By Patty Consolazio
Water trickles; it destroys. It provides; it nourishes. It’s also flowing plentifully in the 2023 Sundance Film Festival lineup, in its many, varied manifestations: a seaside village facing violent conflict, two friends at odds over their contrasting fishing methods, secrets revealed in an Estonian sauna, deep-sea mineral mining and its effects, the perilous sport of freediving, a college grad’s pool shop career detour, a man on a quest to be one with the sea, and a marine researcher’s protective relationship with the Australian coral reef and its occupants.
Beyond its characteristics, water is a great unifier. We all need it. These films highlight its relevance to our lives — whether we seek to honor it, bask in it, or profit from it. The following eight projects playing at this year’s Festival represent independent and collaborative works from nine countries across five continents:
Against the Tide (World Documentary) — Fishermen Rakesh and Ganesh are as close as brothers, but their competing fishing methods and dwindling daily catches put the fishermen’s livelihoods and friendship to the ultimate test. Available in person and online.
Blueback (Kids) — After returning home to care for her sick mother, marine biologist Abby makes friends with a rare fish, Blueback. Abby’s growing relationship with her mother and Blueback fuel her passion to protect Australia’s delicate coral reef ecosystem. Available in person.
Christopher at Sea (Animated Short Film Program) — In this 21-minute animated short, a young man embarks on a cargo ship journey to experience the allure of the sea. Available in person and online.
The Deepest Breath (Premieres) — An Italian freediving champion trains with a safety diver in hopes of attempting a dive considered the world’s deadliest — Egypt’s perilous Blue Hole — a natural sinkhole hundreds of feet below the Red Sea. Available in person.
Deep Rising (Premieres) — This exposé uncovers the inner workings of a secretive organization involved in allowing massive extraction of metals from the deep seafloor in the name of electric energy, and the industry’s implications to life on Earth. Available in person.
Mami Wata (World Dramatic) — The spiritual oceanside village of Iyi is inhabited by people living in reverent harmony with the water and its powers, but soon threatened by opportunistic militants who seek to change their ways. Available in person and online.
Pro Pool (Short Film Program) — New college grad can’t find a job in his field, so he accepts a clerk position in a pool shop. This 8-minute Canadian film is part of Short Film Program 3. Available in person and online.
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (World Documentary) — In a steamy, damp smoke sauna deep in the forest, women come together to share secrets, shed feelings of shame, and grow stronger. Available in person and online.