The 2022 edition of the Sundance Film Festival has ended and it was another great year. It was also a year that may have foreshadowed what direction the film industry will be headed. A horror movie won the fest’s biggest prize for the first time ever, there were a number of movies from underrepresented creators, and there were some riveting documentaries. We talk about some of our favorites from this year’s Sundance.
Leonor Will Never Die
Martika Ramirez Escobar’s Leonor Will Never Die tells the story of Leonor Reyes, a once famous film director from the Philippines. An elderly Leonor spends her time and money watching action films while her son takes care of her and tries to maintain the household. One day, a couple’s scuffle causes a TV to land on her head, knocking her into a coma where she now exists in her screenplay trying to change the ending to the story of her life.
Ramirez Escobar’s writing and directing is creative and it is clear the story of Leonor is told with a lot of love. Sheila Francisco gives a phenomenal performance as Leonor, as both an action star and patron saint of filmmakers. Leonor Will Never Die is a delightful film that will make you wish you were a badass old lady.
Emergency sets up a fine college comedy. Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and Sean (RJ Cyler) are set to become the first Black students to finish their college’s Legendary frat party tour. Before they can head out, they make a stop at their house where they find a white girl passed out on the floor. Calling the police seems out of the question due to the optics, but what else can they do? What follows is a hilarious movie set against a backdrop of hard hitting commentary.
jeen-yuhs was one of the most fascinating documentaries from the Sundance Film festival. Before the Kardashians, the controversies, and Ye, there was a kid from Chicago named Kanye West. Shot in the style of Hoop Dreams, the film is an absorbing look at West before anyone took him seriously. What makes the film so interesting is all the things people know about him today could be seen when he was only known as a producer. Fans of Ye will love the doc, but even those who only know about him through the constant headlines he makes will be impressed by how true to himself he has remained.
Fire of Love
For Fire of Love, director Sara Dosa has cracked into the astonishing archive of French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft. They were a married couple who eschewed convention so they could pursue their passionate love affair with volcanos. The Kraffts documented their trysts and used their scientific findings, photographs, and films to finance their lifetime of adventure. Dosa draws these materials together to create a loving portrait of the Kraffts. The most thrilling is, of course, the footage of these intrepid scientists fearlessly traipsing up to the roiling, gaping maw of the earth.
From the hypnotic, roiling close ups of lava flows, to the stunning silhouettes of a scientist in a reflective suit backlit by a bright orange eruption. But the film also presents the quiet and the intimate with equal curiosity. Over the course of the documentary, narrated by Miranda July, you will see how the Krafts relationship with volcanos matured from unbridled infatuation, to a profound respect for the indifferent life cycles of this planet we call home.
“What do I need to do to get the attention I need right now?” 892 is a crushing thriller, written and directed by Abi Demaris Corbin and co-written by Kwame Kwei-Armah, that speculates on the last, desperate act of Iraq war veteran and father, Brian Easly. John Boyega passionately depicts a principled man driven to the brink by broken, apathetic bureaucracy. In 2017, Easly took two hostages at an Atlanta Wells Fargo, threatening to blow up the bank if his demand was not met.
Awarded a Special Jury Award for its ensemble cast, 892 features exemplary performances from Nicole Beharie, Selenis Leyva, Connie Britton, London Covington, and the beloved, late Michael K. Williams. 892 directs an unforgiving, searing spotlight on a callous system that entices the unprivileged with benefits only to nickel and dime them when their usefulness is spent.
Fresh yanked the rug out from under my expectations and left me gobsmacked, appalled, and exhilarated. I thought I knew where this narrative was going. A charming, handsome man sweeps an unsuspecting lovelorn woman off her feet and off the grid so he can drag her back to her lair and have his way with her. I was not prepared for the jolting left turn this cinematic horror romp would be taking.
Director Mimi Cave relishes in subjecting us to this specific and squeamish variety of depravity featured in Lauryn Kahn’s cutting script, underscoring your repulsion with cloying pop-rock. This is Sebastian Stan as you have never seen him before, with a saccharine, ebullient charm that sours and curdles with each twisted revelation. Daisy Edgar-Jones portrays a woman who may have been tricked but refuses to be outsmarted. With relentless, grisly panache, Fresh delivers an incisive satire that pokes holes at the illusion that the dating game is a level playing field.
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