Sundance Announces 2018 Documentary Line-up

Anote’s Ark
Courtesy of Sundance


By Pat Mullen

Two Canadian films are among the documentaries announced for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. The snowy Utah-based independent film fest unveiled its program yesterday and the World Cinema Documentary Competition includes two Canuck contenders: Anote’s Ark, directed by Matthieu Rytz and produced by Montreal’s EyeSteel Film, and the Israeli-Canadian co-production The Oslo Diaries, directed by Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan and produced by Hilla Medalia and Ina Fichman. Anote’s Ark is an eco doc about the fate of Kiribati, a small island nation in the Pacific that faces the need to evacuate its population due to rising sea levels, while The Oslo Diaries chronicles a chapter of history from 1992 in which a group of Israelis and Palestinians met in secret to find a peaceful resolution to the bloody relationship between their nations.

Other notables on the documentary front include new films by Robert Greene (Actress) and Stephanie Soechtig (Fed Up) in the U.S. competition, while both competitions feature a respectable split of women and men behind the camera. The Documentary Premieres showcase offers some exciting high profile names and subjects, include Susan Lacy’s Jane Fonda doc Jane Fonda in Five Acts and Marina Zenovich’s Alex Gibney-produced Robin Williams doc Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, which should be a sentimental favourite of the festival. The Doc Premieres also hosts The Game Changers from Oscar winner Louie Psihoyos (The Cove) and STUDIO 54 from Matt Tyrnauer, the Citizen Jane and Scotty and the Secret History director who is quickly establishing himself as a force for docs about the life of American cities. Sundance, finally, opens with the Mr. Rogers doc Will You Be My Neighbour?, the latest film from 20 Feet from Stardom Oscar winner Morgan Neville.

The documentary line-up at Sundance is as follows:

U.S. Documentary Competition

Bisbee ’17 / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Robert Greene, Producers: Douglas Tirola, Susan Bedusa, Bennett Elliott) — An old mining town on the Arizona-Mexico border finally reckons with its darkest day: the deportation of 1200 immigrant miners exactly 100 years ago. Locals collaborate to stage recreations of their controversial past. Cast: Fernando Serrano, Laurie McKenna, Ray Family, Mike Anderson, Graeme Family, Richard Hodges. World Premiere

Crime + Punishment / U.S.A. (Director: Stephen Maing) — Over four years of unprecedented access, the story of a brave group of black and Latino whistleblower cops and one unrelenting private investigator who, amidst a landmark lawsuit, risk everything to expose illegal quota practices and their impact on young minorities. World Premiere

Dark Money / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kimberly Reed, Producer: Katy Chevigny) — “Dark money” contributions, made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, flood modern American elections – but Montana is showing Washington D.C. how to solve the problem of unlimited anonymous money in politics. World Premiere

The Devil We Know / U.S.A. (Director: Stephanie Soechtig, Producers: Kristin Lazure, Stephanie Soechtig, Joshua Kunau, Carly Palmour) — Unraveling one of the biggest environmental scandals of our time, a group of citizens in West Virginia take on a powerful corporation after they discover it has knowingly been dumping a toxic chemical — now found in the blood of 99.7% of Americans — into the local drinking water supply. World Premiere. THE NEW CLIMATE

Hal / U.S.A. (Director: Amy Scott, Producers: Christine Beebe, Jonathan Lynch, Brian Morrow) — Hal Ashby’s obsessive genius led to an unprecedented string of Oscar®-winning classics, including Harold and Maude, Shampoo and Being There. But as contemporaries Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg rose to blockbuster stardom in the 1980s, Ashby’s uncompromising nature played out as a cautionary tale of art versus commerce. World Premiere

Hale County This Morning, This Evening / U.S.A. (Director: RaMell Ross, Screenwriter: Maya Krinsky, Producers: Joslyn Barnes, RaMell Ross, Su Kim) — An exploration of coming-of-age in the Black Belt of the American South, using stereotypical imagery to fill in the landscape between iconic representations of black men and encouraging a new way of looking, while resistance to narrative suspends conclusive imagining – allowing the viewer to complete the film. World Premiere

Inventing Tomorrow / U.S.A. (Director: Laura Nix, Producers: Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, Laura Nix) — Take a journey with young minds from around the globe as they prepare their projects for the largest convening of high school scientists in the world, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Watch these passionate innovators find the courage to face the planet’s environmental threats while navigating adolescence. World Premiere.

Kailash / U.S.A. (Director: Derek Doneen, Producers: Davis Guggenheim, Sarah Anthony) — As a young man, Kailash Satyarthi promised himself that he would end child slavery in his lifetime. In the decades since, he has rescued more than eighty thousand children and built a global movement. This intimate and suspenseful film follows one man’s journey to do what many believed was impossible. World Premiere.

Kusama – Infinity / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Heather Lenz, Producers: Karen Johnson, Heather Lenz, Dan Braun, David Koh) — Now one of the world’s most celebrated artists, Yayoi Kusama broke free of the rigid society in which she was raised, and overcame sexism, racism, and mental illness to bring her artistic vision to the world stage. At 88 she lives in a mental hospital and continues to create art. World Premiere

The Last Race /U.S.A. (Director: Michael Dweck, Producers: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw) — A cinematic portrait of a small town stock car track and the tribe of drivers that call it home as they struggle to hold onto an American racing tradition. The avant-garde narrative explores the community and its conflicts through an intimate story that reveals the beauty, mystery and emotion of grassroots auto racing. World Premiere

Minding the Gap / U.S.A. (Director: Bing Liu, Producer: Diane Quon) — Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship. World Premiere

On Her Shoulders / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandria Bombach, Producers: Marie Therese Guirgis, Hayley Pappas, Brock Williams, Bryn Mooser, Adam Bardach) — A Yazidi genocide and ISIS sexual slavery survivor, 23-year-old Nadia Murad is determined to tell the world her story. As her journey leads down paths of advocacy and fame, she becomes the voice of her people and their best hope to spur the world to action. International Premiere

The Price of Everything / U.S.A. (Director: Nathaniel Kahn, Producers: Jennifer Blei Stockman, Debi Wisch, Carla Solomon) — With unprecedented access to pivotal artists and the white-hot market surrounding them, this film dives deep into the contemporary art world, holding a funhouse mirror up to our values and our times – where everything can be bought and sold. World Premiere

Seeing Allred / U.S.A. (Directors: Sophie Sartain, Roberta Grossman, Producers: Roberta Grossman, Sophie Sartain, Marta Kauffman, Robbie Rowe Tollin, Hannah KS Canter) — Gloria Allred overcame trauma and personal setbacks to become one of the nation’s most famous women’s rights attorneys. Now the feminist firebrand takes on two of the biggest adversaries of her career, Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, as sexual violence allegations grip the nation and keep her in the spotlight. World Premiere

The Sentence /U.S.A. (Director: Rudy Valdez, Producers: Sam Bisbee, Jackie Kelman Bisbee) — Cindy Shank, mother of three, is serving a 15-year sentence in federal prison for her tangential involvement with a Michigan drug ring years earlier. This intimate portrait of mandatory minimum drug sentencing’s devastating consequences, captured by Cindy’s brother, follows her and her family over the course of ten years. World Premiere

Three Identical Strangers /U.S.A. (Director: Tim Wardle, Producer: Becky Read) — New York,1980: three complete strangers accidentally discover that they’re identical triplets, separated at birth. The 19-year-olds’ joyous reunion catapults them to international fame, but also unlocks an extraordinary and disturbing secret that goes beyond their own lives – and could transform our understanding of human nature forever. World Premiere

World Cinema Documentary Competition

A Polar Year / France (Director: Samuel Collardey, Screenwriters: Samuel Collardey, Catherine Paillé, Producer: Grégoire Debailly) — Anders leaves his native Denmark for a teaching position in rural Greenland. As soon as he arrives, he finds himself at odds with tightly-knit locals. Only through a clumsy and playful trial of errors can Anders shake his Euro-centric assumptions and embrace their snow-covered way of life. Cast: Anders Hvidegaard, Asser Boassen, Julius B. Nielsen, Tobias Ignatiussen, Thomasine Jonathansen, Gert Jonathansen. World Premiere

Anote’s Ark / Canada (Director: Matthieu Rytz, Producers: Bob Moore, Mila Aung-Thwin, Daniel Cross, Shari Plummer, Shannon Joy) — How does a nation survive being swallowed by the sea? Kiribati, on a low-lying Pacific atoll, will disappear within decades due to rising sea levels, population growth, and climate change. This exploration of how to migrate an entire nation with dignity interweaves personal stories of survival and resilience. World Premiere.

The Cleaners / Germany, Brazil (Directors: Moritz Riesewieck, Hans Block, Screenwriters: Moritz Riesewieck, Hans Block, Georg Tschurtschenthaler, Producers: Christian Beetz, Georg Tschurtschenthaler, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Fernando Dias, Mauricio Dias) — When you post something on the web, can you be sure it stays there? Enter a hidden shadow industry of digital cleaning, where the Internet rids itself of what it doesn’t like: violence, pornography and political content. Who is controlling what we see…and what we think? World Premiere

Genesis 2.0 / Switzerland (Directors: Christian Frei, Maxim Arbugaev, Producer: Christian Frei) — On the remote New Siberian Islands in the Arctic Ocean, hunters search for tusks of extinct mammoths. When they discover a surprisingly well-preserved mammoth carcass, its resurrection will be the first manifestation of the next great technological revolution: genetics. It may well turn our world upside down. World Premiere

MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. / Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, U.S.A. (Director: Stephen Loveridge, Producers: Lori Cheatle, Andrew Goldman, Paul Mezey) — Drawn from a never before seen cache of personal footage spanning decades, this is an intimate portrait of the Sri Lankan artist and musician who continues to shatter conventions. World Premiere

Of Fathers and Sons / Germany, Syria, Lebanon (Director: Talal Derki, Producers: Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme, Tobias N. Siebert, Hans Robert Eisenhauer) — Talal Derki returns to his homeland where he gains the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing their daily life for over two years. His camera focuses on Osama and his younger brother Ayman, providing an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up in an Islamic Caliphate. North American Premiere

The Oslo Diaries / Israel, Canada (Directors and screenwriters: Mor Loushy, Daniel Sivan, Producers: Hilla Medalia, Ina Fichman) — In 1992, Israeli-Palestinian relations reached an all time low. In an attempt to stop the bloodshed, a group of Israelis and Palestinians met illegally in Oslo. These meetings were never officially sanctioned and held in complete secrecy. They changed the Middle East forever. World Premiere

Our New President / Russia, U.S.A. (Director: Maxim Pozdorovkin, Producers: Maxim Pozdorovkin, Joe Bender) — The story of Donald Trump’s election told entirely through Russian propaganda. By turns horrifying and hilarious, the film is a satirical portrait of Russian media that reveals an empire of fake news and the tactics of modern-day information warfare. World Premiere.

Shirkers / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Sandi Tan, Producers: Sandi Tan, Jessica Levin, Maya Rudolph) — In 1992, teenager Sandi Tan shot Singapore’s first indie road movie with her enigmatic American mentor Georges – who then vanished with all the footage. Twenty years later, the 16mm film is recovered, sending Tan, now a novelist in Los Angeles, on a personal odyssey in search of Georges’ vanishing footprints. World Premiere

This is Home / U.S.A., Jordan (Director: Alexandra Shiva, Producer: Lindsey Megrue) This is an intimate portrait of four Syrian families arriving in Baltimore, Maryland and struggling to find their footing. With eight months to become self-sufficient, they must forge ahead to rebuild their lives. When the travel ban adds further complications, their strength and resilience are put to the test. World Premiere

Westwood / United Kingdom (Director: Lorna Tucker, Producers: Eleanor Emptage, Shirine Best, Nicole Stott, John Battsek) — Dame Vivienne Westwood: punk, icon, provocateur and one of the most influential originators in recent history. This is the first film to encompass the remarkable story of one of the true icons of our time, as she fights to maintain her brand’s integrity, her principles – and her legacy. World Premiere

A Woman Captured / Hungary (Director and screenwriter: Bernadett Tuza-Ritter, Producers: Julianna Ugrin, Viki Réka Kiss, Erik Winker, Martin Roelly) — A European woman has been kept by a family as a domestic slave for 10 years – one of over 45 million victims of modern-day slavery. Drawing courage from the filmmaker’s presence, she decides to escape the unbearable oppression and become a free person. North American Premiere

Documentary Premieres

Bad Reputation / U.S.A. (Director: Kevin Kerslake, Screenwriter: Joel Marcus, Producers: Peter Afterman, Carianne Brinkman) — A look at the life of Joan Jett, from her early years as the founder of The Runaways and first meeting collaborator Kenny Laguna in 1980 to her enduring presence in pop culture as a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer . World Premiere

Believer / U.S.A. (Director: Don Argott, Producers: Heather Parry, Sheena M. Joyce, Robert Reynolds) — Imagine Dragons’ Mormon frontman Dan Reynolds is taking on a new mission to explore how the church treats its LGBTQ members. With the rising suicide rate amongst teens in the state of Utah, his concern with the church’s policies sends him on an unexpected path for acceptance and change. World Premiere

Chef Flynn / U.S.A. (Director: Cameron Yates, Producer: Laura Coxson) — Ten-year-old Flynn transforms his living room into a supper club, using his classmates as line cooks and serving a tasting menu foraged from his neighbors’ backyards. With sudden fame, Flynn outgrows his bedroom kitchen and mother’s camera, and sets out to challenge the hierarchy of the culinary world. World Premiere

The Game Changers / U.S.A. (Director: Louie Psihoyos, Screenwriters: Mark Monroe, Joseph Pace, Producers: Joseph Pace, James Wilks) — James Wilks, an elite special forces trainer and winner of The Ultimate Fighter, embarks on a quest for the truth in nutrition and uncovers the world’s most dangerous myth. World Premiere

Generation Wealth / U.S.A. (Director: Lauren Greenfield, Producers: Lauren Greenfield, Frank Evers) — Lauren Greenfield’s postcard from the edge of the American Empire captures a portrait of a materialistic, image-obsessed culture. Simultaneously personal journey and historical essay, the film bears witness to the global boom–bust economy, the corrupted American Dream and the human costs of late stage capitalism, narcissism and greed. World Premiere.

Half The Picture / U.S.A. (Director: Amy Adrion, Producers: Amy Adrion, David Harris) — At a pivotal moment for gender equality in Hollywood, successful women directors tell the stories of their art, lives and careers. Having endured a long history of systemic discrimination, women filmmakers may be getting the first glimpse of a future that values their voices equally. World Premiere

Jane Fonda in Five Acts / U.S.A. (Director: Susan Lacy, Producers: Susan Lacy, Jessica Levin, Emma Pildes) — Girl next door, activist, so-called traitor, fitness tycoon, Oscar winner: Jane Fonda has lived a life of controversy, tragedy and transformation – and she’s done it all in the public eye. An intimate look at one woman’s singular journey. World Premiere

King In The Wilderness / U.S.A. (Director: Peter Kunhardt, Producers: George Kunhardt, Teddy Kunhardt) From the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to his assassination in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. remained a man with an unshakeable commitment to nonviolence in the face of an increasingly unstable country. A portrait of the last years of his life. World Premiere

Quiet Heroes / U.S.A. (Director: Jenny Mackenzie, Co-Directors: Jared Ruga, Amanda Stoddard, Producers: Jenny Mackenzie, Jared Ruga, Amanda Stoddard) — In Salt Lake City, Utah, the socially conservative religious monoculture complicated the AIDS crisis, where patients in the entire state and intermountain region relied on only one doctor. This is the story of her fight to save a maligned population everyone else seemed willing to just let die. World Premiere

RBG / U.S.A. (Directors and producers: Betsy West, Julie Cohen) — An intimate portrait of an unlikely rock star: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With unprecedented access, the filmmakers show how her early legal battles changed the world for women. Now this 84-year-old does push-ups as easily as she writes blistering dissents that have earned her the title “Notorious RBG.” World Premiere

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind /U.S.A. (Director: Marina Zenovich, Producers: Alex Gibney, Shirel Kozak) — This intimate portrait examines one of the world’s most beloved and inventive comedians. Told largely through Robin’s own voice and using a wealth of never-before-seen archive, the film takes us through his extraordinary life and career and reveals the spark of madness that drove him. World Premiere

STUDIO 54 / U.S.A. (Director: Matt Tyrnauer, Producers: Matt Tyrnauer, John Battsek, Corey Reeser) — Studio 54 was the pulsating epicenter of 1970s hedonism: a disco hothouse of beautiful people, drugs, and sex. The journeys of Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell — two best friends from Brooklyn who conquered New York City — frame this history of the “greatest club of all time.” World Premiere

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? / U.S.A. (Director: Morgan Neville, Producers: Caryn Capotosto, Nicholas Ma) — Fred Rogers used puppets and play to explore complex social issues: race, disability, equality and tragedy, helping form the American concept of childhood. He spoke directly to children and they responded enthusiastically. Yet today, his impact is unclear. Have we lived up to Fred’s ideal of good neighbors? World Premiere.

Spotlight

Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! / U.S.A. (Director: Morgan Spurlock, Screenwriters: Jeremy Chilnick, Morgan Spurlock, Producers: Keith Calder, Jessica Calder, Spencer Silna, Nicole Barton, Jeremy Chilnick, Matthew Galkin) — Muckraking filmmaker Morgan Spurlock reignites his battle with the food industry – this time from behind the register – as he opens his own fast food restaurant. U.S. Premiere

The 2018 Sundance Film Festival runs January 18-28.