It’s Time to Go ON THE RECORD

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on May 29th, 2020.

Sundance 2020 Premiere – author photo

Was the 2020 Sundance Film Festival really only four months ago? It feels like a lifetime and another reality ago. Sundance was the last major film festival to happen before COVID-19 brought events and mass gatherings to a halt, but thankfully they are continuing online. In fact, I’m proud to say that Seed&Spark, an early stage investment that I made years ago, is pioneering ways to help make this happen, ensuring that the festival experience will continue during these unprecedented times. That being said, there is nothing like the energy and anticipation of an opening night premiere, and four months later, there’s one in particular from Sundance 2020 that I can’t stop thinking about: On the Record.

On the Record is the latest documentary film from critically acclaimed filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, the duo behind The Invisible War and The Hunting Ground (full disclosure: I was an Executive Producer of The Hunting Ground). Both of those films were searing indictments of the epidemic of sexual assault in the US military and across US college campuses respectively, and notably, they were both released before the #MeToo movement swept across the globe, premiering at Sundance in 2012 and 2015 respectively. It could be argued that these films helped to lay the groundwork and added muscle to the movement. And now there is On The Record, which in my opinion is their best film yet. More importantly, these films are helping to ensure that issues of sexual assault, harassment, and violence are staying front and center, even when the headlines are being dominated by COVID-19. We have certainly learned a lot of things during this pandemic, including the importance of storytelling to create empathy and action. Now more than ever, telling the stories of survivors of all kinds remains critically important.

The woman at the center of this documentary is Drew Dixon, a former music executive at Def Jam Recordings and Arista Records. She became one of the first women of color to allege sexual assault at the hands of a very prominent black man in the #MeToo era, and On the Record details her experience. The alleged perpetrator is Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons, with further professional retaliation by LA Reid. Dixon is joined in the documentary by several more women, all alleging sexual assault, harassment, and even rape at the hands of Russell Simmons. Their stories are ones of workplace behavior, and the film offers a deep and painful look into how careers can be derailed and destroyed.

While watching the film, what hit me the hardest was how much talent was and continues to be wasted, not to mention how much potential goes unrealized, because of the unspeakable behavior of powerful men. This film looks at this issue within the music industry. Dixon is deeply credible, in fact, beyond credible, and any accusations that she may not be leave me baffled. On the Record goes to great lengths to share just how talented she was in telling her story of moving up the ranks in a challenging industry practically devoid of female representation. I could not help but draw parallels to the financial services industry I worked in for over a decade. This film, much like Untouchable, offers a very painful study on this type of behavior, and in so doing, I hope it sheds light on how to stop it.

The stories of all of the brave women in this film were heart-wrenching to watch, but On the Record goes further by delving deeper into the reasons why up until recently the voices of the #MeToo movement were not fully representative of the spectrum of survivors. In particular, it examines the systemic discriminations that far too often silence women of color, and looks at the cultural pressures from within their own communities to stay silent. In interviews, Dixon has spoken candidly about the social norms within African American communities that favor protecting their men at all costs, even at the expense of the women who may have been victims of those men. Where On the Record shines is how it addresses these issues with sensitive insight and informative critiques, all while ensuring that a powerful man is finally held accountable for his actions.

On the Record has already weathered a turbulent road to release. Just weeks before its scheduled premiere at Sundance, Oprah Winfrey pulled out of the project as lead producer. She took Apple TV with her as the film’s distributor, meaning On the Record debuted under a cloud of controversy and uncertainty. I was in the audience for the premiere, and believe me when I say that the atmosphere was electric. When the credits rolled, the film was given an extended standing ovation, one that was well earned in my opinion. The question and answer period following the film was equally emotionally charged, and it remains one of the most memorable experiences in my ten years of Sundance screenings. The filmmakers, both white filmmakers, were challenged as to their place to tell this story, and I believe it was Dixon who passionately responded with respect to the sensitivity and responsiveness of both Amy and Kirby.

Also on stage responding to questions was the legendary Dr. Kimberly Crenshaw, whose articulation of intersectionality, a key concept of this film, was so powerful and needed. Dr. Crenshaw actually coined the term ‘intersectionality’ over 30 years ago, and today is considered one of the foremost experts in critical race theory. Her presence brought so much to an already incredible night. The next morning, the rave reviews flooded in, and shortly after Sundance concluded, On the Record secured distribution through HBO Max. There are many reasons why I’m proud to be a board member of the Sundance Institute, but their commitment to standing behind important films like On the Record, especially in the face of such highly publicized defections, is top of my list.

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Filmmakers Amy and Kirby – author photo

HBO Max is the latest entry in the streaming wars, and upon its long awaited debut on Wednesday, On the Record was being touted as one of the premium examples of original content waiting for subscribers. To sign up, please click here (no, they are not paying me, i just really want you to see this film!). I know that one of the biggest headlines surrounding HBO Max was its acquisition of Friends reruns, but HBO has a long tradition of supporting hard hitting documentary and narrative films. I for one am very grateful that they acquired the rights to On the Record, thereby ensuring that this film would be seen beyond Sundance. I have no doubt that there was a lot of pressure by many within the music industry to not give this film a home. Even more than that, I am grateful to the filmmakers and for the many brave women who so boldly came forward to share their stories. Doing so always comes at huge personal cost to survivors who speak out, and therefore we can honor their bravery by choosing to watch their stories, and by doing our best to understand and take action against this pervasive behavior.

Update: Here is a link to the trailer, a discussion guide, and organizations to support. Thanks to Jamia Wilson for calling it to my attention.

On the Record is getting rave reviews and is 100% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Full coverage below.

Breaks

DEADLINE – May 27, 2020 – “‘On The Record’ Filmmakers Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering Sign With WME” By Denise Petski **also sent as an e-mail blast**

FILM INDEPENDENT E-BLAST – May 26, 2020 – “This Week at Film Independent” by Staff

FORTUNE | BROADSHEET NEWSLETTER– May 27, 2020 – “‘On the Record’ is a reminder that the #MeToo movement is here to stay” By Kristen Bellstrom and Emma Hinchcliffe

THE GRIO – May 27, 2020 – “5 reasons to watch Russell Simmons accuser doc ‘On The Record’” By Cortney Wills

NEW YORK POST – May 27, 2020 – “HBO Max pushes ‘Legendary’ status with streaming premiere” By Eric Hegedus 

TIME– May 27, 2020 – “Which HBO Max Originals to Watch—and Which to Skip” By Judy Berman

WOMEN AND HOLLYWOOD– May 27, 2020 – “Pick of the Day: ‘On the Record’” By Melissa Silverstein

Op-Eds

Mother Jones – May 27, 2020 – “The New Russell Simmons Documentary Grapples With the Price Black Women Pay When They Accuse Their Own” By Jamilah King

NBC NEWS – May 27, 2020 – “HBO Max’s Russell Simmons film explores how white supremacy shames Black assault victims” By Candace McDuffie

The Root – May 27, 2020 – “On the Record: Russell Simmons Finally Faces the Music, But He Shouldn’t Be the Only One Listening” By Jay Connor

Interviews

Billboard– May 27, 2020 – “Why Russell Simmons’ Accusers Don’t Think the Music Biz Is Getting Better for Women” by Cathy Applefeld Olson // featuring Sil Lai Abrams, Drew Dixon, Sheri Sher

Documentary.org– May 27, 2020 – “‘On The Record’ Investigates Sexual Misconduct in the Music Industry” by Addie Morfoot // featuring Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering

IndieWire – May 27, 2020 – “‘On the Record’: For Russell Simmons’ Accusers, the Film’s Release is Met with Mixed Feelings” by Tambay Obenson // featuring Sil Lai Abrams, Drew Dixon, Sheri Sher

KPCC “Take Two” – May 27, 2020 – “Interview with Amy Ziering and Drew Dixon” by A. Martinez // featuring Drew Dixon + Amy Ziering **Interview begins at the 30:54 mark”

LA Times – May 27, 2020 – “What it’s like to come forward as a sexual assault survivor in the midst of a pandemic” by Amy Kaufman // featuring Sil Lai Abrams, Kirby Dick, Drew Dixon, Sheri Sher, Amy Ziering

Madame Noire – May 27, 2020 – “Celebrity Does Not Equal Virtue. Russell Simmons Rape Accuser Sil Lai Abrams Talks On The Record, Healing & More” by Veronica Wells // featuring Sil Lai Abrams

Mel Magazine – May 27, 2020 – “‘On The Record’ Explores Who The #MeToo Conversation Left Behind — Women Of Color” by Tim Grierson // featuring Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering

Ms. Magazine – May 27, 2020 – “Black Women, Hip-Hop & #MeToo: ‘On the Record’ Spotlights Music Industry” by Janell Hobson // featuring Sil Lai Abrams, Drew Dixon, Sheri Sher

Rolling Out – May 27, 2020 – “Hip-hop artist Sheri Sher details cost Black women pay to reveal sexual assault” by Tony Binns // featuring Sheri Sher

Rolling Stone– May 27, 2020 – “‘On the Record’ Directors Talk Sexual Assault in Music Industry, Loss of Women’s Voices” by Breanna Ehrlich // featuring Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering

The Root – May 27, 2020 – “Drew Dixon, Sil Lai Abrams and Sheri Sher Go On the Record About Russell Simmons and Dismantling the Misogynoir System” by Tonja Renee Stidhum // featuring Sil Lai Abrams, Drew Dixon, Sheri Sher

Shondaland– May 27, 2020 – “’On the Record’ Allows Women in Hip Hop to Finally Have Their #MeToo Moment” By Candice Frederick // featuring Sil Lai Abrams, Drew Dixon, Sheri Sher

USA TODAY – May 27, 2020 – “He’s ‘a monster’: ‘On the Record’ gives first-hand accounts of Russell Simmons rape claims” by Patrick Ryan // featuring Sil Lai Abrams, Drew Dixon, Sheri Sher

VOX – May 27, 2020 – “‘We are correcting the erasure of black lives’: What On the Record’s subjects say about Me Too” by Alissa Wilkinson // featuring Sil Lai Abrams, Drew Dixon, Sheri Sher

Women’s Media Center – May 26, 2020 – “New #MeToo documentary gives voice to Russell Simmons accusers” by Carla Hay // featuring Kirby Dick, Drew Dixon, Amy Ziering

Reviews

ASSOCIATED PRESS – May 27, 2020 – “Review: A powerful #MeToo chapter in ‘On the Record’ doc” By Lindsey Bahr (rating: 3 out of 4 stars)

AWARDS CIRCUIT – May 26, 2020 – “Film Review: HBO Max’s ‘On The Record’ Gives a Megaphone to the Voices Often Sidelined in the #MeToo Movement” By LV Taylor (Positive)

THE CURVY FILM CRITIC– May 27, 2020 – “HBO’s On The Record Highlights Female Injustice Among Record Industry Exec (Review)” by Carla Renata (Positive)

DEADLINE– May 27, 2020 – “‘On The Record’ Review: HBO Max Launches With Riveting Music Biz Sexual Assault Documentary That Is A Must-See In The #MeToo Era” By Pete Hammond (Positive) **also sent as an email blast**

DECIDER – May 27, 2020 – “Multiple Women Accuse Russell Simmons of Sexual Assault in ‘On the Record’ on HBO Max” By Anna Menta (Positive)

FAST COMPANY – May 27, 2020 – “The controversial ‘On the Record’ documentary deftly tackles the complexities of #MeToo and intersectionality” By KC Ifeanyi (Positive)

FILM THREAT – May 26, 2020 – “On the Record” By By Sabina Dana Plasse (Rating: 10 out of 10)

MOTHER JONES – May 27, 2020 – “The New Russell Simmons Documentary Grapples With the Price Black Women Pay When They Accuse Their Own” By Jamila King (Positive)

THE NEW YORK TIMES – May 27, 2020 – “‘On the Record’ Review: A Black Woman’s View of #MeToo” By Devika Girish (Positive)

THE PLAYLIST – May 27, 2020 – “‘On The Record’ Is A Refreshingly Intersectional & Moving #MeToo Documentary [Review]” By Marshall Shaffer (Grade: B+)

ROLLING STONE – May 27, 2020 – “‘On the Record’ Review: Doc Gives Russell Simmons’ Accusers the Spotlight” By David Fear (Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars)

TIME – May 27, 2020 – “On the Record Hints at What’s Lost When Abuse Forces Women to Leave the Work They Love” By Stephanie Zacharek (Positive)

WASHINGTON POST– May 27, 2020 – “Russell Simmons sex assault documentary is an anguishing and essential film” By Ann Hornaday (Rating: 4 out of 4 stars)

That’s a Wrap – Highlights from the Sundance Festival 2020

Executive Director of the Sundance Institute Keri Putnam and Board Chair Pat Mitchell

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on February 7th, 2020.

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival has officially ended, with over a hundred films screened for thousands of avid film goers who braved snow, wind, and traffic to take in the best of this year’s independent film scene. For myself, this year’s festival was a whirlwind of 22 films, panels, parties, and so much more. In short, it was a fantastic year for Sundance, and a wonderful send off for Festival Director John Cooper, who after 11 years at the helm, is retiring from his position. In a beautifully staged passing of the baton, it was announced at Saturday’s Awards Ceremony that the incomparable Tabitha Jackson will assume the mantle of Festival Director, ensuring that the Sundance Festival will be in great hands.

I fully recognize what a privilege it is to be completely immersed in the work of independent storytellers for 10 days. And while it certainly is a luxury, it also felt urgent, important, and deeply relevant to the work that I do in the world as a donor, investor, non-profit board member, advisor, and consultant. Many of the projects at this year’s festival took years to make, and whether they were fiction or non-fiction, each offered powerful commentaries on urgent issues. I laughed, I cried…well mostly I cried. In the nine years that I have been attending Sundance, this is the one where I cried the most. I cried in despair, I cried because of the courage I witnessed, I cried because of the talent displayed, I just…cried. Some of the featured subject matters include gun violence (Us Kids), incarceration (The Painter and The Thief), memory loss and dementia, (The Mole Agent, The Father, Falling), living with disabilities (Crip Camp), human rights (The Dissident, Crip Camp, Us Kids, On The Record, I Bring You With Me), trauma and sexual assault (Us Kids, Wander Darkly, Promising Young Woman, On the Record)… just to name a few.

For those who may not know anything about film festivals, the Sundance Film Festival is the premiere festival in the United States, and arguably the world, for independent filmmaking. It truly gets the best of the best, and being selected for Sundance, let alone having a film take home an award, is likely to be a career defining moment for these filmmakers. Making films, making art, is their career, and for most people in this industry, it is a challenging one. There are few guarantees, the work is often project to project, and yet these filmmakers persevere because they are artists and storytellers, and the passion they have for their stories is palpable. This is especially true when you have them on stage, responding to an audience when their work is seen for the FIRST TIME. It is magical.

Take a second and imagine the world without visual storytellers. Take another second and think of your favorite film of all time, in fact, think of two: fiction and non-fiction. If you want add them to the comment section below. I hope you agree that film is indeed an incredibly powerful medium that can, and often does, have the power to change the world.

So here is what I saw at the festival. The journey of a film may begin at a festival, but it is you, as a viewer, who can now follow and champion the work.

Listed in the order I saw them…

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Crip Camp – This documentary was selected as the opening night film, and is a wonderful example of the type of advocacy films that Sundance has championed for decades. The story focuses on a summer camp in the 1960s that was run for disabled children, many of whom went on to become prominent activists for the rights of disabled people. It is an incredible example of the power of telling your own story, and a huge thank you goes out to co-Director Jim LeBrecht (photo) who was both featured in the film and co-directed it. I left feeling inspired and emboldened by the subjects’ tenacity and courage, and I certainly left with a deeper understanding of the issues that impact millions of people around the world. It would seem that others agreed, because Crip Camp went on to win the Audience Award for US Documentary. This incredible film will be available to stream on Netflix later this year.

Miss Americana – My first full day of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival started with the new Netflix documentary about Taylor Swift, and regardless of how you feel about the singer/songwriter, it was an incredibly engaging film. I myself am a Taylor fan, and it was powerful to watch Swift’s transformation from “good girl” to speaking her mind on politics, and in particular, on the issues that suddenly hit a lot closer to home in the wake of the sexual assault trial she endured in 2017. While watching the film, I couldn’t help but think about the Gloria Steinem film that would be debuting a couple of days later, and how Miss Americana gave us a first hand look at a different type of activist. In today’s world, celebrities have ever larger platforms, and increasingly, they are using them to champion for the issues they believe in and support. This film can be streamed on Netflix now. Dir: Lana Wilson.

Aggie – Day 1 continued with another documentary that once again focused on women using their power and privilege to enact social change. In this case, Aggie centers around Agnes Gund, who in 2017 sold Roy Lichtenstein’s painting, Masterpiece, for $165 million to start a fund promoting criminal justice reform. She was inspired to do so by The 13th, Ava DuVernay’s documentary film chronicling the impact of the 13th amendment on African Americans with regards to the American justice system. Hopefully others will see this film and be inspired to do the same. Dir: Catherine Gund.

Zola – What can I say about Zola except that it was one wild and crazy ride. When two women from different backgrounds bond over pole dancing, they take off on the road trip of a lifetime to strike it rich in the strip clubs of Florida. I think this might be the first time a film was born out of a series of tweets and a Reddit subthread, but as the media landscape continues to dramatically evolve, I’m sure it won’t be the last. Zola will be released later this summer by A24. Dir: Janicza Bravo.

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The Mole Agent – Not all documentaries are doom and gloom, as The Mole Agent will attest. This delightful film follows an 83 year old Chilean man as he infiltrates a retirement home to determine if its residents are being abused by the staff. I don’t want to give the ending away, but let’s just say I came out of this film with a great big smile on my face. And speaking about faces, look at the face of the mole. He could not travel to the United States from Chile, because as he said, he does not like to fly. Dir: Maite Alberdi.

On the Record – This is Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick’s third film tackling sexual assault after The Invisible War and The Hunting Ground, and this time they are taking on the recording industry, in particular the rape allegations against Russell Simons. This film premiered under a storm of controversy due to the last minute withdrawal of Oprah Winfrey as producer and backer, which was probably why the atmosphere at the premiere was so electric. Personally, I think this film is Ziering and Dick’s best film to date, and thankfully it was picked up by HBO Max, meaning audiences will have a chance to see this incredible film later this year when the streaming service debuts. This is a story about black women’s voices in the #MeToo era, voices that so far have not been given nearly as much weight as others in the conversations surrounding sexual harassment and assault. It is far past the time to change that. I had the opportunity to meet the survivors featured in the film, along with Kimberly Crenshaw who is also in the film, and to all of them I say THANK YOU. Truly, I could write a whole post about the film, the Q & A that followed the film, and the courage it takes to come forth with your truth against powerful men, but that will be for another day.

The Glorias – Full disclosure, Gloria Steinem has been a beloved friend of mine for years, so to say that I was excited for her story to finally hit the big screen would be an understatement to say the least. Directed by Julie Taymor, The Glorias is an ambitious undertaking, chronicling Gloria’s life from childhood through to present day. Gloria herself even made a cameo at the end of the film on a bus full of women heading to the historic women’s marches of 2017. Gloria will always be the first person to deflect attention away from herself and to give credit to others instead, but I for one am happy that her story is finally being told and that credit is being given for her many, many, many accomplishments. Gloria not only attended the premiere screening, but also spoke at a number of events throughout the opening weekend. The picture below was taken in the midst of my Wonder Woman collection, which was actually partially inspired by Gloria. The second issue of MS Magazine had Wonder Woman on its cover (yes I have it ), and again, longer story, but she is indeed a WONDER WOMAN (and 85 years young!)

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Wendy – Benh Zeitlin made a splash with his first feature film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and this year he was back with his follow up, Wendy, a whimsical adaption of the Peter Pan story. Wendy will be released later this month by Fox Searchlight, so be sure to check it out.

The Nest – After his triumphant entry Martha Marcy May Marlene at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Sean Durkin was back with his latest effort, The Nest, featuring fantastic performances by lead actors Jude Law and Carrie Koon. The film follows a family as they move from America to England in the 1980s with disastrous results, and is a powerful character study on isolation and relationship dynamics.

The Dissident – The security around this film was intense, but you can see why once you get to the end of The Dissident. This documentary chronicled the events surrounding the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and how he risked everything in the name of freedom of speech. Included in the film is an audio recording of exactly what went on the day he went missing in the embassy, so it was not easy viewing at times. However, this is an important and necessary film for the times we live in, so hopefully this film will land a distribution deal soon. Director Bryan Fogel won the Academy Award in 2018 for Icarus. I think it’s very likely that he will be onstage again next year for this one.

Minari – This hauntingly beautiful film won both the Grand Jury Prize for US Dramatic as well as the Audience Award, and it’s easy to see why. Writer/Director Lee Isaac Chung has created a stunning portrait of an immigrant family’s journey in America, the many ways the American Dream is broken, and the courage it takes to overcome these challenges. Most of the film is in Korean with English subtitles, and the acting was absolutely exquisite. At a time when new Americans are so often portrayed in a negative light, this film is a beacon. Every single character will make you smile and break your heart, so hopefully this film will get picked up soon. Truly a must see.

Dick Johnson is Dead – “What if you could make your loved ones live forever?” Dick Johnson is Dead is director Kirsten Johnson’s delirious and desperate attempt to keep her aging father “alive”, and the result is this stunner of a film. I have seen a lot of documentaries, and this one was so original, so clever, so heartbreaking, and so memorable it was awe-inspiring. This film won a special jury award for innovation in non-fiction storytelling, so clearly I was not alone in this sentiment. Dick Johnson is Dead will be streaming on Netflix later this year.

The Father – Continuing the trend of stories about aging fathers, Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins shine in this film that chronicles the impact of dementia from the point of view of the patient itself. Definitely look out for Anthony Hopkins’ name to be in contention for next year’s Oscars race for his searing performance in this film. The Father was picked up by Song Pictures Classics. Dir: Florian Zeller.

Wander Darkly – Tara Miele’s latest film is a surreal take on a troubled relationship between two parents reckoning with trauma and loss. This was yet another film that featured terrific performances from its lead actors, Sienna Miller and Diego Luna, so definitely watch out for this one.

The Painter and the Thief – I absolutely loved this documentary film about the friendship that was forged between a notorious Norwegian art thief and the woman who offered to paint his portrait after he was released from prison. This is a deeply moving film about the power of redemption that everyone should see. Dir: Benjamin Ree.

Promising Young Woman – I’m not entirely sure how to describe this film but is one that I cannot stop thinking about. Is it a romcom for the #MeToo era? A female gaze revenge fantasy? One of the best films of the festival? Seriously, I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving too much away, but let’s just say that this film is required viewing in this day and age. Insightful, funny, horrifying, and superbly directed, this is (hopefully) the start of a brilliant career for writer/director Emerald Fennell. And speaking of brilliant, Carey Mulligan gives another career best performance after breaking out at Sundance over a decade ago with Bad Education.

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Radha Blank

40 Year Old Version – Radha Blank wrote, directed, starred in, and wrote the soundtrack for this incredible film while in her 40s, and was honored with the award for directing at Saturday’s Awards Show. She was visibly moved at the podium and joyfully declared that there is no deadline on dreams, and I couldn’t agree more. This film is proof enough of that fact. Chronicling the journey of a 40 something wannabe playwright and rapper as she navigates the reality of being a woman of color in the entertainment industry over a certain age, this film is a triumph. (Pictured above with Sundance Board Chair Pat Mitchell at the Women’s Event)

Falling – The closing weekend premiere slot is always reserved for a buzzy film, and this year was no exception with the World Premiere of Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut. He also wrote, starred in, and composed the music for this film about a son’s reckoning with his elderly and acerbic father, so Friday night was truly Viggo’s night. However, after the credits rolled, he brought dozens of people onstage, including almost the entire cast, so it was a celebratory atmosphere all around. The film featured a standout performance by Lance Hendrickson as the father, so keep that name in mind once awards season rolls around next year. Lance and Anthony just may be battling it out.

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Kim Snyder and the “Kids”

Us Kids – In the wake of the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the student survivors decided that if the elected officials in the US weren’t going to tackle gun control, “us kids” were going to bring the issue to their doorstep. They founded Never Again MSD, an advocacy group for stricter and more common sense gun laws, and in just five weeks, organized the March for our Lives protest, that drew an estimated 2 million people across the United States, making it one of the largest protests in American history. Words can not describe how inspiring these young people are, and I found myself moved to tears multiple times throughout the film. Everyone should see this film, but more importantly, everyone should do everything in their power to ensure that the message of these “kids” is never forgotten. Dir: Kim Snyder.

Nine Days – I had to wait until the final day of the festival to see this film, as I missed an earlier screening that my son and husband attended. They both had come home saying that this film was one of the BEST films they had ever seen at Sundance, so needless to say, my expectations were high. I was not disappointed. Writer-director Edson Oda has created one of the most original, powerful, and awe-inspiring films I’ve seen in a long time, and I can only hope that this film is the beginning of a long and successful career for the first time feature filmmaker. A poetic mediation on what it means to be human, five candidates are interviewed over nine days for the privilege to be born. I won’t say anymore to preserve the viewing experience, but everyone should see this film, and I do mean everyone. Including Academy members, because if there is any justice, this film would be showered with Oscars come next spring.

I Carry You With Me – I closed out the 2020 Sundance Film Festival with another award winner. I Carry You With Me is a hauntingly beautiful love story between two Mexican men who have to survive social stigma, persecution, and country borders. This film was directed by Heidi Ewing, and was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, so do not miss this incredible film when it is released later this year.

Finally, New Frontier was launched in 2007 as a way for artists, filmmakers, and storytellers to showcase the latest advances in media technology and innovation. Over the past 14 years, the works that have premiered at New Frontier represent the very cutting edge of storytelling technology. The past several years have been dominated by advancements in VR technology, and this year I was lucky enough to experience three of these films.

My Trip – This VR experience simulates a DMT trip, which is psychedelic drug. It was one wild ride. Lead Artist: Bjarne Melgaard.

Persuasion Machines – This VR experiences asks you to step into a living room that is completely wired with smart technology. Are you in control of the machines? Or is it the other way around? The piece was co-directed by Karim Amer as a companion piece to his film The Great Hack (currently streaming on Netflix – WATCH IT). VR is really hard to describe as it is so experiential, but this one left me shaking. The technology and storytelling was able to help viewers see how we are being mined for our data through devices. What we think are private spaces are becoming public trading floors, and the commodity is us. (pictured below)

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Still Here – This incredible immersive experience allows viewers to experience what it is like to re-enter society after being imprisoned for 15 years. What does it look like to return to a world that has continued on without you? Lead Artists: Zahra Rasool and Sarah Springer.

If you made it this far you must really love films. Therefore, if you want to dig deeper into the highlights of the festival, check out these links.

Vulture – The 12 Best Movies at Sundance

New York Times – At Sundance, a Glorious Diversity of Voices Breaks Through

Hollywood Reporter – Award Winners List

Indiewire – Critics Survey: Sundance 2020’s Best Movies According to 187 Film Journalists

Sundance Film Festival 2019 – A Recap

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on February 18th, 2019.

Before I moved to Utah I had only briefly heard of the Sundance Film Festival, and I had never actually attended a film festival of any kind. If you know me, you might find this news shocking, because I absolutely love movies. I mean really love them. Few things make me happier than heading into a dark theater with a big bag of popcorn and taking in a just released feature. Now that I live in Park City and have become a Trustee of the Sundance Institute, the non-profit organization that organizes the Sundance Film Festival, I am becoming a film festival champion to the highest degree. Why? Because it is beyond exciting to see the work of extremely talented filmmakers, actors, producers, and more be shown to an audience for the first time. Furthermore, at festivals, you often have the opportunity to have a Q&A with the people associated with the film, and therefore the experience feels that much more precious.

In 2019, Sundance received over 14,000 submissions across all categories being presented, and the programmers managed to boil them down to just over 200 works that were shown. Over the course of just 12 days, audiences got to see not only the best of the best in independent filmmaking, but also a glimpse into what today’s talented and emerging storytellers think is interesting, compelling, and timely. Of course, it is impossible for anyone to see every film shown at the festival, but I did manage to see a lot, and the films I saw were too awesome not to share. Below is a list of some of the nearly 30 films I saw this year at Sundance, and where possible I’ve included where and when you might be able to see these works in the coming year. The descriptions are pulled from the program. The comments in italics are mine.

However, if you want to go straight to the esteemed jurors and audience members for the best of the fest (and I would), you can access the list of award recipients here. Of note is that of the 28 prizes awarded to 23 films – comprising the work of 27 filmmakers – 13 (56.5%) were directed by one or more women, eight (34.8%) were directed by one or more people of color, and one (4.3%) was directed by a person who identifies as LGBTQI+. Now that is worth celebrating!

US Dramatic Competition

Brittany Runs a Marathon

Directed by: Paul Downs Colaizzo

Principle Cast: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rel Howery, Micah Stock, and Alice Lee

Brittany Forgler is a funny, likeable, 27-year-old hot mess of a New Yorker whose trashy nightclub adventures and early-morning walks of shame make her late for work every day. But when she stops by a Yelp-recommended doctor’s office in an attempt to score Adderall, Brittany gets handed a series of diagnoses instead—elevated heart rate, high blood pressure … the list goes on. Suddenly forced to get a grip, Brittany laces up her Converse sneakers and runs one sweaty block. The next day, she runs two.

Winner of the Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic – Not surprising, as I absolutely loved it. 

Amazon acquired the rights to the comedy for $14 million January 30th. Set to be released August, 2019.

Clemency

Directed by: Chinonye Chukwu

Principle Cast: Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, Richard Schiff, Wendell Pierce, Richard Gunn and Danielle Brooks

How do you salvage your marriage when you are struggling to salvage your soul, your sense of self, and your sense of right and wrong? Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) is a prison warden who, over the years, has been drifting away from her husband while dutifully carrying out executions in a maximum security prison. When she strikes up a unique bond with death-row inmate Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge), a layer of emotional skin is peeled back, forcing Bernadine to confront the complex—and often contradictory—relationship between good intentions, unrequited desires, and what it means to be sanctioned to kill.

Winner of the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. This was a very difficult film to watch because you witness inmates being put to death. A must see for anyone who cares about the matter of the death penalty, which should be everyone. 

The Farewell

Directed By: Lulu Wang

Principle Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong and Jiang Yongbo

After learning their beloved matriarch has terminal lung cancer, a family opts not to tell her about the diagnosis, instead scheduling an impromptu wedding-reunion back in China. Headstrong and emotional writer Billi rebels against her parents’ directive to stay in New York and joins the family as they awkwardly attempt to rekindle old bonds, throw together a wedding that only grandma is actually looking forward to, and surreptitiously say their goodbyes.

A24 acquired distribution rights to the film for $7 million dollars, over Netflix, Amazon Studios, and Fox Searchlight. Release date still to be set.

I loved this film so much, because not only was it hilarious, but it reminded me of my grandma so much, and how hard it was to leave her in Canada and move to the United States. 

Honey Boy

Directed by: Alma Har’el

Screenwriter: Shia LaBeouf (based on his childhood and his relationship with his father.)

Principle Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, FKA Twigs

When 12-year-old Otis starts to find success as a child television star in Hollywood, his ex-rodeo-clown father returns to serve as his guardian. When Otis isn’t on set charming audiences, he spends his days with his father at an extended-stay motel on the edge of the city, enduring his overbearing father’s abuse. Honey Boy follows two threads of time, watching father and son’s contentious relationship and their attempts to mend it across the course of a decade.

Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Vision and Craft. Holy Moly, and I mean Holy Moly. It was unbelievably brave for Shia to tell this story, let alone play his father, which he does brilliantly. To be clear, this is a complex story of addiction and abuse, and therefore hard to watch, but so so powerful.

Amazon purchased the film for global rights in the $5 million range. Release date to be set.

US Documentary Competition

Hail Satan?

Directed by: Penny Lane

Just a few years old, the Satanic Temple has risen from the depths to become one of the most controversial religious movements in American history. Hail Satan? bears witness as the temple evolves from a small-scale media stunt to an internationally recognized religion with hundreds of thousands of adherents. Naked bodies writhe with snakes on altars as protesters storm the gates of state capitols across the country. Through their dogged campaign to place a nine-foot, bronze Satanic monument smack dab next to the statue of the Ten Commandments on the Arkansas State Capitol lawn, the leaders of the temple force us to consider the true meaning of the separation of church and state.

Magnolia Pictures acquired the rights to the film prior to Sundance on Nov 29, 2018. The distributor plans a spring 2019 theatrical release, and it will sell international rights at Berlin’s European Film Market.

This was a strangely compelling film that speaks to the power of documentary films to tell a very unusual story. 

One Child Nation

Directors: Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang

In order to expose rampant human-rights abuses, filmmaker Nanfu Wang fearlessly confronted Chinese government agents in her 2016 Sundance Film Festival documentary, Hooligan Sparrow. Her goal in One Child Nation is no less daunting: unmask the tightly held secrets of China’s one-child policy and in so doing, free the voices of millions irreparably harmed by the practice.

Winner of the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary. Of course we all know about this policy, and in fact it is currently in the news as the Chinese government is now aggressively marketing its new two child policy for fear of the long term economic and social impact of their one child policy. A true must see for so many reasons.

Amazon Studios has acquired worldwide rights to this film excluding U.S. TV, and TV rights in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, U.K., Netherlands, and Scandinavia (excluding Finland). 

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Dirty God

Directed by: Sacha Polak

Country: Netherlands/United Kingdom/Belgium/Ireland

Principle Cast: Vicky Knight, Katherine Kelly, Eliza Brady-Girard, Rebecca Stone, Bluey Robinson and Dana Marienci

After a vicious acid attack leaves half her body covered in scars, Jade (Vicky Knight) must come to terms with the new life ahead of her: a life in which her young daughter refers to her as a “monster,” co-workers and strangers hurl nasty slurs her way, and physical intimacy seems to be a thing of the past. As an antidote to her rocky home life, Jade revels in South London’s pulsing, rhythmic club scene, but still can’t escape the emotional trauma that accompanies her scars. Desiring the face—and life—she once had, Jade looks into plastic surgery as a quick fix.

Dolce Fine Giornata

Directed by: Jacek Borcuch

Country: Poland

Principle Cast: Krystyna Janda, Kasia Smutniak, Vincent Riotta, Antonio Catania, Lorenzo de Moor and Robin Renucci

Maria Linde, a free-spirited, Jewish Polish Nobel Prize winner, lives in Tuscany surrounded by warmth and chaos in her family’s villa. A loving mother and grandmother, she also fosters a secret flirtation with the much younger Egyptian man who runs a nearby seaside inn. After a terrorist attack in Rome, Maria refuses to succumb to the hysterical fear and anti-immigrant sentiment that quickly emerge, deciding in her acceptance speech of a local honor to boldly decry Europe’s eroding democracy—but she is unprepared for the public and personal havoc her comments wreak.

Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting

The Souvenir

Directed by: Joanna Hogg

Country: United Kingdom

Principle Cast: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke and Tilda Swinton

Between script pitches and camera setups, Julie hosts a film-school cohort party where she meets a mysterious man named Anthony. A few days later, Anthony invites Julie to a grand hotel and asks to stay with her for a few days. Thus begins Julie’s first serious love affair. Ignoring her friends and borrowing large amounts of money from her parents, Julie surrenders to the relationship and prioritizes Anthony’s needs.

Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic.

A24 bought North American rights to the film in December, 2018, prior to the festival.

World Cinema Documentary Competition

The Edge of Democracy

Directed by: Petra Costa

Country: Brazil

Once a nation crippled by military dictatorship, Brazil found its democratic footing in 1985 and then, in 2002, elected a hugely popular political disrupter: steel-worker-turned-activist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Under his watch, 20 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty, and his country rose to international prominence. In 2010, “Lula” passed the presidential baton to his prodigy, a fierce female guerrilla named Dilma Rousseff.

Premieres

After the Wedding   

Directed by: Bart Freundlich (The Opening Night Film)

Principle Cast: Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup and Abby Quinn

Isabel (Michelle Williams) has dedicated her life to working with the children in an orphanage in Calcutta. Theresa (Julianne Moore) is the multimillionaire head of a media company who lives with her handsome artist husband (Billy Crudup) and their two adorable twin boys in New York. When word comes to Isabel of a mysterious and generous grant for the financially struggling orphanage, she must travel to New York to meet the benefactor—Theresa—in person. And when Isabel is spontaneously invited to Theresa’s daughter’s wedding, Isabel discovers a connection to Theresa that takes her on an unexpected journey into her own past.

Cornerstone Films will handle international sales and distribution and will commence sales at the European Film Market during the Berlin Film Festival. CAA will oversee the U.S. rights.

Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Directed by: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Principle Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maxwell Simba, Lily Banda, Noma Dumezweni, Aïssa Maïga and Joseph Marcell

Young William Kamkwamba lives with his family in rural Malawi, where he attends school regularly and shows great aptitude for his studies. Yet after land development and poor weather lead to a meager harvest, famine strikes the village, alarming the community and forcing William to drop out of school when his father (Chiwetel Ejiofor) can no longer afford the fees. Determined to find a way out of the life-threatening situation his family is facing, William sneaks into the school library to research—and soon conspires to build a windmill pump to irrigate the land. Caught between his father’s close-minded skepticism and the difficulty of creating a machine out of bicycle parts and scrap materials, William races against the clock to fight for his community’s survival.

Winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. The filmmakers received a $20,000 cash award from Sundance Institute with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Netflix acquired the film in November, 2018, prior to the festival. It will launch in 2019 on Netflix and in select cinemas in the U.S. and U.K.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Directed by: Joe Berlinger

Principle Cast: Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Haley Joel Osment, Kaya Scodelario, John Malkovich and Jim Parsons

1969. Ted (Zac Efron) is crazy-handsome, smart, charismatic, affectionate. And cautious single mother Liz Kloepfer (Lily Collins) ultimately cannot resist his charms. For her, Ted is a match made in heaven, and she soon falls head over heels in love with the dashing young man. A picture of domestic bliss, the happy couple seems to have it all figured out … until, out of nowhere, their perfect life is shattered. Ted is arrested and charged with a series of increasingly grisly murders. Concern soon turns to paranoia—and, as evidence piles up, Liz is forced to consider that the man with whom she shares her life could actually be a psychopath.

Netflix acquired the rights to the film on Feb 4, 2019 at an estimated $9 million. While there’s no news yet on when the film will be available on Netflix, there are plans for a theatrical release in fall 2019.

Fighting With My Family     

Director and Screenwriter: Stephen Merchant

Principle Cast: Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) is a teenager, and her favorite thing about her family is that they are all obsessed with wrestling—an unusual family pastime by any measure, but especially so in Great Britain. While her parents (Lena Headey and Nick Frost) aim to book wrestling matches in tiny venues around the country for Soraya and her brother, Zak (Jack Lowden), true fighting stardom has always eluded them. That all changes when the WWE sees one of their tapes and offers the siblings the opportunity to audition for coach Hutch (Vince Vaughn). As Saraya steps into her new WWE persona, Paige, and glory starts to seem just within her and Zak’s grasp, it also threatens to change their sibling dynamic forever. 

Is scheduled to be released in the United States on February 14, 2019 in select theaters and February 22, 2019 in wide release, and on March 1 2019 in the United Kingdom.

Late Night

Directed by: Nisha Ganatra

Screenwriter: Mindy Kaling

Principle Cast: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow, Paul Walter Hauser, Reid Scott and Amy Ryan

Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is a pioneer and legendary host on the late-night talk-show circuit. When she’s accused of being a “woman who hates women,” she puts affirmative action on the to-do list, and—presto!—Molly (Mindy Kaling) is hired as the one woman in Katherine’s all-male writers’ room. But Molly might be too little too late, as the formidable Katherine also faces the reality of low ratings and a network that wants to replace her. Molly, wanting to prove she’s not simply a diversity hire who’s disrupting the comfort of the brotherhood, is determined to help Katherine by revitalizing her show and career—and possibly effect even bigger change at the same time.

Amazon acquired the rights to the comedy for $13 million. Release date TBD. I loved this movie so much! I would describe it as a bit of Devil Wears Prada, meets Working Girl, meets something entirely modern and fresh. Mindy Kaling you are a rock star!

The Mustang

Directed by: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre

Principle Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Connie Britton, Bruce Dern, Jason Mitchell, Gideon Adlon and Josh Stewart

Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a tightly wound convict fresh out of solitary confinement at a maximum security prison in the Nevada desert. Still wary of human contact, Roman enrolls in a tough but rewarding rehabilitation program learning to train wild mustangs. Under the tutelage of grizzled trainer Myles (Bruce Dern), he takes charge of an ornery horse in the hopes of preparing it for an annual auction. With the wild animal acting as a mirror for his own raging emotions, Roman must learn to tame not only the mustang but also the beast within.

Focus Features is set to release the film in March, 2019. This

Paddleton

Directed by: Alex Lehmann

Principle Cast: Mark Duplass, Ray Romano and Christine Woods

An unlikely bromance between two misfit neighbors becomes an unexpectedly emotional journey when one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly facing their mortality, the two bros (who spend their free time playing a game they made up called Paddleton) decide to go on a trip. Yet their literal journey turns into a metaphorical one as their experiences reveal the true bond of friendship—and what that means between two men who use humor to avoid expressing any real emotion.

Netflix acquired the film and is set to release February 22, 2019.

Photograph

Director and Screenwriter: Ritesh Batra (Sundance Board of Trustees)

Principle Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra

Rafi works as a street photographer in frenzied Mumbai, snapping improvised portraits for tourists at the city’s landmarks. When his ailing grandmother—who has always hoped that Rafi would start a family—comes to visit, he scrambles to appease her. A chance encounter with kind-hearted and lonely Miloni offers the perfect opportunity, since she is happy to play along when Rafi asks her to be his pretend companion. Yet even as the scheme throws into sharp relief the class differences and obstacles that would stand in the way of such a union, the line between hypothetical and real affections grows ever hazier.

The film is scheduled to release in India on March 8, 2019 and to be released in several countries including UK, USA, Spain, France and Australia through Amazon Studios.

The Report

Director and Screenwriter: Scott Z. Burns

Principle Cast: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Ted Levine, Maura Tierney and Michael C. Hall

Senate staffer Daniel Jones is assigned the daunting task of leading an investigation into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. After analyzing extensive evidence, he learns about the “enhanced interrogation techniques”—proven to be brutal, immoral, and ineffective—that the CIA adopted after 9/11. When Jones and the Senate Intelligence Committee attempt to release the results from his investigation, however, the CIA and White House go to great lengths to prevent the truth from getting out.

Amazon acquired the rights to the film for $14 million. Release date TBD. Mind blowing.

The Tomorrow Man

Director and Screenwriter: Noble Jones

Principle Cast: John Lithgow, Blythe Danner, Derek Cecil, Katie Aselton, Sophie Thatcher and Eve Harlow

Retiree Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow) spends his quiet days watching the news, checking internet forums, and preparing for the end of the world. As a self-proclaimed “prepper,” Ed is constantly making arrangements for the future, often at the expense of things in the here and now—such as his waning health and his strained relationship with his adult son. But then he spots Ronnie Meisner (Blythe Danner) and knows there is something different about her. The two form an unlikely bond and are happy together despite their combined emotional baggage—until, one day, it all spills out before them.

Bleecker Street acquired distribution rights to the film and is set for a May 17, 2019 release. Yes, that is me having dinner with John Lithgow. 

Troop Zero 

Directed by: Bert&Bertie

Principle Cast: Viola Davis, Mckenna Grace, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Epps, Charlie Shotwell and Allison Janney

Nine-year-old oddball Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) is obsessed with space and making contact with the aliens of the universe. When she finds out the prize at the 1977 Birdie Jamboree is getting her voice on NASA’s Golden Record, Christmas forms her own misfit Birdie troop. Nothing can prepare them for the painfully perfect world of the legit Birdies. But, led by their reluctant yet fearless troop mama (Viola Davis) and Christmas’s dad (Jim Gaffigan), they find glory in the most unexpected circumstances—much to the despair of the ever-judgmental school principal, Miss Massey (Allison Janney).

Velvet Buzzsaw

Director and Screenwriter: Dan Gilroy

Principle Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge and Natalia Dyer

In the cutthroat world of fine-art trading and representation, up-and-coming agent Josephina (Zawe Ashton) stumbles across a secret weapon: hundreds of dazzling paintings left behind after an elderly tenant in her building dies. Ignoring the instructions the clandestine artist left to destroy his work, she promptly starts circulating the paintings, which soon attract the attention of the heavy hitters around her—including her boss Rhodora (Rene Russo), art critic (and Josephina’s sometime lover) Morf (Jake Gyllenhaal), and competing collectors, managers, and curators like Bryson (Billy Magnussen) and Gretchen (Toni Collette). Yet as the deceased artist’s portraits gain posthumous acclaim, they also awaken something imperceptible and sinister that threatens to punish those who have profited from his work.

Netflix acquired the film and it is currently streaming on the platform.

Documentary Premieres

The Great Hack

Directed by: Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim

Have you ever filled out an online survey? Do you wonder why you receive ads for products that you happened to research the day before? Be afraid. Be very afraid. Data has surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable asset, and it is being weaponized to wage cultural and political wars. We’re in a battle for control over our most intimate personal details. The Great Hack uncovers the dark world of data exploitation through the compelling personal journeys of players on different sides of the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data breach that rocked the world.

The Netflix Original Series film. It is still a work-in-progress and release date is TBD. I am honored to be friends with these two amazing directors and people. I plan on writing an article about this movie. So much to say. 

Untouchable

Directed by: Ursula Macfarlane

The inside story of the meteoric rise and monstrous fall of movie titan Harvey Weinstein, Untouchable reveals how Weinstein acquired and deployed his formidable power over the course of decades. Former staffers, college friends, and reporters reflect upon the public perception of Weinstein as a visionary, while detailing his ruthless attempts to preserve his power as scandal threatened to engulf him. In candid, emotional, often-harrowing testimony—with many accusers speaking on camera for the first time—Untouchable exhumes both the method and the collateral damage of Weinstein’s alleged abuse. As the criminal case against him continues, the film questions whether meaningful change in the justice system—and in the film industry—is really possible.

See my post about Untouchable here.

Spotlight

Maiden

Directed by: Alex Homes

In the late 1980s, amateur British sailor Tracy Edwards decided she’d had enough of being dismissed and belittled as the only woman on the seafaring crews she’d participated in. Setting her sights on the upcoming Whitbread Round the World Race—a staggering 40,000-nautical-mile circumnavigation of the earth that few boats dared tackle—Tracy assembled the world’s first international all-female sailing crew and entered the competition. As they weathered not only life-threatening high seas but also a storm of sexism in the media, this inspiring group of women had to rely on their own pure resilience—and each other—to prove the naysayers and skeptics wrong.

Premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival early 2018. Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film after the TIFF premiere. The film is set to release June 28. I LOVED THIS FILM SO MUCH!

Special Events

This is Personal 

Directed by: Amy Berg

The Women’s March mobilized millions of women to protest after the inauguration of President Trump, but working across ideologies to combat injustice has its challenges. Academy Award–nominated director Amy Berg returns to the Sundance Film Festival with an insider’s look at the struggle for intersectional activism among the Women’s March leadership. Berg captures the collaborative organizing process and hopeful energy of the first marches in 2017, and spends time behind the scenes highlighting the sustained work that happens after the crowds subside. For Women’s March co-president, Tamika Mallory, and community-organizing leader, Erika Andiola, the march is only the tip of the iceberg of their broader activism—Andiola championing immigration rights and Mallory protesting gun violence. When Mallory comes under fire for her affiliations with Minister Louis Farrakhan, a powerful conversation between Mallory and Rabbi Rachel Timoner opens up a dialogue about intersectional leadership.

Pop-Up Magazine

In an era that has continued to reimagine and refresh storytelling forms, Pop-Up Magazine initially emerged as a rethinking of the journalism form. It introduced the idea of placing a wide range of stories—news, history, culture, art—into a live setting, one in which an audience consumes them as a shared experience. The result is a touring, “live magazine” show, created for a stage, a screen, and a live audience. Its contributors—including filmmakers, best-selling authors, popular radio and podcast voices, and artists—perform vivid multimedia stories accompanied by illustration, animation, film, photography, and an original live score.

This special featured stories and performances from Chris Colin, Stephanie Foo, Vann R. Newkirk II, Veena Rao, Albert Samaha, Juliana Schatz Preston, Leanne Shapton, John Jeremiah Sullivan, and Phillip Whitely.

Cool, innovative, hilarious, insightful, just amazing! Here is the schedule for their live performances if you want to experience it for yourself, and I cannot reccomend it more highly. 

New Frontier

New Frontier programs virtual and augmented pieces. I was able to see a number of pieces but the below was my favorite.

VR Screening: Traveling While Black

Director: Roger Ross Williams

Principle Cast: Sandra Butler-Truesdale, Virginia Ali, Courtland Cox and Samaria Rice

The Green Book, first published in 1936, was a survival guide that African American travellers relied on to avoid brutal discrimination, because it listed safe places that would fulfill their basic needs. In 1958, Ben and Virginia Ali’s new restaurant, Ben’s Chili Bowl, joined the list. This installation invites viewers into Roger Ross Williams’s emotionally moving VR experience about race and restricted movement in America, and afterwards connect in an intimate booth at Ben’s Chili Bowl.