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10 Films I'll be Watching at SUNDANCE 2022



SPEAK NO EVIL

While on holiday in Tuscany, a Danish family becomes fast friends with a fellow traveling family from the Netherlands. Months later, when an invitation arrives encouraging the Danish family to visit the Dutch in their countryside home, they don’t hesitate to plan a quick getaway. Free-spirited and adventurous, the Dutch welcome the Danes for the weekend, channeling an energy that rouses their visitors as drinks flow and they start to let loose. But what begins as an idyllic reunion soon takes a turn as the hosts increasingly test the limits of their houseguests. Now the Danes find themselves caught in a web of their own politeness, trying to understand whether their new friends are merely eccentric... or hiding something more sinister.

Christian Tafdrup directs a brilliantly provocative and simmering satirical work of horror, indicting the two sides as he sets up his characters for an unnerving descent into darkness. Both wickedly close to home and exceedingly strange, Speak No Evil suggests that the greatest cruelty lies in the nonsensical facades we contrive for ourselves. 


WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY

During his nearly 50 years in show business, Bill Cosby became one of the most recognizable Black celebrities in America. With a career that included an astronomical rise on television in the mid-1960s; work in children’s programming and education; legendary stand-up performances and albums; and an epoch-defining hit sitcom, The Cosby Show, Cosby was a model of Black excellence for millions of Americans. But now, thanks to the brave and painful testimonies of dozens of women, we know there was a sinister reality to the man once extolled as “America’s Dad.”


Over the course of four gripping episodes that feature the voices of people closely connected to Cosby’s life on screen and off, including several survivors, director W. Kamau Bell digs into who Cosby was and what his work and actions say about America, then and now. We Need To Talk About Cosby is a powerful and timely reckoning destined to be widely discussed for how it urges audiences to reconsider not only what they know about Cosby but also about the culture that produced and celebrated him. 


THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD

Since premiering in competition at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival (with Renate Reinsve winning Best Actress for her performance), audiences around the world have been charmed by this modern take on the romantic comedy.

Julie is young, beautiful, smart, and not exactly sure what she desires in a career or partner. One night she meets Aksel, a well-known graphic novelist 15 years her senior, and they quickly fall in love. Wondering if this will be the rest of her life, she meets a coffee barista, Eivind, who is also in a relationship. Julie has to decide, not just between two men but also who she is and who she wants to be. 

In the final installment of his Oslo Trilogy about contemporary existence in the Norwegian capital, director Joachim Trier beautifully captures a specific moment in life when the restless energy of the immense possibility of youth mixes with the melancholic feeling that you probably should have figured all this out by now. Featuring one of the most memorable moments in recent film history, The Worst Person in the World is an existential romp about accepting the most difficult person you may ever meet: yourself.


WHEN YOU FINISH SAVING THE WORLD

From his bedroom home studio, high school student Ziggy performs original folk-rock songs for an adoring online fan base. This concept mystifies his formal and uptight mother, Evelyn, who runs a shelter for survivors of domestic abuse. While Ziggy is busy trying to impress his socially engaged classmate Lila by making his music less bubblegum and more political, Evelyn meets Angie and her teen son, Kyle, when they seek refuge at her facility. She observes a bond between the two that she’s missing with her own son, and decides to take Kyle under her wing against her better instincts.


In his carefully observed, aesthetically pleasing directorial debut, Jesse Eisenberg adapts his audio project of the same name to tell the story of a mother and son who fail to understand each other’s values. With gentle humor and pitch-perfect dialogue, When You Finish Saving the World reflects a moment of internet fame and youth activism, but it also recounts the timeless tale of parents and children struggling to connect across the generational chasm that separates them.


EMERGENCY

Straight-A college student Kunle and his laid-back best friend, Sean, are about to have the most epic night of their lives. Determined to be the first Black students to complete their school’s frat party legendary tour, the friends strap in for their ultimate assignment, Solo cups in hand. But a quick pit stop at home alters their plans when they find a white girl passed out on the living room floor. Faced with the risks of calling the police under life-threatening optics, Kunle, Sean, and their Latino roommate, Carlos, must find a way to de-escalate the situation before it’s too late.


Two-time Sundance alum Carey Williams (R#J, 2021) makes his U.S. Dramatic Competition debut with Emergency, the darkly comedic and wildly hard-hitting feature version of his short by the same name (a Special Jury Award winner in 2018). Bringing K.D. DΓ‘vila’s sharp and layered writing to life through an incredibly talented breakout cast, Williams hazes us with a timely and biting satire in which racial dynamics unmask a world so absurd that it could only be real. 


SOMETHING IN THE DIRT

Levi has snagged a no-lease apartment sight unseen in the Hollywood Hills to crash at while he ties up loose ends for his exodus from Los Angeles. He quickly strikes up a rapport with his new neighbor John, swapping stories like old friends under the glowing, smoke-filled skies of the city. One day, Levi and John witness something impossible in one of their apartments. Terrified at first, they soon realize that this could change their lives and give them a purpose. With dollar signs in their eyes, these two random dudes will attempt to prove the supernatural.

DIY wonderkids Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson make their Sundance Film Festival debut, serving as co-directors, co-stars, co-editors, writer (Benson), and cinematographer (Moorhead) of this twisted, sci-fi talkie. Their oddball chemistry shines on screen and in the script, as these two isolated and unfulfilled individuals spur each other toward wormholes and away from reality. Something In The Dirt tells a tale of these paranoid times, where every answer imaginable is just a Google search away.


EMILY THE CRIMINAL

Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is saddled with student debt and locked out of the job market due to a minor criminal record. Desperate for income, she takes a shady gig as a “dummy shopper,” buying goods with stolen credit cards supplied by a middleman named Youcef (Theo Rossi). Faced with a series of dead-end job interviews, Emily soon finds herself seduced not only by the quick cash and illicit thrills of black market capitalism, but also by her ardent mentor Youcef. 

Writer-director John Patton Ford’s taut thriller follows Emily from the margins of the corporate gig economy to the borderlands of the Los Angeles underworld. Emily the Criminal keeps sharp focus on its ambitious and increasingly reckless protagonist. Plaza, last seen at the Sundance Film Festival in Black Bear (2020), gives a nervy, committed performance, transforming Emily from an embittered temp worker into a stone-cold thief. Rossi is disarmingly vulnerable as her partner in crime.


PIGGY

With the summer sun beating down on her rural Spanish town, Sara hides away in her parent’s butcher shop. A teenager whose excess weight makes her the target of incessant bullying, she flees a clique of capricious girls who torment her at the town pool, only to stumble upon them being brutally kidnapped by a stranger, who drives off with them in his van. When the police begin asking questions, Sara keeps quiet. Intrigued by the stranger — an interest that’s mutual — she’s torn between revealing the truth and protecting the man who saved her.    


A skillfully crafted genre film, encrusted in plenty of blood by the time it reaches its crescendo, PIGGY is also a reflective, deeply personal small-town morality tale. Writer-director Carlota Pereda takes on normalized social violence, using horror as a means to explore fear and vulnerability in a tormented teenager who’s desperate to fit in. The bullying is so harrowing that we understand her ambivalences around retribution and redemption, but Pereda’s interest lies in Sara’s complex inner journey through helplessness, rage, and justice.

MASTER

At an elite New England university built on the site of a Salem-era gallows hill, three women strive to find their place. Gail Bishop (Regina Hall), just instated as “Master,” a dean of students, discovers what lies behind the school’s immaculate facade; first-year student Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee) confronts a new home that is cold and unwelcoming; and literature professor Liv Beckman (Amber Gray) collides with colleagues who question her right to belong. Navigating politics and privilege, they encounter increasingly terrifying manifestations of the school’s haunted past… and present.


Writer-director Mariama Diallo’s first feature is an ingenious blend of horror, drama, psychological thriller, and social critique. Through a deeply unnerving aesthetic, Master demonstrates the expressive power of genre storytelling, delivering a visceral and emotional reflection on racism and white supremacy. What begins as a search for belonging becomes a chilling struggle for survival, and Diallo shrewdly reframes a basic horror trope — escaping an evil force — asking what escape is possible for communities of color confronting a racial terror that is everywhere. 


THE CATHEDRAL

An unseen narrator unfolds the constellation of familial relationships of Jesse Damrosh, born in 1987, chronicling the dissolution of his parents’ marriage and the feuds, money concerns, and deaths that define a typical middle-class American existence. Yet in this impressionistic account of one life, what penetrates the most are not events but incidents. The beautiful yet quotidian moments of the shoulder-padded jacket of an aunt, the certain print of a rug, an ad for Kodak film, or the light in a room one afternoon from years before.

A participant in the 2021 Biennale College Cinema program, The Cathedral is writer-director Ricky D’Ambrose’s semi-autobiographical reflection and attempt to memorialize a specific time in his own life. Part portrait of the artist as a young man and part catalog of the objects, people, and moments that characterized some 20 years of America, The Cathedral is a poetic and experiential meditation on youth and the recent past, but one less interested in memory than in measure.  

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