Even as the awards season for last year’s films carries on with full force, new films are already set to break out, thanks to the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. The 40th version of the festival, that has become the go-to place for first-time directors, micro-budget features, and fascinating documentaries to watch out for, returns to Park City, Utah on January 18-28. Here are our top 10 picks from the from this year’s Sundance line-up. (Also read: Skywalkers: A Love Story makers Jeff Zimbalist, Maria Bukhonina on shooting ‘rollercoaster ride of events’ for six years)
The sequel to Boys State? Count us in. In Girls State, which is helmed by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, teenage girls from wildly different backgrounds across Missouri assemble to immerse themselves in a week-long experiment in American democracy, to build a government from scratch.
Oscar nominee June Squibb gets the first leading role of her career at the age of 94. The actor stars as Thelma Post, who gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson. From here on, Thelma turns from an elderly grandmother to an unlikely action hero as she sets out to reclaim what was taken away from her.
Sundance has been a big hit with Indian documentaries in the last few years (take note of Against the Tide, All That Breathes and Writing with Fire). This year, we are excited to see how Nocturnes fares at the festival. Directed by Anirban Dutta and Anupama Srinivasan, Nocturnes locates to the dense forests of the Eastern Himalayas to decode the secret and mystifying lives of moths, who are whispering something to us in the dark of the night.
Black Box Diaries
In Shiori Ito’s Black Box Diaries, that premieres at the World Cinema Documentary Competition, journalist Shiori Ito embarks on a defiant investigation of her own sexual assault to prosecute her high-profile offender. This one sounds brave and unflinching in its honesty, and promises to be a landmark entry in the post #MeToo movement canon of cinema.
Girls Will Be Girls
The maiden production venture of Richa Chadha and Ali Fazal, Girls Will Be Girls tells the story of 16-year-old Mira (played by Preeti Panigrahi) and the complex relationship she shares with her mother Anila (Kani Kusruti, last seen in Killer Soup). Directed by Shuchi Talati, this is a coming-of-age story that shows only some women have had the chance to come of age in a society that rarely provides agency to its women.
Saoirse Ronan stars as Rona, a woman who returns home to Scotland’s Orkney Islands after 10 years in London, in this adaptation from the bestselling memoir by Amy Liptrot. Directed by Nora Fingscheidt, The Outrun tracks Rona’s road to recovery through a strict rehab program.
Iconic artist Frida Kahlo’s life and unforgettable art finds a new lease of life in Carla Gutiérrez’s documentary, that premieres in the U.S. Documentary Competition. Frida locates her journey through her own words for the very first time, which are taken from her diary, collection of letters, essays, and print interviews. The documentary also includes animation inspired by her artwork through the years. Sounds utterly fascinating, and we cannot wait to watch it!
Among the two features which Kristen Stewart brings to Sundance this year is Love Bleeds, the feature film directed by Sam and Andy Zuchero. It chronicles the fascinating relationship that evolves when a buoy and a satellite meet online and fall in love after humanity has gone extinct. Sundance is perhaps the perfect spot for a wacky premise like this one to showcase, and we can’t wait to know more about this film that pairs Kristen with recent Emmy Award winner Steven Yeun.
Never Look Away
Premiering at the World Cinema Documentary Competition, New Zealand–born groundbreaking CNN camerawoman Margaret Moth chronicles the reality of war from inside in Never Look Away, which marks the debut of actor Lucy Lawless behind the camera.
Skywalkers: A Love Story
Shot over six years and in six countries, Skywalkers: A Love Story chronicles the impossible love story combined with the illegal practice of a Russian couple, Angela and Vanya, as they climb the world’s highest skyscraper. Directed by Jeff Zimbalist, this project places the metaphor of extreme climbing to develop the central relationship of the two protagonists.