Our Sundance Selections

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, we noticed a trend toward stories that resonate with current issues facing our culture. Though ranging widely in subject matter, this year’s films seemed to share a focus on authentically capturing some truth about the present state of our world. We especially enjoyed the following three films as examples of stories bringing current issues to light.

Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade, YouTube star Bo Burnham’s directorial debut, follows an awkward 13-year-old girl named Kayla (Elsie Fisher) through her final week of middle school. The film explores the emotional high stakes of everyday social interactions as navigated by today’s young people against a backdrop of constant online connectivity. While the story of an adolescent girl might at first sound less than universally relatable, this film captures an element of modern life that will be familiar to audiences of all ages, highlighting the ways technology and social media have become embedded in our daily lives.

In the following interview, Burnham and Fisher touch on the ways Kayla’s story captures a broader truth about the human experience.


King in the Wilderness

HBO’s King in the WIlderness, directed by Peter Kunhardt, is a powerful documentary covering the final years of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. While there have been many reflections on King’s work and legacy over the past 50 years, this film stands apart as one of the most comprehensive in terms of participation by King’s closest associates. These interviews give greater insight into King’s perspective as tensions grew between his own pacifist ideology and other, more violent forms of protest. Beyond simply informing audiences about the history of Dr. King’s tactics and their effectiveness, though, the film also feeds into an important conversation about protest and social movements that remains as relevant as ever as we continue to grapple with issues of inequality.

In this clip, Harry Belafonte discusses some of King’s concerns about expanding beyond the South.


On Her Shoulders

Finally, Alexandria Bombach’s documentary On Her Shoulders explores the ongoing advocacy efforts of Nadia Murad. Murad, a young Yazidi woman from Iraq, was abducted by ISIS in 2014 as a sex slave and escaped in 2015. She has since been named a UNODC Goodwill Ambassador and nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work on behalf of the Yazidi people. The documentary follows her as she tells and retells her harrowing story, fighting to see ISIS brought to justice in an international court of law while acknowledging that these formal legal channels will likely never reach the individuals directly responsible for her suffering. The inclusion of On Her Shoulders in this year’s festival provides an additional platform for Murad’s important message about a continuing crisis, demonstrating the ability of story to amplify important causes in real time.

View the film’s trailer below.




Thumbnail photo credit: The Independent (suindependent.com)