As we enter a new decade, Sundance Film Festival explored the theme of “imagined futures”. In a way, Sundance always paves the way to the future by opening the circuit every year and giving us a glimpse of what’s to come, but also by continuously working to champion new and representative voices. This year, 47% of the festival’s competition titles were directed by women, 38% by people of colour and 12% by members of the LGBTQ+ community. Those statistics remain when it comes to its awards where 48% of winners were directed by women, 40% by people of colour, and 8% by members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Sundance’s programme may well be the most representative one on the festival circuit, and it’s also full of little gems that may not look like anything on paper but will have everyone talking, and none was bigger this year than The Truffle Hunters. If you thought a documentary about old men hunting for truffles with their dogs in Northern Italy wasn’t for you, think again. Nothing will warm your heart more than this truly intimate documentary which, aside from the loveliness of its man-and-their-dogs relationships, also features incredible access to a very secretive community and some fascinating insight about what its future may be.
On a completely different note, Janicza Bravo’s Zola also made waves by allegedly being the first viral Twitter thread screen adaptation ever made. What a thread it was (here if you’ve missed but not for the faint-hearted), and what a movie it is. It may be the smartest film I saw at this year’s festival and being birthed out of a viral moment gives it huge potential with young audiences everywhere.
Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari took home the US Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. Possibly my favourite film out of Sundance this year, Minari is Chung’s retelling of his childhood in Arkansas as his family moved to a tiny farm, and his grandmother came from South Korea to join them. A touching, genuine and simply beautiful portrait of family life and trying to fit in.
No movie was more life-affirming than Edson Oda’s Nine Days, which took home the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: US Dramatic. The perfect companion piece to Hirokazu Koreeda’s After Life, Nine Days explores the idea that being born isn’t the beginning, but that rather, each individual must be tested to win a chance to be born.
For those of us who imagined the future as female, the future may be now.
And there were so many more – too many to mention, but I’d like to highlight Natalie Erika James’s Relic, Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, and Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman (released in the UK this coming April). Sundance may have had one of its most exciting line-ups in years, and the future is only looking bold and promising as the festival announced Tabitha Jackson will replace John Cooper as its Director in the coming weeks, meaning Sundance’s top three leadership positions are now all held by women with Keri Puttnam as CEO and Kim Yutani as Programme Director. For those of us who imagined the future as female, the future may be now.
Melissa received a bursary from Film Hub Midlands to attend the Sundance Film Festival.