Sundance 2022: 10 Most Anticipated Films at This Year's Online Fest
by Alex Billington
January 19, 2022
It's January again, which means it's time for another Sundance Film Festival. The original plan for 2022 was to host a hybrid event - with the usual in-person screenings in Park City, Utah as well as online screenings. But they had to cancel the in-person event again thanks to the pandemic, returning to an entirely virtual / online event like last year. (Along with a few satellite screenings in select cities around the country.) This is our 16th year in a row covering this film festival; I'm always looking forward to returning and watching all the new films premiering at Sundance. Out of the 83 films showing at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, I've picked 10 films that I'm looking forward to seeing the most. To keep things well balanced, I've chosen 5 feature films and 5 documentaries from the line-up. There's a few gems in the line-up already. As usual with Sundance, you never can really tell what'll good or bad before the fest kicks off, but here's my picks anyway.
For the full line-up of films showing at Sundance 2022 - click here. Follow my reviews on Letterboxd. This will be my 16th year in a row covering Sundance, starting back in 2007 then ever since. I'm still excited to be watching the latest indie films, even from afar, and I'm hoping there's some good discoveries despite the chaotic times we're living in. The fest is just about to begin, here's my Top 10 most anticipated 2022 films.
Alex's Most Anticipated ~Sundance 2022~ Feature Films:
Directed by Abi Damaris Corbin
The early buzz is that this film might be one of the best of the festival. John Boyega stars as former U.S. Marine veteran Brian Easley, living in a cheap motel and desperate for some hope. "Driven to the brink by forces beyond his control, the soft-spoken, kind man decides to rob a bank and hold hostages with a bomb. As police, media, and family members descend on the bank and Brian, it becomes clear he's not after money — he wants to tell his story and have what is rightfully his, even if it costs him his life." This is the kind of bold storytelling that digs deep into many of the problems America is dealing with nowadays. The cast also includes the late Michael Kenneth Williams in his final big screen role, along with Nicole Beharie and Connie Britton. This is one of those highly anticipated Sundance features that I just have to catch at the world premiere, I have to be there for the unveiling of this film to be a part of this big moment. I'm excited.
Directed by Krystin Ver Linden
How's this for a premise? Alice spends her days enslaved on a rural Georgia plantation restlessly yearning for freedom. After a violent clash with plantation owner Paul, Alice flees through the neighboring woods and stumbles onto the unfamiliar sight of a highway, soon discovering that the year is actually 1973. Rescued on the roadside by a Black activist named Frank, Alice uncovers the lies that kept her enslaved and the promise of Black liberation. What?! This sounds awesome! Almost like the twist in The Village (spoiler!) but with the ending being the beginning of this film. I think the big question is what happens next - does she get revenge on the plantation owner or does she head off to live her own life as an activist? Or something else…? The tremendously talented Keke Palmer stars as Alice with Common as Frank. The film was already picked up by Vertical Ent. & Roadside Attractions for release this March, which is a good sign this is one to watch.
Brian and Charles
Directed by Jim Archer
You've never met a robot like Charles before. This quirky indie comedy Brian and Charles is the feature film version of a sci-fi short film we featured quite recently - also called Brian and Charles. I'm very curious to find out how they extended this concept - involving a clunky, robo friend made by a kooky but very lonely inventor. In the short, they get into a fight and that's about it. But where will they go in here? Once he's built and gets used to the world, what's next for Brian and Charles? There's only one way to find out! Will they go off & conquer the world together? Or become enemies? Directed by Jim Archer, the film stars David Earl as Brian and Chris Hayward as Charles, everyone returning from the short. "A story of friendship, love, and letting go. And a 7ft tall robot that eats cabbages." This just sounds like it might be the spunky, weird, delightful sleeper hit discovery of the festival. Whatever they've made, I just have to watch it and find out.
Directed by Riley Stearns
I am already fan of Riley Stearns' filmmaking, especially after his last film The Art of Self-Defense. And I am looking forward to whatever he has cooked up for us next. To get this out of the way - Dual sounds very similar to the recent Mahershala Ali film Swan Song, but with an entirely different vibe. And in this one it switches after she decides to get rid of her clone. "After receiving a terminal diagnosis, Sarah commissions a clone of herself to ease the loss for her friends and family. When she makes a miraculous recovery, her attempt to have her clone decommissioned fails, and leads to a court-mandated duel to the death." Let them fight! Karen Gillan stars as Sarah (twice) opposite Aaron Paul. Stearns filmed it last year up in Finland during the pandemic, which is quite a feat, even more the reason to see how this turned out despite the filmmaking situation. I'm always down for an original sci-fi indie, especially one with a good twist like this.
Every Day In Kaimukī
Directed by Alika Tengan
This film is playing in the Next category, where the most innovative and artistic work usually shows up. And I really like the way this sounds! Made in Hawaii, the film follows a "cynical and charismatic 20-something" named Naz (played by the actual Naz Kawakami) who has "spent his entire life in tranquil O'ahu, Hawaiʻi, skateboarding with his friends and hosting a nightly radio show where he spotlights emerging musicians. When his girlfriend, Sloane, nabs the chance to move to bustling New York, Naz begins preparing for their big move, planning every detail down to his cat's absurd flight plan. Even when dreaming about what life outside the island might look like, however, Naz wonders whether uprooting his world is the right decision, and if anywhere will ever really feel like home when he's always been an eternal outsider." My kind of film right here. And I've got a good feeling this is going to be something worth talking about once you've seen it.
Other Features I'm Looking Forward To: James Ponsoldt's Summering, Carey Williams' Emergency, Carlota Pereda's Piggy, Phyllis Nagy's Call Jane, and Jesse Eisenberg's When You Finish Saving the World.
Alex's Most Anticipated ~Sundance 2022~ Documentaries:
Directed by Ramin Bahrani
Wait, this is a documentary about the guy who invented the bulletproof vest? Yes. But here's the best part about it - this is directed by Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (director of the films Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo, Plastic Bag, At Any Price, 99 Homes, Fahrenheit 451, and The White Tiger previously) making his very first documentary. Say no more - I'm sold! "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." This is exactly the kind of funky, strange, damning, yet thoroughly compelling documentary that I love to discover at Sundance. The story of someone I never would've even thought about before, told by a filmmaker who understands humanity and all the good & bad hiding within everyone. I can't wait to find out what Bahrani has up his sleeves with this.
Lucy and Desi
Directed by Amy Poehler
After Aaron Sorkin's film Being the Ricardos, also about Lucy and Desi, released a few weeks ago, now we're being treated to a full-on documentary about the iconic power couple! This brand new Lucy and Desi film is directed by none other than comedian mastermind Amy Poehler, making her very first documentary (after getting into directing with the feature films Wine Country and Moxie over the last few years). Sundance teases: "Clearly influenced by Poehler’s own history in entertainment, Lucy and Desi not only chronicles the pair’s personal and professional lives, it also smartly breaks down concepts like the rehearsed choreography of comedy, their innovations in studio production, the sisterhood of comedy, and more. It's a thoughtful telling made for those who loved Lucy (and Desi)." It has the potential to be a real highlight of the festival.
Fire of Love
Directed by Sara Dosa
Easily my most anticipated documentary of the festival this year! Fire of Love is a tragic yet inspiring story about an intrepid couple - Katia and Maurice Krafft. They were French volcanologists who spent most of their lives studying & exploring volcanoes. "They roamed the planet, chasing eruptions and their aftermath, documenting their discoveries in stunning photographs and breathtaking film to share with an increasingly curious public in media appearances and lecture tours." Until a volcanic explosion in Japan took their lives in 1991. From this description and introduction, it reminds me of Werner Herzog's iconic doc film Grizzly Man, also about a nature lover who was killed by the very thing he was studying, too. "But they would leave a legacy that would forever enrich our knowledge of the natural world." I've never heard of these two before reading about this film, which is part of the reason I'm excited to learn about them and their lives and their story. And I'm kind of surprised this isn't directed by Herzog (as this is totally his jam) but it is directed by the talented Sara Dosa, maker of the other documentaries The Last Season and The Seer and the Unseen.
To The End
Directed by Rachel Lears
This is being hyped up as the rousing follow-up to the acclaimed doc film Knock Down the House, about the rise of female politicians including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It's made by the same filmmaker as that doc film, continuing the story as four audacious politicians diligently try to work on the climate change dilemma threatening our planet. They certainly deserve our support and gratitude. "Stopping the climate crisis is a question of political courage, and the clock is ticking. Over three years of turbulence and crisis, four young women fight for a Green New Deal, and ignite a historic shift in U.S. climate politics." The doc's main characters are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Varshini Prakash, Alexandra Rojas, and Rhiana Gunn-Wright. "As the future they will live in fast approaches, the last generation with a chance to end climate change is using their power and demanding a say in what that future will be." Let's just hope this offers a boost of positivity, as I'm so tired of watching people try to make a difference yet nothing happens and nothing ever changes.
The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales
Directed by Abigail E. Disney & Kathleen Hughes
Oh this is going to be good. Outspoken producer, philanthropist and activist Abigail E. Disney has made a documentary about how bad income inequality has become and how capitalism is destroying America. She is actually a descendant of the Disney family, the daughter of Roy E. Disney, but has taken the opposite path in life by acknowledging how harmful wealth often is. The documentary "looks at America's dysfunctional and unequal economy and asks why the American Dream has worked for the wealthy, yet is a nightmare for people born with less. As a way to imagine a more equitable future, Disney uses her family's story to explore how this systemic injustice took hold." This sounds like it's going to be brutal and extremely critical of the "American Dream", which is exactly the kind of honest conversation we need to have. Especially because everything seems to be getting worse, and many are still addicted to the potential of big money, without understanding the bigger implications of an unequal economy. I'm really looking forward to watching this.
A Few More Documentaries I'll Be Watching: Margaret Brown's Descendant, Joe Hunting's We Met in Virtual Reality, Rita Baghdadi's Sirens, Shaunak Sen's All That Breathes, and Alon Schwarz's Tantura.
For all of Alex's Sundance 2022 reviews and updates: Follow @firstshowing
For more Sundance 2022 previews around the web, highlighting early picks and potential breakouts, see: The Film Stage's 20 Most-Anticipated Premieres, Indiewire's 10 Must-See Films from Black Filmmakers at This Year's Festival, Paste's 10 Most Anticipated 2022 Movies, Fangirl Freakout's Most Anticipated Movies at Sundance 2022, and POV Magazine's 10 Docs We're Excited to See at Sundance 2022. You never know what might be a big hit, and it's vital to have a pulse on the early buzz – even before the fest starts. There's plenty of intriguing films found in the selection this year, so let's get this fest underway and start watching.
You can follow our Sundance 2022 coverage and updates in this category. The festival begins on January 20th and runs until January 30th, with films premiering online + locally. Let's all go watch some new films.
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