Childhood friends in Korea, Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) meet again two decades later in America, in Past Lives.
By Vanessa Zimmer
As summer heats up, more 2023 Festival films are arriving in theaters and on streaming services.
Among them are a lovely romantic story, a creepy horror thriller, a cautionary tale about the lure of technology, and a documentary about musical album covers as art. Plus, in a serious vein, awaiting discovery are three deeply personal documentaries — one by a descendant of formerly enslaved people who explores his roots, one about an alleged teenage runaway, and another about the history of transgender sex workers in New York City’s Meatpacking District.
Also arriving in theaters is the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, a compilation of select shorts traveling the country starting June 9.
So, open up and inspect this basket of fictional and nonfictional treats — all from the 2023 Sundance Film Festival unless otherwise noted.
Past Lives — Nora and Hae Sung have a deep childhood connection, which seemingly ends when Nora’s family emigrates from South Korea to Canada. The two reconnect online more than a decade later and then, another decade later, they meet in New York. In her first feature film, which she wrote and directed, playwright Celine Song explores In Yun, a Korean belief in fate that connects two people who knew each other in a past life. “It’s that rarest of works that transports us, impossibly, to someplace deep in our souls, in between a life we’ve longed for and the life we live,” according to the Festival Program Guide. Limited theatrical release on June 2, wide release on June 23.
Burden of Proof — Jennifer Pandos, 15, went missing in 1987. Her parents said she ran away. Years later, her brother Stephen begins investigating — and starts to believe his parents are involved in her disappearance. The documentary, which received Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program support, premieres on HBO on June 6.
Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) — Hipgnosis is the name of the creative team of Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey “Po” Powell, who designed such iconic album covers as Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. Long before the world was manipulating images on computers, these two artists envisioned and innovated striking concepts for 1970s legends like Led Zeppelin and Paul McCartney. “[Director Anton] Corbijn’s film is a charming, witty, beautifully crafted tale of challenging friendships, passion, and vision, full of fascinating anecdotes and big music personalities,” according to the Festival Program Guide. Arriving in select theaters June 7.
Users — Natalia Almada won the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival for this piercing look at the way technology rules our lives. Transportation, sending and storing data, teaching children and adults, even rocking a baby to sleep in an electronic crib. “With transcendent camerawork that peers into the internal organs of a technologically dependent planet, Users both marvels at and fears for a world in which a child is not only at risk from a warming Earth but comes to trust a perfectly constructed artificial caretaker over his own biological mother,” writes Harry Vaughn in the Festival Program Guide. The documentary also received support from Sundance Institute︱Sandbox Fund and the Talent Forum. Limited release in theaters June 9.
The Stroll — Co-director Kristin Lovell worked as one of the women of the Stroll, transgender women of color who lived and worked in New York’s Meatpacking District before it was gentrified. These women turned to sex work to survive, and Lovell reunites them to relate the history of the area in this documentary co-directed by Zachary Drucker. “The directors’ proximity to the story and its tellers brings to the screen a camaraderie and care presented with crystalline clarity and undeniable force,” according to the Festival Program Guide. “Their ability to illuminate such challenging history is tempered by their kind directorial hands and shared joy in remembering this hallowed ground.” The film won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Clarity of Vision. Releases June 21 on Max.
After Sherman — Jon-Sesrie Goff returns to land on the South Carolina coast that his family bought after emancipation. There, the filmmaker explores his Gullah/Geechee roots in what becomes a lyrical look at Black trauma and inheritance amid a history of violence and tension. This film, which received Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program support, airs June 26 on PBS’ POV.
Run Rabbit Run — Mia is turning 7, the same age as Alice was when she went missing. Alice was the sister of Mia’s mother, Sarah, and Alice loved wild animals like rabbits. When a rabbit appears outside Sarah and Mia’s door, Mia begins acting strangely. Can ghosts appear from the past? The horror thriller, directed by Daina Reid, comes to Netflix on June 28.
The 2023 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour also launches in June, starting June 9 in Austin, Texas, and traveling to all corners of the United States and beyond over the next few months. The 90-minute program features seven short films selected from the 2023 Festival. Check the dates and venues here. Here is the June schedule.
- Austin, Texas, June 9–15, Austin Film Society
- Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 16–18, The Guild Cinema
- Cincinnati, Ohio, June 16–25, Cincinnati World Cinema
- Durham, North Carolina, June 16–29, The Caroline Theatre
- New York, New York, June 23–29, IFC Center