Big news behind the scenes here at Alternate Ending: Rob and Carrie, our resident film school dropout and casual moviegoer respectively, are taking their continuing film studies up a notch by attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT to preview some of the 2020 Sundance movies that will rock our worlds. The festival is the largest American independent film festival and attended by more than 120,000 people and 1,300 accredited press (of which Alternate Ending will be a part!).
The Sundance Institute has recently announced its selections for the featured 2020 Sundance movies in all categories of independent film and the lineup has us doing a happy dance.
188 feature-length films were chosen out of a head-spinning 15,100 submissions including 3,853 feature-length films. Of positive note in the selection of the films announced: 44% were directed by one or more women, 34% were directed by a filmmaker of color, and 15% were directed by people who are LGBTQ+ which is a solid effort in representative inclusion. It also means we’re previewing a lot of films telling stories from varied communities and experiences in rich and meaningful ways.
Recent year’s prizes went to films such as The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018), Minding the Gap (2018), Clemency (2019), Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019), and Honey Boy (2019). But now we’re getting our heads around 2020 Sundance movies…
The 2020 Sundance movies we’re most anticipating
Horror satire set in 1989? Yes, please! We’ll see a young woman get a weave in order to succeed in the image-obsessed MTV era, but will the hair end up having a mind of its own? Check out this immaculate cast if you’re not already convinced: Elle Lorraine, Vanessa Williams, Jay Pharoah, Lena Waithe (yes give us more!), Blair Underwood, and Laverne Cox.
Director and screenwriter: Justin Simien, Producers: Julia Lebedev, Angel Lopez, Eddie Vaisman, Justin Simien
A pair of brothers adapt to living in America after emigrating from Colombia during the summer of 1999. Starring Moises Arias, Mateo Arias, Daniel Dae Kim, Kali Uchis, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama — it’s such a weirdly amazing cast that I can’t wait to see it play out. I think we can count on a few of our favorite small screen and streaming faces as well as Daniel Dae Kim’s cheekbones — always welcome — in this timely and empathetic story.
Director: Esteban Arango, Screenwriters: Erick Castrillon & Esteban Arango, Producers: Charles D. King, Poppy Hanks, Erick Castrillon, Ty Walker
The 40-Year-Old Version
The cast and crew lineup alone is begging us to see this one, let alone the epic name. Lena Waithe stole every scene in Netflix’s Master of None and is producing Radha’s Blank’s Blank own script about a New York playwright reinventing herself as a rapper at age 40. You’re never too old to start again… and to see someone else do it in this film.
Director and screenwriter: Radha Blank, Producers: Lena Waithe, Jordan Fudge, Radha Blank, Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Jennifer Semler, Rishi Rajani
An alternate reality plays out when a reclusive man interviews representations of human souls for the privilege of being born. Watch for Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgård, Tony Hale, and David Rysdahl.
Director and screenwriter: Edson Oda, Producers: Jason Michael Berman, Mette Marie Kongsved, Matthew Lindner, Laura Tunstall, Datari Turner
A young Brooklyn couple cuts themselves off from their devices to reconnect and miss the news that the planet is under attack. I’ll be watching to see one of my faves from Mr. Robot, Sunita Mani, alongside John Reynolds, Ben Sinclair, Johanna Day, John Early, and Gary Richardson.
Directors and Screenwriters: Alex Huston Fischer, Eleanor Wilson, Producers: Kara Durrett, Mandy Tagger, Adi Ezroni
A Thousand Cuts
While we become desensitized to the rise of more and more authoritarian dictators around the world, this documentary sheds light on the regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte from the perspective of journalist Maria Ressa.
Director and screenwriter: Ramona S. Diaz, Producers: Ramona S. Diaz, Leah Marino, Julie Goldman, Chris Clements, Carolyn Hepburn
This documentary follows a highly unusual experiment in which a thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up. I must know how this one turns out for a whole slew of reasons.
Directors: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine, Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss
Code for Bias
In unsurprising and yet still disheartening news, we’re training our artificial intelligence to retain racial bias passed along from human design. This documentary explores the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s discovery of the failing in facial recognition to see dark-skinned faces and the larger issues of which its only a small part.
Director, screenwriter, and producer: Shalini Kantayya
An 11-year-old girl meets a group of dancers called “Cuties” and ingratiates herself with the group to escape her family circumstances. Starring Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Myriam Hamma, and Maïmouna Gueye.
Director and screenwriter: Maïmouna Doucouré, Producer: Zangro
Brain implant technology is now a thing and a corporate agent us using it to force people to commit assassinations for the benefit of his company. During a routine job, she finds herself trapped within a man she intended to use. Anytime we get into Black Mirror territory, you can count me in.
Director and screenwriter: Brandon Cronenberg, Producers: Niv Fichman, Andrew Starke, Kevin Krikst, Fraser Ash
A tale of Spanish colonialism in Cuba and a shocking explosion in Havana that would have global consequences to this day. It sounds like the butterfly effect of global politics and we should all be intrigued by this documentary.
Director and screenwriter: Hubert Sauper, Producers: Martin Marquet, Daniel Marquet, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Paolo Calamita
La Leyenda Negra
A story set in Compton where a soon-to-be undocumented teenager fights for her right to stay in America. Timely and a story needing to be told again and again. Look out for Monica Betancourt, Kailei Lopez, Irlanda Moreno, Justin Avila, Sammy Flores, and Juan Reyno.
Director and screenwriter: Patricia Vidal Delgado, Producers: Alicia Herder, Marcel Perez
Evan Rachel Wood, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins, and Debra Winger(!) star in this tale of grifters inviting a young woman into their chaotic world. After Me and You and Everyone We Know, I always look forward to Miranda July’s next project.
Director and screenwriter: Miranda July, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner
The Perfect Candidate
A young Saudi doctor runs for office in her local city elections and deals with the hurdles of being their first female candidate. Starring Mila Alzahrani, Dhay, Khalid Abdulrahim, and Shafi Al Harthy.
Director: Haifaa Al Mansour, Screenwriters: Haifaa Al Mansour, Brad Niemann, Producers: Roman Paul, Gerhard Meixner, Haifaa Al Mansour, Brad Niemann
These are only a few of the 2020 Sundance movies selected to be featured. Head here to see the rest.
Catherine Clark is a Chicago-based editor and designer who spends time reading, gaming, cooking, and of course, watching movies en masse. You can find her words and work at USA Today, Nerd Wallet, Chicago Tribune, NPR, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, MSN, Offbeat Empire, and on her lifestyle blog, BijouxandBits.com. She also (finally) started logging her film watching habits on Letterboxd.