A dozen episodic short-form stories — with topics ranging from hip-hop to poetry, true crime to family strife — will vie for attention at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival’s Indie Episodic program.
The showcase for episodic stories, made for TV or web consumption, marks its second year at Sundance. The 12 entries in the program were announced Monday by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute.
The institute on Monday also announced four programs in its Special Events program, highlighting long-form and miniseries titles. (Another Special Event entry was announced Jan. 8.)
And programmers announced the slate of 73 short films — chosen from more than 10,000 submissions — that will play the festival, which runs from Jan. 24 to Feb. 3 in Park City, Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort.
Sundance announced its slate of 112 feature films last week. An announcement of its New Frontier program, featuring video installations, VR and AR works, will be made soon.
“Bootstrapped” • Show creator Danielle Uhlarik and co-star Maribeth Monroe play Aimee and Madeline, best friends who launch a fashion/tech startup in a Kansas City garage. The series also stars Sam Richardson, Kezii Curtis, Nancy Lenehan and Erika Alexander. The pilot episode was directed by Stephanie Laing.
“Delhi Crime Story” (India) • Writer-director Richie Mehta created this true-crime series that follows the Delhi police as they investigate a horrific 2012 gang rape of a young woman on a bus.
“Delivery Girl” • Kate Krieger directed, wrote and stars as Tricia, a woman living in a devoutly Catholic household and making ends meet by selling drugs. Also starring Adam LeFevre, Liz Larsen and Joe Holt.
“Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” (United Kingdom) • Red Guy, Yellow Guy and Duck are roommates in the small town of Clayhill, and things are simple until Mayor Pigface disappears. This live-action/animated horror-comedy spoof of children’s television is created by, written by and stars Becky Sloan, Joseph Pelling and Baker Terry.
“The Dress Up Gang” • Donny (Donny Divanian) is a responsible adult with a childlike outlook who gets life advice from Cory (Cory Loykasek), a 30-something crashing on his couch. The series, based on a series of viral videos, is created by Robb Boardman, Divianian and Loykasek. Dave Kneebone, from “Comedy Bang Bang,” and Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (“Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job”) are producers for this TBS-backed project.
“Girls Weekend” • Kyra Sedgwick directed this series, in which show creator Ali Liebegott (a writer for “Transparent”) stars as a queer daughter returning home to Las Vegas for a “girls weekend” with her homophobic sister (Amy Landecker) and her people-pleasing mom (Linda Lavin) — who, according to her dad (Ken Jenkins), is facing another bout with cancer.
“It’s Not About Jimmy Keene" • An unarmed black teen is shot by police, forcing Ivan (played by show creator Caleb Jaffe), the youngest sibling in a mixed-race family, to deal with the opposing views of his two sisters. The cast includes Roger Guenveur Smith, Gabrielle Maiden, Okwui Okpokwasili, Ayana Peters and David Warshofsky.
“Maggie” • Sasha Gordon wrote and directed this dark comedy, in which Maggie (Christine Woods) skips her postpartum support group for the stand-up comedy class next door. In the pilot, Maggie deals with inappropriate fantasies about her live-in nanny. Also starring David Walton, Maddison Ridley, Veronica Mosey, Dina Hashem and Jon Bander.
“Quarter Life Poetry” • “Poems for the young, broke and hangry” are explored by writer Samantha Jayne (based on her book) and co-creator Arturo Perez Jr.
“State of the Union” (United Kingdom) • Director Stephen Frears and novelist/screenwriter Nick Hornby, who collaborated on “High Fidelity,” reunite for this tale of an unhappily married couple (Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd) who preface their weekly marital therapy session with a meeting at a pub to get their stories straight for the therapist. Told in 10 episodes of 10 minutes each, the series is being produced for SundanceTV.
“Work in Progress” • Abby McEnany and Tim Mason adapt McEnany’s one-woman stage show, in which Abby (playing herself) deals with her therapist dying midsession, her fledgling romance with a trans man, and whether she can confront the person responsible for “ruining her life”: former “Saturday Night Live” performer Julia Sweeney (who plays herself). Also starring Theo Germaine, Karin Anglin, Celeste Pechous and Alison Gates.
“Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men” • The pioneering hip-hop collaborative, the Wu-Tang Clan, appears in this series that looks at the group’s cultural history and the balancing act between business and brotherhood. Directed by Sacha Jenkins (“Fresh Dressed,” SFF ’15).
“Documentary Now! Season 52 Preview” • IFC’s acclaimed parody of documentary films is showcased, with two episodes from the upcoming third season (or 52nd, if you buy into the show’s conceit): “Waiting for the Artist,” starring Cate Blanchett and Fred Armisen, and “Original Cast Album: Co-op,” starring John Mulaney, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Alex Brightman, Paula Pell, Richard Kind and Taran Killam. After the screenings, the show’s creators will appear onstage to talk about the new season.
“Leaving Neverland” • Director Dan Reed’s four-hour documentary centers on two men in their 30s who, when they were 7 and 10 years old, had long relationships with — and, they say, were sexually abused by — the pop star Michael Jackson.
“Lorena” • In 1993, Lorena Bobbitt infamously cut off her husband John’s penis and threw it out a car window. This four-part docuseries, produced for Amazon, re-investigates the case’s moral issues that were lost in the tabloid frenzy, and the missed opportunity to talk about domestic violence and sexual assault. Directed by Joshua Rofé; “Get Out” writer-director Jordan Peele is among the executive producers.
“Now Apocalypse” • Maverick filmmaker Gregg Araki (“The Doom Generation,” SFF ’95) directs this comedy series for Starz that tells of Ulysses (Avan Jogia) and his friends, who pursue love, sex and fame in modern Los Angeles. Also starring Kelli Berglund, Beau Mirchoff and Roxane Mesquida.
Pop-Up Magazine • It’s a magazine, but it’s performed onstage and on a screen in front of a live audience. Contributors include filmmakers, authors, radio and podcast voices, and artists telling multimedia stories with illustrations, animation, film, photography and an original live score.
“'Til Everybody’s Free” • Director Amy Berg, who exposed Warren Jeffs’ polygamous crimes in “Prophet’s Prey” (SFF ’15), returns with this portrait of Tamika Mallory and Erika Andiola, community activists whose organizing work predates the post-2016 Women’s March (which Mallory co-chaired) and Resist movements by decades.
All short-film synopses provided by the Sundance Institute.
U.S. Narrative Short Films
“America” (Director and screenwriter: Garrett Bradley) • A cinematic omnibus rooted in New Orleans, challenging the idea of black cinema as a "wave” or “movement in time,” proposing, instead, a continuous thread of achievement.
“As Told to G/D Thyself” (Directors: Bradford Young, Terence Nance, Jenn Nkiru; screenwriters: Terence Nance, Kamasi Washington, Bradford Young) • The cosmic journey of sacred youth, during which pain, pleasure and sublimation are nonnegotiable.
“Crude Oil” (Director and screenwriter: Christopher Good) • Jenny breaks free from a toxic friendship and learns to harness her magical, useless superpower.
“Fainting Spells” (Director and screenwriter: Sky Hopinka) • Told through recollections of youth, learning, lore and departure, this is an imagined myth for the Indian Pipe Plant, used by the Ho-Chunk to revive those who have fainted.
“Feathers” (Director and screenwriter: A.V. Rockwell) • Elizier, an emotionally dejected new enrollee at The Edward R. Mill School for Boys, must overcome memories of a tragic past and present hazing by his peers in order to tackle larger issues dominating his young life. (This film will screen on Day One, the festival’s opening night.)
“Fran This Summer” (Director and screenwriter: Mary Evangelista) • Teenage lovebirds Fran and Angie spend the summer at home while Fran begins their transition. They must face who and what they mean to each other when they visit the beach, their love on display for all to see.
“Green” (Director: Suzanne Andrews Correa; screenwriters: Suzanne Andrews Correa, Mustafa Kaymak) • Green, an undocumented Turkish pedicab driver, unwittingly draws police attention, endangering his brother, his community and himself.
“How Does It Start” (Director and screenwriter: Amber Sealey) — With her self-absorbed parents distracted by their recent divorce, 12-year-old Rain is left alone to navigate the complexities of love and adulthood, and learns to do it her own way.
“I Snuck Off the Slave Ship” (Directors: Lonnie Holley, Cyrus Moussavi; screenwriters: Lonnie Holley, Cyrus Moussavi, Brittany Nugent) • Lonnie Holley, a “self-taught African American artist” and dimensional traveler, attempts to sneak off the slave ship America.
“Lavender” (Director and screenwriter: Matthew Puccini) • A young gay man grows increasingly entangled in the marriage of an older couple. (This film will screen on Day One, the festival’s opening night.)
“Lockdown” (Directors and screenwriters: Celine Held, Logan George) • Struggling with feelings for her best friend, 14-year-old Marie stages an almost perfect plan.
“The Minors” (Director and screenwriter: Robert Machoian) • A slice of life about a grandpa and his grandsons, the future and the past.
“Old Haunt” (Director and screenwriter: Andre Hyland) • A procrastinating writer stays in an Airbnb to get some work done, but after an unexpected visitor arrives, finds himself in an increasingly unsettling set of situations that he can’t explain.
“One Cambodian Family Please for My Pleasure” (Director and screenwriter: A.M. Lukas) — A lonely Czech refugee paints an all-too-appealing picture of her American life as she writes a letter begging an organization to send a Cambodian refugee family to resettle in her new, “dreamland” hometown: Fargo, N.D. (This film will screen on Day One, the festival’s opening night.)
“The Rat” (Director and screenwriter: Carlen May-Mann) • It’s Halloween night, and Renee is madly in love with Jim. On their way to a party, Jim detours to a haunted house, where Renee is forced to confront a terrifying situation.
“Shinaab, Part II” (Director and screenwriter: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.) • A look at Ojibwe ideas surrounding the death process, as a young man strives to honor his late father.
“sometimes, i think about dying” • (Director: Stefanie Abel Horowitz; screenwriters: Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Katy Wright-Mead, Kevin Armento) • Fran is thinking about dying, but a man in the office might want to date her.
“Squirrel” (Director and screenwriter: Alex Kavutskiy) • A meager apology tests a woman’s fortitude to forgive.
“Suicide By Sunlight” (Director: Nikyatu Jusu; screenwriters: Nikyatu Jusu, R. Shanea Williams) • Valentina, a day-walking black vampire protected from the sun by her melanin, is forced to restrain her bloodlust to regain custody of her estranged daughters.
“Sundowners” (Director: Lisa Steen, Screenwriters: Anna Greenfield, Jessy Hodges) • Ali and her father cook, drink and ignore what’s going on in the next room.
International Narrative Short Films
“Acid” (France; director and screenwriter: Just Philippot) • A troubling cloud is taking shape somewhere out west. It’s now slowly moving inland, forcing the population to flee. As the cloud keeps moving forward inescapably, panic strikes.
“Adalamadrina” (Spain; director: Carlota Oms; screenwriters: Joan Pàmies, Carlota Oms) • While she claims to be an expert in sex and love on YouTube, Ada can barely speak to her gym trainer, with whom she’s madly in love. When she sets her sights on him, everything changes.
“Aziza” (Syria/Lebanon; director: Soudade Kaadan; screenwriters: Soudade Kaadan, May Hayek) • A dynamic take on the life of Syrian refugees, told through black comedy.
“Bajo la Sombra del Guacaria” (Colombia; director and screenwriter: Greg Méndez) • Dead bodies have washed up on the banks of the river. When Abraham finds out one of them was his friend, he embarks on a journey to fulfill a promise that will take him to the Guacari tree.
“Birds in the Earth” (Finland; director and screenwriter: Marja Helander) • Examining the deeper questions of the ownership of Sami land through the ballet performances of two young dancers.
“Brotherhood” (Canada/Tunisia/Qatar/Sweden; director and screenwriter: Meryam Joobeur) • When a hardened Tunisian shepherd’s son returns home after a long journey with a new wife, tension rises between father and son.
“Chowboys: An American Folktale” (Canada; director and screenwriter: Astron 6) • Things seem hopeless when three mysterious cowboys find themselves stranded on the coldest night in recorded history.
“Desires of the Flesh” (Brazil; Director and screenwriter: Rafaela Camelo) • Blessed be the Sunday, that it is the day to see Giovana.
“Docking” (Canada; Director and screenwriter: Trevor Anderson) • Trevor reflects on his fear of dating.
“Dunya’s Day” (Saudi Arabia/U.S.; Director and screenwriter: Raed Alsemari) • Abandoned by her domestic help, Dunya fights to throw the perfect graduation soirée. (This film will screen on Day One, the festival’s opening night.)
“El Verano del León Eléctrico” (Chile; director and screenwriter: Diego Céspedes) • Hidden in a house far from the city, a boy accompanies his sister as she becomes the seventh wife of a prophet who electrocutes anyone who touches him.
“End” (Cubal director: Yimit Ramírez; screenwriters: Yimit Ramírez, Tatiana Monge) • Juan is dead. Surprisingly, he is given an opportunity to relive a moment of his past life, but it will not be an ordinary moment.
“Fatherland” (Georgia; director and screenwriter: George Sikharulidze) • In 2016, on the 63rd anniversary of Stalin’s death, his worshipers gather outside his birthplace in Georgia to demand his canonization as a saint … when something uncanny materializes. (This film will screen on Day One, the festival’s opening night.)
“The Field” (France/United Kingdom/India; director and screenwriter: Sandhya Suri) • A poor agricultural laborer leads a double life in the village’s last remaining cornfield. But the harvest is approaching.
“F--- You” (Sweden; director and screenwriter: Anette Sidor) • Alice is together with Johannes, but she doesn’t have enough space to be herself. On a night out with friends, she steals a strap-on and challenges her boyfriend’s thoughts about girls.
“Hot Dog” (Germany; directors and screenwriters: Alma Buddecke, Marleen Valien) • Hannah, in a love-hate relationship with her vagina, chronicles how her feelings toward her sexuality have changed over time. Like that one moment when she discovered the vibration function of her PlayStation controller.
“Kado (A Gift)” (Indonesia; director and screenwriter: Aditya Ahmad) • Isfi can wear her comfortable pants among her male friends, but has to wear hijab to be accepted at Nita’s house. With two days until Nita’s birthday, all Isfi wants is to prepare the best gift in Nita’s room.
“Manicure” (Iran; director and screenwriter: Arman Fayaz) • After the unexpected death of his wife, a man struggles to deal with the aftermath under the eyes of the local villagers.
“The silence of the dying fish” (Greece/France; director and screenwriter: Vasilis Kekatos) • On his way to work one morning, a fish farm worker is told that he died the day before. Failing to prove that he is alive, he spends his last day securing caretakers for his beloved canaries.
“Those bad things” (Italy; director: Loris Giuseppe Nese; screenwriters: Loris Giuseppe Nese, Chiara Marotta) • You cannot choose your parents. These are the thoughts of a daughter who can’t rebel, as time slips by slowly both inside and outside their home in the Campania suburbs.
Documentary Short Films
“All Inclusive” (Switzerland; director and screenwriter: Corina Schwingruber Ilić) • Under the spell of mass entertainment on the high seas.
“Black 14“ (Director: Darius Clark Monroe) • An archival social study examining white pathology and cognitive dissonance via media coverage of a 1969 racial protest at the University of Wyoming.
“Cablestreet” (Director: Meredith Lackey) • A cable system designed by controversial Chinese company Huawei Technologies enables communication between an expert and a machine. Time succumbs to space in a “New Cold War” played out in technological materials.
“The Dispossessed” (India; director and screenwriter: Musa Syeed) • Hazari is a traditional faith healer, exorcising patients who’ve been possessed by jinn. But in Kashmir, amid the world’s longest-running conflict, nothing is as it seems.
“Dulce” (U.S./Colombia, directors: Guille Isa, Angello Faccini) • In coastal Colombia, facing rising tides made worse by climate change, a mother teaches her daughter how to swim so that she may go to the mangroves and harvest “piangua” shellfish with the other women in the village.
“Easter Snap” (Director: RaMell Ross) • With a baited handling of American symbolism, an examination of five Alabama men who resurrect the homestead ritual of hog processing in the deep South under the guidance of Johnny Blackmon.
“Edgecombe” (Director: Crystal Kayiza) • Through the deeply personal truths of three local residents, an examination of the ways trauma repeats and reinvents itself in rural black communities.
“Everything You Wanted to Know About Sudden Birth* (*but were afraid to ask)” (Director and screenwriter: Scott Calonico) • The true story of how the Berkeley Police Department, the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, and Mr. Spock from “Star Trek” are all connected by one of the most disturbing educational films ever created.
“Fast Horse” (Canada; director and screenwriter: Alexandra Lazarowich) • The Blackfoot bareback horse-racing tradition returns in the astonishingly dangerous Indian Relay. Siksika horseman Allison Red Crow struggles with secondhand horses and a new jockey on his way to challenge the best riders in the Blackfoot Confederacy. (This film will screen on Day One, the festival’s opening night.)
“The Ghost Behind” (Director: Caroline Rumley) • Four friends. Many bands. Expectations. Addiction. Loss.
“Ghosts of Sugar Land” (Director: Bassam Tariq) • In Sugar Land, Texas, a group of young Muslim-American men ponder the disappearance of their friend “Mark,” who is suspected of joining ISIS.
“It’s Going to Be Beautiful” (U.S./Mexico; directors and screenwriters: Luis Gutierrez Arias, John Henry Theisen) • The U.S. Border Patrol has been given the task of choosing a winning design for building a wall on the U.S.- Mexico border.
“Libre” (Director: Anna Barsan) • Undocumented immigrants forced to spend months in detention are turning to private companies to secure their release on bond. In exchange, immigrants pay exorbitant monthly fees for a GPS ankle monitor they can’t remove.
“Life in Miniature” (United Kingdom; director and screenwriter: Ellen Evans) • A celebration of one woman’s mission to document the everyday, as she carves a place for herself in the precious world of miniatures.
“Life Overtakes Me” (Sweden/U.S.; directors: John Haptas, Kristine Samuelson) • Facing deportation, hundreds of refugee children in Sweden have become afflicted with Resignation Syndrome, withdrawing from the world into a comalike state, as if frozen, for months, or even years.
“Stay Close” (U.S./China; directors and screenwriters: Shuhan Fan, Luther Clement) • The underdog story of a fencer from Brooklyn who overcomes a gantlet of hardships on the road to the Olympics.
“Throat Singing in Kangirsuk” (Canada; directors: Eva Kaukai, Manon Chamberland; screenwriters: Emilie Baillargeon and Clark Ferguson) • Eva and Manon practice the art of throat singing in their native Arctic land, in the small village of Kangirsuk.
“The Tough” (Poland; director and screenwriter: Marcin Polar) • A discovery arouses a man’s imagination and propels him forward in an uncouth and obsessive way. Step by step, the camera participates as he explores of places hitherto unknown to humankind, which offer increasingly stronger resistance against human delicacy.
Animated Short Films
“Acid Rain” (Poland; director and screenwriter: Tomek Popakul) • After running away from her depressing village in eastern Europe, a teenage girl meets a new friend under a bridge.
“Albatross Soup” (Director and screenwriter: Winnie Cheung) • A dizzying descent into deductive reasoning based on an entertaining yet disturbing lateral thinking puzzle.
“animistica” (Austria/Germany/Mexico; director: Nikki Schuster) • An expedition into rotting animal carcasses and rampant spider webs, accompanied by a gloomy drone like a swarm of hungry flies. Foraging around the borderlands of the horror genre in a kaleidoscope of ecology in all its horrifying beauty.
“The Call” (Romania/France; director and screenwriter: Anca Damian) • A phone call, a bathroom and a woman are at the intersection of the world.
“Chichi” (Director and screenwriter: David Nessl) • My dog has dreams and he tells me about them. I made a movie about those dreams. This is that movie.
“Count Your Curses” (Belgium; director and screenwriter: Lorène Yavo) • In a town where supernatural beings are part of everyday life, two roommates had their house spirit devoured overnight, again. They go on their way to find a replacement spirit and a solution to their pest problem.
“Knockstrike” (Spain; directors and screenwriters: Marc Torices, Pau Anglada, Genis Rigol) • Two men accidentally exchange briefcases. One contains a videotape that will lead the new owner to embark on an unexpected journey to figure out what is in it.
“Muteum” (Estonia/Hong Kong; director and screenwriter: Aggie Pak Yee Lee) • In an art museum, we learn — from outer to inner, from deep to its deepest, seriously and sincerely. (This film will screen on Day One, the festival’s opening night.)
“Obon” (Germany; directors: André Hörmann, Anna Samo, Screenwriter: André Hörmann) • During the festival of Obon, one of the last survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima receives the spirits of her parents and is haunted by memories.
“Octane” (Director and screenwriter: Jeron Braxton) • A man’s street race through hell and back parallels the black experience in America.
“The Phantom 52” (Director and screenwriter: Geoff Marslett) • Loneliness: A trucker who calls out on his CB radio waiting for a reply that never comes. A ghost that haunts the deserted highways. A whale that sings at a frequency no other whale can even hear.
“Reneepoptosis” (U.S./Japan; director and screenwriter: Renee Zhan) • Three Renees go on a quest to find God, who is also Renee. As they traverse the mountains and valleys of Renee, they discover all the great joys, sorrows and mysteries of being Renee.
“Sister” (U.S./China; director and screenwriter: Siqi Song) • A man thinks back to his childhood memories of growing up with an annoying little sister in China in the 1990s. What would his life have been like if things had gone differently?
“Under Covers” (Director and screenwriter: Michaela Olsen) • On the night of a lunar eclipse, we uncover the sweet, salacious and spooky secrets of a small town. From a pigtailed psychopath to naughty nuns, this stop-motion animated film conjures a comforting thought: that weird is relative.
“Untravel” (Serbia/Slovakia; directors: Ana Nedeljkovic, Nikola Majdak; screenwriter: Ana Nedeljkovic) • A girl lives in an isolated country, enclosed by a huge wall. She has never traveled anywhere, but all her life she has dreamed of leaving forever for a perfect world called Abroad.