What to Watch at the virtual Sundance Film Festival
Sundance runs online Jan. 20 to 30
Premieres start at specific times, with a five-hour window to watch and longer screening windows later in the festival. Premieres also feature post-screening Q&As with filmmakers and talent.
Single tickets: $20
Explorer Pass: $50 (access to New Frontier, Shorts and Indie Episodic)
Day Package: $100 (watch up to four screenings)
Award-Winners Package: $300 (eight award winning films Jan. 29 & 30)
Festival Package: $750 (10 tickets)
Park City’s loss is independent film lovers’ gain over the next 10 days, as the Sundance Film Festival goes virtual for the second year in a row and opens the digital doors on the most accessible rendition of the festival since its founding 43 years ago.
The festival, with 82 feature films and 50 shorts on the schedule playing online from Jan. 20 to Jan. 30, had its in-person return scuttled by the omicron variant of coronavirus. With all of the films available to the masses – everything from world premieres and competition films in drama and documentary, to the New Frontier and Next tracks of experimental films and the horror-based Midnight series – organizers are hoping that viewers push their boundaries.
“See the one that you are not familiar with, that you don’t think is for you,” festival director Tabitha Jackson encouraged in a pre-festival interview on KCRW’s “The Treatment.”
If you’re not feeling so adventurous, or you’re short on time, maybe wait a week before making picks: Sundance is hosting virtual screenings of all of its award-winning films at the end of the festival Jan. 28-30.
These are some high points I’m most looking forward to at Sundance 2022.
An indie vehicle for the great John Boyega, this stars the “Star Wars” alum as a troubled soldier who takes hostages in a bank. It also marks the final screen appearance by the late, great Michael K. Williams.
Lena Dunham goes back behind the camera for the first time since “Girls,” about a young woman (Kristine Froseth) figuring herself out and seeking out an affair.
‘CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH’
From Cooper Raiff, the writer-director of the 2020 micro-budget miracle “Shithouse,” this comedy stars Raiff as a bar mitzvah DJ and Woody Creeker Dakota Johnson as a young mother of an autistic daughter he befriends.
‘AM I OK?’
Directed by the married comedians Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne, this coming-of-age story also stars Dakota Johnson – who appears to be at the beginning of an interesting indie run – as a woman who comes out in her 30s.
Based on the true story of the underground ‘60s abortion clinic the Jane Collective, this film marks the directorial debut of “Carol” screenwriter Phyllis Nagy and stars Elizabeth Banks, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Mara, Chris Messina and John Magaro.
MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM’ & ‘JEEN-YUHS’
A chronicle of early 2000s indie rock based on the acclaimed book about The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem, The White Stripes and others, it promises to be a must for fans. Likewise, “Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” is a hotly anticipated doc about a 21-year-old Kanye’s 1998 collision with a Chicago public access TV host. The non-fiction lineup is loaded but these two music docs are on top of my watch list.
Aspen loves its shorts and there are about 50 fresh ones in the Sundance lineup. Many Sundance premieres often end up in the Aspen Shortsfest (April 5-10) lineup and vice versa, so this is a chance to see them early or catch some you didn’t in Aspen in 2021 (the must-see “Close Ties to Home Country,” for example, premiered here, won Akanksha Cruczynski a Student Oscar and is now at Sundance). Some I’m looking forward to: “Long Line of Ladies” from the filmmaking pair that made the Oscar-winning “Period. End of Sentence.” along with “The Dress,” already short-listed for this year’s Oscars, and Joe Cappa’s experimental “Ghost Dogs.”
The midnight horror screenings at Sundance always unveil some of the, let’s say, most interesting horror movies of the year – often weird, sometimes extreme, always trying to make the genre new (this is where “Hereditary” and “The Babadook” premiered!). Two I’ll be staying up late for this week are “Hatching,” about what happens when a bird crashes into a family’s home and lays a giant egg, and “Piggy,” a bloody and arty tale of teen serial killer by Spain’s Carlota Pereda.