For the past week, Sundance 2022 has showcased new U.S. and international features, documentaries, shorts, and special programming. It's mostly happened virtually, but this weekend, Northwest Film Forum is again operating as a "Satellite Screen." That basically just means you'll get to see some of the films from Sundance in Seattle and in a theater. You can check out their full line-up here, but we'll spotlight our three favorite picks to help narrow the field. Up first:
International Narrative Feature – World Cinema: Dramatic Competition, Dir. Gabriel Martins
Saturday, January 29: 8 pm
The background of Gabriel Martins’ film Marte Um (Mars One) is mostly occupied by Jair Bolsonaro, also known as the Trump of the Tropics. It is 2018, and the very white and raw reactionary has just won the presidential election. No one in the film, which has a black working-class family as its center, mentions Bolsanaro. You only have to see him on TV, or see the racial organization of Brazilian society, to see exactly what he stands for. It is clear that the black family, which is composed of a father, mother, daughter, and son, hates the new president. But this fact is never stated. It is in their faces, their challenges, their dreams as black Brazilians who are at the bottom end of what the second half of the 20th century described as the labor aristocracy.
Marte Um never screams about racism or the daily indignities black workers endure. It instead simmers at what feels like a warm temperature that, though rising from scene to scene in its fourth final act, never erupts into a flame that, like Spike Lee's Do Right Thing, predictably lights the dynamite of revolution. Marte Um's director makes it clear on two occasions that revolutionary inspiration, which has been co-opted by TV pranksters and amateur rappers, might be as harmful to black workers as the power wielded by the obviously racist president.
What describes the lower-middle class status of Marte Um's black family (father is a caretaker, mother a part-time cleaner) is its ownership of the key conveniences and technologies of the modern world (smartphones, internet access, kitchen appliances, and so on) and occupation of an apartment that, though small, far surpasses anything you'd find in a classical slum. The Brazilian city in which the film is set, Contagem, is, significantly, a six-hour drive from a city at the center of one of its four main stories, São Paulo, the Blade Runner of the Tropics.
Read Charles's whole review here.
U.S. Dramatic Feature – Premieres, Dir. Adamma Ebo
Sunday, January 30: 7.30 pm
Adamma and Adanne Ebo’s Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a riotous skewering of Southern megachurch culture in all its excesses, exploitations, and contradictions. Shot in a Guestian mockumentary style, the film switches between hilarious vignettes and high-emotion scenes, and at its center is a banner performance from Sundance all-star Regina Hall, who believably hits the movie’s odd beats to make it one of the best of the fest.
Hall embodies Trinitie Childs, the flustered first lady of Georgia's "Wander to Greater Pathways" megachurch. She wants to get her life back on track after a scandal causes a mass exodus of congregants, forcing the church to close down temporarily. See, word got out that young men accused her God-fearin’ self-involved pastor-husband Lee-Curtis (a pitch-perfect Sterling K. Brown) of sexual misconduct. And in an ill-advised attempt to stage their comeback, the cursed couple invites a documentary crew to follow them as they prepare for the church's first Sunday back.
Predictably, things go south.
Read Jas's whole review here.
Sunday, January 30: 4 pm
This year's Sundance Film Festival has a bunch of good movies. There's a new Princess Diana doc that uses archival footage to create a dreamy retelling of Diana's life, coming out on HBO Max later this summer. There's also a simple and affecting film about a Black Brazilian family living through the Bolsonaro administration. And then there's Fire of Love, the Miranda July-narrated documentary about two volcanologists in love that National Geographic Documentary Films picked up for an estimated mid-seven-figures.
But it was another Miranda July-narrated film that's stuck with me the most this year.
Filmmaker Matt McCormick's short film the subconscious art of graffiti removal, which screens at Northwest Film Forum this Sunday as part of its Sundance package, is twenty years old, but it took me a second to figure that out. Its topic—graffiti-removal—is as relevant to 2002 as it is to today, as people who closely followed Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell's mayoral campaign could tell you.
Narrated by Miranda July and inspired by the work of Avalon Kalin, McCormick's film makes the funny argument that graffiti-removal is its own type of "subconscious art," with origins in minimalism and abstract expressionism. The basic idea is that graffiti-removal also becomes a type of art placed on cities, with graffiti "removers" making artistic choices themselves, even if subconsciously.
Read Chase's whole review here.
A few other suggestions: