The Sundance Film Festival of 2024 will continue this week with screenings taking place in person in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah. There will also be the option for online screenings across the United States starting on January 25th.
Below are some of the standout films from the 81 documentaries and narrative films that premiered during the initial days of the festival. [Stay tuned for more releases as the festival progresses.]
The first showing of “Black Box Diaries” around the world.
The 2020 Time Magazine list of the 100 most influential individuals.
Ito’s account of her suffering, in private and as a public target of trolling, is sadly recognizable, but her stoic pursuit of justice, and her emotional release when she encounters even the smallest expression of belief and empathy, is heartening. And like those advocating for the #MeToo movement in America, Ito – in a society where too many women suffered in silence – helped bring needed change. Her film cruelly illustrates just how tough that road can be. In English and Japanese with English subtitles. 103 mins. Screens in-person Jan. 21, 25, 26. Streams online Jan. 25-28. Theatrical release not yet announced.
“The Debut of an Unexplored Wilderness” (Global Premiere)
Silje Evensmo Jacobsen’s second documentary film initially presents itself as a serene depiction of a family residing in a remote Norwegian forest. The family is composed of English father Nik Payne, Norwegian photographer and blogger Maria Vatne (his wife), and their four blended children. However, the film takes an unexpected turn when Maria passes away from cancer, forcing Nik to confront difficult decisions regarding the family farm, their homeschooling lifestyle, and relocating the children to England.
The thought-provoking film by Jacobsen, inspired by Maria’s blog, was filmed after her passing and delves deeply into the dynamics of parent-child relationships and sibling bonds as their world is shattered. While grief brings the family closer together, it also drives the siblings apart. Maria’s recorded voice, questioning if raising their children in nature was best for them, adds a poignant layer. “A New Kind of Wilderness” is a beautifully shot, intimate exploration of the ties that sustain us in the face of loss. Available in English and Norwegian with English subtitles, the 84-minute film will be shown in-person on Jan. 21, 25, and 26, and will stream online from Jan. 25-28. The date for its theatrical release has not yet been announced.
The first showing of “Girls State” in the world.
In 2016, at the Sundance Film Festival, Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss showcased their movie “Boys State” about Texas high schoolers taking part in a simulated government activity. The film received the festival’s top award and an Emmy. The duo has returned with a sequel, “Girls State,” featuring Missouri teenage girls who also come together for a week to create a mock government. They experience the highs of winning and the lows of losing as they run for political positions and present arguments in front of a Supreme Court.
Filmed in 2022 just after a draft opinion was leaked in Dobbs, hinting at the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, this movie delves into heated debates surrounding topics such as abortion and gun violence. However, it also delves into the ways young women navigate differing political, religious, and racial beliefs. One girl running for governor contemplates how she should identify herself, whether as conservative or liberal, or not at all. Another, with Nigerian heritage, grapples with how to stand out in a predominantly white environment. Additionally, one of the participants investigates gender disparities between Boys State and Girls State, showcasing the power of investigative journalism.
The differences between the two programs, and the two films, illustrate the different societal expectations for men and women, and how these ambitious young girls, growing in self-confidence, seemingly face much bigger hills to climb than their male counterparts in order to affect change. Screens in-person Jan. 21, 24, 27. Not streaming online. An Apple Original Documentary. Release date: April 5.
The debut of “The Outrun” on a global scale.
Based on the best-selling memoir by Amy Liptrot, “The Outrun” features Saoirse Ronan as Rona, a former alcoholic who leaves her troubled life and broken relationships in London to return to the Orkney Islands in Scotland. She seeks to break free from addiction and find inner peace in the desolate yet stunning landscapes of nature. However, her past haunts her and challenges her efforts to maintain self-control and self-esteem.
Nora Fingscheidt, the director and co-writer, showcases Rona’s journey from self-destruction to sobriety in a captivatingly disjointed manner, with shifts in time. Rona’s changing hair color serves as the only indication of her progress in rehab. The performance by Ronan, who is also a producer, portrays a woman grappling with the impact of her alcoholism on her life and those around her. She also rediscovers the joys of the Scottish Islands. The power of nature, which she attempts to control, gives Rona a sense of power over herself.
Ronan gives a remarkable and well-suited portrayal that shifts from completely ignoring her own self-respect to a peaceful reflection and reinvigorated drive. In that calm instance, she discovers how to reach out to others without hesitation – and without relying on the false comfort of alcohol. 118 minutes. Will be shown live on January 21, 24, 27, and 28. Not available for online streaming. The release date for theatres has not been announced yet.
“Ibelin” (World Premiere)
As a child growing up in Norway, Mats Steen suffered from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which progressively limited his ability to move. Due to his condition, he was confined to a wheelchair and often spent time alone playing World of Warcraft. When he passed away at the age of 25, his family not only mourned their loss but also the isolation Mats had experienced. However, after gaining access to Mats’ blog, they shared a tribute online and were met with an overwhelming response. They soon discovered that their son had been a prominent figure in the global gaming community, with friends throughout Europe who only knew him through his avatar and were unaware of his physical limitations.
In this poignant tale, filmmaker Benjamin Ree (“The Painter and the Thief”) tells the story of a young man who finds solace in online connections. The director uses various methods, such as home videos, actors’ performances of his blog and chats, and animated re-enactments of Mats’ role-playing adventures as Ibelin in World of Warcraft, to reconstruct his life. We also get to know the gamers who had a significant impact on Mats, from the autistic student who found motivation in Ibelin to the Dutch woman whom Mats helped with her family issues.
The movie showcases the unfortunate brevity of Mats’ life and the bittersweet paradox of his role-playing. Despite being unable to physically explore the WoW landscape in real life, he spent hours doing so as Ibelin. However, it is his empathy and openness towards others that truly stands out. The film is presented in English and Norwegian with English subtitles, and has a duration of 104 minutes. It will be shown in person on January 25 and available for online streaming from January 25-28. Netflix will handle distribution, but the release date has not been announced.
The first showing of “Eternal You” (World Premiere)
AI designers have the ability to utilize artificial intelligence in order to assist individuals in reconnecting with a deceased loved one. This could bring comfort to those who are mourning, but it also opens up the possibility of emotional manipulation for financial gain. Would you consider signing up for a service that enables you to communicate with the spirit of a departed loved one? And what if that spirit informs you that they are currently residing in hell?
The captivating documentary, directed by Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck, delves into the world of creating artificial human replicas to achieve a sense of eternal life. It examines different methods, such as Project December, a chatbot programmed to imitate a deceased individual, and YOV, which creates a digital version of oneself for continued communication and relationships after death.
Although the technological advancements are fascinating, “Eternal You” reveals the ethical and philosophical dilemmas that arise. The portrayal of a woman experiencing emotions while using virtual reality glasses to interact with her deceased daughter blurs the line between life and death. Even the television producer responsible for creating the VR child questions the morality of his actions, sparking a public debate. The film is presented in English and Korean with English subtitles, and has a runtime of 87 minutes. It will be shown in-person on January 21, 22, and 25, with online streaming available from January 25-28. A theatrical release date has not yet been announced.
To view a clip from the movie “Eternal You,” click on the video player below.
The first showing of “Love Machina” on a global scale.
In another instance of artificial intelligence being utilized to expand human awareness, “Love Machina” delves into the endeavors of futurists Martine and Bina Rothblatt to construct a robot, Bina48, that is equipped with the memories of Bina. The purpose of this creation is to preserve and advance Bina’s consciousness beyond the limitations of her physical body. Initially, the artificial Bina may seem like a strange and disconcerting manifestation of the couple’s intense love for each other. However, as we learn more about their achievements, their determination, and their groundbreaking ideas, we gain a deeper understanding of Martine and Bina’s role in pushing technology beyond mere commercial uses, such as developing life-saving medicines and 3D-printed organs.
Peter Sillen, the director, effectively showcases this fascinating couple and their complex relationship between human and robot. The theme of artificial intelligence is explored beyond just imitation and towards a potential individual, non-human consciousness. Interestingly, Bina48’s appearance at West Point with military students hints at the possibilities of the future. The film runs for 96 minutes and will be shown in person on January 23rd and 26th, with online streaming available from January 25th to 28th. A theatrical release date has not been announced yet.
“Sujo” (World Premiere)
After his father, a hired gun for a drug dealer, was killed by the cartels in Mexico, four-year-old Sujo became an orphan. He was then taken in by his aunt, who lived on a remote farm and did her best to protect him from those who wanted to harm him. As he got older, Sujo began to reconnect with the community, where his peers were still experiencing the brutality of the cartels. Determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps, Sujo set his sights on Mexico City, hoping to receive the education he had been deprived of.
Astrid Rondero and Fernanda Valadez, who worked together on “The Darkest Days of Us” and “Identifying Features,” have co-written and co-directed this film. Their script is refreshingly unpredictable and their skilled direction elicits natural performances from the cast. The characters in the film, who are coming of age, struggle to escape the darkness that surrounds them. The use of locations and cinematography adds a timeless and spiritual element to the film, intensifying the characters’ emotions. The film is in Spanish with English subtitles and has a runtime of 126 minutes. It will be shown in-person on January 24 and 26, and will be available for online streaming from January 25-28. There is no information on a theatrical release at this time.
To view the initial scene of “Sujo,” simply click on the video player located below.