First, hats off to another wonderful (virtual) Sundance Film Festival. I am glad that they have put this together for those of us, for whatever reason, who are unable to attend the festival in person. I previously attended the festival in 2014 and 2015. While I enjoyed being there in person, work and other commitments mean that January is now an awful time for me to travel. Anyway, that is not what we are here to talk about.
In total, I screened about eight films, a few documentaries, and a few narratives. There were many highlights. I do not plan to go into too much detail – I just want to give you all a nice summary of films that stood out for me.
The first film I wanted to talk about is All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, written and directed by Raven Johnson. The description reads:
A decade spanning exploration of a woman’s life in Mississippi and an ode to the generations of people, places in ineffable moment that shape us now.
One of the things that I liked about this film is that it did not fit the traditional narrative format. It took me a little while to digest and process, but afterward, I had a little time to think about it. The film felt evocative of how a memory would be – where one has flashes of images, sights, and these sounds as you are transitioning from one recollection to the other. In the end creating a complete story which in this case, is the main character’s life.
The next narrative feature that I like to talk about is Mami Wata, a film from Nigeria with the following synopsis:
When the harmony in a village is threatened by outside elements, two sisters must fight to save their people and restore the glory of a mermaid goddess to the land.
I found the most fascinating aspect of this film to be the cinematography – it was black and white and visually stunning. The story is a fable, which made it even more enjoyable.
Now I am going to focus on a few documentaries that I saw. The first one is Food and Country, which reads as the follows:
America’s policy of producing cheap food at all costs, as long hobbled small independent farmers, ranchers, and chefs worried for their survival, trailblazing full food writer Ruth Reichl reach out across political and social divides to uncover the country’s broken food system and the innovators risking it all to transform it.
The larger context to this story is that it takes place during COVID, and all the supply chain issues which arose from the global pandemic. It is alarming how precarious this all is. If there is one lesson I took from this screening, was to not take for granted the resources around me.
The next documentary that I want to talk about is Squaring the Circle, directed by Anton Corbijn, the famous music video auteur. It is the story of Hipgnosis, which is the graphic firm that designed album covers for some of the most famous bands in rock’n’roll history. A little fun fact – Colin Firth is one of the producers.
… From Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, the studio ruled the 70s.
If I am completely honest with you – I simply like music documentaries, often regardless of the subject. But this one I was drawn to. And I was not disappointed. Unfortunately, I did not get to watch the last couple of minutes because my time had run out in my viewing window.
Last but certainly not least, The Stroll which all you lucky folks that have HBO Max will soon be available to watch. The synopsis reads:
The history of New York’s Meatpacking District, told from the perspective of transgender sex workers who lived and worked there. Filmmaker Kristen Lovell, who walked “The Stroll” for a decade, reunites her community to recount the violence, policing, homelessness, and gentrification they overcame to build a movement for transgender rights.
As I have recommended this film, I have been careful to give folks not as familiar with documentaries the heads up about the agenda of the film. Agenda aside, it is an informative and well told film, especially if you are like me and are fascinated by the history of New York City. And as someone who has lived in the Greater New York City area most of my life, seeing the transformation of these areas is something I am always amazed by. If nothing else, it makes me see the High Line in a different light now.
A very honorable mention to Little Richard: I Am Everything. Oh what a life this man led.
And there you have it folks. Another year in the books for Sundance 2023. Hopefully, I will be capturing a couple of other cinematic memories in the upcoming year. But for now, leave your comments if you have any thoughts OR if you were able to take part in this year’s Sundance Film Festival –in person or virtually.
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