Three documentaries represent Canadian talent at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Sundance’s 2022 festival line-up, released today, includes new films produced by Ina Fichman, Mila Aung-Thwin and Bob Moore, and Chase Joynt’s latest work as a director. Fichman’s Fire of Love has the distinction of opening Sundance’s U.S. Documentary competition. The doc, directed by Sara Dosa, is an archival exploration of scientists/lovers Katia and Maurice Krafft, whose burning love led them to die while pursuing their passion. Last year’s opener Summer of Soul won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, and is largely considered the Oscar frontrunner.
Aung-Thwin and Moore are producers of Midwives, which screens in the World Cinema Documentary competition. Midwives, an EyeSteelFilm co-production with Myanmar, is directed by Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing and observes two midwives in Myanmar as they work together delivering the next generation. Joynt’s hybrid film Framing Agnes screens in Sundance’s Next program devoted to innovative storytelling. The film sees a troupe of transgender actors explore the life and legacy of a young trans woman. Joynt previously co-directed the documentary No Ordinary Man, which invited trans actors to interpret the life of musician Billy Tipton.
Also representing Canada in the line-up is Monia Chokri, whose drama about a viral video gone awry screens in Sundance’s Midnight section. In the New Frontiers section, This Is Not a Ceremony offers an innovation in digital documentary from Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon) and collaborators Olivier Leroux, James Monkman, and Jessica Dymond. The VR work previously won the NFB/imagineNATIVE Digital Project Prize while in development.
“This year’s program reflects the unsettling and uncertain times we’ve been living in for the past year and a half,” said Sundance’s director of programming Kim Yutani in a statement from the festival. “The artists in the program, through their bold and innovative storytelling, and their sheer determination to create work in this moment, challenge us to look at the world through different lenses and examine and reevaluate how these stories impact us now and in the future.”
International highlights include The Princess, which offers a portrait of Diana from director Ed Perkins and Man on Wire producers Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn. Amy Poehler’s documentary Lucy and Desi, about Lucille Ball and Desi Ernaz, opens the festivities in Salt Lake City. Sundance will run an expanded hybrid event this year. Last year’s online festival was among the most successful efforts to translate the festival experience virtually.
The Sundance 2022 documentary selections are as follows:
U.S. Documentary Competition
Aftershock / U.S.A. (Directors and Producers: Paula Eiselt, Tonya Lewis Lee) — Following the preventable deaths of their partners due to childbirth complications, two bereaved fathers galvanize activists, birth-workers and physicians to reckon with one of the most pressing American crises of our time – the U.S. maternal health crisis. World Premiere.
Descendant / U.S.A. (Director: Margaret Brown, Producers: Essie Chambers, Kyle Martin) — Clotilda, the last ship carrying enslaved Africans to the United States, arrived in Alabama 40 years after African slave trading became a capital offense. It was promptly burned, and its existence denied. After a century shrouded in secrecy and speculation, descendants of the Clotilda’s survivors are reclaiming their story. World Premiere.
The Exiles / U.S.A. (Directors: Ben Klein, Violet Columbus, Producers: Maria Chiu, Ben Klein, Violet Columbus) — Documentarian Christine Choy tracks down three exiled dissidents from the Tiananmen Square massacre, in order to find closure on an abandoned film she began shooting in 1989. World Premiere.
Fire of Love / U.S.A. (Director: Sara Dosa, Producers: Shane Boris, Ina Fichman, Sara Dosa) — Intrepid scientists and lovers Katia & Maurice Krafft died in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together: unraveling the mysteries of volcanoes by capturing the most explosive imagery ever recorded. A doomed love triangle between Katia, Maurice and volcanoes, told through their archival footage. World Premiere. DAY ONE
Free Chol Soo Lee / U.S.A. (Directors: Julie Ha, Eugene Yi, Producers: Su Kim, Jean Tsien, Sona Jo, Julie Ha, Eugene Yi) — After a Korean immigrant is wrongly convicted of a 1973 San Francisco Chinatown gang murder, Asian Americans unite as never before to free Chol Soo Lee. A former street hustler becomes the symbol for a landmark movement. But once out, he self-destructs, threatening the movement’s legacy and the man himself. World Premiere.
I Didn’t See You There / U.S.A. (Director: Reid Davenport, Producer: Keith Wilson) — Spurred by the spectacle of a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment, a disabled filmmaker launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom, (in)visibility, and the pursuit of individual agency. World Premiere.
The Janes / U.S.A. (Directors: Tia Lessin, Emma Pildes, Producers: Emma Pildes, Daniel Arcana, Jessica Levin) — In the spring of 1972, police raided an apartment on Chicago’s South Side. Seven women were arrested. The accused were part of a clandestine network. Using code names, blindfolds and safe houses, they built an underground service for women seeking safe, affordable, illegal abortions. They called themselves JANE. World Premiere.
Jihad Rehab / U.S.A. (Director: Meg Smaker, Producers: Meg Smaker, Bryan Storkel) — A group of Al-Qaeda members are transferred from Guantanamo to a secretive rehabilitation center for Islamic extremists. World Premiere.
TikTok, Boom. / U.S.A. (Director: Shalini Kantayya, Producers: Ross M. Dinerstein. Shalini Kantayya, Danni Mynard) — With TikTok now crowned the world’s most downloaded app, these are the personal stories of a cultural phenomenon, told through an ensemble cast of Gen-Z natives, journalists and experts alike. This film seeks to answer, ‘why is an app, best known for people dancing, the target of so much controversy?’ World Premiere.
World Cinema Documentary Competition
All That Breathes / India, U.K. (Director and Producer: Shaunak Sen, Producers: Aman Mann, Teddy Leifer) — Against the darkening backdrop of Delhi’s apocalyptic air and escalating violence, two brothers devote their lives to protect one casualty of the turbulent times: the bird known as the Black Kite. World Premiere.
Calendar Girls / Sweden (Directors, Screenwriters and Producers: Maria Loohufvud, Love Martinsen) — A coming-of-golden-age look at Florida’s most dedicated dance team for women over 60, shaking up the outdated image of “the little old lady,” and calling for everyone to dance their hearts out, while they still can. World Premiere.
A House Made of Splinters / Denmark (Director: Simon Lereng Wilmont, Producer: Monica Hellström) — In Eastern Ukraine, follow the daily life of children and staff in a special kind of home: an institution for children who have been removed from their homes while awaiting court custody decisions. Staff do their best to make the time children have there safe and supportive. World Premiere.
Midwives / Myanmar (Director: Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing, Producers: Bob Moore, Ulla Lehman, Mila Aung-Thwin, Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing) — Two midwives work side-by-side in a makeshift clinic in Myanmar. World Premiere.
The Mission / Finland (Director and Screenwriter: Tania Anderson, Producers: Isabella Karhu, Juho-Pekka Tanskanen) — A revelation of the inner lives of young LDS missionaries, as they leave their homes for the first time and embark upon the most emotionally, physically and psychologically challenging period of their life. World Premiere.
Nothing Compares / Ireland, U.K. (Director: Kathryn Ferguson, Producers: Eleanor Emptage, Michael Mallie) — The story of Sinéad O’Connor’s phenomenal rise to worldwide fame and subsequent exile from the pop mainstream. Focusing on Sinéad’s prophetic words and deeds from 1987 to 1993, the film reflects on the legacy of this fearless trailblazer through a contemporary feminist lens. World Premiere.
Sirens / U.S.A., Lebanon (Director, Screenwriter and Producer: Rita Baghdadi, Producer: Camilla Hall) — On the outskirts of Beirut, Lilas and Shery, co-founders and guitarists of the Middle East’s first all-female metal band, wrestle with friendship, sexuality and destruction in their pursuit of becoming thrash metal rock stars. World Premiere.
Tantura / Israel (Director and Screenwriter: Alon Schwarz, Screenwriter and Producer: Shaul Schwarz. Producer: Maiken Baird) — In 1948, the State of Israel was established and civil war broke out. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed with their inhabitants killed or exiled. The film focuses on one village: Tantura, bringing to light Israel’s founding myth and its society’s inability to come to terms with its dark past. World Premiere. DAY ONE
The Territory / Brazil/Denmark/United States (Director: Alex Pritz, Producers: Will N. Miller, Sigrid Dyekjær, Lizzie Gillett, Anonymous) — When a network of Brazilian farmers seizes a protected area of the Amazon rainforest, a young Indigenous leader and his mentor must fight back in defense of the land and an uncontacted group living deep within the forest. World Premiere.
We Met in Virtual Reality / U.K. (Director, Screenwriter and Producer: Joe Hunting) — Filmed entirely inside the world of VR, this vérité documentary captures the excitement and surprising intimacy of a burgeoning cultural movement, demonstrating the power of online connection in an isolated world. World Premiere.
Framing Agnes / Canada, U.S.A. (Director: Chase Joynt, Producers: Samantha Curley, Shant Joshi, Chase Joynt) — After discovering case files from a 1950s gender clinic, a cast of transgender actors turn a talk show inside out to confront the legacy of a young trans woman forced to choose between honesty and access. World Premiere. Documentary.
Mija / U.S.A. (Director: Isabel Castro, Producers: Tabs Breese, Isabel Castro, Yesenia Tlahuel) — Doris Muñoz is a young, ambitious music manager whose undocumented family depends on her ability to launch pop stars. When she loses her biggest client, Doris hustles to discover new talent and finds Jacks, another daughter of immigrants for whom “making it” isn’t just a dream: it’s a necessity. World Premiere. Documentary.
RIOTSVILLE, USA / U.S.A. (Director: Sierra Pettengill, Producers: Sara Archambault, Jamila Wignot) — Welcome to Riotsville, a fictional town built by the U.S. military. Using footage shot by the media and government, the film explores the militarization of the police and the reaction of a nation to the uprisings of the late ’60s, creating a counter-narrative to a critical moment in American history. World Premiere. Documentary.
2nd Chance / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Ramin Bahrani, Producers: Daniel Turcan, Johnny Galvin, Charles Dorfman, Ramin Bahrani, Jacob Grodnik) — Bankrupt pizzeria owner Richard Davis invented the modern-day bulletproof vest. To prove that it worked, he shot himself 192 times. He launched a multi-million-dollar company and became a cult figure among police. Davis’ rise and fall reveals a man of contradictions and the nature of power and impunity in America. World Premiere. Documentary.
Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: Nina Menkes) — Based on Nina Menkes’ acclaimed talk “Sex & Power: The Visual Language of Cinema”, a mesmerizing journey into how shot design intersects with the twin epidemics of sexual abuse/ assault and employment discrimination against women. Containing over 175 film clips, this will unalterably change the way we view and make movies. World Premiere. Documentary.
DOWNFALL: The Case Against Boeing / U.S.A. (Director: Rory Kennedy, Screenwriters: Mark Bailey, Keven McAlester, Producers: Rory Kennedy, Mark Bailey, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Keven McAlester, Amanda Rohlke) — An investigation of the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people, exploring both the root causes and the human cost. At once a chilling portrait of a crumbling corporate culture and a fierce indictment of Wall Street’s corrupting influence. World Premiere. Documentary.
jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy / U.S.A. (Directors: Clarence “Coodie” Simmons, Chike Ozah, Producers: Clarence “Coodie” Simmons, Chike Ozah, Leah Natasha Thomas) — Kanye West in three acts. The story beyond the iconic music, an intimate and empathetic chronicle featuring never-before-seen footage from 21 years in the life of a captivating figure. World Premiere. Documentary.
La Guerra Civil / U.K. (Director: Eva Longoria Bastón, Producers: Eva Longoria Bastón, Grant Best, Bernardo Ruiz, Ben Spector, Andrea Cordoba) — The epic rivalry between iconic boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez in the 1990s sparked a cultural divide between Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans. A chronicle of a battle that was more than a boxing rivalry, and examines a fascinating slice of the Latino experience in the process. World Premiere. Documentary. DAY ONE
Lucy and Desi / U.S.A (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. World Premiere. Documentary. SALT LAKE CITY OPENING NIGHT
My Old School / U.K. (Director: Jono McLeod, Producers: John Archer, Olivia Lichtenstein) — The astonishing true story of Scotland’s most notorious imposter. It’s 1993 and 16-year-old Brandon is the new kid in school. Soon he’s top of the class, acing exams and even taking the lead in the school musical. He’s the model pupil, until he’s unmasked… Cast: Alan Cumming. World Premiere. Documentary.
The Princess / U.K. (Director: Ed Perkins, Producers: Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn) — Princess Diana’s story is told exclusively through contemporaneous archive creating a bold and immersive narrative of her life and death. Turning the camera back on ourselves, it also illuminates the profound impact she had and how the public’s attitude to the monarchy was, and still is, shaped by these events. World Premiere. Documentary. DAY ONE
To The End / U.S.A. (Director: Rachel Lears, Producers: Sabrina Schmidt Gordon) — Stopping the climate crisis is a question of political courage, and the clock is ticking. Over three years of turbulence and crisis, four remarkable young women of color fight for a Green New Deal, and ignite a historic shift in U.S. climate politics. World Premiere. Documentary.
We Need to Talk About Cosby / U.S.A. (Director: W. Kamau Bell, Producers: Andrew Fried, Katie A. King, Geraldine L. Porras, Dane Lillegard, Sarina Roma, Jordan Wynn) — Can you separate the art from the artist? Should you even try? While there are many people about whom we could ask those questions, none pose a tougher challenge than Bill Cosby. World Premiere. Documentary.
Meet Me in the Bathroom / U.K. (Directors: Dylan Southern, Will Lovelace, Producers: Vivienne Perry, Sam Bridger, Marisa Clifford, Thomas Benski, Danny Gabai, Suroosh Alvi) — An immersive journey through the New York music scene of the early 2000s. Set against the backdrop of 9/11, the film tells the story of how a new generation kickstarted a musical rebirth for New York City that reverberated around the world. Inspired by the book by Lizzy Goodman. World Premiere. Documentary.
Three Minutes – A Lengthening / Netherlands (Director and Screenwriter: Bianca Stigter, Producer: Floor Onrust) — Three minutes of footage are the only moving images known of the Jewish inhabitants of Nasielsk in Poland before the Holocaust. An examination of that film — in color, random, full of life — reveals historical and personal dimensions. Narrated by Helena Bonham Carter. Documentary.
LAST FLIGHT HOME / U.S.A. (Director: Ondi Timoner, Producers: Ondi Timoner, David Turner) — An examination of Eli Timoner’s intentional death and his family’s emotional turmoil as they grapple with his decision to end his own life. The family journeys back through Eli’s remarkable, painful life to discover what true love looks like and help him shed shame he’s carried for forty years. World Premiere. Documentary.
32 Sounds / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Sam Green) — An immersive documentary and sensory film experience that explores the elemental phenomenon of sound and its power to bend time, cross borders, and profoundly shape our perception of the world around us. The film will be presented in its “live cinema” form, featuring live music and live narration. World Premiere. DAY ONE
Atua / New Zealand (Lead Artists: Tanu Gago, Jermaine Dean, Key Collaborators: Kat Lintott, Carthew Neal, Nacoya Anderson) — Centuries ago, gender- and sexuality-diverse Pacific peoples were impacted by the arrival of Christianity. This work utilizes a Māori concept of time and space, reimagining Te Kore as a celestial being. Te Kore is the Void, a nonbinary state of chaos, abundant with possibilities and the unlimited potential for being. World Premiere.
Child of Empire / U.K. (Lead Artists: Sparsh Ahuja, Erfan Saadati, Stephen Stephenson, Omi Zola Gupta, Key Collaborators: Sam Dalyrmple, Saadia Gardezi, Jayosmita Ganguly) — Experience the largest forced migration in human history, the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan. Embody the childhood memories of two survivors, as they reflect on their journeys across a divided homeland. World Premiere.
Cosmogony / Switzerland (Lead Artists: Gilles Jobin, Susana Panadés Diaz, Camilo de Martino, Tristan Siodlak, Key Collaborator: Pierre-Igor Berthet) — A live digital performance in which 3 dancers are motion captured in Geneva and projected remotely in real time. North American Premiere.
Diagnosia / U.S.A. (Lead Artists: Mengtai Zhang, Lemon Guo, Producers: Mengtai Zhang, Lemon Guo, Yue Huang) — In this VR experience, the director locks us inside his teenage memories of being incarcerated in a military-operated internet addiction camp in Beijing in 2007, where internet addiction and other youth issues were treated as severe mental disorders, and sometimes by violent means. North American Premiere.
Flat Earth VR / Brazil (Lead Artist: Lucas Rizzotto) VR is known as the ultimate empathy machine that lets users experience others’ perspectives. But what happens when those perspectives are delusional? Experience the ultimate flat-earther fantasy: ascend into the stars and prove all globe-earthers wrong by taking photos of the planet as it truly is: flat like a pancake. World Premiere.
Gondwana / Australia (Lead Artists: Ben Joseph Andrews, Emma Roberts, Key Collaborators: Lachlan Sleight, Michelle Brown, The Convoy) — A durational VR experience that runs over 24 hours, and a constantly-evolving virtual ecosystem chronicling the possible futures of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, the Daintree. Powered by climate data, each showing is unrepeatable and speculative, a meditation on time, change and loss in an irreplaceable landscape. World Premiere.
On the Morning You Wake (To the End of the World) / U.K. (Lead Artists: Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Mike Brett, Steve Jamison, Arnaud Colinart, Pierre Zandrowicz, Key Collaborators: Jo-Jo Ellison, Bobby Krlic) — On a regular Saturday morning in January 2018, as Hawaiian citizens went about their daily routines, the entire state population received an SMS from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, which read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” World Premiere.
Seven Grams / France (Lead Artist: Karim Ben Khelifa, Key Collaborators: TT Hernandez, Quentin Noirfalisse) — An entirely new way for people to understand the human cost that went into producing their smartphones. This project brings the Democratic Republic of Congo’s tragic mining industry straight to the smartphone that its mineral resources helped make, via an app on both IOS and Android systems. North American Premiere.
Suga’- A Live Virtual Dance Performance / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Valencia James, Key Collaborators: Thomas Wester, Simon Boas) — An immersive experience that features live dance performance as volumetric video in social virtual reality space. The performance weaves together movement, family stories, and cultural heritage to imagine virtual environments as a site for healing and reclamation of spaces that were historically filled with pain and injustice.
Surrogate / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Lauren Lee McCarthy, Key Collaborators: Dorothy R. Santos, David Leonard, Stefanie Tam) — How do we relate to the future while living in a world in crisis? Amidst climate change, inequity, and pandemic, it’s no longer possible to view ourselves as separate from past and future. How much control should we have over a birthing person’s body, and a life before it’s born? North American Premiere.
The Inside World / U.S.A. (Lead Artists: Jennifer McCoy, Kevin McCoy, Key Collaborators: Annie J. Howell, Peter Rostovsky) — The city of Las Vegas is now operated by artificial intelligence. Fourteen AI “Managers” handle every sector of the city. The problem is, one of them is secretly human… Digital Art NFTs meet gameplay in this community driven mystery. World Premiere.
The State of Global Peace / U.S.A (Lead Artists: Daanish Masood Alavi, Key Collaborators: Igal Nassima, Erica Newman) — The prime minister of a fictitious country – played by you – is about to deliver a speech at a virtual UN General Assembly in the near future. A group of students hijacks the security system and takes over the screens, asking to have a dialogue. World Premiere.
They Dream in My Bones – Insemnopedy II / France (Lead Artist: Faye Formisano, Key Collaborators: Ludovic De Oliveira, Lilou-Magali Robert, Cindy Coutant) — Immersed on virtual veils, this VR360 experience tells the story of Roderick Norman, a researcher in onirogenetics, the science he founded, which makes it possible to extract dreams from an unidentified skeleton at the frontier of gender and the human. North American Premiere.
This Is Not A Ceremony / Canada (Lead Artist: Ahnahktsipiitaa (Colin Van Loon), Key Collaborators: Olivier Leroux, James Monkman, Jessica Dymond) — Darkly humorous and occasionally caustic, this cinematic VR experience offers insights into the struggles and conflicts of growing up an Indigenous man. World Premiere.