Agents, studio executives and movie lovers will resume their annual pilgrimage to Park City as the Sundance Film Festival, the preeminent showcase for indie film, returns to in-person premieres this January. The 2021 version unfolded entirely digitally as a concession to COVID-19.
What they will find in the that thin mountain air is the standard collection of films from auteurs and established directors such as Michel Hazanavicius, Ramin Bahrani, and Lena Dunham, as well as blazingly original works from newcomers whose names are currently unknown, but whose career trajectories will be turbocharged by the cachet and attention that comes with a Sundance debut.
But they will also discover important changes to the program and the way that movies are shared with the wider public, the most significant of which is Sundance’s decision to debut the films it selected both in theaters and on its digital platform. The hybrid nature of the festival allows Sundance to limit the number of people who flock to the ritzy Utah resort town where it is held, as well as to exponentially expand the audience for the movies it highlights.
As for the work itself, the 2022 edition of Sundance includes a lineup of buzzy projects that could attract splashy deals, such as Hazanavicius’ “Final Cut,” the story of a low-budget film crew who are attacked by zombies; Bahrani’s “2nd Chance,” a documentary about the bankrupt pizza shop owner who invented the bulletproof vest; and Dunham’s “Sharp Stick,” a coming-of-age story set around a young woman’s sexual awakening. In some cases, the subject matter may be the film’s major selling point, as it is with the inspirational sounding “2nd Chance.” In other instances, the films promise a change-of-pace, as with Hazanavicius, an Oscar-winner for the artist painting on a broader canvas, or Dunham, the “Girls” creator” who will return to her indie roots after being an HBO darling. There’s also a number of movies from actors turned filmmakers such as Jesse Eisenberg, who directed the Julianne Moore drama “When You Finish Saving the World,” and Amy Poehler, the SNL star who examines comic icon Lucille Ball in her documentary “Lucy and Desi.” But the biggest star of the festival may be Kanye West. The three-part docu-series entitled “jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy” was reportedly acquired by Netflix for $30 million last spring and boasts 21 years of never-before-seen footage from the rapper and erstwhile presidential candidate. Clarence “Coodie” Simmons and Chike Ozah, two of his frequent collaborators, directed the film. If the outspoken West makes the trek to Park City expect him to dominate the coverage much as Taylor Swift did in 2020 when she premiered her own Netflix documentary at the festival.
Lucy and Desi (Director: Amy Poehler, Producers: Michael Rosenberg, Justin Wilkes, Nigel Sinclair, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Amy Poehler, Mark Monroe) — Lucille Ball had an immense influence on the creation of TV syndication, as she rose to become a true entrepreneur and multi-faceted mogul. Through interviews and archival, a tribute to one of the greatest trailblazers in comedy and entertainment. (Documentary.) SALT LAKE CITY OPENING NIGHTSource