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Sundance 2022 – Watchlist

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival is fast approaching. From January 20-30th, film lovers will get to witness the groundbreaking work of artists from around the world in the annual celebration of innovative filmmaking, diverse storytelling, inspirational moments, and more! This year, the lineup includes 82 features, 6 indie episodics, and 15 new frontier debuts. With so many great features ahead, I’ve put together a list of films that I have the privilege of watching during this year’s festival.


1. When You Finish Saving the World | Director: Jesse Eisenberg

When You Finish Saving the World
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Beth Garrabrant

Sundance Synopsis: 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.

2. Marte Um (Mars One) | Director: Gabriel Martins

Marte Um (Mars One)
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Leonardo Feliciano

Sundance Synopsis: The Martins family are optimistic dreamers, quietly leading their lives in the margins of a major Brazilian city following the disappointing inauguration of a far-right extremist president. A lower-middle-class Black family, they feel the strain of their new reality as the political dust settles. Tércia, the mother, reinterprets her world after an unexpected encounter leaves her wondering if she’s cursed. Her husband, Wellington, puts all of his hopes into the soccer career of their son, Deivinho, who reluctantly follows his father’s ambitions despite secretly aspiring to study astrophysics and colonize Mars. Meanwhile, their older daughter, Eunice, falls in love with a free-spirited young woman and ponders whether it’s time to leave home.

3. 892 | Director: Abi Damaris Corbin

892
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Christ Witt

Sundance Synopsis: Living in a cheap motel in Atlanta and separated from his wife and child, former U.S. Marine veteran Brian Easley is desperate. 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.

4. Fresh | Director: Mimi Cave

FRESH
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Frustrated by scrolling dating apps only to end up on lame, tedious dates, Noa takes a chance by giving her number to the awkwardly charming Steve after a produce-section meet-cute at the grocery store. During a subsequent date at a local bar, sassy banter gives way to a chemistry-laden hookup, and a smitten Noa dares to hope that she might have actually found a real connection with the dashing cosmetic surgeon. She accepts Steve’s invitation to an impromptu weekend getaway, only to find that her new paramour has been hiding some unusual appetites.

5. Emergency | Director: Carey Williams

Emergency
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: 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.

6. Master | Director: Mariama Diallo

Master
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: 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.

7. Nanny | Director: Nikyatu Jusu

Nanny
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Aisha, an undocumented Senegalese immigrant, lands a job as a nanny of a wealthy Manhattan couple. While she easily wins the affection of their young daughter Rose, she becomes a pawn in the couple’s facade of a marriage. The mother is as controlling as the dad is disillusioned and woke. Haunted by the absence of the young son she left behind in Senegal, Aisha hopes her new job will afford her the chance to bring him to the U.S. and share in the life she is piecing together. But as his arrival approaches, a supernatural presence begins to invade both her dreams and her reality.

8. The Worst Person in the World | Director: Joachim Trier

The Worst Person in the World
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Kasper Tuxen

Sundance Synopsis: 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.

9. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande | Director: Sophie Hyde

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Nick Wall

Sundance Synopsis: Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) doesn’t know good sex. Whatever it may be, Nancy, a retired schoolteacher, is pretty sure she has never had it, but she is determined to finally do something about that. She even has a plan: It involves an anonymous hotel room, and a young sex worker who calls himself Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). Leo is confident, dapper, and takes pride in being good at his job. He also appears to be intrigued by Nancy — one of many things to surprise her during their time together.

10. Speak No Evil | Director: Christian Tafdrup

Speak No Evil
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Erik Molberg

Sundance Synopsis: 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.

11. Watcher | Director: Chloe Okuno

Watcher
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Julia joins her husband when he relocates to his family’s native Romania for a new job. Having recently abandoned her acting career, she finds herself frequently alone and unoccupied. One night, people-watching from her picture window, she spots a vague figure in an adjacent building, who seems to be looking back at her. Soon after, while alone at a local movie theater, Julia’s sense of being watched intensifies, and she becomes certain she’s being followed — could it be the same unknown neighbor? Meanwhile, a serial killer known as The Spider stalks the city.

12. Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul | Director: Adamma Ebo

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Alan Gwizdowski

Sundance Synopsis: As the proud first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, Trinitie Childs carries immense responsibility on her shoulders. Her church, Wander To Greater Paths, once served a congregation in the tens of thousands, but after a scandal involving her husband, Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs, forced the church to close temporarily, Trinitie is struggling to manage the aftermath. Now Trinitie and Lee-Curtis must rebuild their congregation and reconcile their faith by all means necessary to make the biggest comeback that commodified religion has ever seen.

13. Happening | Director: Audrey Diwan

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by IFC Films

Sundance Synopsis: In 1963 France, Anne, a promising young university student, is devastated to learn she’s pregnant. She immediately insists on termination, but her physician warns of the unsparing laws against either seeking or aiding abortions, and her tentative attempts to reach out to her closest friends are nervously rebuffed. As weeks pass, without support or clear access, an increasingly desperate Anne unwaveringly persists in seeking any possible means of ending the pregnancy in hopes of reclaiming her hard-fought future.

14. Dual | Director: Riley Stearns

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Recently diagnosed with a rare and incurable disease, Sarah is unsure how to process the news. To help ease her friends’ and family’s impending loss, she is encouraged to participate in a simple futuristic cloning procedure called “Replacement,” after which Sarah’s last days will be spent teaching the clone how to live on as Sarah once she’s gone. But while it takes only an hour for a clone to be made, things become significantly more challenging when that double is no longer wanted.

15. Alice | Director: Krystin Ver Linden

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Eliza Morse

Sundance Synopsis: Alice (Keke Palmer) spends her days enslaved on a rural Georgia plantation restlessly yearning for freedom. After a violent clash with plantation owner Paul (Jonny Lee Miller), 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 disillusioned Black activist named Frank (Common), Alice uncovers the lies that have kept her enslaved and the promise of Black liberation.

16. Palm Trees and Power Lines | Director: Jamie Dack

Palm Trees and Power Lines
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Increasingly dissociated from lazy, drunken hangouts and perfunctory hookups with her immature peers, bored, aimless 17-year-old Lea is intrigued by older-man Tom after he rescues her following a reluctant dine-and-dash at a local diner. Initially wary (he’s twice her age!), Lea finds that Tom’s focused attention fills a deep, unspoken need, and Lea’s investment in their relationship quickly supplants her already tenuous ties to her distracted single mom and loose-knit friend group. But Tom’s initial patience and willingness to let Lea take the lead gradually gives way to a dynamic in which his awareness of the power he holds is distressingly clear.

17. Emily the Criminal | Director: John Patton Ford

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Low Spark Films

Sundance Synopsis: 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.

18. Babysitter | Director: Monia Chokri

Babysitter
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Middle-aged sexist Cédric (Patrick Hivon) gets suspended from work after drunkenly kissing a female reporter during a prank on live TV. Stuck at home with his long-suffering girlfriend, Nadine (director Monia Chokri), and their incessantly crying baby, Cédric teams up with his sensitive brother, Jean-Michel (Steve Laplante), to co-author a confessional book apologizing for their past misogyny. Enter Amy (Nadia Tereszkiewicz): a mysterious and provocative young babysitter, who, like a Mary Poppins of the libido, forces the trio to face their sexual anxieties while turning their lives upside down.

19. Hatching | Director: Hanna Bergholm

Hatching
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by IFC Midnight

Sundance Synopsis: Tinja’s mother showcases their family’s existence on her popular blog “Lovely Everyday Life” as a brightly hued domestic idyll set amid manicured suburban perfection. Beneath the impeccable veneer, though, friendless tween gymnast Tinja is struggling, spending most of her time striving to please her image-obsessed mom and appease her shrilly obnoxious little brother. After finding a wounded bird in the woods, she brings its strange egg home, nestles it in her bed, and nurtures it until it hatches. The creature that emerges, christened Alli, becomes Tinja’s closest friend, surrogate child, and living nightmare in this tremendously twisted coming-of-age body horror film.

20. You Won’t Be Alone | Director: Goran Stolevski

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Branko Starcevic

Sundance Synopsis: In an isolated mountain village in 19th-century Macedonia, a young girl is taken from her mother and transformed into a witch by an ancient, shape-shifting spirit. Left to wander feral, the young witch beholds the natural world with curiosity and wonder. After inadvertently killing a villager and assuming her body, she continues to inhabit different people, living among the villagers for years, observing and mimicking their behavior until the ancient spirit returns, bringing them full circle.

21. Resurrection | Director: Andrew Semans

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Wyatt Garfield

Sundance Synopsis: Margaret (Rebecca Hall) leads a successful and orderly life, perfectly balancing the demands of her busy career and single parenthood to her fiercely independent daughter Abbie. But that careful balance is upended when she glimpses a man she instantly recognizes, an unwelcome shadow from her past. A short time later, she encounters him again. Before long, Margaret starts seeing David (Tim Roth) everywhere — and their meetings appear to be far from an unlucky coincidence. Battling her rising fear, Margaret must confront the monster she’s evaded for two decades who has come to conclude their unfinished business.

22. Cha Cha Real Smooth | Director: Cooper Raiff

Cha Cha Real Smooth
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Fresh out of college — but now what? Higher education failed to provide 22-year-old Andrew with a clear life path going forward, so he’s stuck back at home with his family in New Jersey. But if college did teach him one thing, it’s drinking and partying — skills that make him the perfect candidate for a job party-starting at the bar and bat mitzvahs of his younger brother’s classmates. When Andrew befriends a local mom, Domino, and her daughter, Lola, he finally discovers a future he wants, even if it might not be his own.

23. Meet Me in the Bathroom | Directors: Dylan Southern & Will Lovelace

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Rebecca Greenfield

Sundance Synopsis: Welcome to pre-9/11 New York City, when the world was unaware of the profound political and cultural shifts about to occur, and an entire generation was thirsty for more than the post–alternative pop rock plaguing MTV. In the cafés, clubs, and bars of the Lower East Side there convened a group of outsiders and misfits full of ambition and rock star dreams. When The Strokes secured a residency at the Mercury Lounge in 2000, the scene that had previously been ignored by record labels and music magazines took off.

24. PIGGY | Director: Carlota Pereda

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jorge Fuembuena

Sundance Synopsis: 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.

25. Dos Estaciones | Director: Juan Pablo González

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Gerardo Guerra

Sundance Synopsis: Amid picturesque red dirt, blue sky, and green agave fields stands Dos Estaciones, a once-majestic tequila factory struggling to stay afloat. At the helm of the plant reigns Maria Garcia, heir to the family business and beacon to the townspeople she employs. To help oversee the company’s administration, Maria appoints an eager woman named Rafaela, whose vibrant presence generates much-needed hope in a home thirsty for a miracle. When a persistent plague and an unexpected flood cause irreversible damage, Maria is forced to do everything she can to save her community’s main source of economy and pride.


Which films from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival are you looking forward to viewing?

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