.K. (Director: Ella Glendining, Producer: Janine Marmot) — While navigating daily discrimination, a filmmaker who inhabits and loves her unusual body searches the world for another person like her, and explores what it takes to love oneself fiercely despite the pervasiveness of ableism. Available online.

The Longest Goodbye / Israel, Canada (Director & Producer: Ido Mizrahy, Producers: Nir Sa’ar, Paul Cadieux) — Social isolation affects millions of people, even Mars-bound astronauts. A savvy NASA psychologist is tasked with protecting these daring explorers. Available online.

Milisuthando / South Africa (Director & Screenwriter: Milisuthando Bongela, Producer: Marion Isaacs) — Set in past, present, and future South Africa — an invitation into a poetic, memory-driven exploration of love, intimacy, race, and belonging by the filmmaker, who grew up during apartheid but didn’t know it was happening until it was over. Available online.

Pianoforte / Poland (Director: Jakub Piątek, Producer: Maciej Kubicki) — Young pianists take part in the legendary International Chopin Piano Competition. A unique chance of a lifetime, portrayed from backstage and set to Chopin’s music. Available online.

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood / Estonia, France, Iceland (Director: Anna Hints, Producer: Marianne Ostrat) — In the darkness of a smoke sauna, women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences, washing off the shame trapped in their bodies and regaining their strength through a sense of communion. Available online.

Twice Colonized / Greenland, Denmark, Canada (Director: Lin Alluna, Producers: Emile Hertling Péronard, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Stacey Aglok MacDonald, Bob Moore) — Renowned Inuit lawyer Aaju Peter has long fought for the rights of her people. When her son suddenly dies, Aaju embarks on a journey to reclaim her language and culture after a lifetime of whitewashing and forced assimilation. But can she both change the world and mend her own wounds? Available online.

NEXT:
To Live and Die and Live

Visionary works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program.

Bravo, Burkina! / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Walé Oyéjidé, Producers: Giulia Alagna, Heather Barnes) — A Burkinabé boy flees his village and migrates to Italy. When disillusioned by heartbreak and haunted by memories of home, he travels through time in hope of regaining all he has lost. Cast: Alain Tiendrebeogo, Mousty Mbaye, Noel Minougou, Aissata Deme, Afissatou Coulibaly. Fiction. Available online. 

Divinity / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Eddie Alcazar, Producer: Steven Soderbergh) — Two mysterious brothers abduct a mogul during his quest for immortality. Meanwhile, a seductive woman helps them launch a journey of self-discovery. Cast: Stephen Dorff, Moises Arias, Jason Genao, Karrueche Tran, Bella Thorne, Scott Bakula. Fiction. Available online.

Fremont / U.S.A. (Director & Screenwriter: Babak Jalali, Screenwriter: Carolina Cavalli, Producers: Marjaneh Moghimi, Sudnya Shroff, Rachael Fung, George Rush, Chris Martin, Laura Wagner) — Donya works for a Chinese fortune cookie factory in San Francisco. Formerly a translator for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, she struggles to put her life back in order. In a moment of sudden revelation, she decides to send out a special message in a cookie. Cast: Anaita Wali Zada, Jeremy Allen White, Gregg Turkington. Fiction. Available online.

Kim’s Video / U.S.A. (Directors, Screenwriters, & Producers: David Redmon, Ashley Sabin, Producers: Deborah Smith, Dale Smith, Francesco Galavotti, Rebecca Tabasky) — Playing with the forms and tropes of various cinema genres, the filmmaker sets off on a quest to find a legendary lost video collection of 55,000 movies in Sicily. Documentary. Available online.

King Coal / U.S.A. (Director & Producer: Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Producers: Shane Boris, Diane Becker, Peggy Drexler) — The cultural roots of coal continue to permeate the rituals of daily life in Appalachia even as its economic power wanes. The journey of a coal miner’s daughter exploring the region’s dreams and myths, untangling the pain and beauty, as her community sits on the brink of massive change. Documentary. Available online.

Kokomo City / U.S.A. (Director & Producer: D. Smith, Producers: Harris Doran, Bill Butler) — Four Black transgender sex workers explore the dichotomy between the Black community and themselves, while confronting issues long avoided. Documentary. Available online.

To Live and Die and Live / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Qasim Basir, Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker, Amin Joseph, Dana Offenbach, Samantha Basir) — Muhammad returns home to Detroit to bury his stepfather and is thrust into settling his accounts, but Muhammad’s struggles with depression and addiction may finish him before he finishes the task. Cast: Amin Joseph, Skye P. Marshall, Omari Hardwick, Cory Hardrict, Dana Gourrier, Maryam Basir. Fiction. Available online.

The Tuba Thieves / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Alison O’Daniel, Producer: Rachel Nederveld, Wendy Ettinger, Maida Lynn, Su Kim, Maya E. Rudolph) — From 2011 to 2013, tubas were stolen from Los Angeles high schools. This is not a story about thieves or missing tubas. Instead, it asks what it means to listen. Documentary. Available online.

Young. Wild. Free. / U.S.A (Director: Thembi L. Banks, Screenwriters: Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Producers: Charles D. King, James Lopez, Poppy Hanks, Tommy Oliver, Baron Davis, Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd) — High school senior Brandon is drowning in responsibilities when his world is turned upside down after being robbed at gunpoint by the girl of his dreams. Cast: Algee Smith, Sanaa Lathan, Sierra Capri, Mike Epps. Fiction. Available online.

Premieres:
Drift

A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated fiction and nonfiction films of the coming year.

Cassandro / U.S.A (Director & Screenwriter: Roger Ross Williams, Screenwriters: David Teague, Julián Herbert, Producers: Gerardo Gatica, Todd Black, David Bloomfield, Ted Hope, Julie Goldman) — Saúl Armendáriz, a gay amateur wrestler from El Paso, rises to international stardom after he creates the character Cassandro, the “Liberace of Lucha Libre.” In the process, he upends not just the macho wrestling world, but also his own life. Cast: Gael García Bernal, Roberta Colindrez, Perla De La Rosa, Joaquín Cosío, Raúl Castillo. Fiction.

Cat Person / France, U.S.A (Director: Susanna Fogel, Screenwriter: Michelle Ashford, Producers: Helen Estabrook, Jeremy Steckler) — College student Margot meets 33-year-old Robert at the movie theater where she works. After a casual flirtation at the concession stand, they carry on conversations through texts. As their perceptions of each other collide, events spiral out of control. Based on The New Yorker short story by Kristen Roupenian. Cast: Emilia Jones, Nicholas Braun, Geraldine Viswanathan, Hope Davis, Fred Melamed, Isabella Rossellini. Fiction. Available online.

Deep Rising / U.S.A (Director & Producer: Matthieu Rytz) — The fate of the planet’s last untouched wilderness, the deep ocean, is under threat as a secretive organization is about to allow massive extraction of seabed metals to address the world’s energy crisis. Narrated by Jason Momoa. Documentary.

The Deepest Breath / U.K, Ireland (Director & Screenwriter: Laura McGann, Producers: John Battsek, Sarah Thomson, Jamie D’Alton, Anne McLoughlin) — A champion freediver and expert safety diver seemed destined for one another despite the different paths they took to meet at the pinnacle of the freediving world. A look at the thrilling rewards — and inescapable risks — of chasing dreams through the depths of the ocean. Documentary.

Drift / France, U.K, Greece (Director & Producer: Anthony Chen, Screenwriters: Susanne Farrell, Alexander Maksik, Producers: Peter Spears, Emilie Georges, Naima Abed, Cynthia Erivo, Solome Williams) — Jacqueline, a young refugee, lands alone and penniless on a Greek island where she tries to survive, then to cope with her past. While gathering her strength, she begins a friendship with a rootless tour guide and together they find the resilience to forge ahead. Cast: Cynthia Erivo, Alia Shawkat, Ibrahima Ba, Honor Swinton Byrne, Zainab Jah, Suzy Bemba. Fiction.

Eileen / U.S.A (Director & Producer: William Oldroyd, Screenwriters and Producers: Luke Goebel, Ottessa Moshfegh, Producers: Anthony Bregman, Stefanie Azpiazu, Peter Cron) — Set during a bitter 1964 Massachusetts winter, young secretary Eileen becomes enchanted by the glamorous new counselor at the prison where she works. Their budding friendship takes a twisted turn when Rebecca reveals a dark secret — throwing Eileen onto a sinister path. Based on Ottessa Moshfegh’s award-winning novel. Cast: Thomasin McKenzie, Anne Hathaway, Shea Whigham, Marin Ireland, Owen Teague. Fiction.

Fairyland / U.S.A (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Andrew Durham, Producers: Sofia Coppola, Megan Carlson, Siena Oberman, Greg Lauritano, Laure Sudreau) — Set against the backdrop of San Francisco’s vibrant cultural scene in the 1970s and ’80s, chronicling a father-daughter relationship as it evolves from an era of bohemian decadence to the heartbreaking AIDS crisis. Based on the best-selling memoir Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father by Alysia Abbott. Cast: Scoot McNairy, Emilia Jones, Geena Davis, Cody Fern, Adam Lambert, Maria Bakalova. Fiction.

Food and Country / U.S.A (Director & Producer: Laura Gabbert, Producers: Ruth Reichl, Paula P. Manzanedo, Caroline Libresco) — America’s policy of producing cheap food at all costs has long hobbled small independent farmers, ranchers, and chefs. Worried for their survival, trailblazing food writer Ruth Reichl reaches out across political and social divides to uncover the country’s broken food system and the innovators risking it all to transform it. Documentary. Available online.

Invisible Beauty / U.S.A (Directors: Bethann Hardison, Frédéric Tcheng, Producer: Lisa Cortés) — Fashion revolutionary Bethann Hardison looks back on her journey as a pioneering Black model, modeling agent, and activist, shining a light on an untold chapter in the fight for racial diversity. Documentary.

It’s Only Life After All / U.S.A (Director & Producer: Alexandria Bombach, Producers: Kathlyn Horan, Jess Devaney, Anya Rous) — Blending 40 years of home movies, film archives, and intimate present-day vérité, a poignant reflection from Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of iconic folk rock duo Indigo Girls. A timely look into the obstacles, activism, and life lessons of two queer friends who never expected to make it big. Documentary.

Jamojaya / U.S.A (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Justin Chon, Screenwriter: Maegan Houang, Producers: Alan Pao, David Matheny, Joseph Dang, Alex Chi, Yama Cibulka, Shaun Sanghani) — A father-son relationship is put to the test when an up-and-coming rapper at the crossroads of his career decides to let go of his manager, who is also his father. This decision forces them to confront the past and figure out what they want of each other. Cast: Brian Imanuel, Yayu A.W. Unru, Kate Lyn Sheil, Henry Ian Cusick, Anthony Kiedis. Fiction. Available online.

Judy Blume Forever / U.S.A (Directors & Producers: Davina Pardo, Leah Wolchok, Producers: Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Marcella Steingart) — The radical honesty of the books by young adult fiction pioneer Judy Blume changed the way millions of readers understood themselves, their sexuality, and what it meant to grow up, but also led to critical battles against book banning and censorship. Documentary.

Landscape With Invisible Hand / U.S.A (Director & Screenwriter: Cory Finley, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner) — When Earth is taken over by aliens who control the economy, a pair of teenagers come up with a plan to save their family. Cast: Tiffany Haddish, Asante Blackk, Kylie Rogers, Josh Hamilton, Michael Gandolfini, William Jackson Harper. Fiction.

A Little Prayer / U.S.A (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Angus MacLachlan, Producers: Lauren Vilchik, Max A. Butler) — In the South, a man tests the limits of patriarchal interference to protect his daughter-in-law when he discovers that his son is having an affair. Cast: David Strathairn, Jane Levy, Celia Weston, Will Pullen, Anna Camp, Dascha Polanco. Fiction. Available online.

Murder in Big Horn / U.S.A (Director & Producer: Razelle Benally, Director: Matthew Galkin, Producers: Ivan Macdonald, Ivy Macdonald) — The deaths of a group of Native American women in rural Montana are the focus as Native families, journalists, and local law enforcement reveal a violent crisis set in motion almost 200 years ago. Documentary. Available online.

Passages / France (Director & Screenwriter: Ira Sachs, Screenwriter: Mauricio Zacharias, Producers: Saïd Ben Saïd, Michel Merkt) — An intimate examination of attraction and emotional abuse between men and women. Cast: Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw, Adèle Exarchopoulos. Fiction.

Plan C / U.S.A (Director & Producer: Tracy Droz Tragos) — A hidden grassroots organization doggedly fights to expand access to abortion pills across the United States keeping hope alive during a global pandemic and the fall of Roe v. Wade. Documentary.

The Pod Generation / Belgium, France, U.K (Director & Screenwriter: Sophie Barthes, Producers: Geneviève Lemal, Yann Zenou, Nadia Kamlichi, Martin Metz) — In a not-so-distant future, amid a society madly in love with technology, tech giant Pegazus offers couples the opportunity to share their pregnancies via detachable artificial wombs or pods. And so begins Rachel and Alvy’s wild ride to parenthood in this brave new world. Cast: Emilia Clarke, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rosalie Craig, Vinette Robinson, Jean-Marc Barr. Fiction.

Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields / U.S.A (Director: Lana Wilson, Producers: Christine O’Malley, Jack Turner) — A galvanizing look at actor, model, and icon Brooke Shields as she transforms from sexualized young girl to a woman discovering her power. Holding a mirror up to a society that objectifies women and girls, her story shows the perils and triumphs of gaining agency in a hostile world. Documentary.

Radical / U.S.A (Director & Screenwriter: Christopher Zalla, Producers: Ben Odell, Eugenio Derbez, Joshua Davis) — In a Mexican border town plagued by neglect, corruption, and violence, a frustrated teacher tries a radical new method to break through his students’ apathy and unlock their curiosity, their potential… and maybe even their genius. Based on a true story. Cast: Eugenio Derbez, Daniel Haddad, Jenifer Trejo, Mia Fernanda Solis, Danilo Guardiola. Fiction.

Rotting in the Sun / U.S.A (Director & Screenwriter: Sebastian Silva, Screenwriter: Pedro Peirano, Producer: Jacob Wasserman) — After filmmaker Sebastian Silva goes missing in Mexico City, social media celebrity Jordan Firstman begins searching for him, suspecting that the cleaning lady in Sebastian’s building may have something to do with his disappearance. Cast: Jordan Firstman, Catalina Saavedra, Sebastian Silva. Fiction.

Rye Lane / U.K (Director: Raine Allen-Miller, Screenwriters: Nathan Bryon, Tom Melia, Producers: Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo, Damian Jones) — Two twenty-somethings reeling from bad breakups deal with their nightmare exes and connect over the course of an eventful day in South London. Cast: David Jonsson, Vivian Oparah. Fiction.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie / U.S.A (Director and Producer: Davis Guggenheim, Producers: Jonathan King, Annetta Marion, Will Cohen) — The improbable tale of a short kid from a Canadian army base who became the darling of 1980s Hollywood — only to find the course of his life altered by a stunning diagnosis. What happens when an incurable optimist confronts an incurable disease? Documentary.

You Hurt My Feelings / U.S.A (Director & Screenwriter: Nicole Holofcener, Producers: Stefanie Azpiazu, Anthony Bregman) — A novelist’s longstanding marriage is suddenly upended when she overhears her husband giving his honest reaction to her latest book. Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Owen Teague, Arian Moayed. Fiction.

Midnight:
In My Mother's Skin

From horror and comedy to works that defy genre classification, these films will keep you wide awake, even at the most arduous hour.

birth/rebirth / U.S.A. (Director & Screenwriter: Laura Moss, Screenwriter: Brendan J. O’Brien, Producers: Mali Elfman, David Grove Churchill Viste) — A single mother and a childless morgue technician are bound together by their relationship to a little girl they have reanimated from the dead. Cast: Marin Ireland, Judy Reyes, A.J. Lister, Breeda Wool. Fiction.

In My Mother’s Skin / Philippines (Director & Screenwriter: Kenneth Dagatan, Producers: Bradley Liew, Bianca Balbuena, Huang Junxiang, Stefano Centini) — Stranded in the Philippines during World War II, a young girl finds that her duty to protect her dying mother is complicated by her misplaced trust in a beguiling, flesh-eating fairy. Cast: Beauty Gonzalez, Felicity Kyle Napuli, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, James Mavie Estrella, Angeli Bayani. Fiction. Available online.

Infinity Pool / Canada (Director and Screenwriter: Brandon Cronenberg, Producers: Karen Harnisch, Andrew Cividino, Christian Piovesan, Noah Segal, Rob Cotterill, Anita Juka) — James and Em are enjoying an all-inclusive beach vacation when a fatal accident exposes the resort’s perverse subculture of hedonistic tourism, reckless violence, and surreal horrors. Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman. Fiction.

My Animal / Canada (Director: Jacqueline Castel, Screenwriter: Jae Matthews, Producers: Andrew Bronfman, Michael Solomon) — Heather, an outcast teenage goalie in a small northern town, falls for newcomer Jonny, an alluring but tormented figure skater. As their relationship deepens, Heather’s growing desires clash with her darkest secret, forcing her to control the animal within. Cast: Bobbi Salvör Menuez, Amandla Stenberg, Stephen McHattie, Heidi von Palleske, Cory Lipman, Joe Apollonio. Fiction.

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Andrew Bowser, Producers: Clark Baker, Michael Mobley, Olivia Taylor Dudley) — Onyx joins a group of fellow occultists to attend a dark ritual at the mansion of their idol, Bartok. Suspecting Bartok’s nefarious intentions, Onyx is suddenly immersed in a world of monsters, mystery, and mayhem. Cast: Andrew Bowser, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Jeffrey Combs, Ralph Ineson, Rivkah Reyes, T.C. Carson. Fiction. Available online.

Polite Society / U.K. (Director & Screenwriter: Nida Manzoor, Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Olivier Kaempfer, John Pocock) — Aspiring martial artist Ria Khan believes she must save her older sister, Lena, from her impending marriage. With the help of her friends, Ria attempts to pull off the most ambitious of all wedding heists in the name of independence and sisterhood. Cast: Priya Kansara, Ritu Arya, Nimra Bucha, Akshay Khanna, Seraphina Beh, Ella Bruccoleri. Fiction.

Run Rabbit Run / Australia (Director: Daina Reid, Screenwriter: Hannah Kent, Producers: Sarah Shaw, Anna McLeish) — As a fertility doctor, Sarah has a firm understanding of the cycle of life. However, when she is forced to make sense of the increasingly strange behavior of her young daughter, Sarah must challenge her own beliefs and confront a ghost from her past. Cast: Sarah Snook, Lily LaTorre, Damon Herriman, Greta Scacchi. Fiction. Available online.

Talk to Me / Australia (Director & Screenwriter: Danny Philippou, Director: Michael Philippou, Screenwriter: Bill Hinzman, Producers: Samantha Jennings, Kristina Ceyton) — When a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an ancient embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill. Until one of them goes too far and opens the door to the spirit world. Cast: Sophie Wilde, Miranda Otto, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Zoe Terakes, Otis Dhanji. Fiction.

Spotlight:

The Spotlight section is a tribute to the cinema we love from throughout the past year.

The Eight Mountains / Italy and Belgium (Directors and Screenwriters: Felix van Groeningen, Charlotte Vandermeersch, Producers: Mario Gianani, Lorenzo Gangarossa) — Pietro spends his childhood summers in the same secluded Italian mountain village where Bruno was raised, in which they form a decades-long friendship. Over the years, their paths diverge as Bruno remains faithful to the mountain while Pietro comes and goes from the city. Cast: Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi, Filippo Timi, Elena Lietti. Fiction. Available online.

L’Immensità / Italy (Director and Screenwriter: Emanuele Crialese, Screenwriter: Francesca Manieri, Vittorio Moroni, Producer: Lorenzo Gangarossa, Mario Gianani — Clara has relocated to Rome with Felice and their three children. From their new apartment, Clara sees a city in transition: an old society washed away by an emerging middle class. The paint is fresh, the appliances are new, but expectations around family, desire, and gender remain traditional as ever. Cast: Penélope Cruz, Vincenzo Amato, Luana Giuliani, Patrizio Francioni, Maria Chiara Gorett, Penelope Nieto Conti. Fiction. Available online.

Joyland / Pakistan (Director and Screenwriter: Saim Sadiq, Producers: Apoorva Guru Charan, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, Sabiha Sumar, Lauren Mann) — As the Ranas, a happily patriarchal joint family, yearn for the birth of a baby boy to continue the family line, their youngest son secretly joins an erotic dance theater and falls for an ambitious trans starlet. Their impossible love story illuminates the entire family’s desire for a sexual rebellion. Cast: Ali Junejo, Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Sarwat Gilani, Sania Saeed, Salmaan Peerzada. Fiction. Available online.

Other People’s Children / France (Director and Screenwriter: Rebecca Zlotowski, Producers: Frederic Jouve, Marie Lecoq — Rachel is 40 years old with no children. She loves her life: her high school students, her friends, her guitar lessons. When she falls in love with Ali, she becomes attached to Leila, his 4-year-old daughter. She loves her like her own, but to love other people’s children is risky. Cast: Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem, Chiara Mastroianni, Callie Ferreira-Goncalves, Yamée Couture, Michel Zlotowski. Fiction. Available online.

Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) / U.K. (Director: Anton Corbijn, Screenwriter, and Producer: Trish D Chetty, Producers: Ged Doherty, Colin Firth) — An inside look at the studio responsible for some of the most iconic and recognizable album covers of all time. From Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, the studio ruled the ’70s. Documentary. Available online.

Kids:

This section of the Festival is especially for our youngest independent film fans.

Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out / U.S.A. (Director & Producer: Jake Van Wagoner, Screenwriter and Producer: Austin Everett, Producers: Micah Merrill, Maclain Nelson, Jeremy Prusso) — Itsy is new in town and her life seems over until she meets her space-obsessed neighbor Calvin, who believes his parents were abducted by aliens. An aspiring journalist, Itsy decides to write an exposé on Calvin but ends up discovering much more. Cast: Emma Tremblay, Jacob Buster, Will Forte, Elizabeth Mitchell, Kenneth Cummins, Matt Biedel. Fiction. Available online.

The Amazing Maurice / Germany, U.K. (Director: Toby Genkel, Screenwriter: Terry Rossio, Producers: Emely Christians, Andrew Baker, Robert Chandler) — A streetwise cat and his gang of rats who come up with a perfect money-making scheme. Based on the novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Sir Terry Pratchett. Cast: Hugh Laurie, Emilia Clarke, Himesh Patel, Gemma Arterton. Fiction. Available online.

Blueback / Australia (Director, Screenwriter, & Producer: Robert Connolly, Producers: Liz Kearney, James Grandison) — An intimate mother-daughter relationship is forged by the women’s keen desire to protect the inhabitants of the pristine blue oceans on the Australian coast where they live. Adapted from Tim Winton’s bestselling and critically acclaimed novella. Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Eric Bana, Radha Mitchell, Ilsa Fogg, Liz Alexander, Ariel Donoghue. Fiction.

New Frontier Films:

New Frontier champions artists who engage in experimental storytelling at the crossroads of film, art, performance, and media technology, showcasing cutting-edge work that explores and evolves cinema culture in today’s rapidly changing landscape. New Frontier is presently in a process of reimagination. This year, we return to our roots to offer a lineup of resonant experimental films.

A Common Sequence / U.S.A (Directors and Producers: Mary Helena Clark and Mike Gibisser, Producer: Graciela Guerrero-Reyes) — An interconnected look at tradition, colonialism, property, faith, and science, as seen through labor practices that link an endangered salamander, mass-produced apples, and the evolving fields of genomics and machine learning. Documentary. Available online.

Gush / U.S.A (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Fox Maxy) — An embodied rumination of both male and female power, healing and haunting, all within an apocalyptic world. A transformation that courses through unknown terror to untamed collective joy. Cast: Michel Sayegh, Ruth Fish, Sergio Mejia, Littlebear Sanchez, No’aash Iswut Peltier, Suavitel Paper. Fiction. Available online.

Last Things / U.S.A, Portugal, France (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Deborah Stratman, Producers: Anže Peržin, Gaëlle Boucand) — Evolution and extinction from the point of view of rocks. A humid take on minerals, where sci-fi meets sci-fact. The geo-biosphere is a place of evolutionary possibility, where humans disappear but life endures. Documentary. Available online.

Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, comments on this year of Sundance films: “Maintaining an essential place for artists to express themselves, take risks, and for visionary stories to endure and entertain is distinctly Sundance. The Festival continues to foster these values and connections through independent storytelling. We are honored to share the compelling selection of work at this year’s Festival from distinct perspectives and unique voices.” Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute’s CEO, on this year’s selection: “These filmmakers reflect the world around us through bold and thrilling storytelling. It is critical for the arts to foster dialogue, especially during unprecedented times — these stories are needed to provoke discussion, share diverse viewpoints, and challenge us. We are delighted to welcome this group of passionate artists to the Festival and look forward to celebrating the films together with audiences.” Let’s go.

Sundance is one of my top festivals, and I’m excited to get a glimpse at all the films playing. This year looks as intriguing as always, with plenty of fresh discoveries and some unique premieres. Bring on another year of Sundance. Sundance 2023 runs from January 19th to January 29th, 2023. Visit Sundance.org for more.

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