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Sundance Film Festival Wrap – Fourth and Final

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival has come and gone leaving in its wake a plethora of films, music, conversation, and virtual space.

Acura continued on as the Official Vehicle and a Presenting Sponsor of the Sundance Film Festival for the 12th consecutive year offering the independent film community and fans gathering virtually for the 2022 Sundance Film Festival a unique experience at AcuraWatchParty.com. Virtual Sundance programming from Acura included important conversations and activations with like-minded entertainment and media partners focusing on supporting diversity in film, along with A-list filmmakers and talent.

Embracing the creative spirit of the Sundance film community, Acura debuted a new four-part anime series, Chiaki’s Journey, during the Festival. Chiaki’s Journey featured a young hero’s quest to overcome multiple challenges on her path toward victory while offering viewers a first look at Acura’s trio of all-new Type S performance models: 2022 TLX Type S sport sedan, 2022 MDX Type S 3-row SUV, and 2022 NSX Type S supercar.

In staying true to form the 2022 emergent Sundance Film Festival theme of ‘Fighting the System” rang true as eloquently stated by Festival Programming Director, Kim Yutani, with art “made against the odds, under challenging circumstances, (with filmmakers) being inventive in how they’re telling their stories, in the way they explore intimacy, just creating films in a way that is imaginative.” during an interview for Vanessa Zimmer’s  ‘Fighting the System’ Emerges as Major Theme in 2022 Lineup.

As the Delta and Omicron variants raged, Sundance bent on implementing updated  COVID protocols over the holidays. At last, with the risk factors too great for the filmgoing populace the well-thought and deeply discerned decision was made to go virtual. Fortunately, Shari Frilot, Chief Curator of New Frontier, and a Harvard grad, stepped up and went where no man had gone before and created a vast virtual entity adeptly called “The Spaceship” where art, film, and multimedia converged and sent the 2022 Sundance Film Festival into the stratosphere allowing for parties, mingling, conversation, and film and artistic viewings.

For those challenged by space and mobility, there is always next year. Yet, even without total access to all The Spaceship amenities, Sundance delivered 82 master feature-length films along with 6 Indie Episodics, and the aforementioned New Frontier (15) works.

Here were some of my top takeaways:

Navalny, Festival Favorite Award, Audience Award: U.S. Documentary Presented by Acura

A still from Navalny, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

In August 2020, a plane traveling from Siberia to Moscow made an emergency landing. One of its passengers, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was deathly ill. Taken to a local Siberian hospital and eventually evacuated to Berlin, doctors confirmed that he had been poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent implicated in attacks on other opponents of the Russian government. President Vladimir Putin immediately cast doubt on the findings and denied any involvement.

While recovering, Navalny and his team — already with a large social media following in tow — partnered with the data investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat as well as other international news organizations to investigate his attempted assassination and find proof of the Kremlin’s involvement. In NAVALNY, filmmaker Daniel Roher reveals a courageous and controversial would-be president at the precipice of sacrificing everything in order to bring reform to his homeland. —BT (Sundance.org)


Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute).

Director Sophie Hyde and Writer Katy Brand’s, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, stars Dame Emma Thompson, as a retired schoolteacher who has yet to experience the joy of sex. Enter Daryl McCormack as the young and debonnaire sex worker, Leo Grande. What starts out as a cold transactional relationship ends up as a deep, warm, caring transactional relationship opening hearts and minds to a retelling of modern love. Picked up by Searchlight Pictures and scheduled to stream exclusively on Hulu. Four stars.


Elizabeth Banks appears in Call Jane by Phyllis Nagy, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Wilson Webb.

Phyllis Nagy’s Call Jane, set in the mid to late 1960’s follows the pursuit of women’s rights led by Elizabeth Banks, progressive suburbanite wife, and homemaker, Joy, who discovers a more engaging life in helping women get safe medical procedures for their unwanted or life-endangering pregnancies. Nagy wrote the 2015 Douglas Sirkian style melodrama, Carol, directed by Todd Haynes. Jane has a similar look with a joyous, optimistic, and forward-looking narrative. Four stars.


Emily The Criminal (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Emily The Criminal from Director John Patton Ford addresses the fallout from the collateral damage of a young woman’s college experience and relationship troubles. Aubrey Plaza portrays Emily, a young woman who went to college on student loans, partied, got an education, then received an assault conviction for her role in a relationship fight. Unable to land suitable work with her criminal record, Emily becomes a “dummy shopper,” in an illegal, underworld enterprise. Fast-paced, this psychological, neo-thriller reverberates an age-old adage, “desperate people do desperate things.” Highly recommended. A top pick.



Emergency, the recipient of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic, harkens the impact racism can have on life-threatening, real-life situations and its ramifications on human potential. Told through a darkly comedic lens with moments of “throw it all at the kitchen sink” style of comedy. Guaranteed to “shock, enlighten, and infuriate.” From two-time Sundance alum Carey Williams (2021’s modern, social media retelling of “Romeo and Juliet,”  R#J), based on his 2018 Sundance short film of the same name. Excellent writing and strong acting. Four stars.


To The End (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Director Rachel Lears, whose Lears 2019 Sundance film Knock Down the House followed four women who ran insurgent congressional campaigns in 2018, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush. The film won the Audience Award and the Festival Favorite Award and was shortlisted for an Oscar and nominated for an Emmy. Lears 2022 offering, To The End, is a visionary look behind the scenes of a philosophical movement, social and political, where young people have rejected the cynicism and complacency of a power structure that has failed to meaningfully address the existential threat faced by climate change. Told through the narratives of four instrumental leaders and women of color — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Varshini Prakash, Alexandra Rojas, and Rhiana Gunn-Wright. This is more than the Green New Deal. It’s planetary survival. Four stars.


Oscar de la Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez appear in La Guerra Civil by Eva Longoria Bastón, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

La Guerra Civil, directed and produced by Eva Longoria Bastón tells the story of two of Mexico’s greatest lightweight modern-era boxers, American-born Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez. More than a boxing story, Longoria Bastón shapes the narrative through the Mexican and Mexican-American cultural lens. What emerges is a very intimate look at both boxers and their impact on the dichotomy of what it means to be Mexican and what it means to be Mexican-American. Four stars.


The Worst Person In The World (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute).

The Worst Person in the World directed by Joachim Trier is the third part of his Oslo trilogy. A beautifully made film with a first-time film portrayal for the lead actress, Renate Reinsve. The film is told through Reinsve’s character and is about finding one’s place in the world. In the film’s introduction, Trier referred to the film as a Norwegian romantic comedy told in twelve separate chapters with an epilogue and a prologue. Originally premiered in competition at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival (with Renate Reinsve winning Best Actress for her performance).


Chiqui (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute).

Chiqui, an indie episodic set in the 1980s was a romp. It’s 1987. Chiqui and Carlos emigrate from Colombia to New Jersey to find a better life for themselves and their unborn son. Upon their arrival, they quickly realize that the American dream is not as easy to achieve as they thought. The cast and crew – simply superb.


Downfall: The Case Against Boeing (Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute).

Downfall: The Case Against Boeing. One of the most anticipated films of the festival from acclaimed director, Rory Kennedy. Kennedy’s films are well-researched and provide astute socio-cultural insights. Downfall’s production values were exceptional resulting in a very polished film revealing shifts in cultural norms undoubtedly contributing to the untimely and tragic Max 737 plane crashes. Scheduled for a February 13th Netflix release followed by a theatrical run. A Netflix and Moxie Films Production. Four stars.


Chloe Okuno

Watcher, Chloe Okuno’s, multi-layered suspenseful horror, drama, thriller features Maika Monroe as a young, blonde female coping with life in a foreign country. Monroe delivers a highly competent and strong performance. The non-diegetic soundtrack added immensely to the suspense and featured  Max Richter’s “Moment in Paris.” Undeniable Charade and Rear Window Hitchcockian influences Shot on location in Bucharest, Romania. Four stars.

Maika Monroe appears in Watcher by Chloe Okuno, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance.

As the festival inched closer to its end, after nine days, 84 feature films and 59 short films, the juries deliberated and the audience voted. The 26 jury-awarded and six audience-awarded prizes recognized “achievement in global independent storytelling.” Bold, intimate, and culture-shifting stories prevailed across categories, with Grand Jury Prizes awarded to Nanny (U.S. Dramatic), The Exiles (U.S. Documentary), Utama (World Cinema Dramatic), and All That Breathes (World Cinema Documentary). Audience Awards were presented to Navalny (U.S. Documentary), Cha Cha Real Smooth (U.S. Dramatic), Girl Picture (World Cinema Dramatic), The Territory (World Cinema Documentary), Framing Agnes (NEXT), with Navalny winning the Festival Favorite Award.


Joana Vicente

“Today’s awards represent the determination of visionary individuals, whose dynamic work will continue to change the culture and create discourse throughout the year,” said Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente. “This year’s entire program has proven that no matter the context, independent storytelling remains a pivotal tool in expanding critical dialogues, and these stories will and must be shared.”


Tabitha Jackson

“The 2022 Sundance Film Festival once again met our audience wherever they happened to be,” added Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson, “Whether you watched from home or one of our seven satellite screens, this year’s Festival expressed a powerful convergence; we were present, together, as a community connected through the work. And it is work that has already changed those who experienced it.”

Kim Yutani

“We are so grateful for this year’s jurors who brought their expertise and passion to their decision-making process,” said the Festival’s Director of Programming Kim Yutani, “We congratulate the award winners and we’re so thankful to each and every film in the program that made the 2022 Sundance Film Festival such a huge success.”

The awards announcement marked a key point of the 2022 Festival, where 84 feature-length and 59 short films — selected from 14,849 submissions — were showcased online via the Festival’s online platform; a selection of the program played at 7 Satellite Screen locations across the United States.

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival jurors were: Chelsea Barnard, Marielle Heller, and Payman Maadi for U.S. Dramatic Competition; Garrett Bradley, Joan Churchill, and Peter Nicks for U.S. Documentary Competition; Andrew Haigh, Mohamed Hefzy, and La Frances Hui for World Cinema Dramatic Competition; and Emilie Bujès, Patrick Gaspard, and Dawn Porter for World Cinema Documentary Competition. Joey Soloway was the juror for the NEXT competition section. Penelope Bartlett, Kevin Jerome Everson, and Blackhorse Lowe juried the Short Film Program Competition.

Until next year, I’ll see you at the movies!

Larry Gleeson, left, with Hollywood starlet, Angie Dickinson. (Photo credit: HollywoodGlee)

Sundance 2021 Dailies Highlights Day 3

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Intentional deviation or not, today’s Sundance Dailies veered toward a Good Morning America format. As the legendary pop American philosopher Frank Zappa once said, “Deviating from the norm is the way of progress.” – (Thank you, Tabitha Jackson)

PASSING Writer/Director Rebecca Hall shares her experience in dealing with the issues of passing as white with her Black ancestry during the Sundance Dailies on January 30th, 2021, at the Sundance Film Festival.

This morning’s Sundance Dailies presented by Audi brought in filmmakers Rebecca Hall (Passing), Eugenio Derbez (CODA), and Associate Programmer Stephanie Owens, as special guests for Breakfast with….. Festival Director Tabitha Jackson. Derbez showcased his cooking skills as well.

CODA Filmmaker Eugenio Derbez shares his breakfast culinary skills as part of the Sundance Dailies at the Sundance Film Festival on January 30th, 2021.

Owens would be spending her day at the New Frontier. For sure! I New Frontier is the cutting edge, avant-garde, media exhibit run by Chief Curator, Shari Frilot. Not only are the exhibits far-reaching, but the conversations are also spectacular. Last year, I sat down with Sam Droege for a Sundance Press Office-approved interview. Wasn’t 100% it was going to happen, but the approval came through.

Today’s “Cooper in Park City” segment, featuring Director Emeritus, and Utah reporter -at-large, John Cooper, topped the charts with a surprise appearance and performance skit with Queer Eye’s Tan France.

John Cooper, left, gets fashion advice from Queer Eye’s Tan France at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, on Saturday, January 30th, 2021, in Park City, Utah.

Jackson closed the show with a moment of meditation as the stunning photo from the Utah State Tourism Office panned across my screen. Cowabunga!

Stay tuned as this year’s festival is gaining momentum!

The festival runs through February 3rd, with numerous free events available globally.


*All of these activities are free to view globally. Sign up for an account at Festival.Sundance.org to access. All times are U.S. Mountain time.

9:00 – 9:30 a.m. Sundance Dailies  with Tabitha Jackson and Utah at-large correspondent, John Cooper. Tomorrow’s guests include Eugenio Derbez (CODA) and Rebecca Hall (Passing). Presented by Acura. Trust me, you’ll want to tune in.
10:30 – 11:15 a.m. Cinema Café with Rita Moreno & Sonia Manzano promises a culture of conversation and thought-provoking insights.

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Artist Meetup: Positionality in the Editing Room. Featuring Carla Gutierrez and Malika Zouhali-Worrall in conversation with Carrie Lozano. Join up and engage in conversation around technical and philosophical topics affecting the storytelling field.

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. The Big Conversation: Barbed Wire Kisses Redux. The year 1992 was a watershed one for LGBTQ+ film, giving birth to the term “New Queer Cinema” and introducing a revolutionary generation of films and filmmakers with energetic irreverence and disruptive aesthetics. At the 1992 Sundance Film Festival, B. Ruby Rich convened and moderated a panel of preeminent artists (including the late Derek Jarman) to discuss their work and the historic moment of its emergence. This year, Rich and other LGBTQ+ titans including Andrew Ahn, Greg Araki, Silas Howard, Isaac Julien, and Rose Troche, gather 30 years later to look back and imagine forward in this contemporary edition of Barbed Wire Kisses.

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Producers Celebration. A celebration of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival producers and the Sundance Institute Creative Producing fellows with the presentation of the Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Awards.
3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Beyond the Screen: Exploring Genre. Beyond the Screen will illuminate the creative process behind some of the most anticipated films in the 2021 Sundance Film Festival as their creators discuss the art and craft behind their projects.

10:00 – 11:30 p.m. Speakeasy: Conjuring the Collective – Womxn at Sundance promises an evening of dynamic performance and energizing conversation. Continuing the tradition of gathering and celebrating the womxn in the  Festival community, this year’s event will reclaim the idea of a coven as a source of magic, healing, and power.

Sundance 2021: Day 2

Posted by Larry Gleeson

As we all struggle with the challenges of adapting to the Sundance-built, all-digital, online platform the efforts are paying off as we overcome the obstacles and minute bumps in the robust infrastructure. With that being said here are some most excellent events happening on Day 2 at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival:

Sundance Dailies | 9:00 a.m. MT
Talent: Tabitha Jackson
(Sundance Film Festival Director) and John Cooper (Emeritus Director, Sundance Film Festival); The Sparks Brothers director Edgar Wright, and Ron Mael and Russell Mael (Sparks). The Sundance Dailies will take place live each morning with host Tabitha Jackson, special correspondent John Cooper, and an assortment of special guests and some of the highlights you need to know about the festival of the day ahead featuring artist interviews, witty banter, free inspiration, and radical ideas. It’s the Sundance way of being together, even when we’re apart. Presented by Acura.

Sundance executive Director, Tabitha Jackson, left, and filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson during the Q & A following the world premiere of Summer of Soul…(Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Thursday, January 29th, 2021.

Cinema Café: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson & Shaka King | 10:30 a.m. MT
Directors Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)) and Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah), moderator Hannah Giorgis (Staff Writer, The Atlantic). A culture of conversation with featured guests and thought-provoking insights.

The Big Conversation: The Past Is Present: A Personal Journey Through Race, History and Filmmaking | 1:00p.m. MT
Filmmaker Raoul Peck and Tabitha Jackson (Sundance Film Festival Director). “History is not the past, it’s the present.” James Baldwin’s words reverberate throughout Raoul Peck’s work, his activism, and his remarkable filmmaking career. Peck joins Festival director Tabitha Jackson in a conversation about white supremacy, history, creative expression, and his personal journey from the Academy Award-nominated I Am Not Your Negro to his upcoming work Exterminate All the Brutes, which interrogates over 600 years of history— from the Native American genocide to the systemized enslavement of Africans, to Hitler’s extermination of the European Jews—a history to which our present is inextricably bound. Don’t miss this one!

Stay tuned for more as this film festival is just getting started!




Acura Virtual Festival Village Brings the Independent Spirit of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival to Film Fans Everywhere

Posted by Larry Gleeson

  • Musical duo JOHNNYSWIM will perform daily at acura.com/sundance 
  • Acura’s virtual programming also includes collaborations with IMDb and HOW IT ENDS – the must-watch film from Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein
  • As a challenger brand committed to supporting emerging artists, Acura has partnered with auteur filmmaker Phillip Youmans to debut a :30 second spot

Acura’s role as Presenting Sponsor and Official Vehicle of the Sundance Film Festival takes on new meaning for 2021 by bringing the spirit of independent filmmakers to film fans everywhere. The Acura Festival Virtual Village (acura.com/sundance) offers the film community and fans the opportunity to tune in for filmmaker and talent interviews and daily musical performances from JOHNNYSWIM, as well as the chance to explore the all-new 2022 MDX SUV, the most premium, performance-focused, and technologically advanced SUV in Acura history.

For 11 years, Acura has maintained its commitment to supporting emerging artists and underrepresented voices in film that are lifted up by the Sundance Film Festival. This year, Acura has joined forces with 21-year-old auteur director and Sundance Institute 2020 Screenwriters Lab alumni Phillip Youmans to direct “Days in the Lab,” a new :30 spot that will play for audiences prior to select 2021 Sundance Film Festival screenings.

Recognized for his 2019 debut Burning Cane, Youmans captures the struggles many young filmmakers face during the creative process. Shot on Super 16mm film, the spot delivers an authentic and intimate journey of an independent filmmaker, inspired by Youmans’ own experience as a participant in the Sundance Labs.

“The filmmaking process is an emotional ride, but a gratifying one. With this piece for Acura, I wanted to follow the triumphs and tribulations of the creative process, something every artist can relate to,” said director Phillip Youmans. “Moreover, this piece stands for the idea that anyone can achieve their goals – no matter where you come from – with a little hard work and perseverance.”

“Acura, as a brand rooted in innovation, embraces new and creative ideas and we connect fully with the wonderful storytelling that Phillip captures in ‘Days in the Lab,’” said Jon Ikeda, Vice President and Acura Brand Officer. “Through our partnership with Phillip and Sundance Institute, Acura is proud to offer a platform for independent filmmakers and emerging artists to share their voices and showcase their creativity.”

The connection between Youmans and Acura was made by Sundance Institute as part of a program to help independent artists secure work and tell powerful stories that reflect the values and mission of Acura.

“Over the 11 years Acura has partnered with Sundance Institute, the brand has always been fiercely committed to supporting the independent spirit of filmmakers and the creative community,” added Mary Sadeghy, Head of Corporate Partnerships, Sundance Institute. “Phillip so beautifully brought to life the shared values of Acura and Sundance Institute through his story.”

During the 2021 Festival, Acura also will host a virtual premiere party for HOW IT ENDS, written, directed, and produced by Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones and starring Lister-Jones, Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Helen Hunt, Lamorne Morris, and Nick Kroll. Premiering on Friday, Jan. 29 at 3pm PST, the HOW IT ENDS cast and crew will be treated to pizza from local Los Angeles restaurant ALL TIME, safely delivered in the new 2022 MDX.

Additionally, Acura and IMDb will present exclusive video content from this year’s Festival, sharing interviews and clips with film enthusiasts around the world. Entertainment fans can access coverage on the IMDb homepage (www.imdb.com).

As the Official Vehicle partner of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, Acura is pleased to spotlight the all-new 2022 Acura MDX. The fourth-generation MDX has been completely redesigned from the ground around Acura’s Precision Crafted Performance DNA to serve as the new flagship of the Acura brand. The 2022 MDX will begin arriving at Acura dealerships Feb. 2. More details on the 2022 MDX can be found at: https://acura.us/2022MDX.

For more information on Acura and the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, visit Acura.com/Sundance.

About Acura
Acura is a leading automotive nameplate that delivers Precision Crafted Performance – a commitment to expressive styling, high performance and innovative engineering, all built on a foundation of quality and reliability. The Acura lineup features five distinctive models – the ILX and TLX sport sedans, the RDX and MDX sport-utility vehicles and the next-generation, electrified NSX supercar. All Acura models sold in North America for the 2021 model year are made in the U.S., using domestic and globally sourced parts.

Additional media information including pricing, features & specifications and high-resolution photography is available at AcuraNews.com. Consumer information is available at Acura.com.

JOHNNYSWIM—Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano—translate the memories, moments, and milestones on their journey as a married couple into spirited, slick, and soulful anthems steeped in singer-songwriter tradition, yet amplified by alternative experimentation, rock energy, and pop ambition. Building a fanbase through constant touring, 2013’s ​Heart Beats ​EP spawned “Don’t Let It Get You Down,” which clocked 17 million-plus Spotify streams. Their first full-length, ​Diamonds​, arrived in 2014 as its single “Home” famously became the theme to HGTV hit ​Fixer Upper.​ The 2016 follow-up ​Georgica Pond​ yielded another fan favorite “First Try” as the duo sold out dates around the world. Along the way, they garnered acclaim from ​Rolling Stone,​ ​NPR,​ ​The New York Times​, ​Huffington Post​, ​Nylon​,​ Du Jour​, and ​VH1​ in addition to performing on ​The Today Show​,​ CONAN,​ and more. Produced by GRAMMY​®​Award-winning powerhouse Malay [Frank Ocean, Sam Smith], the group’s 2019 third full-length, ​Moonlight [Britannia Row Recordings/BMG], shines a light on the strength of their bond, the scope of their musical palette, and spirit of their stories together.

About IMDb
IMDb is the world’s most popular and authoritative source for information on movies, TV shows and celebrities. Products and services to help fans decide what to watch and where to watch it include: the IMDb website for desktop and mobile devices; apps for iOS and Android; and X-Ray on Prime Video. IMDb also offers a free streaming channel, IMDb TV, and produces IMDb original video series and podcasts. For entertainment industry professionals, IMDb provides IMDbPro and Box Office Mojo. IMDb licenses information from its vast and authoritative database to third-party businesses worldwide; learn more at developer.imdb.com. IMDb is an Amazon company. For more information, visit imdb.com/press and follow @IMDb.

(Source: Acura News Release)