The latest announcement of titles for the upcoming Sundance Film Festival puts the emphasis on the small screen.
Notable names such as Jordan Peele, Stephen Frears, Nick Hornby and Gregg Araki are among those with episodic work set to debut at the 2019 festival in the Special Events and Indie Episodic sections.
With the further inclusion of TV titles within the fabric of its annual event, Sundance continues to respond to where storytelling is happening and the spaces creators are finding to do their work.
In a statement, the festival’s director of programming Kim Yutani said, “Our newly expanded programming team took in a full spectrum of human experience across genres and formats in creating this year’s Festival program. Following the success of last year’s inaugural Indie Episodic section, we’re immensely proud to showcase these stories told across installments, alongside several provocative, conversation-starting Special Events.”
Among the projects to be unveiled in the festival’s Special Events section are two episodes from the upcoming third season of the IFC series “Documentary Now,” a satire on conventions of nonfiction filmmaking and some of its best-known examples. The episode “Waiting for the Artist” stars Cate Blanchett and Fred Armisen, while the episode “Original Cast Album: Co-op” stars John Mulaney, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Alex Brightman, Paula Pell, Richard Kind and Taran Killam.
Also in special events:
The Amazon docu-series “Lorena,” with Peele among its executive producers. The series focuses on the notorious case of John and Lorena Bobbitt and whether it was a missed opportunity for an earlier conversation on domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Amy Berg’s untitled documentary project follows social-justice activists Tamika Mallory and Erika Andiola and explores the intersection of the personal and the political.
Directed by Araki with Steven Soderbergh as an executive producer, “Now Apocalypse” is a series about a group of young friends navigating life in Los Angeles. It will debut next year on the premium cable network Starz.
This year’s Indie Episodic selections include “State of the Union,” a short-form series for Sundance TV created by Hornby and directed by Frears, starring Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd as an estranged couple lying to their therapist; the episodes chronicle how they came together and fell apart.
“Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men,” directed by Sacha Jenkins, tells the cultural history of the rap group Wu-Tang Clan with participation from the group.
In “Bootstrapped,” created by and starring Danielle Uhlarik and directed by Stephanie Laing, two friends launch a fashion and tech startup from their garage in Kansas City. Created by and starring Ali Liebegott and directed by Kyra Sedgwick, “Girls Weekend” also features Linda Lavin and Amy Landecker in the story of a queer woman attempting to reunite with her family.
“It’s Not About Jimmy Keene,” created by and starring Caleb Jaffe and executive produced by Jim Frohna and Diana Kunce, examines the aftermath of the police shooting of an unarmed black teen.
In addition to the episodic programming, 73 short films from 33 countries will screen during the festival, divided across U.S. Narrative, International Narrative, Documentary and animated sections.
Of the short films, in a statement senior programmer Mike Plante said, “This year’s crop of shorts are rowdy, reflective, visionary — we are excited to discover so many new voices and perspectives on today’s world.”
Continuing their ongoing commitment to transparency in the programming process, the festival released demographic data on the filmmakers behind the titles in the latest announcement.
Of those projects announced, 53% were directed or created by one or more women, 51% were directed or created by one or more filmmaker of color, and 26% by one or more people who identify as LGBTQ. Sundance Institute supported 12 of those titles in development, whether through direct granting or residency labs.
Festival director John Cooper said in an interview last week that spotlighting expanding forms of audio-visual storytelling goes back to the very roots of the festival and its founder, Robert Redford.
“It's all about storytelling at every level,” Cooper said. “You follow what's happening and try to support it. And it started with Redford, that was his thing. Stories are important, a great story can change things and even if it doesn't, it can change people in their emotions. So it's all about story for us. It's as simple as that, it's just where we come back to.”