The 2022 Sundance Film Festival is finally over!
Throughout ten days of festival fun, I had the privilege of watching 25 features and 65 short films. This year was actually my first year watching shorts, so I certainly had to make up for past mistakes. The films I watched consisted of both premieres and anniversary shorts, which the festival showcased to celebrate the 40th anniversary of programming. What better way to honor this achievement than to watch as many as I could. Well I did, and I have no regrets (other than a little festival fatigue).
Out of the 65 shorts, I managed to put together a list of 15 of my favorites- 10 premieres and 5 anniversary shorts. From the films that made me laugh out loudly, to the features that got an eyebrow raise out of me, let’s just say this festival year is one I’ll be remembering for quite some time. Here are the 15 best shorts from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival:
The 10 Best Shorts Premieres
10) Appendage | Director: Anna Zlokovic
Sundance Synopsis: A young fashion designer must make the best of it when her anxiety and self-doubt physically manifest into something horrific.
Review: Anxiety and self-doubt are annoying, evil monsters that live inside us according to Anna Zlokovic’s Appendage. The director pulls out all the stops to combine fashion with horror in a fun and twisted way. This six-minute twisted short kept my eyes glued to the screen for reasons I wouldn’t dare spoil. Just know that this horror-comedy knows exactly what it’s doing and has no problem leaning into the havoc. Plus, Appendage features Rachel Sennot (Shiva Baby), so you can do no wrong!
9) We Are Here | Director: Doménica Castro and Constanza Castro
Sundance Synopsis: What is it like to walk this land in the shoes of an immigrant under 30? We Are Here offers reflections of people who immigrated to the U.S. as children, and a reminder to look beyond citizenship.
Review: Doménica Castro and Constanza Castro’s short shares what it’s like to live in the US as an immigrant. This incredibly heartbreaking story about the disadvantages of being a “foreigner” in this country and its impact on their pursuit of the “American Dream” left me floored. Not only that, I think the animation is hypnotically effective as audiences are forced to just listen and get lost in the voice over. I highly recommend this one!
8) You’ve Never Been Completely Honest | Director: Joey Izzo
Sundance Synopsis: Through animation and reenactment, You’ve Never Been Completely Honest brings to life Gene Church’s original, never-before-heard interview recounting the harrowing physical torture and brainwashing he endured at a secretive, four-day business seminar in California in 1970.
Review: I wish I could say that this was the only film of the entire festival to make me livid, but it’s not. That’s the beauty of Sundance. You can become educated on an unfamiliar topic or learn about a heinous act in history for the first time. Director Joey Izzo’s short You’ve Never Been Completely Honest does exactly that. It’s about a cult-like business retreat where members of the company were tortured to the point of lifelessness. This raw and honest reenactment of Gene Church’s (co-author of The Pit) voice-over is quite-frankly sickening. Still, I think it’s essential viewing to understand corporate ethics and how so many allowed this to happen to people.
7) Makassar is a City for Football Fans | Director: Khozy Rizal
Sundance Synopsis: In a city where men have to go crazy about football, Akbar has to pretend to love the game in order to prevent rejection from his new college friends.
Review: Khozy Rizal’s short is a powerful story that left me emotional. While it’s a very familiar one (in the context of gayness submerged in toxic masculinity), it does something special with its main character. There’s nothing more freeing than being yourself. But once you’re stuck at a place in which this becomes close to impossible, it’s hard to break free. This narrative is so elegantly explored in just 20 minutes. Sabri Sahafuddin is heaven-sent.
6) F^¢K ’€M R!GHT B@¢K | Director: Harris Doran
Sundance Synopsis: A queer Black aspiring Baltimore rapper must outwit his vengeful day-job boss in order to avoid getting fired after accidentally eating an edible.
Review: I know creativity, humor, and delight when I see it. Harris Doran’s F^¢K ’€M R!GHT B@¢K is exactly that. I was so invested in damn near everything that happened to this aspiring Baltimore rapper because Dapper Dan Midas plays him with the utmost conviction. Plus, this story is just downright hilarious.
5) Close Ties to Home Country | Director: Akanksha Cruczynski
Sundance Synopsis: Millennial immigrant Akanksha waits for her sister’s visit from India — they haven’t seen each other in nine years! Meanwhile, she’s dogsitting the fancy Frenchie of Instagram influencers India and Harry, who themselves are on a trip to India’s namesake.
Review: Director Akanksha Cruczynski has a way with visual comedy in her fifteen-minute short, Close Ties to Home Country. The perfect blend of charm and humor, this short is balanced when it comes to giving a commentary of microaggressions and inappropriate conversation as it relates to cultural differences. This was hilarious yet classy. Sophia Rafiqi delivers an emotionally devastating monologue that I didn’t want to end. Great job to the cast and crew.
4) Training Wheels | Director: Alison Rich
Sundance Synopsis: A socially inept woman rents one man to prepare for another.
Review: Alison Rich’s Training Wheels was my 44th short film of the festival. I remember because I could feel the fatigue setting in. But with an opening sequence like the one in this short, all tiredness quickly faded away. Training Wheels is quirkiness and creativity done right. Mix that in with an incredibly sweet script (at times even relatable) and characters who are unique for all the right reasons, you get a non-stop fun and hilarious short. There’s a montage in which Alison Rich’s character bragged about herself. Women do not do this nearly enough. But ladies, brag on! Someone please give me a TV show out of this, a feature-length film… anything!
3) Starfuckers | Director: Antonio Marziale
Sundance Synopsis: An intimate evening between a film director and an escort is disrupted when a familiar face arrives.
Review: Antonio Marziale’s Starfuckers is an incredibly phenomenal and creative short that left me completely speechless. For anyone who’s ever wanted to stare someone in the face and share with them all the ways they’ve hurt you, this is for you. It’s as therapeutic as it is moving- as charming as it is upsetting. Brilliantly executed and emotionally captivating, Starfuckers gave me one of my favorite festival experiences ever. That final sequence is out-of-this-world perfection. Bravo Antonio Marziale. I cannot wait to see what he does next.
2) Night Bus | Director: Joe Hsieh
Sundance Synopsis: On a late-night bus, a panic scream shatters the night’s calm, a necklace is stolen, followed by a tragic and fatal road accident. The series of intriguing events that follows reveals love, hatred, and vengeance.
Review: When I say I love chaos, I’m talking about short films like Joe Hsieh’s Night Bus. This “who-dunnit” meets tale of revenge meets a story of reestablished love genre blends in ways I’ve never seen before. It hits all the right notes of filmmaking in just under twenty minutes! And to make matters even better for this horror fan, it left me in gory ecstasy. I’ll be thinking about this one for a very long time.
1) Long Line of Ladies | Director: Rayka Zehtabchi and Shaandiin Tome
Sundance Synopsis: A girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once dormant coming-of-age ceremony of the Karuk tribe of northern California.
Review: This short is absolutely perfect. There’s no doubt in my mind. Directors Rayka Zehtabchi and Shaandiin Tome blend education and emotion in a captivating and precise way. I could not look away from the beautiful display of tradition and family in this wonderful story about the Karuk tribe of northern California. I absolutely adored how father-daughter relationships were captured in this documentary short. So many films fail to do this well, and they managed to do so in under 22 minutes. This film will stick with me for years to come.
The 5 Best Anniversary Shorts
5) Short Term 12 | Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Sundance Synopsis: A film about kids and the grown-ups who hit them.
Review: Destin Daniel Cretton’s short originally came out in 2008. In under twenty-two minutes, it shows the highs and lows of life as troubled adolescents in a group home. This film is well-paced, though it gives into the need to showcase the extremities of such situations. Part of me believes that more subtle approaches would have made the points more clearly (and better). But at the same time, the directorial choices Cretton makes help execute his vision with ease. I highly recommend watching this and its full-length counterpart asap!
4) More than Two Hours | Director: Ali Asgari
Sundance Synopsis: A boy and girl wander the city at 3 a.m. looking for a hospital to cure the girl, but it’s much harder to find one than they thought.
Review: Ali Asgari’s work in this short is both alarming and depressing. It’s obvious that healthcare systems around the world are colossal messes. For the USA, everything costs too much. For Iran, the system prevents certain care to women who aren’t married. Both are very-much screwed up and backwards, and Asgari’s More Than Two Hours shows this elegantly. While not offering much on the stylistic front, this short didn’t really need to. The repercussions of such a healthcare system was enough. This is essential viewing.
3) Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma | Director: Rubberband and Topaz Jones
Sundance Synopsis: The Black ABCs were born in 1970, when Black educators in Chicago developed alphabet flash cards to provide Black-centered teaching materials to the vastly white educational landscape. Fifty years later, 26 scenes provide an update to their meanings.
Review: Rubberband. and Topaz James did not hold back on this educational and suave short on the ABC’s. This rhythmic and artistic compilation is probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Immersed with authentic storytelling and stylish sequences, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma‘s thirty-eight minute runtime never drags on or overstays its welcome. What a fine project.
2) Boneshaker | Director: Nuotama Frances Bodomo
Sundance Synopsis: Lost in America, an African family travels to a Louisiana church to find a cure for its problem child.
Review: The fight between religion and medicine is elegantly explored in Nuotama Frances Bodomo’s short Boneshaker. I know that fight all too well as someone who grew up in church (forcefully, at times) and then gone on to get my PhD in science. Sometimes, it’s not about either. There are no demons in children who act up, and not every child has ADHD. Children have feelings and complex emotions when they explore life while growing up. It’s just that simple. This beautiful film is very well done and features truly convincing performances. That ending!!!
1) Do No Harm | Director: Roseanne Liang
Sundance Synopsis: 3 a.m. 1980s Hongjing. In an aging private hospital, a single-minded surgeon is forced to break her physician’s oath when violent gangsters storm in to stop a crucial operation.
Review: While watching the opening sequence of Do No Harm, I immediately knew I was going to like it. Little did I know, however, that this eleven-minute gory adventure would rock my world from start to finish. The concept of Do No Harm is quite simple, but this did not stop the filmmakers from going ALL IN on complex fight choreography and stunts. It’s kick ass. It’s bad ass. It’s simply one of the best shorts I’ve ever seen!
Thanks for reading about my favorite shorts at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. What were some of your favorites?