The 2023 Sundance Film Festival completed its second day of in-person and virtual programming yesterday on January 20. In an unfortunate turn of events, I had to participate in the festival at my hotel for the majority of the day.
Well rested and ready to turn my negative morning more positive, I was able to watch a variety of short films and finally escape the confinements of my hotel to see To Live and Die and Live. So, without further delay, here’s a recap of festival short film highlights and more from my watchlist.
Sundance 2023 Short Film Highlights
Sundance Synopsis: A middle-aged Iranian man makes a desperate bid to keep his apartment as his relationship with his son unravels.
Review: Stellar performances from this cast elevate Anya Chirkova and Meran Ismailsoy’s short film, Baba. The exploration of a tumultuous father-son relationship feels deeply personal yet affecting. Thanks to a tight script that gets to its point, viewers may find it easy to be fully engaged in this 14-minute emotionally compelling story. It may even have you wanting to call your father afterwards.
2) I Am Home
Sundance Synopsis: As time goes on and the world around us shifts, we adapt and change. Although we might look different, deep down we are still the same. We are made from Mother Earth – mud, wood, love, and patience.
Review: Clocking in a whopping short 3 minutes, I Am Home is great simplistic storytelling. In less than five minutes, director Kymon Greyhorse manages to conjure up inspiration and existential gratefulness by showcasing the beauty of being at one with Earth. We as humans have a great compacity for evil, cattiness, and negativity. But Greyhorse’s short manages to showcase how we are equally capable of pure grace when we remind ourselves that we come from such a beautiful Earth.
3) We Were Meant To
Sundance Synopsis: In a world where Black men have wings and their first flight is a rite of passage, Akil must defy fears, insecurities, and societal barriers while discovering his perfect launch into manhood.
Review: A fun and engaging experience about growing up and stepping into manhood, We Were Meant To examines rites of passage in a creative way. Through Akil, Tari Wariebi designs an experience that enables a young Black man to grow beyond his fears and insecurities to step into his strength. Though it takes a while to get to its point, the journey there is worth the watch, alone. And thanks to sweet performances from the cast, this 27-minute short film flies by.
To Live and Die and Live
Sundance Synopsis: Muhammad, a strong, handsome Hollywood film director, makes his way through the gorgeous and alluring landscapes of a rebuilt Detroit — the glistening legacy of his newly deceased stepfather Khalid, a beloved and highly regarded building contractor. Muhammad has returned for the funeral, but his own battle with addiction, which he hides from the world, drives him to immediately fade away into the sultry, late-night, drug-saturated after-hours of Detroit and an equally intoxicating romantic relationship. As he struggles to cope, Muhammad’s family and friends look to him as a leader and provider, and he forges ahead shouldering all of their needs, claiming he’s got this, even though it’s a lot — maybe too much.
Review: Tackling themes of mental health, religion, alcoholism, and even toxic masculinity, To Live and Die and Live is the kind of emotionally complex feature that the Sundance Film Festival is all about. Director Qasim Basir returns to Park City with an exceptional project. With an outpouring of love for Detroit in his filmmaking, his refreshing exploration of what it means to be a man (for a Black man) is compelling, heartbreaking, and astonishing all in one. Thus far, this is the film to beat at the festival for me. Add it to your watchtlist, and be sure to catch my full review, which will be published to Screen Rant soon!