Sundance Preview 2019: Our Most Anticipated Short Films At The Festival
We list the Sundance-selected shorts to put at the top of your watch list (and companion films you can watch right now).
12 Episodic Works, 73 Short Films, 4 Special Events.
Yes, that’s a lot of films to work through. And if you’re a film fanatic planning on making it to the festival, we know you’re going to have to make some tough choices. Because of that, we took it upon ourselves to do a little scouting. The result? Ten U.S. Premiere short films we think you should have your eye on.
LIVE ACTION, NARRATIVE
America — Garrett Bradley
THE SUNDANCE LOGLINE: A cinematic omnibus rooted in New Orleans, challenging the idea of black cinema as a “wave” or “movement in time,” proposing instead, a continuous thread of achievement.
WHAT WE KNOW: Garrett Bradley is no beginner to the festival circuit. She’s been selected by Sundance once before with a film (Alone) that also shortlisted for an Oscar nom. She’s also had two films at SXSW, so this will certainly be another welcome short film entry. Bradley has the distinctive ability of directing award-winning documentary and narrative films. As a rising master of the short form with an eye for regional pockets of the world (New Orleans, Bangladesh), we look forward to what she has to say with this film.
WHAT TO WATCH FIRST: The Earth Is Humming
We brought up this revolutionary documentary during our LA Film Fest coverage. In this one Garrett Bradley covers the “industry” around Japan’s disaster prevention, particularly when it comes to earthquakes. This, along with 2016’s Like, is about a very specific subject with universal implications.
Lockdown — Celine Held, Logan George
THE SUNDANCE LOGLINE: Struggling with feelings for her best friend, 14-year-old Marie stages an almost perfect plan.
WHAT WE KNOW: This filmmaking duo has already lit up the festival scene this year with their hit narrative short, Caroline. That short hit many of the major festivals, so it looks like Held and George are keeping the momentum going as they enter the New Year. Just from the trailer, we can tell that they capture high school just right and will offer another dramatically rewarding short.
WHAT TO WATCH FIRST: Caroline
This is the one to watch first, of course. See what intrigued the juries at Cannes, SXSW and Telluride.
Shinaab, Part II — Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.
THE SUNDANCE LOGLINE: A look at Ojibwe ideas surrounding the death process, as a young man strives to honor his late father.
WHAT WE KNOW: Yes, we have a rare short film sequel (or continuation) on the list. The first Shinaab played at Sundance two years ago. Corbine Jr. is a fascinating artist, having already dipped his toes into prose writing, photography and drawing before finding the cinematic medium. We have to believe he brings some of those varied talents and sensibilities to the often un-explored lives of indigenous peoples in the new America.
WHAT TO WATCH FIRST: The New World
Very few American film epics offer an accurate and respectful take on the Native American experience, but this realistic re-imagining of the Pocahontas story does just that. Also, if you haven’t seen a Terrence Malick film, this is a great introduction.
BAJO LA SOMBRA DEL GUACARI — Greg Méndez
THE SUNDANCE LOGLINE: Dead bodies have washed upon the banks of the river. When Abraham finds out the one of them was his friend, he embarks on a journey to fulfill a promise that will take him to the Guacari tree.
WHAT WE KNOW: We mostly know just the premise above, but that alone has catapulted it to a must-see. The story suggests a supernatural element mixed in with the ever-fascinating topic of the afterlife. Yet, the trailer suggests a hyper-realistic side (possibly also a slow cinema aesthetic) that could make for an interesting pairing.
WHAT TO WATCH FIRST: The Trailer
See the trailer for Under Shadow of Guacari to get a taste of what you are in for. We can’t wait!
Brotherhood — Meryam Joobeur
THE SUNDANCE LOGLINE: When a hardened Tunisian shepherd’s son returns home after a long journey with a new wife, tension rises between father and son.
WHAT WE KNOW: It’s already played abroad. How do we know? We covered it in our 2018 TIFF preview. This timeless story of the battling generations will find a great home at Sundance, a festival known for showcasing some great domestic dramas in the past. We’re excited how the film translates during its U.S. festival run. Joobeur is one of the most exciting and prolific short film directors out there right now; it’s not a film to be missed
WHAT TO WATCH FIRST: gods, weeds & revolutions
Take a look at Joobeur’s hand at short documentary filmmaking as she addresses Alzheimer’s and the Tunisian Revolution.
The Dispossessed — Musa Syeed
THE SUNDANCE LOGLINE: Hazari is a traditional faith healer, exorcising patients who’ve been possessed by jinn. But in Kashmir, amidst the world’s longest running conflict, nothing is as it seems.
WHAT WE KNOW: Syeed’s 2012 narrative feature, Valley of Saints, also played at Sundance, alongside several large international festivals. Though he’s directed TV documentaries and a full-length documentary, Dispossessed is his first short-form doc in 10 years. We’re very intrigued to see what brought him back to this obscure form after finding success in the realm of features. He’s also a lecturer at Harvard’s English department, so expect both intellectual and emotional rewards from this film.
WHAT TO WATCH FIRST: Behind The Scenes
Get a sense of Syeed’s directing process, as he recounts his time making his first short documentary, Bronx Princess.
The Tough — Marcin Polar
THE SUNDANCE LOGLINE: A discovery arouses a man’s imagination and propels him forward in an uncouth and obsessive way. Step by step, the camera participates as he explores of places hitherto unknown to humankind, which offer increasingly stronger resistance against human delicacy.
WHAT WE KNOW: Polar’s filmmaking resume is full of exciting and death-defying outdoor activities. He’s known for shooting his work in extreme environments, relying on aerial and underwater camerawork to capture the intensity of man vs nature situations. Since this premise, and its visuals, look true to form, definitely make it a point to see this short on the big screen.
WHAT TO WATCH FIRST: Polar’s Drone Footage
This drone footage from Polar and crew has no narrative attached, so before you see The Tough, observe the visual influences and aesthetic choices that go into his work.
The Phantom 52 — Geoff Marslett
THE SUNDANCE LOGLINE: Loneliness: a trucker who calls out on his CB radio waiting for a reply that never comes. A ghost that haunts the deserted highways. A whale that sings at a frequency no other whale can even hear.
WHAT WE KNOW: The best animated films have crazy, unexpected (even illogical) turns in the story. After all, with animation, the world-building possibilities are endless. But what we’re most excited about is the voice cast Marslett has assembled for this project. Tom Skerritt (“Top Gun”) stars, while several star cameos from such great voice actors as Matthew Lillard (“Scooby Doo”) make this short as much a feast for the ears as for the eyes. You can watch the trailer here.
WHAT TO WATCH FIRST: Marfa
Here’s a great companion short in that it also deals with loneliness on the road, employing fantastical interpretations of a real place. We saw it at New Orleans Film Festival and found it a humorous and poignant experience.
Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul
THE SUNDANCE LOGLINE: After running away from her depressing village in eastern Europe, a teenage girl meets a new friend under a bridge.
WHAT WE KNOW: Tomek is an exceptionally talented animator and filmmaker, a combination that can be hard to achieve. While his most popular film, Black (see below), was a piece of high-contrast minimalism, Popakul has gone swung the pendulum for Acid Rain. This color-soaked, hallucinatory experience has his stamp all over it, but we’re excited to see how his vision has morphed with time and experience.
WHAT TO WATCH FIRST: Black
His animated short about astronauts stranded in space as Earth undergoes nuclear war is a must-see. Just go watch it….now!
The Call — Anca Damian
THE SUNDANCE LOGLINE: A phone call, a bathroom and a woman are at the intersection of the world.
WHAT WE KNOW: Damian, a Romanian filmmaker with plenty of cinematography experience as well, may be the most decorated director on this entire list. She’s won 24 festival awards, including a key 2012 win at Annecy and a showing at TIFF, Locarno and SXSW. We truly believe Damian is pushing the form with each new film, exploring the boundaries of art and politics upon every new release.
WHAT TO WATCH FIRST: The Magic Mountain
Animation and documentary. It’s not a hybrid we see often in filmmaking, but Damian made one in 2015 about a Polish refugee in Paris. It spans several decades while feeling utterly timeless, something an animated film can always do well.