For the second year in a row, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Sundance Film Festival is offering its expansive slate online. Festival Director Tabitha Jackson and Producing Director Gina Duncan initially hoped to do a hybrid festival, offering in-person and virtual screenings. However, amid the Omicron surge, filmmakers and audiences are connecting in the comfort and safety of their own homes. Despite the shift in plans, this year’s films will reflect the ever-changing world that we know around us.
Sundance 2022 will run from January 20–30. This year there are several Black directors at the helm of some of the most highly anticipated films of the festival. Moreover, fans of the late Michael K. Williams will have a chance to see him in one of his final roles.
From a 1970’s set drama Alice, starring KeKe Palmer to the Regina Hall-produced Master, here are a few of the highlights.
Keke Palmer stars as Alice, a young woman who spends her days enslaved on a rural Georgia plantation. Alice flees through the neighboring woods after a violent clash with plantation owner Paul (Jonny Lee Miller). She discovers 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. A true story inspired the film.
Alice premieres Jan. 23.
In her feature film debut, Mariama Diallo centers an elite New England university built on a Salem-era gallows hill. Regina Hall stars as Gail Bishop, a dean of students who discovers what lies behind the school’s immaculate facade. First-year student Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee) confronts a cold and unwelcome new home, and literature professor Liv Beckman (Amber Gray) collides with colleagues who question her right to belong. Navigating politics and privilege, the three women encounter increasingly terrifying manifestations of the school’s haunted past and present.
Master premieres Jan. 21.
Co-directors Tonya Lewis Lee and Paula Eiselt present the searing documentary Aftershock, which centers on the Black maternal mortality crisis. The film follows two bereaved fathers following the deaths of their partners due to preventable childbirth complications and medical negligence. The two men galvanize activists, birth-workers, and physicians to reckon with one of the most urgent crises of our time.
Aftershock premieres Jan. 23.
Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul
American Nigerian writer-director Adamma Ebo presents Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul. Regina Hall stars as Trinitie Childs, a proud first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch. Her church, Wander To Greater Paths once served a congregation in the tens of thousands. However, a scandal involving her husband, Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), forced the church to close temporarily. Now Trinitie and Lee-Curtis must rebuild their congregation and reconcile their faith by any means necessary.
Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul premieres Jan. 23.
Anna Diop stars as Aisha, an undocumented Senegalese immigrant who 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. Nanny is the feature film debut of writer/director Nikyatu Jusu.
Nanny premieres Jan. 22.
Thandiwe Newton stars as Sandra, a woman who has been trying (and failing) to please her recently deceased mother while also navigating the challenging politics and power dynamics at the college where she teaches. A confrontation with two hunters trespassing on her property ultimately tests Sandra’s self-restraint, pushing her grief and mounting anger to their limits.
God’s Country premieres Jan. 20.
One of Michael K. Williams’ last screen performances, 892, tells the real-life story of an Iraq War veteran (John Boyega) who holds up a Wells Fargo branch after his disability checks stop arriving from Veterans Affairs.
892 premieres Jan. 21.
jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy
Taking a trip down memory lane, co-directors Clarence “Coodie” Simmons and Chike Ozah take their audience back to 1998 when Coodie first interviewed 21-year-old up-and-coming hip-hop producer Kanye West. Inspired by the film Hoop Dreams, Coodie started to document West’s life to see how far his dreams would take him. When West moved to New York City to land a record deal, Coodie followed with camera in hand. He recorded West for years, from the hustle of his budding producer days through his rise to global icon.
jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy premieres Jan. 23.
R#J director Carey Williams helms Emergency. The movie follows Straight-A college student Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and his laid-back best friend, Sean (RJ Cyler). The pair 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. However, a quick pit stop at home alters their plans when they find a white girl passed out on the living room floor.
Emergency premieres Jan. 20.
Produced by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Descendant follows Clotilda, the last ship carrying enslaved Africans to the United States. The ship arrived in Alabama 40 years after African slave trading became a capital offense and was promptly burned. After a century shrouded in secrecy and speculation, descendants of the Clotilda’s survivors are reclaiming their story.
Descendant premieres Jan. 22.