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Check Out These Sundance-Supported Films at the 2022 Festival

By Stephanie Ornelas

Lauren Lee McCarthy’s Surrogate is arguably one of the most unique and unconventional projects premiering at Sundance Film Festival 2022. Premiering in the New Frontier section, the artist herself biologically integrates into the film through live “womb walk” performances, during which audiences can control the movement of her pregnant body using a custom app. 

But this piece has one thing in common with several others that will be premiering at this year’s Festival. Like many other breakthrough artists, McCarthy worked through Sundance Labs and received grants that took her film to new heights.  

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival is just around the corner and in the midst of all of the groundbreaking documentaries and innovative feature films are production teams who either worked vigorously through Sundance Labs or received grants to help kickstart their films.  

Here’s a look inside all the Sundance Institute-supported projects, from the World Cinema Documentary Competition to the Indie Episodic Pilot Showcase. These works are shaping the future of independent storytelling.

AFTER YANG 

Spotlight 

Director: Kogonada

Kogonada’s science-fiction film tells the story of a man who must now face the disconnection he has with his daughter as he searches for a way to repair her android companion. The film received a grant under the Creative Distribution Fellowship for Columbus and will be featured in the Spotlight section.

The film is supported by the Sundance Institute Indigenous Filmmakers Program

ATUA 

New Frontier 

Director: Tanu Gago

ATUA reimagines the realm of Pacific gods in this sculptural AR experience that claims space for gender-diverse identities impacted by colonial first contact, and creates an intimate portal for users to see themselves reflected as vital to their cultural heritage and an intrinsic part of the cosmos. Enabled through handheld devices, the ATUA experience begins with Te Kore, the void — a space of abundance and limitless potential.

The film is supported by the Sundance Institute Indigenous Filmmakers Program

Meet the Artist: Mahia Jermaine Dean

On the Morning You Wake 

New Frontier  

This virtual reality documentary series allows audiences to experience the alarming events that took place on January 13, 2018, when the entire population of Hawaii received a startling text message from the state Emergency Management Agency. Spoken word poet Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, director Mike Brett, and Princeton nuclear arms control and disarmament scholar Dr. Tamara Lilinoe Patton will engage in a discussion about the motivations behind the creation of this powerful VR series and the process of working with nuclear experts and the local community. 

The film is supported by the Sundance Institute Indigenous Filmmakers Program

This is Not a Ceremony

New Frontier  

Director: Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon)

Part performance, part participatory media, the virtual reality experience This Is Not a Ceremony confronts modern notions of empathy and personal responsibility and asks us to consider our role in engaging with documentaries about social injustice and what it is to be a witness. Writer-director Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon), art director/visual effects artist James Monkman, Adam North Pegian, and Tawahum address the challenges of growing up Indigenous in Canada. They’ll also discuss the profound impact of subtle behaviors that lead to catastrophes like those found in the VR experience, and how to represent stories of trauma while avoiding creating or supporting the production of traumatic content as entertainment for a primarily sympathetic white audience.

The film is supported by the Sundance Institute Indigenous Filmmakers Program

Meet the Artist: Xochitl Enriquez Mendoza

Suga’ – A Live Virtual Dance Performance 

New Frontier

Director: Valencia James

Lauren Lee McCarthy’s project, born out of the artist’s desire to participate in the living, reproducing process, explores the question of, how much control should we have over a birthing person’s body, and over a life before they join the world?

The project consists of interviews with relatives, sperm donors, and intended parents, as well as future letters and an ongoing dialogue with McCarthy’s own unborn baby. Through live “womb walk” performances, audiences can control the movement of McCarthy’s pregnant body using a custom app. Festival attendees are invited to enter an in-person waiting room, in addition to experiencing encounters with the womb walk performance found around the festival campus.

The film, which will be featured in the New Frontier section, is supported by Women at Sundance, and received grants from Sundance Institute New Frontier Story LabSundance Institute Art of Practice Fellowship as well as a grant from Sundance Institute Interdisciplinary Program. 

Every Day in Kaimukī 

NEXT

Director: Alika Tengan

Alika Tengan’s film tells the story of a young man determined to give his life meaning outside of the small Hawaiian town where he grew up. 

Featured in the NEXT section, the film’s producer Jesy Odio is a Sundance Producers Intensive Fellow 2021 and the screenplay for Maikau’s next project, Moloka’i Bound, is part of the Indigenous Black List, partnered with Sundance Institute and IllumiNative. The film is also supported by the Sundance Institute Outreach & Inclusion Program

Mija      

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Director: Isabel Castro

Isabel Castro’s film follows a young, ambitious music manager whose undocumented family depends on her ability to launch pop stars. When she loses her biggest client, she must hustle to discover new talent. 

The film will be featured in the NEXT section and received support from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program as well as a grant from Sundance Documentary Fund Catalyst

Meet the Artist: Isabel Castro on “Mija”

RIOTSVILLE, USA                                                                                                                               

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Director: Sierra Pettengill

Sierra Pettengill’s artful and riveting documentary, consisting entirely of archival footage shot by the United States military or appeared on broadcast television, explores the militarization of the police and the reactions of a nation to the rebellions of the late ’60s.

The film will be featured in the NEXT category and is supported through the Art of NonfictionDocumentary Film Program, and Catalyst Sundance Institute programs. The film is also supported by Women at Sundance and the Sundance Institute Outreach & Inclusion Program

Meet the Artist: Sierra Pettengill on “RIOTSVILLE, USA”

God’s Country 

Premieres

Director: Julian Higgins

In this modern-day Western thriller directed by Julian Higgins, a grieving college professor finds a pair of hunters trespassing on her property and an escalating conflict begins. 

The film will be featured in the Premieres category and is supported by the Sundance Film Music and Sound Design Lab, the New Frontier and Interdisciplinary programs as well as the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program.   

Meet the Artist: Julian Higgins on “God’s Country”

Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.

Premieres 

Director: Adamma Ebo and producer Adanne Ebo

After a scandal involving her husband forces her church to close temporarily, the first lady of a Southern Baptist church is struggling to manage the aftermath as she rebuilds their congregation. Filmmaking duo writer-director Adamma Ebo and producer Adanne Ebo make their feature film debut with the lively satire on for-profit religion that explores the hard truths that fester behind the scenes of a Southern Baptist megachurch. 

The faux-documentary style film, featured in the Premieres section, received support from the Sundance Writers Intensive program and the Feature Film Program, as well as a grant from Sundance Institute in 2021. 

Meet the Artist: Adamma Ebo and Adanne Ebo on “Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.”

To The End 

Premieres 

Director: Rachel Lears

The documentary goes behind the scenes of a social and political movement as Director Rachel Lears crafts an urgent coming-of-age story told through the narratives of four instrumental young leaders and women of color — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Varshini Prakash, Alexandra Rojas, and Rhiana Gunn-Wright. 

The documentary is supported by Women at Sundance.

Aftershock

U.S. Documentary Competition 

Director: Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee

Aftershock explores one of the most pressing national crises in the U.S. today and the systems that perpetuate it — our maternal health crisis. Directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee’s character-driven storytelling approach is centered around two women who both lost their lives due to preventable childbirth complications. 

The documentary received support from Sundance Catalyst 2020.  

Meet the Artist: Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee on “Aftershock”  

The Descendant 

U.S. Documentary Competition 

Director: Margaret Brown

Director Margaret Brown returns to her hometown to document the search for and historic discovery of The Clotilda, the last known slave ship to arrive in America illegally transporting enslaved Africans.

The documentary is supported by Women at Sundance and received support from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program.  

Fire of Love  

U.S. Documentary Competition 

Director: Sara Dosa

The documentary follows a daring French volcanologist couple who roamed the planet, chasing eruptions and their aftermath, documenting their discoveries in stunning photographs and breathtaking film to share with an increasingly curious public in media appearances and lecture tours. 

The documentary is supported by Women at Sundance and the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program.  

Meet the Artist: Sara Dosa on “Fire Of Love”

Free Chol Soo Lee 

U.S. Documentary Competition 

Director: Eugene Yi and Julie Ha

Filmmakers Eugene Yi and Julie Ha revisit this largely forgotten story about Chol Soo Lee, a 20-year-old Korean immigrant who was arrested and convicted based on flimsy evidence and the eyewitness accounts of white tourists who couldn’t distinguish between Asian features. Sentenced to life in prison, Chol Soo Lee would spend years fighting to survive behind bars before journalist K.W. Lee took an interest in his case.

Featured in the U.S. Documentary section, the film’s producer, Su Kim, is a Women at Sundance fellow, 2015, and received several grants for previous projects. Su Kim was also a mentor for the Producers Lab in 2020. 

I Didn’t See You There 

U.S. Documentary Competition 

Director: Reid Davenport

In Reid Davenport’s film, premiering in the U.S. Documentary section, a disabled filmmaker is prompted to document his own personal journey after being spurred by a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment. 

The documentary received a Documentary Film Program grant and the film’s producer, Keith Wilson, is a current Creative Producing Lab Fellow.

Meet the Artist: Reid Davenport on “I Didn’t See You There”

TikTok, Boom. 

U.S. Documentary Competition

Director: Shalini Kantayya

Dissecting one of the most influential platforms of the contemporary social media landscape, TikTok, Boom examines the algorithmic, sociopolitical, economic, and cultural influences and impact of the history-making app. This rigorous exploration balances a genuine interest in the TikTok community and its innovative mechanics with a healthy skepticism around the security issues, global political challenges, and racial biases behind the platform. 

The documentary received support from Sundance Institute’s New Frontier,  Interdisciplinary, and Women at Sundance programs.   

Nanny

U.S. Dramatic Competition

Director: Nikyatu Jusu

In this feature film by writer-director Nikyatu Jusu, an undocumented Senegalese immigrant gets a job as a nanny for wealthy Manhattan couple. Haunted by the absence of her young son she left behind in Senegal, she hopes her new job will allow her to bring him to the U.S.. 

Premiering in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, Nanny was supported by the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program and received grants through the 2019 Creative Producing Lab, 2020 Screenwriters + Directors Lab, 2020 Catalyst, as well as 2021 Zion and Dolby Grants. 

Meet the Artist: Nikyatu Jusu on “Nanny” 

Long Line of Ladies

U.S. Nonfiction Short Films 

Director: Shaandiin Tome and Rayka Zehtabchi  

A young girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once dormant coming-of-age ceremony of the Karuk tribe of northern California. 

Director Shaandiin Tome was part of the 2021 Women at Sundance Adobe Fellowship and the film is supported by Women at Sundance. The film is also supported by the Sundance Institute Outreach & Inclusion Program

The Panola Project

U.S. Nonfiction Short Films

Director: Rachael DeCruz and Jeremy S. Levine 

Premiering in the U.S. Nonfiction Short Films section, The Panola Project chronicles the story of how an overlooked rural Black community came together in creative ways to survive COVID-19. 

Directors Rachael DeCruz and Jeremy S. Levine tell the story of the heroic efforts of Dorothy Oliver as she worked to keep her small town of Panola, Alabama, safe from the virus. 

Levine has received two grants and participated in two labs run by the Sundance Documentary Film Program with his previous films For Ahkeem and Good Fortune.   

You’ve Never Been Completely Honest

U.S. Nonfiction Shorts

Director: Joey Izzo

In You’ve Never Been Completely Honest, premiering in the U.S. Nonfiction Short Films section, Joey Izzo uses animation to bring to life Gene Church’s never-before-heard interview recounting the physical torture and brainwashing he endured at a secretive, four-day business seminar in California in 1970.

Producer Jesy Odio is a Sundance Producers Intensive Fellow and Co-Producer Andy Ruse, Cinematographer Arlene Muller, and actors Phil Burgers and Pat Healy have all had previous work screened at Sundance Film Festival.

Meet the Artist: Joey Izzo on “You’ve Never Been Completely Honest”

Chilly and Milly 

U.S. Short Film Program 

Director: William David Caballero

This short, a combination of 3D-modeled/composited characters with cinéma vérité scenes from an autobiographical documentary shot over 13 years ago, explores director William David Caballero’s father’s chronic health problems as a diabetic with kidney failure, along with his mother’s role as his eternal caretaker, 

The short is supported by Sundance Institute’s New Frontier and Interdisciplinary programs.  

Meet the Artist: William David Caballero on “Chilly and Milly”

Kicking the Clouds

U.S. Short Film Program 

Director: Leslie Harris

The experimental documentary is centered on a 50-year-old cassette tape of a Pechanga language lesson between the director Sky Hopinka’s grandmother and great-grandmother, and contextualized by an interview with his mother in his Pacific Northwest hometown.

The film is supported by the Sundance Institute Indigenous Filmmakers Program

Maidenhood 

U.S. Short Film Program 

Director: Xochitl Enriquez Mendoza

Catalina submits to the tradition of her people to demonstrate her purity and worth as a woman to her beloved, but her body betrays her and she fails to demonstrate her chastity.

The film is supported by the Sundance Institute Indigenous Filmmakers Program

Meet the Artist: Xochitl Enriquez Mendoza

ᎤᏕᏲᏅ (UDEYONV) (WHAT THEY’VE BEEN TAUGHT)

U.S. Short Film Program 

Director: Brit Hensel 

This film explores expressions of reciprocity in the Cherokee world, brought to life through a story told by an elder and first language speaker.

The film is supported by the Sundance Institute Indigenous Filmmakers Program

Meet the Artist: Brit Hensel

Champ

U.S. Live Action Shorts 

Director: Hannah Peterson

After basketball practice one night, one team member reveals a dark secret about their coach to her teammates. Taking strategy and tenacity off the court, the team works together to find a way to retaliate. 

In the film, which will be premiering in the Short Film section, Director Hannah Peterson explores how sports can be a place where young girls can learn how to defend themselves and their bodies. 

Producer Taylor Shung is a Sundance Institute Producing Fellow. 

Meet the Artist: Hannah Peterson on “Champ”

Daddy’s Girl

U.S. Live Action Shorts 

Director: Lena Hudson

The film follows a young girl and her charming but overbearing father as he helps her move out of her wealthy, older boyfriend’s apartment. 

Premiering in the Short Film section, the film’s Director Lena Hudson was a 2020 Episodic Lab Fellow. 

Meet the Artist: Lena Hudson on “Daddy’s Girl”

Hallelujah 

U.S. Live Action Shorts 

Director: Victor Gabriel

A short film about two uncles forced to take care of their nephew in Compton, California, Hallelujah tells the story of building a family with no guidance. Director Victor Gabriel filmed the short in his backyard in Compton. 

Hallelujah, which will premiere in the U.S. Live Action Shorts section, received support from the 2022 Sundance Creative Producers Lab.  

Meet the Artist: Victor Gabriel on “Hallelujah”

Huella

U.S. Live Action Shorts 

Director: Gabriela Ortega

A flamenco dancer is forced to experience the five stages of grief when the death of her grandmother unleashes a generational curse. Gabriela Ortega, a Sundance Theatre Program alumni, wrote Huella to express grief, but the short film is about more than losing someone in the physical sense. It’s about the parts of yourself that you lose along the way and the many rebirths that need to happen for you to tap into who you want to be. 

The short is supported by Sundance Institute’s Outreach & Inclusion Program as well as the Institute’s New Frontier and Interdisciplinary programs.  

Meet the Artist: Gabriela Ortega on “Huella”

You Go Girl! 

U.S. Live Action Shorts

Director: Shariffa Ali 

A New York City comedian has to overcome her fears as she faces a major challenge in the mountains of Oregon. 

Shariffa Ali received the Sundance Institute IDP Grant for the short, which will be premiering in the U.S. Live Action Shorts section. The short is also supported by Sundance Institute’s New Frontier and Interdisciplinary programs.  

The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future 

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Director: Francisca Alegría

In Francisca Alegría’s film, which will be featured in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, a woman and her children travel to her aging father’s dairy farm after he has a heart attack. Back in her childhood home, she is met by her mother, a woman dead for many years. 

The film was supported by the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program and received grants from the 2017 Screenwriters Lab, 2017 Directors Lab and the 2020 Catalyst Forum

Dos Estaciones

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Director: Juan Pablo González 

When a persistent plague and an unexpected flood cause irreversible damage to Dos Estaciones — a once-majestic tequila factory that was already struggling to stay afloat — Maria Garcia, heir to the family business, is forced to do everything she can to save what was once her community’s main source of economy and pride.

The film will be playing in the World Cinema: Dramatic Competition section, and has received several grants from the Sundance Institute Creative Producing Fellowship in 2018 and the Sundance Institute Summit in 2018, as well as a 2021 Sundance Institute Stars Collective Grant. It was also supported by the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program.

All That Breathes

World Cinema Documentary Competition

Director: Shaunak Sen

The documentary directed and produced by Shaunak Sen and featured in the World Cinema Documentary Competition, follows two brothers who devote their lives to care for the black kites of Delhi. They tend to the injured birds of prey that are hampered by the city’s growing pollution. Shaunak Sen elegantly captures how both cruelty and tenderness coexist in nature, while emphasizing the ways in which all living beings must evolve to survive. 

The project received support from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and a development grant from the Sundance Documentary Fund in 2019.

Midwives

World Cinema Documentary Competition

Director: Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing

Nyo Nyo is a Muslim and an apprentice midwife who acts as an assistant and translator at the clinic. She is determined to become a steady health care provider for her community. Director Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing’s feature debut was filmed over five years in a country that has long been exoticized and misunderstood. 

The documentary is supported by the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program.

The Territory

World Cinema Documentary Competition

Director: Alex Pritz

In this world premiere film directed by Alex Pritz, a young Indigenous leader and his mentor must fight back in defense when a network of Brazilian farmers seizes a protected area of the Amazon rainforest. 

The film will be featured in the World Cinema Documentary Competition and received development funding from the Sundance Institute New FrontierInterdisciplinary and Documentary Film programs. 

Sirens

World Cinema Documentary Competition

Director: Rita Baghdadi

Director Rita Baghdadi follows the first and only all-woman thrash metal band in the Middle East as their tenderness, and sometimes bitterness, for one another grows in ways both unexpected and deeply moving. The women negotiate their emotional journeys through young adulthood in tumultuous circumstances with grace, raw passion, and a ferocious commitment to their art. 

The documentary is supported by the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Women at Sundance.

Chiqui 

Indie Episodic Pilot Showcase

Director: Carlos Cardona 

Chiqui tells the story of a young couple who immigrated from Columbia to the United States in 1987 in an attempt to carve out their own version of the American dream. 

The series, which will have its world premiere in the Indie Episodic Pilot Showcase section, made it into the second round of the 2022 Sundance Episodic Lab.

Meet the Artist: Carlos Cardona on “Chiqui” 

Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.

Director: Leslie Harris

The film follows a young female student with big plans to graduate early, go to college, become a doctor, and get out of the Brooklyn projects where she’s grown up. Part of an exciting wave of young Black filmmakers whose work reshaped and redefined indie film in the early ’90s, Leslie Harris was one of the few Black women making films from her own perspective, a rarity even in independent cinema of the era. 

The film has been digitally restored from the original 16mm A/B negatives, and a new DCP was created in collaboration between Sundance Institute, the Academy Film Archive, and UCLA Film & Television Archive. 

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Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program Stands By Navajo Code Talkers and The Art of Native Storytelling

Sundance Institute and the Sundance Institute Native American and Indigenous Program looked with sadness and dismay at yesterday’s White House ceremony meant to commemorate the unprecedented contributions of America’s Navajo Code Talkers. The event unfolded in a disrespectful tone that bears attention.
The hundreds of Native American Code Talkers who served in World War I and II deserve our undying gratitude and respect, and today we offer that to them and all veterans from the far reaches of America, including Indian Country, where Native people have served this country in every war in its history.

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NEA Proposed Cuts

Sundance Institute vigorously supports the National Endowment for the Arts, and calls upon our country’s leadership to do the same. NEA support played a crucial role in launching Sundance Institute in 1981 and has helped thousands of museums, arts programs and organizations. The NEA plays a critical role in building a culture that values artists and understands the important economic benefits of investing in the arts.

Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program Stands By Navajo Code Talkers and The Art of Native Storytelling

Sundance Institute and the Sundance Institute Native American and Indigenous Program looked with sadness and dismay at yesterday’s White House ceremony meant to commemorate the unprecedented contributions of America’s Navajo Code Talkers. The event unfolded in a disrespectful tone that bears attention.
The hundreds of Native American Code Talkers who served in World War I and II deserve our undying gratitude and respect, and today we offer that to them and all veterans from the far reaches of America, including Indian Country, where Native people have served this country in every war in its history.

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