Sex researcher Shere Hite is the subject of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival documentary “The Disappearance of Shere Hite,” directed by Nicole Newnham.
By Lucy Spicer
As we barrel toward a season marked by the chaos of reunions and celebrations (and all the emotions that accompany them), it’s always a good idea to pause and engage in some reflection. This month, we can point you to six new releases that encourage you to contemplate community and the passage of time.
November’s crop of Sundance-supported films heading to theaters includes five eye-opening documentaries — three of which won awards at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Among the docs are Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project and The Disappearance of Shere Hite, both of which spotlight extraordinary women who challenged the status quo. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, Raven Jackson’s gorgeous debut feature film, also appears in this month’s list.
Take a deep breath, give yourself a break, and dig into these thoughtful November releases.
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt — Writer-director Raven Jackson’s stunning feature debut follows Mack (played by Kaylee Nicole Johnson, Charleen McClure, and Zainab Jah) from childhood to adulthood, a nonlinear journey that brings to light the cyclical aspects of life and Mack’s formative moments in rural Mississippi. This lyrical film premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and is a sensory experience that will immerse you in the quiet and power of nature. Arriving in theaters November 3.
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project — Directing duo Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson use a mesmerizing collage of archival footage, vérité, and live poetry readings to craft a kaleidoscopic portrait of beloved poet Nikki Giovanni. Supported by Sundance Institute’s Producers Program, the film traces Giovanni’s influence as a writer and an activist while using an Afrofuturistic lens to illustrate the poet’s vision for equity. Going to Mars was awarded the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Arriving in select theaters November 3.
You Were My First Boyfriend — Do you ever find yourself reliving your most embarrassing teenage moments? Filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo takes this ritual a step further by participating in reenactments of her cringeworthy high school years in this hybrid documentary co-directed by Sarah Enid Hagey. Supported by Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, this innovative project uses humor and heart to explore how decades-old adolescent experiences can continue to haunt us. Arriving in select theaters November 3; making its broadcast premiere on HBO and available to stream on Max November 8.
A Still Small Voice — In this intimate and emotional documentary, director Luke Lorentzen transports the viewer to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where Margaret “Mati” Engel is among a group of aspiring chaplains working to complete a yearlong residency program in spiritual care in 2020. Interactions Mati has with patients and with her supervisor reveal the multifaceted layers of grief that live both in those who are ill and those whose job it is to comfort them. Lorentzen’s unflinching approach to these delicate and complex relationships earned him the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Arriving in select theaters November 10.
The Disappearance of Shere Hite — In 1976, The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality was published, eventually becoming one of the bestselling books of all time. The author, Shere Hite, was quickly thrust into the spotlight for her groundbreaking work, which compiled some 3,000 candid responses to questionnaires about sex and sexuality that Hite had sent out to women across the U.S. Directed by Nicole Newnham and narrated by Dakota Johnson, the film traces Hite’s life from poor university student to one of the most talked-about women in the country before she was seemingly erased from the public consciousness after almost 20 years of near-constant media coverage. This timely and engrossing documentary premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Arriving in theaters November 17.
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood — Women-only smoke saunas in Estonia are safe, sacred spaces. The sauna is where women can unburden their minds and cleanse their bodies, where they can pray and chant to free themselves from both emotional and physical pain. Supported by Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, this intimate film is a window into a cherished practice where women bare their bodies and their souls. Director Anna Hints took home the Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Arriving in select theaters November 24; available on demand January 23.
The 2023 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour is underway! Traveling to all corners of the United States and beyond in the following months, the 90-minute program features seven short films selected from the 2023 Festival. Check here for dates and venues; see below for dates in November.