2023 Sundance Film Festival Recap

January 31, 2023

The Sundance Film Festival made its return as a full in-person fest for the first time since 2020 in Park City, Utah, from January 19-29. Here are the films critics and festival goers can’t stop talking about:  

Theater Camp: Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman make their directorial debut as a duo in Theater Camp, a creative mockumentary style comedy at theater camp in upstate New York. Molly Gordon also stars alongside Ben Platt, Jimmy Tatro, and Amy Sadaris.

Past Lives: 
This drama directed by Celine Song will be released in theaters by A24 after proving to be the best-reviewed film of the festival. Song’s feature debut follows the evolving relationship of childhood friends over the span of 12 years.

Flora and Son: The latest film from award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, and producer John Carney is a charming romance starring Eve Hewson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Following a young mother in Dublin, Flora and Son showcases music’s power to resurrect dreams and spark new relationships.  

Mami Wata: This West African folk story brought to life by C.J. “Fiery” Obasi gained high praise for its striking cinematography and commentary on modernity.

Infinity Pool: Referred by many as the fest’s most controversial film, Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool follows alpha-male James (Alexander Skarsgaard) and Gabi (Mia Goth) on a disturbing, thrill-filled beach getaway.

Polite Society: Priya Kansara takes center stage in Polite Society as Ria, who is determined to rescue her older sister Lena before her wedding day. This family comedy proved to be a big hit between critics and festival goers alike.

Little Richard: I Am Everything: Laura Cortés shines a light on rock and roll pioneer Little Richard, following his Georgia roots to international fame. The film combines archival footage and in-depth interviews in an effort to show Little Richard's often disregarded impact in music.

Passages: Ira Sachs’ Passages provides Franz Rogoski a stand-out role as film director Tomas. This drama with a European flair was quick to start buzz throughout this year’s festival and was quickly acquired by Mubi.

Fair Play: Starring Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich, Fair Play follows a New York couple keeping their relationship a secret from their employer. When Emily (Dynevor) receives a promotion that was expected to go to her partner, Luke (Ehrenreich), the couple faces new challenges as they navigate shifts in power dynamics all while hiding their big secret.

Read on for the winners of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Awards:

U.S. Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic) - A Thousand and One This drama, directed by A.V. Rockwell, will be released by Focus Features in theaters March 31.

U.S. Audience Award (Dramatic) - The Persian Version This drama comedy is writer and director Maryan Kesharvarz’s third feature.

U.S. Grand Jury Prize (Documentary) - Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project Documentarians Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson received mixed reviews in their film centered around poet Nikki Giovanni.

U.S. Audience Award (Documentary) - Beyond Utopia This unique documentary by Madeleine Gavin combines hidden camera footage, archival footage, and interviews to showcase the journeys of families escaping  North Korea.

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic) - Scrapper Charlotte Regan makes her feature debut in this comedy drama that proved to be a promising start for her directing career.

Festival Favorite Award - Radical Following his 2007 Sundance U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, writer and director Christopher Zalla took home the audience voted award for his Spanish-language feature.

World Cinema Dramatic (Audience Award) - Shayda Shayda is Noora Niasari’s debut feature film, following an Iranian woman who finds refuge in a women’s shelter with her 6-year-old daughter.

World Cinema Documentary (Grand Jury Prize) - The Eternal Memory Oscar-nominated director and Sundance veteran Maite Alberdi tells the story of Augusto and Paulina, a couple who have been together for 25 years and now navigate the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease.

World Cinema Documentary (Audience Award) - 20 Days in Mariupol From Ukrainian filmmaker Mstyslav Chernov, 20 Days in Mariupol gives a striking look into the destruction of war.

NEXT Audience Award: Kokomo City - Magnolia Pictures will release this documentary by D. Smith, a two-time Grammy-nominated songwriter.

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize - The Pod Generation This sci-fi romantic comedy from writer-director Sophie Barthes follows a couple (Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor) who pursue a pregnancy through a pod.

All images courtesy of the Sundance Institute.

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