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SUNDANCE 2023

An in-person Sundance returns with a raft of rising European voices

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- The festival’s non-US line-up for 2023 is dominated by British and French productions, such as Ira Sachs’ latest work, Passages, and Charlotte Regan’s Scrapper

An in-person Sundance returns with a raft of rising European voices
Passages by Ira Sachs

One of the leading US festivals for independent films, the Sundance Film Festival, is bracing for a homecoming from 19-29 January. The gathering’s 2023 edition is the first one to take place in person (in Park City, Salt Lake City and the Sundance Resort) since 2020, after last year’s edition had to be cancelled shortly before it was due to begin (see the news). However, the festival is maintaining its online platform, screening the movies both in theatres and online in a hybrid, “phygital” model that many festivals embraced last year. This coming iteration is led by Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente alongside director of programming Kim Yutani and the institute’s leadership team after Sundance director Tabitha Jackson announced her departure in June. New Sundance Film Festival director and head of public programming Eugene Hernandez is set to helm the 40th edition in 2024.

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“Maintaining an essential place for artists to express themselves and to take risks, and for visionary stories to endure and entertain is distinctly Sundance,” says Robert Redford, the Sundance Institute’s founder and president. “The programme for this year’s festival reiterates the relevance of trailblazing work serving as an irreplaceable source of original stories that resonate and fuel creativity and dialogue,” notes Yutani. “In so many ways, this year’s slate reflects the voices of communities around the world who are speaking out with urgency and finally being heard. Across our programme, impactful storytelling by fearless artists continues to provide space for the community to come together to be entertained, challenged and inspired,” she adds.

Similarly to previous editions, the festival will premiere a rich variety of European fiction and non-fiction oeuvres. The United Kingdom and France are leading the way in terms of the number of co-productions selected for the line-up. Ira Sachs’ latest work, Passages [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, is among the hottest titles, and will screen in the Premieres section, which showcases highly anticipated movies. Led by a stellar cast comprising Adèle Exarchopoulos, Franz Rogowski and Ben Whishaw, the French romantic drama focuses on an intimate examination of attraction and emotional abuse between men and women. Also bowing in Premieres is the French co-production Cat Person [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, directed by Susanna Fogel, the big-screen adaptation of the viral The New Yorker story by Kristen Roupenian. Premieres will also introduce Sophie Barthes' sci-fi flick The Pod Generation [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, starring Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor, about a brave new world where pregnancies can be shared via detachable, artificial wombs.

More new voices from British cinema will be bowing at Sundance alongside Barthes. Raine Allen Miller will introduce her romantic comedy Rye Lane [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
; Charlote Regan brings her debut, a quirky comedy that challenges the perception of working-class kids, Scrapper [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, starring Harris Dickinson, of Triangle of Sadness [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ruben Östlund
interview: Ruben Östlund
film profile
]
fame; and the story of 11-year-old Ama and her mother, who “take solace in the gentle but isolated world they obsessively create”, in Girl [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Adura Onashile
film profile
]
by Adura Onashile. All three films have been supported throughout development and production by BBC Film, and New Europe Film Sales has already boarded Girl ahead of its world premiere.

The non-fiction line-up includes the documentaries on Ukraine 20 Days in Mariupol [+see also:
film review
interview: Mstyslav Chernov
film profile
]
by Mstyslav Chernov, about a group of journalists trapped in the besieged city as they document the atrocities of the war; and Roman Liubyi’s Iron Butterflies [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Roman Liubyi
film profile
]
, investigating the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine. Jakub Piątek will offer a glimpse from the backstage of the legendary International Chopin Piano Competition in Pianoforte [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, Anna Hints observes a type of sisterhood forged in saunas in Smoke Sauna Sisterhood [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anna Hints
film profile
]
, and British filmmaker Ella Glendining will be unveiling her feature-length documentary debut, Is There Anybody Out There? [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, where she searches for someone with the same disability as her – bilateral proximal femoral focal deficiency.

World premieres constitute the vast majority of the announced films that the festival programmers have picked from among 1,662 US and 2,399 international feature-length submissions. 53% of the announced films were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as women, 45% were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as people of colour, 20% by one or more filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+, and 3% by one or more filmmakers who identify as a person with a disability.

Here is the full list of announced titles:

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Animalia [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Sofia Alaoui
film profile
]
- Sofia Alaoui (France/Morocco/Qatar)
Girl [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Adura Onashile
film profile
]
- Adura Onashile (UK)
Heroic [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
- David Zonana (Mexico/Sweden)
Mamacruz [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
- Patricia Ortega (Spain)
La Pecera [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
- Glorimar Marrero Sánchez (Puerto Rico/Spain)
Scrapper [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
- Charlotte Regan (UK)
Slow [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Marija Kavtaradze
film profile
]
- Marija Kavtaradze (Lithuania/Spain/Sweden)
Sorcery [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
- Christopher Murray (Chile/Mexico/Germany)
When It Melts [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Veerle Baetens
film profile
]
- Veerle Baetens (Belgium)

World Cinema Documentary Competition

5 Seasons of Revolution [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Lina
film profile
]
Lina (Germany/Syria/Netherlands/Norway)
20 Days in Mariupol [+see also:
film review
interview: Mstyslav Chernov
film profile
]
- Mstyslav Chernov (Ukraine)
And the king said, what a FANTASTIC MACHINE [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Axel Danielson, Maximilien …
film profile
]
- Axel Danielson, Maximilien Van Aertryck (Sweden/Denmark)
Iron Butterflies [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Roman Liubyi
film profile
]
- Roman Liubyi (Ukraine/Germany)
Is There Anybody Out There? [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
- Ella Glendining (UK)
Pianoforte [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
- Jakub Piątek (Poland)
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Anna Hints
film profile
]
- Anna Hints (Estonia/France/Iceland)
Twice Colonized [+see also:
film review
interview: Lin Alluna
interview: Lin Alluna
film profile
]
- Lin Alluna (Greenland/Denmark/Canada)

Midnight

Polite Society [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
- Nida Manzoor (UK)
Infinity Pool [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
- Brandon Cronenberg (Canada/Hungary/Croatia/France)

Premieres

Cat Person [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
- Susanna Fogel (France/USA)
The Deepest Breath - Laura McGann (UK/Ireland)
Drift [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
- Anthony Chen (France/UK/Greece)
Passages [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
- Ira Sachs (France)
The Pod Generation [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
- Sophie Barthes (Belgium/France/UK)
Rye Lane [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
- Raine Allen-Miller (UK)

Spotlight

The Eight Mountains [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Felix van Groeningen & Char…
film profile
]
- Felix van Groeningen, Charlotte Vandermeersch (Italy/Belgium)
L’Immensità [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Emanuele Crialese
film profile
]
- Emanuele Crialese (Italy)
Other People’s Children [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rebecca Zlotowski
film profile
]
- Rebecca Zlotowski (France)

Kids

The Amazing Maurice [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
- Toby Genkel (Germany/UK)

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