Sundance 2020 Film Festival Features 118 Films From Around The World

Walter Mercado appears in the documentary, Mucho Mucho Amor, by Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Earlier today, the Sundance Institute announced its showcase of new independent feature films, selected across all categories, which will be shown at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival from January 23 through February 2, 2020 in Park City, Salt Lake City, at Sundance Mountain Resort. The festival is Sundance Institute’s flagship public program and is widely regarded as the largest American independent film festival. According to the institute, it’s attended by more than 120,000 people.

A still from “Taylor Swift: Miss Americana” by Lana Wilson, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The festival will highlight 118 feature-length films, representing 27 countries and 44 first-time feature filmmakers. Of the 65 directors in all four competition categories, comprising 56 films, 46% are women, 38% are people of color and 12% are LGBTQ+. Also, 23 films announced today were supported by Sundance Institute in development and 107 of the Festival’s feature films, or 91% of the lineup announced today, will be world premieres.

These films were selected from a record high of 15,100 submissions including 3,853 feature-length films.

The 10 Film Competitions at the Sundance Film Festival 2020 

All feature films included in the festival are categorized in one of the following ten competitions: U.S. Dramatic Competition, U.S. Documentary CompetitionWorld Cinema Dramatic Competition, World Cinema Documentary Competition, NEXT (for bold films distinguished by innovative, forward-thinking approaches to story-telling), Premieres, Documentary Premieres, Midnight (for provocative films that range across many genres and subject matters), Spotlight (for films that premiered previously before Sundance and have debuted elsewhere in the world) and Kids

Here are some highlights from several of those competitions:  

U.S. Dramatic Competition

Minari, directed and written by Lee Isaac Chung, appears to be, according to the Sundance Institute, a fascinating story about David, a 7-year-old Korean-American boy, who gets his life turned upside down when his father decides to move their family to rural Arkansas and start a farm in the mid-1980s in this charming and unexpected take on the American Dream. The cast includes Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim and Noel Kate Cho. 

The 40-Year-Old Version, directed and written by Radha Blank; BLAST BEAT, directed by Esteban Arango; Charm City Kings, directed by Angel Manuel Soto; Dinner in America, directed and written by Adam Rehmeier; The Evening Hour, directed by Braden King; Farewell Amor, directed and written by Ekwa Msangi; Miss Juneteenth, directed and written by Channing Godfrey Peoples; Never Rarely Sometimes Always, directed and written by Eliza Hittman; Nine Days, directed and written by Edson Oda; Palm Springs, directed by Max Barbakow; Save Yourselves!, directed and written by Alex Fischer and Eleanor Wilson; Shirley, directed by Josephine Decker; Sylvie’s Love, directed and written by Eugene Ashe; Wander Darkly, directed and written by Tara Miele and Zola, directed by Janicza Bravo.

Steven Yeun appears in “Minari” by Lee Isaac Chung, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

NEXT

One of the “pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling” is Omniboat: A Fast Boat Fantasia, directed and written by The Daniels, Hannah Fidell, Alexa Lim Haas, Lucas Leyva, Olivia Lloyd, Jillian Mayer, The Meza Brothers, Terence Nance, Brett Potter, Dylan Redford, Xander Robin, Julian Yuri Rodriguez and Celia Rowlson-Hall. The Sundance Institute says of this film “It’s not just a speed boat ride, it’s a Miami adventure. The cast includes Mel Rodriguez, Finn Wolfhard, Casey Wilson, Adam Devine, Jessica Williams and, yes, Robert Redford! 

Other films in the NEXT program are Beast Beast, directed and written by Danny Madden; Black Bear, directed and written by Lawrence Michael Levine; I Carry You With Me, directed by Heidi Ewing; The Killing of Two Lovers, directed and written by Robert Machoian; La Leyenda Negra, directed and written by Patricia Vidal Delgado; The Mountains Are a Dream That Call to Me, directed and written by Cedric Cheung-Lau; Some Kind of Heaven, directed by Lance Oppenheim; Spree, directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko and Summertime, directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada.

Mel Rodriguez appears in “Omniboat: A Fast Boat Fantasia” by The Daniels, Hannah Fidell, Alexa Lim Haas, Lucas Leyva, Olivia Lloyd, Phil Lord, Jillian Mayer, The Meza Brothers, Terence Nance, Brett Potter, Dylan Redford, Xander Robin, Julian Yuri Rodriguez, and Celia Rowlson-Hall, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Daniel Fernandez.

Documentary Premieres

One winning entry highlighted this year in the Documentary Premieres category is The Go-Go’s, a documentary about this legendary pop/punk all-female LA band, which scored a number one album in the 1980s. It’s directed by Alison Ellwood. The cast includes Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine and Jane Wiedlin. 

Other winning films in this category include Aggie, directed and written by Catherine Gund; Assassins, directed by Ryan White; Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen, directed by Sam Feder; The Dissident, directed by Bryan Fogel; Giving Voice, directed by James D. Stern and Fernando Villena; Happy Happy Joy Joy – The Ren & Stimpy Story, directed and written by Ron Cicero and Kimo Easterwood; Okavango: River of Dreams (Director’s Cut), directed and written by Dereck Joubert and Beverly Joubert; Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, directed by Laurent Bouzereau; Rebuilding Paradise, directed by Ron Howard; Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, directed by Lana Wilson; Untitled Kirby Dick/Amy Ziering Film, directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering and Vivos, directed and produced by Ai Weiwei.

A still from “The Go-Go’s” by Alison Ellwood, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Midnight

This section of the festival features a wide array of film genres, from horror and comedy to works that defy genre classification. But the common thread in all the winning films is that they’re provocative. One of the featured films here is Run Sweetheart Run, a film directed and written by Shana Feste. The plot involves a blind date that turns violent, and the woman has to return home through Los Angeles, with her date in pursuit. The cast includes Ella Balinska, Pilou Asbaek and Clark Gregg.

Other Midnight films that won this year are Amulet, directed and written by Romola Garai; Bad Hair, directed and written by Justin Simien; His House, directed and written by Remi Weekes; Impetigore, directed and written by Joko Anwar; The Night House, directed by David Bruckner; The Nowhere Inn, directed by Bill Benz; Relic, directed by Natalie Erika James and Scare Me, directed and written by Josh Ruben.

Pilou Asbaek and Ella Balinska appear in “Run Sweetheart Run” by Shana Feste, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Spotlight

According to the Sundance Institute, the Spotlight program is “a tribute to the cinema we love from throughout the past year.” One of the winners is The Perfect Candidate, a film directed by Haifaa Al Mansour, which depicts a determined young Saudi doctor’s surprise run for office in the local city elections, which sweeps up her family and community as they struggle to accept their town’s first female candidate. The cast includes Mila Alzahrani, Dhay, Khalid Abdulrahim and Shafi Al Harthy.

This year’s Spotlight films also include And Then We Danced, directed and written by Levan Akin; The Assistant, directed and written by Kitty Green; The Climb, directed by Michael Covino; Collective, directed and written by Alexander Nanau; Ema, directed by Pablo Larraín; and La Llorona, directed and written by Jayro Bustamante.

Mila Alzahrani appears in “The Perfect Candidate” by Haifaa Al Mansour, an official selection of the Spotlight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Kids

As the title of this competition, Kids, suggests, the target audience for these films are children. One of the winning films is Come Away, directed by Brenda Chapman, with a cast that includes Angelina Jolie, David Oyelowo and Michael Caine. The storyline is pure fantasy: Before Alice found Wonderland, and Peter became Pan, they were brother and sister. When their brother dies in an accident, they seek to save their parents from downward spirals, until finally they’re forced to choose between home and imagination, setting the stage for their iconic journeys into Wonderland and Neverland.

Other winning movies in the Kids competition are the Belgium film, Binti, directed and written by Frederike Migom; and Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, an American film directed by Tom McCarthy.    

Keira Chansa, David Oyelowo, Reece Yates and Jordan Nash appear in “Come Away” by Brenda Chapman, an official selection of the Kids program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

For more on all the winning films, go to sundance.org/blogs/news/2020-sundance-features-announced.

For more on the festival and other events, go to sundance.org/festival.

Sadaf Asgari appears in “Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness” by Massoud Bakhshi, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

MENU