Sundance 2024 preview: A film for everyone at the festival’s 40th Edition.

Sundance Film Festival 2024 Color Logo
The Sundance Film Festival has launched the careers of indie film directors, writers, and actors now for 40 years. Back with in-person and online screening opportunities, this year’s iteration boasts new and bold storytelling from every genre. Here are a handful of films we’ll track in 2024.

 

For more information and tickets to Sundance 2024, click here! Be on the lookout for shared coverage with our good friend, Steve Kopian, at Unseen Films. To see all of his reviews and what he’s looking forward to this year, head over to his home base.

(World Cinema Dramatic Competition)
SUJO

S till from the Sundance film SUJO
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.

A movie about time and trauma, this beautifully acted and hauntingly written film from the directors of Identifying Features will be sure to captivate audiences. 

This film contains strobe effects.
Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)


40th Edition Celebration Screenings And Events

DIG! XX

DIG! XX tracks the tumultuous rise of two talented musicians, Anton Newcombe, leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Courtney Taylor, leader of the Dandy Warhols, and dissects their star-crossed friendship and bitter rivalry. Through their loves and obsessions, gigs and recordings, arrests and death threats, uppers and downers, and ultimately to their chance at a piece of the profit-driven music business, they stage a self-proclaimed revolution in the music industry.

DIG! premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary Competition, where it ultimately won the Grand Jury Prize in the documentary category. DIG! XX, which will premiere at the upcoming Festival, is not only a digitally enhanced, remixed, and remastered version of DIG!, but also a special 20th anniversary new edit of the film culled from footage shot over seven years, and brought to you by the original sibling team, Ondi and David Timoner.

*Digitally enhanced and featuring new footage


(Premieres)

And So It Begins

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.

Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)


(World Cinema Documentary Competition)

Eternal You

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.

“I wanted to see if he was okay,” explains Christi, one of the users of Project December. With this innovative software, users can communicate with a virtual version of the deceased through a chatbot that simulates the dead person’s conversation patterns. Hers was an attempt to check on her first love. Others may simply miss someone, seek permission to move on, or want to rid themselves of guilt.

At this point, I think we’ve all seen the app that turns photos into moving images. The idea feels equally sentimental and disturbing. Eternal You takes this tech further, begging the question, “How far are we willing to go to feel connected to those we’ve lost, and how might that affect our brains?” 

Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)


World Cinema Documentary Competition

A New Kind of Wilderness

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.

Silje Evensmo Jacobsen mixes home movies and a carefully intimate approach to the Payne family, whose isolated existence gets shaken up quite suddenly. This beautiful portrait of connection and resilience in the face of grief will touch your heart.

Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)


(NEXT)

REALM OF SATAN

An experiential portrait depicting Satanists in both the every day and in the extraordinary as they fight to preserve their lifestyle: magic, mystery, and misanthropy.

Filmmaker Scott Cummings is no stranger to Sundance, having edited many highly acclaimed festival premieres over the past decade, including Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Monsters and Men, and Wendy.

When I tell you that you aren’t ready for this doc, I mean it in the best way possible. Created to ruffle feathers and dispel right-wing hypocrisy, Scott Cummings titillates with gorgeous framing and a touch of tongue-in-cheek magical realism. 

This film contains graphic sexual content. Audiences must be 18 or older.

Available in person. Also available online for the public (January 25–28)


(Premieres)

My Old Ass

Maisy Stella and Aubrey Plaza in Sundance film MY OLD ASS

Maisy Stella and Aubrey Plaza in the Sundance film MY OLD ASS

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.

The concept alone should get your butt into a seat, but filmmaker Megan Park casting Aubrey Plaza is chef’s kiss in indie cinema.


(Midnight)

I Saw the TV Glow

Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine  in I SAW THE TV GLOW

Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine in I SAW THE TV GLOW

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.

Writer-director Jane Schoenbrun’s We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021 Sundance Film Festival) gave us one of the coolest genre-bending films with a breakout performance from star Anna Cobb. I cannot wait to see how this one twists my sanity and senses. 

This film contains violence and gore.

This film contains strobe effects.


Sundace Film Festival 2024 Black and White logoTo find out more information on all things Sundance 2024, head to https://festival.sundance.org/

 

Review: ‘MOTION DETECTED’ has a solid concept but a glitchy execution.

MOTION DETECTED

Eva narrowly escaped being murdered during a recent terrifying home invasion in Mexico City. She and her husband decide to relocate to Los Angeles where she can recuperate. But when her husband has to travel for business, she’s left alone in an unfamiliar place and suffering from paranoia. She’s consoled by the smart home security system, but the technology is difficult to master and she starts to wonder if it will actually keep her safe or take over her life.


MOTION DETECTED relies entirely on Natasha Esca‘s performance as Eva. Her descent into madness goes from 75 to 200 very quickly. A moment with wine is, perhaps, a touch over the top. Esca shines brightest when speaking Spanish. It’s her most natural delivery.

I understand the need for lighting, but the nighttime bedroom scenes appear overlit. That aside, the set is gorgeous. This LA mansion has all the architectural features to swoon over. Using what appear to be Ring video clips to create palpable fear is a slick device, and the subplot of trauma heightens the stakes.

The film struggles with picking a storytelling lane. Eva’s PTSD and (*spoiler alert*) the haunted alarm system conflict more than they mesh. The idea that Diablo might manifest your greatest fears to lure you in needs a better narrative anchor in the film’s opening scene. Overall, the notion of tech knowing too much about us at every moment is a solid starting point. We can all relate to using some version of an AI assistant. The meat is on the bone in MOTION DETECTED, but it is a tad undercooked, in my opinion.

Motion Detected world premiered at the 2022 Dances With Films Festival and debuted on Cable VOD and Digital HD, including iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Comcast and Verizon, May 19, 2023.


SXSW 2023 documentary review: ‘ANOTHER BODY’ is a new nightmare for women everywhere.

ANOTHER BODY

*This review also appears on AWFJ.org

Women have always felt unsafe. It is ingrained in our nature to fear, to look over our shoulders, and to carry our keys between our fingers late at night. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, enter the newest AI nightmare into the conversation. Anyone can go online and copy and paste your photo to create a duplicate or entirely new profile on social media. As if things weren’t bad enough, catfishing gets a superpower with the introduction of deep faking. SXSW 2023 documentary ANOTHER BODY from directors Sophie Compton and Reuben Hamlyn follows the story of a young woman named whose life is upended by one spiteful person with an agenda.

Meet Taylor, an engineering grad student living her quiet life attending classes and living a quiet goal-oriented life with her boyfriend. After receiving what she thought to be spam messages from her classmates, Taylor finds her image stolen, her name tarnished, and harassed by strange men who now know where she goes to school and where she lives. She discovers her face has on someone else’s body in videos on an adult website. Her image and name have an entire account, and new videos keep appearing. ANOTHER BODY is a film about consent on numerous levels and the battle against gender-based violence.

The film mixes sit-down interviews with Taylor, cell phone footage from her investigative journey, and animated recreations of her emotional processing. That is not the most impressive visual aspect of the film. “Taylor” is not what she appears to be. Let me explain this statement. The face projected to the audience is an actress whose face has been deepfaked onto our storyteller. The reveal comes as a complete surprise but perfectly encapsulates the danger of this technology. You will find yourself overanalyzing her movements on screen and realizing how vulnerable our identities are. It is nothing short of fascinating work.

When Taylor reaches out to the police, it is clear that they are out of their element. There are no clear laws about a technology that is rapidly changing. Then the inevitable victim-blaming begins both from law enforcement and friends and family. Taylor takes it upon herself to discover the identity of the culprit. Becoming a DIY detective, she narrows it down to three likely suspects. The mystery deepens as her online sleuthing and fight for justice play out in real time. Taylor finds that other women in her circle are also victims. As they compare notes, one name stands out from the rest. It is undeniably compelling to witness her take action. ANOTHER BODY is an infuriating and invigorating watch. It will resonate with true crime audiences and victims of gender-based violence. When body autonomy becomes threatened, you must become your own warrior.


SCREENINGS:
 
Mar 11, 2023
12:15pm1:35pm
 
Mar 14, 2023
5:00pm6:20pm
 
Mar 16, 2023
9:15pm10:35pm
Directors:

Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn

Executive Producer:

Jenny Raskin, Lauren Haber, Geralyn Dreyfous, Maiken Baird, Gloria Zhu & Stanley Tang – Bearcat Content, Ruth Ann & Bill Harnisch – The Harnisch Foundation, Inmaat Productions, Mason Orfalea & The Natalie Orfalea Foundation, Ann Lewnes, Meadow Fund, Lisa & Matthew Sonsini, Chris & Heidi Stolte

Producer:

Elizabeth Woodward, Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn

Screenwriter:

Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn, Isabel Freeman

Cinematographer:

Nausheen Dadabhoy

Editor:

Isabel Freeman, Rabab Haj Yahya

Sound Designer:

Gisela Fullà-Silvestre

Music:

Holland Andrews

Additional Credits:

Co-Executive Producers: Nina & David Fialkow, Meryl Metni – Ubiquitous EG, Kelsey Koenig, Co-Producer: Avery McCann, Post Production Supervisor & Associate Editor: Claudia Tanney, Animation Studio: Cream Projects, Motion Graphics: Spencer Haley, Studio Macuna, Deepfake Artist: Fernando Sánchez Liste, Consulting Producer: Scott Macauley, Consulting Editor: Karen K.H. Sim