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Sundance '23 Recap, Reccs & Spring Series Preview

With my Spring ONLINE Screening Salon Series coming up next month, it was gratifying to see a record-breaking number of films created by women and people of color. I'll recap a bit about Sundance below.

About the Spring program, Diversity & Inclusion: A Different Look, I can't wait to announce it later this month. The dates are March 7, 14, 28 and April 4th, and meanwhile here's a bit about the theme:

Headlines and sound bites often keep us at arms' distance from our fellow human beings, obscuring the personal experiences of individuals who walk on paths unfamiliar to us. While bringing diversity to communities and organizations is an important first step, it is inclusion that makes the real difference in how we relate to one another.

Especially in recent years, a clear mandate has emerged that dictates that diverse groups must be properly acknowledged and represented at all socioeconomic and social levels. But it doesn't stop there. Inclusion applies to where we live and work, as well as to academia, sports, governance, land use and elsewhere.

Thanks to our Featured Guests and the screened content they will share with us, this is where we'll find ourselves in this Spring series. Join us as we go behind the images and headlines for a different look at Diversity & Inclusion.

Now back to Sundance...

This year was especially meaningful to all who attended in person, including me. The last in-person Sundance was three years ago, so there definitely was an extra dose of excitement with everyone being together again to experience yet another a strong roster of films.

Speaking of diversity, of the 101 feature-length films this year, 53% of them have a female director and 45% have a director of color. These are the highest numbers on record. Of the directors in the US Dramatic Film category, considered the Festival's main event, 61% are women and 61% are directors of color. That's quite a statement.

This year's festival was a combination of films, talks, the Sundance Collab and get togethers and even a special concert by The Indigo Girls who were there for the film about them, It's Only Life After All . Films offered new perspectives on important issues ranging from the war in Ukraine and homelessness to the environment and the role of human connection for astronauts who will be traveling to Mars. Talks ranged from the role of music and sound in storytelling to the process of filmmaking and the role of collaboration. And get togethers included raising a glass to my friend Pat Mitchell, who recently passed the mantle of Sundance Institute's Board Chair to Ebs Burnough while still remaining very active on the Board.

Film Reccs

Including the winners below, here are films, in no particular order, that you should keep on your radar. I didn't have a chance to watch all of these so I'll be using this as my watchlist as well. Let me know what you think!

A Thousand and One

Kukomo City

20 Days in Maripol


Fancy Dance

All Dirt Roads Lead to Salt

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project


Murder in Big Horn



Deep Rising


It's Only Life After All


The Longest Goodbye

Food and Country

Invisible Beauty


Little Richard: I am Everything

Magazine Dreams

Plan C


The Persian Version

The Stroll

You Hurt My Feelings

Below are some of the festival winners, and below that, the link to all of the winners. I hope you get to experience some of these in the coming months and no doubt, you'll see some of them at the Oscars next year.


- The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic presented to A.V. Rockwell for A Thousand and One*

Jury citation: Never have I seen a life so similar to my own rendered with such nuance and tenderness. I walked out of the theater and wept in front of people I barely know because this film reached into my gut and pulled from it every emotion I’ve learned to mask in these spaces. As a jury we know how impossible it is to make work that is real, full of pain, and fearless in its rigorous commitment to emotional truth born of oppressive circumstances. It is our honor to award the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic to A Thousand and One.

- The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary to Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson for Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project Jury citation: This film focuses on a singular, unapologetic voice, and through her story it captures the experience of the collective. The strong directorial vision illuminates the joy and the raw reality of the Black experience. Also it is fucking funny. The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary goes to Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project. - The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic to Charlotte Regan for Scrapper Jury citation: A charming and empathetic film full of integrity and life. Scrapper is a poignant study on grief and how the protagonist attempts to shrink her world. Through a child’s eyes, we observe abandonment, detachment and coldness, delivered with love, humor and warmth. The jury was drawn by the honest and sincere performances, strong direction, playful cinematography, and impressive script. The authenticity and command of place and space by the filmmaker and her insistence in creating a world where pain and joy align perfectly delivered a story full of heart and soul. The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic goes to Scrapper.

- The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic, presented to Marija Kavtaradze for Slow * Jury citation: In this untraditional love story, we follow the journey of two individuals who pose the question: what is desire? Marija Kavtaradze’s expert direction guides her audiences to discover their own answer, which delightfully shifts as each act provokes greater interrogation. Kavtaradze is a poet and an expert weaver, intertwining scenes of provocative movement with more quiet, insightful moments rich in dialogue. It combines to deliver a drama that resonates long after the film ends; a tenderness that lingers in the minds and hearts of viewers. The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic goes to Marija Kavtaradze, Slow. - The NEXT Innovator Award presented by Adobe was presented to KOKOMO CITY* Jury citation: For taking the traditional “talking heads” documentary structure and opening it up with the use of camera, sound, editing techniques, and imagery to create a dazzling journey with a fluidity that is entirely new. For a groundbreaking presentation of the lives of black trans women sex-workers in black and white, for taking us into their bedrooms and sharing in their incredible vulnerability as we hear their stories, all the while listening with her camera in a way that is electric and alive. For examining the injustice of a world that relegates so many women to a second-class citizenship and the oppressive nature of gender roles for everyone. For making perhaps the funniest movie Sundance has ever shown, and reminding us that the life or death struggle of these women is best understood in their defiant use of humor as a weapon. The NEXT wave of cinema is the profound use of comedy for serious subject matter, and for bringing us all together with laughter, in a hope that the love we come to feel for the people in this film can result in a larger social transformation. The NEXT Innovator Award goes to KOKOMO CITY directed by D. Smith.

AUDIENCE AWARDS - The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was awarded to Beyond Utopia - The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was awarded to The Persian Version - The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic, Presented by United Airlines was awarded to Shayda - The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary, Presented by United Airlines was awarded to 20 Days in Mariupol* - The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was awarded to KOKOMO CITY*

... and I got a killer coat by Lindsey Thornberg at Kemo Sabe Park City!


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