Table of Contents
Photo: Sundance Film Festival 2023
Overview of the Festival
Founded in 1978, the Sundance Film Festival, previously known as the Utah Film Festival, takes place each year to showcase new independent feature-length and short films. With many different categories, the festival hosts a variety of different genres, styles, and stories. The event is hosted by Sundance Institute located near Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival is considered the largest independent film festival in the United States, hosting more than 45,000 attendees each year.
Many businesses and companies in the entertainment industry are avid sponsors of this celebration of creativity. Some of the 2023 festival sponsors include Netflix, IMDb, NPR, IndieWire, Los Angles Times, and United Airlines. For the full, comprehensive list of sponsors, to purchase tickets, and learn more about the films being showcased, visit the Sundance Film Festival website. This year’s festival will span from January 19th to 26th, 2023. Not sure where to start? Here’s a quick and easy guide to navigating the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
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Sundance Film Festival 2023 – What to Watch – Films
With many competitive categories, each one brings its own level of unique qualifications to the independent film industry. Starting with the “U.S. Dramatic Competition”, here are a few of the most promising films to watch. ‘Theater Camp’ follows a group of teachers trying to keep a New York theater camp from going under after its founder has fallen into a coma. This film promises to be comedic, yet wholesome, perhaps something like the classic ‘High-School Musical’. Next is ‘The Accidental Getaway Driver’, in which a Vietnamese driver is held at gunpoint while a group of escaped convicts tries to make their way to freedom. This film is inspired by a true story and while fast-paced, it will likely have its moments of sentimentality. ‘Sometimes I Think About Dying’ is one of those sad, romantic films audiences just can’t get enough of. Fran, played by Daisy Ridley, lives a mournfully boring life and struggles with depression as a result. When a new coworker, Robert, arrives at her office the dynamic of her situation quickly shifts into something a little more hopeful. Will Fran be able to move past herself and the things she can’t control or will she retreat into her isolated state of being, rejecting what could become a wonderful life?
If you are interested in seeing the darker side of independent filmmaking, check out the titles in the “Midnight” category. ‘Birth/Rebirth’ follows a pathologist who enjoys reanimating the dead. Her life clashes with a maternity nurse in an unsettling way and the two must converge to bring a 6-year-old girl back from the dead. Only, of course, things don’t go as planned as they follow a dark path not meant for travelers to return from. ‘Run Rabbit Run’ follows Sarah, a fertility doctor celebrating her daughter’s seventh birthday. However, things start to go awry when a rabbit appears at their door, bringing with it the dark secrets of Sarah’s past. Sarah is forced to confront what she has been hiding for fear of losing her daughter to the madness of her own mind. ‘In My Mother’s Skin’ takes place in the Philippines and is centered around young Tala who enlists the help of a devilish, flesh-eating fairy to save her dying mother. Tala’s country is overruled by war and destruction and she must do what she can to protect her mother while she waits for her father to return from America.
With a wider scope than the U.S. Dramatic Competition, the World Cinema Dramatic Competition has its own slew of films to showcase. ‘Scrapper’ is the story of 12-year-old Georgie, who lives alone in London after her mother’s death. She makes money stealing and keeps the social workers away by lying to them. When her estranged father shows up, her world is turned upside down and she has to wrestle with whether or not she’ll accept him or continue on her own. ‘Bad Behavior’ explores the tense relationship between former child actor, Lucy, and her daughter, who is a stunt-performer. On a retreat with her guru, Lucy is forced to confront the difficulties between her and her daughter and reign in her bad behavior. ‘Animalia’ is the story of a pregnant woman living mostly on her own after her husband leaves on business. When a strange, alien-like force threatens her town she sees it as an opportunity for freedom.
What to Watch – Animated Shorts and More
Starting off strong in the short film category is ‘AirHostess-737’. When a young hostess on a flight collapses, she thinks the problem is her new braces. Instead, she must come to terms with her grief over the fact that the plane is carrying her mother’s body back to their hometown for burial. Next is ‘I Have No Tears, and I Must Cry’, which follows Maria Luisa who is trying to get her green card to escape the fear of deportation. Over the course of her interview, however, something unexpected happens which threatens her stability and the life she plans to have. ‘We Were Meant To’ is set in a world where Black men have wings and must fly as a right of passage. Young Akil must face his fears and insecurities to obtain his flight and defy the society in which he lives.
Again, the Midnight section of the Short Film Competition does not disappoint. ‘Power Signal’ is centered around a delivery worker simply trying to find a public restroom to use while on his route. Instead, he discovers a frightening presence infecting all the women in New York City. Next, ‘Unborn Biru’ is the story of a mother who steals silver from a dead body to survive and keep her daughter alive. Unknown to her is the curse of the silver which torments both her and her child. ‘Claudio’s Song’ is of a young man who faces a brutal attack by a group of criminals targeting the rich and famous. Fortunately for him, the tables turn when the criminals’ scheme doesn’t go as planned.
Of all the films being showcased at the 2023 festival, perhaps the most unique films are animated shorts. Each film is stylized by different artists to portray each story in a completely new light. ‘Garrano’ follows a horse pulling a heavy load under the hot sun. His leader, a young boy named Joel, proceeds to uncover a man whose plot is to set the whole forest ablaze. ‘Christopher at Sea’ features Christopher who sets off on a boat on a path to self-discovery, searching for what draws people out to sea. Lastly, ‘The Sea on the Day When the Magic Returns’ is the story of Sejin, who used to possess magical powers that made anything she wanted happen. Without her magic, Sejin must head to the sea to save her father before her job interview.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything the independent film festival has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a wholesome feature-length film or a dark and gritty short film, the Sundance Film Festival has it all. While most casts are not flocked with big-name actors and directors, their stories and characters don’t need the fame to outshine their competition. Support the independent film industry by purchasing a ticket or two to the films that interest you the most, and enjoy an experience you won’t be able to find anyplace else.
By Finley Clough
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