Filmmaker Sierra Urich turns to her mother, Mitra, and grandmother, Behjat, to understand their lives in Iran, in “Joonam,” premiering at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
By Meghan Keeley
Children may naïvely crave it, 20-somethings deplore it, and midlifers accept it like a blossoming friend: Growing up (and older) is an unavoidable rule of living. But aging doesn’t mean the adventures must be over.
For some, new challenges have only just begun. Some struggle against those who view the older population as easy targets. Some undergo illness and disease. Some realize that there is no time limit on discovering your identity. And some have legacies to pass down to eager hands.
Several films from this year’s 2023 Sundance Film Festival program look toward the very people who have the most years of stories to tell. From serious topics of living with Alzheimer’s to the vindication of rediscovering sexuality, the following films offer a treasure trove of stories depicting the complications and beauties that accompany growing older.
The Accidental Getaway Driver (U.S. Dramatic) Elderly cab driver Long pulls himself out of bed to answer a late-night call for a ride. The routine job takes a sharp turn when Long finds himself held at gunpoint by the three escaped convicts he picked up. But being taken hostage is far from Long’s first scrape with misfortune, as director-screenwriter Sing J. Lee recollects Long’s life of lonely tragedies in this film based on a true story. Available in person and online.
The Eternal Memory (World Documentary) — Some say that we can live forever in the memories of those who love us. For Augusto and Paulina, this is an objective truth. It has been eight years since former Chilean commentator and presenter Augusto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and he must rely on his beloved wife and the skills he learned from his career to try to hold onto the memories that threaten to slip away. In a beautiful portrait of persisting love, Oscar-nominated director Maite Alberdi presents Augusto and Paulina navigating their new life together and showcasing how a diagnosis is far from a permanent end to life’s joys. Available in person and online.
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (U.S Documentary) — When does a legend become a legend? Directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson argue that the coveted status be realized in real time. Poet and activist Nikki Giovanni invites you to witness her life through her own words, and to listen to her platform of Black liberation achieved through action and solidarity. Equality is a necessity, and this mission passes onto viewers to continue. Available in person and online.
Joonam (U.S. Documentary) — In filmmaker Sierra Urich’s debut feature, she looks to her own family tree. On a quest to put together the puzzle pieces of her identity, she turns to her mother, Mitra, and grandmother, Behjat, to learn of their lives in Iran. In an exploration of diaspora and how place shapes who we are, Urich and audience both have the opportunity to see through the eyes of her elders. Available in person and online.
MAMACRUZ (World Dramatic) — Like many grandparents, Cruz finds modern technology to be a whole new world. But confusion turns to a mental revolution when she accidentally stumbles upon pornography. While she’s initially horrified, fascination takes over as she embarks on an exploration of her renewed sensuality. Contrasted against her devotion to her religion, MAMACRUZ invites audiences into this tale of discovery of self, suggesting that you are never too old to discover who you truly are. Available in person and online.