While the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls are trudging through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire next January, the Democrat who won the nomination in 2016 might be enjoying Utah’s winter at the Sundance Film Festival.
“Hillary,” a four-hour documentary miniseries about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s life during and after her 2016 election loss to Donald Trump, has been selected as one of the festival’s Special Events offerings, Sundance officials announced Tuesday.
Though nothing is official yet, it’s expected that Clinton will be in attendance after screenings in Park City and Salt Lake City.
The documentary series is directed by Nanette Burstein, who has entertained Sundance audiences with documentaries on teen life (“American Teen,” 2008) and Hollywood mogul Robert Evans (“The Kid Stays in the Picture,” 2002).
John Cooper, the festival’s director, said the miniseries is a fascinating look at Clinton’s election loss and its aftermath.
“You see the shock in herself, the ‘What the hell is going on?’ All the rules changed in front of her eyes, in front of our eyes,” Cooper said. “I realized I liked her even so much better than I thought I did. … I want to have dinner with her.”
A performer doing double duty in the Special Events line-up is “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. He is featured in “Siempre, Luis,” which spotlights his father Luis as he works to bring aid to his native Puerto Rico, and “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme,” which chronicles the playwright/actor’s improv hip-hop group.
Other projects in the Special Events category are works about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, “The Exorcist” director William Friedkin, composer Max Richter, the exploits of a notorious bigamist and con man, sex trafficking between Central America and the United States, and a scam behind McDonald’s “Monopoly” promotion.
Also announced Tuesday were the eight TV projects to be showcased in the festival’s Indie Episodic program. This year’s entries include a portrait of Chicago by director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”), a comedy-drama about battling cancer, and a reality series that tells the stories behind the portraits featured on the website AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com.
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE’S SUNDANCE PREVIEW
Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper and Salt Lake Tribune critic/reporter Sean P. Means will talk about the movies of the 2020 festival.
Where • Tower Theatre, 876 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City.
When • Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, at 7 p.m.
Tickets • On sale Dec. 11 from the Salt Lake Film Society; $15 in advance, $20 on the day of the show.
The festival Tuesday also announced the 74 short films that will screen during the festival. They were selected from a record 10,397 short films submitted to Sundance — 140 films rejected for every one chosen.
The 2020 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 23 to Feb. 2 in Park City, and in venues in Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort in Provo Canyon.
Here are the slates for Sundance’s Indie Episodic and Special Events programs, and the short films selected for the festival:
“Awkward Family Photos” • Families featured on the website AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com tell their stories about the portraits that went viral — as they reunite to recreate the original photos. Directed by William Kirkley. Mike Bender, Doug Chernack, William Kirkley, Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, Terry Dougas and Jean-Luc De Fanti are the executive producers.
“Chemo Brain” • (Denmark) Oliver (Adam Ild Rohweder) is diagnosed with testicular cancer in this lighthearted drama series, which follows Oliver as he deals with a life turned upside down. Directed by Kristian Håskjold, who co-wrote with Johan Wang. The cast includes Karoline Brygmann, Jens Jørn Spottag, Mads Reuther, Stephanie Nguyen and Mathilde Passer.
“City So Real” • Director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” SFF ’94) is behind this impressionistic portrait of his city, Chicago, framed by the historic 2019 mayoral campaign.
“Embrace” • Kat (Kathreen Khavari), an Iranian-American medical student in Oakland, Calif., takes on a surprising side hustle to save her Iranian family in this quasi-surrealist comedy-drama. Khavari (who voices Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan on several cartoon series for Disney/Marvel) and Chuck Neal created the series; Jessica Sanders is the director. The supporting cast includes Eddie Huang and Mitra Jouhari.
“Hey Lady!” • (Canada) Lady (Jayne Eastwood), at 75, teams up with her friend Rosie (Jackie Richardson) to wreak havoc on societal norms, etiquette and even the series they’re in. Morris Panych is the screenwriter; the directors include Sarah Polley (“Stories We Tell,” SFF ’12), Adriana Maggs and Will Bowes.
“Laetitia” • (France) The disappearance of an 18-year-old woman has repercussions for her twin sister, the inner workings of the police force, the judicial system and the government, in this series baed on real events. Director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade co-wrote with Antoine Lacomblez. The cast includes Marie Colomb, Sophie Breyer, Yannick Choirat, Sam Karmann, Kevin Azïas and Noam Morgensztern.
“The Ride” • Linas Phillips (“Bass Ackwards,” SFF ’10) directs and stars in this series, as a 40-year-old rideshare driver and spiritual coach who aims to help his passengers whether they want him to or not. Backed by the Duplass brothers, the series also stars Maria Thayer, Alex Karpovsky, Punkie Johnson, Joslyn Jensen and Timm Sharp.
“Untitled Pizza Movie” • Writer-director David Shapiro examines class, dreams and memory, using an abandoned film about pizza in ‘90s New York and a wealth of archived objects for a narrative of three lies spanning 30 years and three continents.
“Hillary” • Documentarian Nanette Burstein (“American Teen,” SFF ’08) weaves never-before-seen footage from the 2016 campaign with interviews with Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and others to examine how Hillary Clinton became one of the world’s most admired women and one of the most vilified.
“Lance” • Documentarian Marina Zenovich (“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” SFF ’08; “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind,” SFF ’18) examines the rise and fall of cyclist Lance Armstrong, with an emphasis on what happens when a celebrity falls from grace so publicly.
“Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on ‘The Exorcist’” • A visual essay on Friedkin’s vision while making the 1974 horror classic “The Exorcist,” centered on a six-day interview Friedkin gave to the documentarian Alexandre O. Philippe (who examined the “Psycho” shower scene in “78/52,” SFF ’17, and the chest-bursting scene from “Alien” in “Memory: The Origins of ‘Alien,’” SFF ’19.)
“Love Fraud” • In this four-part series for Showtime, directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (“Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You,” SFF ’16) chronicle the crimes of Richard Scott Smith, accused of conning women out of their money for 20 years — and how his victims teamed up to end his crime spree.
“Max Richter’s Sleep” • (United Kingdom) Writer-director Natalie Johns follows composer Max Richter, and his creative partner Yulia Mahr, as they plan a performance of his acclaimed eight-hour opus.
“McMillions” • HBO and executive producer Mark Wahlberg team up for this documentary mini-series, telling the story of the crime ring that arranged to take the big prizes from McDonald’s “Monopoly” game promotion in the 1990s. Directed by James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte.
“Siempre, Luis” • Luis Miranda battles ill health to lobby for his native Puerto Rico, and help bring a production of “Hamilton” — the play his son, Lin-Manuel Miranda, created — home to the island commonwealth. Directed by John James.
“The Trade” • Documentarian Matthew Heineman, who has risked life and limb in Mexico’s drug wars (“Cartel Land,” SFF ’15) and Syria (“City of Ghosts,” SFF ’17), digs into the network of human smuggling and sex trafficking between Central America and the United States, in this series.
“We Are Freestyle Love Supreme” • The members of the improv hip-hop group Freestyle Love Supreme — a list that includes “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, actor Christopher Jackson (George Washington in “Hamilton”) and Utkarsh Ambudkar (“Brittany Runs a Marathon”) — tell the story of their 15-year journey and why the show remains a touchstone of their lives. Directed by Andrew Fried; also appearing are Thomas Kail, Anthony Veneziale and Chris Sullivan.
All synopses provided by Sundance Institute.
U.S. Narrative Short Films
“Arabian Alien” • (Saudi Arabia/United States) Director and screenwriter: Meshal Aljaser. “Saad, a Muslim married man, gets over his depression after a space alien is introduced into his life.”
“Baldwin Beauty” • Director and screenwriter: Thembi Banks. “Farrah, new to L.A., goes on the mobile styling app Get Glam, to find new clients. When she arrives at an appointment, she finds a house of girls pre-gaming for a party and maybe a new crew of friends.”
“Blocks” • Director and screenwriter: Bridget Moloney. “An existential comedy about the mother of two young children who begins to spontaneously vomit plastic toy blocks.” (This is a “Day One” selection, screening on the festival’s opening night.)
“Buck” • Directors and screenwriters: Elegance Bratton, Jovan James. “Caught in the throes of a depressive fugue, young Lynn resorts to debauchery to find joy — only to discover that happiness is a much more complicated proposition.”
“Danny’s Girl” • Director and screenwriter: Emily Wilson. “Danny meets his online girlfriend for the first time, but accidentally discovers her unspeakable possession, which throws their first night together into a dizzying tailspin.”
“Dirty” • Director and screenwriter: Matthew Puccini. “Marco cuts class to spend the afternoon with his boyfriend, Graham. Things do not go as planned.”
“He’s the One” • Director and screenwriter: Jessie Kahnweiler. “A girl meets guy and falls head over heels, but a shocking discovery forces her to question everything. A dark comedy about falling in love with the one person you’re supposed to hate.”
“How Did We Get Here?” • Director and screenwriter: Michelle Miles. “A visual exploration of progressive atrophy. A study in how microscopic changes can go unnoticed, but amass over time. Even as these changes become drastic, we sometimes fail to realize anything has happened at all.”
“Lance (in a Neck Brace)” • Director and screenwriter: Chloé Aktas. “After a devastating breakup, Lance listens to instructional cassette tapes on how to heal his broken heart.” (This is a “Day One” selection, screening on the festival’s opening night.)
“Little Chief” • Director and screenwriter: Erica Tremblay. “The lives of a Native woman and a troubled young boy intersect over the course of a school day on a reservation in Oklahoma.”
“Meats” • Director and screenwriter: Ashley Williams. “A pregnant vegan struggles with her newfound craving for meat.”
“Meridian” • (United States/Italy) Director and screenwriter: Calum Walter. ”Footage transmitted by the last unit in a fleet of autonomous machines is sent to deliver an emergency vaccine. The film follows the machine before its disappearance, tracing a path that seems to stray further and further from its objective.”
“Pillars” • Director and screenwriter: Haley Elizabeth Anderson. “After seeing a boy she likes before church, Amber sneaks out to the Sunday school bathroom during the service and is given her first kiss.”
“Place” • Director and screenwriter: Jason Gudasz. “Wanting a fresh start, Lauren moves into a house with her daughter and new boyfriend — but the spirits of the house have plans to turn them all against each other in very bizarre ways.”
“-Ship: A Visual Poem” • Director and screenwriter: Terrance Daye. “A black boy learns contradicting lessons of manhood and masculinity on the day of his cousin’s funeral.”
“T” • Director and screenwriter: Keisha Rae Witherspoon. “A film crew follows three grieving participants of Miami’s annual T Ball, where folks assemble to model R.I.P. t-shirts and innovative costumes designed in honor of their dead.”
“Three Deaths” • Director and screenwriter: Jay Dockendorf. “Three strangers confront death in a modern interpretation of a Tolstoy short story.”
“Valerio’s Day Out” • (Colombia/United States) Director and screenwriter: Michael Arcos. “A young jaguar goes on a killing spree when he escapes from his enclosure at a zoo. After he’s captured, sedated and relocated, he makes a video diary for his significant other, Lula.”
International Narrative Short Films
“Are You Hungry?” • (Finland) Director: Teemu Niukkanen, Screenwriter: Antti Toivonen. “A single mother struggles to connect with her adopted teenage son, whom she believes is gay.” (This is a “Day One” selection, screening on the festival’s opening night.)
“Backpedal” • (Australia) Director and screenwriter: Dani Pearce. “A collage of an American poem, exploring the universality of womanhood.”
“Bad Hair” • (Estonia) Director and screenwriter: Oskar Lehemaa. “Insecure and balding Leo has decided to try a mysterious hair growth liquid to fix up his looks. The liquid causes a series of grotesque metamorphoses, as Leo tries to get his bodily changes under control, the evening quickly turns into chaos.”
“Benevolent Ba” • (Malaysia/United States) Director and screenwriter: Diffan Sina Norman. “A devout woman’s lust for virtue thrusts her family into a sacrificial slaughter of biblical proportions.”
“The Devil’s Harmony” • (United Kingdom) Director: Dylan Holmes Williams, Screenwriters: Dylan Holmes Williams, Jess O’Kane. “A bullied teenage girl leads an a cappella club on a trail of destruction against her high school enemies.”
“Exam” • (Iran) Director: Sonia K. Hadad, Screenwriters: Sonia K. Hadad, Farnoosh Samadi. “A teenage girl gets involved in the process of delivering a pack of cocaine to its client, and gets stuck in a weird cycle of occurrences.” (This is a “Day One” selection, screening on the festival’s opening night.)
“Former Cult Member Hears Music For The First Time” • (Norway/United States) Director and screenwriter: Kristoffer Borgli. “After a woman escapes the captivity of her abusive family, a magazine invites her to a journalistic experiment: to hear music for the first time.”
“I’ll End Up in Jail” • (Canada) Director and screenwriter: Alexandre Dostie. “A stay-at-home mom gets into a murderous car crash where nobody wants to take the blame.”
“Leave of Absence” • (Russia) Director and Screenwriter: Anton Sazonov. “In Russia, suppressed masculinity has led to a feeling of unfulfillment as men feel that the country rejects them, leading to a drastic decline in male life expectancy.” (This is a “Day One” selection, screening on the festival’s opening night.)
“No One is Crazy in This Town” • (Indonesia) Director: Wregas Bhanuteja, Screenwriters: Wregas Bhanuteja, Henricus Pria. “The owner of a big hotel orders Marwan and his team to remove mentally ill people from the city streets and cast them away in the forests.”
“Olla” • (France/United Kingdom) Director and screenwriter: Ariane Labed. “Olla has answered an ad on a dating website for Eastern European women. She moves in with Pierre, who lives with his old mother, but nothing goes as expected.”
“Paola Makes A Wish” • (Switzerland) Director and screenwriter: Zhannat Alshanova. “On an ordinary day at work, Paola starts to feel that she is missing out on something exciting in her life.”
“Pattaki” • (Cuba) Director: Everlane Moraes, Screenwriter: Tatiana Monge Herrera. “In the dense night, when the moon rises, those who live in a monotonous daily life without water are hypnotized by the powers of Yemaya, the goddess of the sea.”
“Regret” • (Canada) Director and screenwriter: Santiago Menghini. “Following the death of his father, a man must survive the manifestations of his inner demons over the course of a dreary night.”
“Sadla” • (South Africa) Director and screenwriter: Zamo Mkhwanazi. “While going on a simple errand, Nathi’s journey is marked by disturbing interactions with authority. But is he an innocent victim?” (This is a “Day One” selection, screening on the festival’s opening night.)
“So What If The Goats Die” • (France/Morocco) Director and screenwriter: Sofia Alaoui. “Abdellah, a young shepherd living in the mountains, is forced to brave the snow blocking him in order to get food and save this cattle. Once he gets to the village, he faces a supernatural phenomenon.”
“Song of Clouds” • (Nepal) Director and screenwriter: Ankit Poudel. “A haunting visual fever dream, and a meditation on the afterlife; the journey to the next world, and what gets left behind among the living.”
“Sticker” • (Macedonia) Director and screenwriter: Georgi M. Unkovski. “After an unsuccessful attempt to renew his car registration, Dejan falls in a bureaucratic trap that tests his determination to be a responsible father.”
“A Thousand Sails” • (Hong Kong) Director and screenwriter: Hing Weng Eric Tsang. “Ren promises to keep a secret for her neighbor’s son — a secret she can share with no one on the island. Her only refuge from sleepless nights is her deceased husband.”
Documentary Short Films
“Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa” • Directors: Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, Mike Attie. “At a Philadelphia abortion helpline, counselors answer nonstop calls from women who seek to end a pregnancy but can’t afford to. In this documentary we learn how economic stigma and cruel legislation determine who has access to abortion."
“All That Perishes at the Edge of Land” • (Pakistan) Director: Hira Nabi, Screenwriters: Hira Nabi, Qurratulain Hyder. “A ship berthed at Gadani and the shipbreakers coming from all over Pakistan to break it discover that they might have more in common than otherwise imagined when they enter into a conversation."
“Bereka” • (United States/Ethiopia) Director and screenwriter: Nesanet Teshager Abegaze. “A family history archive as told by matriarch Azalu Mekonnen and her granddaughter Samira Hooks. Shot on Super 8 film in Los Angeles and Gondar, Ethiopia, capturing the Ethiopian coffee ceremony and explores migration, memory and rebirth."
“Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business” • Director: Christine Turner. “At age 93, there’s no stopping the legendary artist Betye Saar.”
“Broken Orchestra” • (Canada/United States) Director: Charlie Tyrell. “The Symphony for a Broken Orchestra project collected hundreds of broken instruments from the Philadelphia public school system, fixed them and then returned them into the hands of students.”
“Character” • Director: Vera Brunner-Sung. “Actor Mark Metcalf made his reputation in Hollywood playing aggrieved authority figures. Now in his 70s, he takes a look back on his career in this meditation on power, privilege, and the perils of being a ‘type.’”
“Church and the Fourth Estate” • Director: Brian Knappenberger. “A reporter uncovers a file that reveals a shocking series of child abuse allegations in Idaho’s Boy Scouts, which rattle the community and implicate [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]. The story reveals long-running crimes that threaten to bankrupt the Boy Scouts.”
“The Deepest Hole” • Director: Matt McCormick. “While the space and arms races are Cold War common knowledge, few know about the United States and Soviet Union’s race to dig the deepest hole. This is particularly surprising since Hell may have been inadvertently discovered in the process.”
“Día de la Madre” • Directors: Ashley Brandon, Dennis Höhne. “A band of juveniles embark on a 24-hour spree of breaking into houses and causing a ruckus.”
“Do Not Split” • (United States/Norway) Director: Anders Hammer. “The story of the 2019 Hong Kong protests, told through a series of demonstrations by local protestors that escalate into conflict when highly armed police appear on the scene.”
“E-Ticket” • (Hong Kong/United States) Director: Simon Liu. “A frantic (re)cataloguing of a personal archive and 16,000 splices in the making. 35mm frames are obsessively rearranged in evolving-disorienting patterns, as a Dante’s Inferno for the streaming age emerges, illustrating freedom of movement for the modern cloud.”
“Guisado on Sunset” • Director and screenwriter: Terence Nance. “Missed connection regret at that one late-night spot – the kind you keep playing back in your head but not quite ever remembering right, until it starts to look like something else.”
“John Was Trying to Contact Aliens” • Director: Matthew Killip. “John Shepherd spent 30 years trying to contact extraterrestrials by broadcasting music millions of miles into space. After giving up the search he makes a different connection here on earth.” (This is a “Day One” selection, screening on the festival’s opening night.)
“Junior Bangers” • (United Kingdom) Director: Danny Lee. “In England, banger racing isn’t just a sport, but a way of life. Join 11-year-olds Finn and Harley on a cold winter race day in Birmingham.”
“Lichen” • (Canada) Director and screenwriter: Lisa Jackson. “An otherworldly deep dive into the hidden beauty of lichens, asking what we might learn from them. Ancient and diverse, thriving in adversity, confounding scientists to this day, lichen is a model of emergence.”
“A Love Song for Latasha” • Director: Sophia Nahli Allison. “A dreamlike archive in conversation with the past and the present to reimagine a more nuanced narrative of Latasha Harlins by excavating intimate and poetic memories shared by her cousin and best friend.”
“Narcissister Breast Work” • Director: Narcissister. “Focusing on the exercise by women of their right to bare their breasts in public, this film is an investigation into how prohibitions on female toplessness are grounded in fear of, and desire to control, the female body.”
“Now Is the Time” • (Canada) Director and screenwriter: Christopher Auchter. “On the 50th anniversary of the first new totem pole raising on British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii in almost a century, we revisit the day that would signal the rebirth of the Haida spirit.”
“See You Next Time” • Director: Crystal Kayiza. “A window into the intimate moments shared across a nail salon table between a Chinese nail artist and her black client in Brooklyn, N.Y.”
“The Shawl” • Director: Sara Kiener. “After years of long distance, a pair of big and beautiful boyfriends celebrate their reunion at a Stevie Nicks concert, where they share a brush with magic.”
“The Starr Sisters” • Directors: Beth Einhorn, Bridey Elliott. “Patte and Randa Starr are fun specialists. After overcoming a dark past, these sisters are inseparable. Now in their 70s, they do exactly as they please and their candy drawer is always fully stocked.”
“While I’m Still Breathing (Tandis Que Je Respire Encore)” • (France) Directors: Laure Giappiconi, Elisa Monteil, La Fille Renne, Screenwriter: Laure Giappiconi. “The blurred portrayal of a young woman as she moves through three steps of her sexuality.”
Animated Short Films
“Daughter” • (Czech Republic) Director and screenwriter: Daria Kashcheeva. “Should you hide your pain, close yourself inside your inner world, and long for your father’s love? Or should you understand and forgive before it’s too late?”
“Daytime Noir” • Director: Jeron Braxton, Screenwriters: Jeron Braxton, Jay Ellis, Antonio Maclin. “A mother and son’s journey through the exploitative world of tabloid TV.”
“eadem cutis: the same skin” • (Germany) Director: Nina Hopf. “’I just want to be seen as who I am today!’ John shares his thoughts on identity, body and gender and gives a very personal insight into his life — and an intimate proximity to his body.”
“Eli” • Director and screenwriter: Nate Milton. “A true story from the realms of high strangeness, magical thinking, and manic delusion.”
“Farce” • (Norway) Director and screenwriter: Robin Jensen. “A man, a woman and a meat grinder. Love is messy.”
“Hot Flash” • (Canada) Director and screenwriter: Thea Hollatz. “Ace is having a hot flash, and she’s about to go live on local television. How one woman tries to keep her cool when one type of flash leads to another.”
“Hudson Geese” • Director and screenwriter: Bernardo Britto. “A goose remembers his last migration.” (This is a “Day One” selection, screening on the festival’s opening night.)
“Inès” • (France/Switzerland) Director and screenwriter: Élodie Dermange. “Inès is facing a difficult choice. Tonight, she thinks about the decision she will make.”
“My Juke-Box” • (France) Director and screenwriter: Florentine Grelier. “Yesterday, I overheard an old rock ‘n’ roll song that sounded familiar. This is probably the music that we used to listen to on my dad’s mechanical devices — the thousand lives man, the king of the jukebox.”
“No, I Don’t Want to Dance!” • (United Kingdom) Director and screenwriter: Andrea Vinciguerra. “In these dark times, you may think that every hazard has been identified, but nobody has taken into consideration how dangerous dance can be…”
“Sh_t Happens” • (Czech Republic/Slovakia/France) Directors and screenwriters: Michaela Mihalyi, David Štumpf. “The caretaker exhausted by everything, his frustrated wife, and one totally depressed deer. Their mutual despair leads them to absurd events, because... s--- happens all the time.”
“Slug Life” • (United Kingdom) Director and Screenwriter: Sophie Koko Gate. “A day in the life of Tanya, a curious woman who has developed a taste for non-human lovers. Her next creation: a giant slug. Can such a perfect creature survive in this gnarly world full of freaks and beefs?”
“Takoyaki Story” • (Japan) Director and screenwriter: Sawako Kabuki. “Always attracted to takoyaki — octopus balls, a famous Japanese street food — a girl tries them for the first time and becomes addicted.”
“Wong Ping’s Fables 2” • (Hong Kong) Director and screenwriter: Ping Wong. “Wong Ping urinates twice before gently pressing your head down with his right foot, giving you a closer look at your own reflection in his urine.”
“Wood Child and Hidden Forest Mother” • (United Kingdom) Director and screenwriter: Stephen Irwin. “Deep in the forest, a hunter encounters a strange creature he cannot kill.”