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A Sundance Selection of Dysfunctional Families for Thanksgiving

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The Myth of Fingerprints

Nate von Zumwalt, Editorial Coordinator

Cue the platitudes about the perils of family gatherings. You know, the ones that have you equating Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws to a lifetime of forced drudgery. But the ‘dysfunctional family’ gripe is a tired one, and so are the stories about Aunt Sally’s charred turkeys and Grandpa Bill’s propensity for losing his dentures in the gravy. If you still insist it really is that bad, try these Thanksgiving films on for size and remember that it always could be worse.

What’s Cooking, directed by Gurinder Chadha

From a multicultural director comes a quintessential holiday film viewed through a multicultural lens. Director Gurinder Chadha—of English and Indian descent—follows the Thanksgiving dinners of four Los Angeles families and composes a keen juxtaposition of what the festivities look like in 21st century America.

The Myth of Fingerprints, directed by Bart Freundlich

A New England family reunites for the first time in three years to celebrate Thanksgiving and finds that their usual loving dynamic has suffered with time and distance. Bart Freundlich’s directorial debut achieves a striking balance between the distinctive humor and personal struggles that define family life.

The House of Yes, directed by Mark Waters

Mark Waters’ dark comedy harkens back to Parker Posey’s nascent days as the “indie queen,” an anointment she has undeniably fulfilled. In The House of Yes, Posey plays a Jackie Kennedy-obsessed woman whose assimilation into family life—and Thanksgiving gatherings—after a stint at the psych ward goes murderously awry.

Pieces of April, directed by Peter Hedges

Former Festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore’s take on Peter Hedges’—the renowned director of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape—2003 Festival Selection Pieces of April:

Of all the holidays, there is something about Thanksgiving that seems to bring out the worst in family gatherings, and in his incisive and spirited melodrama Pieces of April, Peter Hedges examines the preparations for one family’s festive dinner–one you wouldn’t wish on your own worst enemy

The Vicious Kind, directed by Lee Toland Krieger

Adam Scott inherits—and expertly inhabits—easily his most twisted role to date as Caleb, a cynical recluse who insists his brother’s new girlfriend, Emma, is bad news. But as Thanksgiving weekend progresses, Caleb’s disturbing urges regarding Emma become glaring and insuppressible…

Thanksgiving Prayer, directed by Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant’s short film Thanksgiving Prayer played at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival and employs a cinematic collage set to William Burroughs’ famous reading of his poem of the same name.

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Sundance Institute Piloting Direct Individual Support for Mediamakers Through the Sundance Institute | Humanities Sustainability Fellowship

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in general, and halted production and distribution for many creatives, the nonfiction field was plagued by issues of sustainability. For several years, sustainability has been an urgent and vigorous topic of study, debate, and organizing, as more and more filmmakers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living solely on the basis of their creative work. 

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