Little Richard displays his piano-pounding style in archive footage in “Little Richard: I Am Everything.”
By Vanessa Zimmer
As we inch toward summer, an increasing number of 2023 Sundance Film Festival titles are making their way to theaters and streaming services in April.
Among those are documentaries on three amazing American icons — model and actor Brooke Shields, trailblazing musician Little Richard, and renowned young-adult author Judy Blume.
The fictional films are equally as intriguing, with stories about a charming martial arts–obsessed schoolgirl; a look into queer and transgender culture and the patriarchal societies of Pakistan; a single schoolteacher’s contemplation of motherhood; and friendship in the remote mountains of northwest Italy.
To round out this diverse list, we have a selection from the New Frontier section of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, 32 Sounds, an experimental exploration of sound. So, dig in. Your social calendar is filling up.
Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields — The toxic culture that sexualized and exploited the pretty child model and actor Brooke Shields did not defeat her. Shields took back her power to become a strong and outspoken woman, as witnessed in this documentary by esteemed Sundance Film Festival veteran director Lana Wilson (Miss Americana, After Tiller). “Wilson creates space for the adult Shields to share her intelligence, vulnerability, and humanity while reflecting on her career and life, including her complex relationship with her mother, Teri, her marriage to Andre Agassi, and her own struggles with motherhood,” according to the Festival Program Guide. The two-part series debuts on Hulu on April 3.
Joyland — For years, the married youngest son in a traditional Pakistani family has been tending his nieces and the household tasks while his wife pursues her career in a salon. Under pressure to find employment, he takes a job as a backup dancer at a theater, where he becomes infatuated with its transgender star. “Joyland is both a loving portrait of the people of Lahore, Pakistan, and a painful depiction of how traditional gender roles and repressed sexuality harm all,” according to the Festival Program Guide. The project was supported by the 2022 Sundance Creative Producers Lab. Directed by Saim Sadiq. The award-winning (including the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes in 2022) film starts out with a limited theatrical release on April 7.
Little Richard: I Am Everything — Pounding his piano at a raucous speed and belting out Good Golly, Miss Molly, Little Richard claimed to be the originator of American rock ’n’ roll as we know it. Few would disagree. The rest of his life was less cohesive. He vacillated between his deep religious faith on one side and his sexuality and joyful, infectious rock ’n’ roll on the other. Director Lisa Cortés’ weaves together little-seen archival footage and interviews with contemporaries and scholars to present the unique life story of this rock icon. The documentary is released in limited theaters April 11, then goes wide on April 21.
Other People’s Children — Rachel (Virginie Efira) is an enthusiastic and dedicated 40-ish schoolteacher. When she falls in love with Ali (Roschdy Zem), she also falls for his 4-year-old daughter. All of which makes her ponder having a child of her own. “With things progressing quickly in this new family dynamic, Rachel has to wrestle with some complicated feelings around maternal longing and the fear of missing out on what she describes as the ‘collective experience’ of motherhood,” according to the Festival Program Guide. Written and directed by Rebecca Zlotowski. The film receives limited theatrical release on April 21.
Judy Blume Forever — The beloved author of young-adult fiction gets her own coming-of-age story in this documentary. “For decades, Blume’s radical honesty has comforted and captivated readers — and landed her at the center of controversy for her frankness about puberty and sex,” according to the Festival Program Guide. Directors Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok use animations and interviews with authors, artists, and fans to illustrate Blume’s meaningful impact on readers throughout the years. The octogenarian continues to fight censorship today. Available April 21 on Amazon Prime Video.
Polite Society — A student in a London high school, Ria (Priya Kansara) is set on perfecting her martial arts skills and becoming a stuntwoman. But first she must save her older sister, Lena (Ritu Arya), from an ill-conceived planned marriage. Ria enlists her friends to help. It’s an action comedy, a martial arts flick, a heist film, and so much more. “The wickedly funny, cinematically exuberant debut feature of [writer-director] Nida Manzoor (creator of We Are Lady Parts), Polite Society is an Austenesque tale of two sisters,” describes the Festival Program Guide. The film opens wide April 28.
32 Sounds — This exploration of sound and its effect on conscious and unconscious life premiered in the innovative New Frontier section of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. “This indelible, feature-length journey weaves together 32 audio experiences, crafting a cinematic poem about the power of sound to bend time, cross borders, and profoundly shape our perception of the world,” according to the Festival Program Guide. Directed by Sam Green. A theatrical rollout begins April 28 at the Film Forum in New York City.
The Eight Mountains — A city boy named Pietro and a country boy named Bruno meet and become friends during the former’s summers in a remote village in the mountains of northwest Italy. They reunite years later when Pietro inherits his father’s land there with the promise to build a house on it. Based on the book by Paolo Cognetti, The Eight Mountains unfolds the not-often-told story of friendship between men. “An epic story expressed through intimate gestures, it’s a heartbreaking reflection on our connection to nature and the strength and fragility that coexist within us,” according to the Festival Program Guide. Written and directed by Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch. The film enters limited release April 28.