While I’m still a tad bit sad that I won’t be flying out to Utah this week to watch a ton of (what I’m expecting to be) awesome films at Sundance 2022. (Because you know Covid.)
I am excited to cover the Sundance Film Festival again this year.
Last year, I covered the Sundance film festival from the comfort of my bed (and couch), so I can’t wait to do it all over again. With one difference — I’m checking my ass into a hotel this time! (For multiple reasons.)
However, the thought of being able to cover Sundance in absolute peace this year, makes my heart smile.
But knowing that I’ll be covering all the BLACK films at Sundance 2022 for a second year in a row, the ones you’ll be dying to watch this year, is what really makes me happy!
Last year, some of your favorites premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, including Judas and the Black Messiah, Summer of Soul, and Passing. So I can’t wait to see what becomes a hit this year.
But until then, here are …
20+ Black Sundance 2022 Films To Watch
US DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Living in a cheap motel in Atlanta and separated from his wife and child, former U.S. Marine veteran Brian Easley is desperate. Driven to the brink by forces beyond his control, the soft-spoken, kind man decides to rob a bank and hold hostages with a bomb.
As police, media, and family members descend on the bank and Brian, it becomes clear he’s not after stealing money — he wants to tell his story and have what is rightfully his, even if it costs him his life.
In her debut feature, director Abi Damaris Corbin hauntingly blends together the dramatic tension of a hostage negotiation standoff with the intimate emotional world of one life derailed by bureaucracy and a lack of resources.
Based on a true story, 892 showcases powerful performances by John Boyega, the late Michael K. Williams in his final screen role, and others that remind us of the social responsibility we have to our soldiers, colleagues, and families, and to strangers as well.
Alice (Keke Palmer) spends her days enslaved on a rural Georgia plantation restlessly yearning for freedom.
After a violent clash with plantation owner Paul (Jonny Lee Miller), Alice flees through the neighboring woods and stumbles onto the unfamiliar sight of a highway, soon discovering 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.
In her debut feature, writer-director Krystin Ver Linden spins a modern liberation fable that is equal parts earthy Southern Gothic and soulful Blaxploitation.
Inspired by true accounts of Black Americans who were kept in peonage for more than 100 years after the end of slavery, Alice is an audacious mix of grim historical fact and exceptional fiction.
Moving from a purgatorial plantation overgrown with Spanish moss to the lively landscape of urban Savannah, Ver Linden traces Alice’s breathless journey down the rabbit hole and into the turbulent wonderland of the post–Civil Rights South.
Straight-A college student Kunle and his laid-back best friend Sean 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, Solo cups in hand. But a quick pit stop at home alters their plans when they find a white girl passed out on the living room floor.
Faced with the risks of calling the police under life-threatening optics, Kunle, Sean, and their Latino roommate Carlos must find a way to de-escalate the situation before it’s too late.
Two-time Sundance alum Carey Williams (R#J, 2021) makes his U.S. Dramatic Competition debut with Emergency, the darkly comedic and wildly hard-hitting feature version of his short by the same name (a Special Jury Award winner in 2018).
Bringing KD Dávila’s sharp and layered writing to life through an incredibly talented breakout cast, Williams hazes us with a timely and biting satire in which racial dynamics unmask a world so absurd that it could only be real.
At an elite New England university built on the site of a Salem-era gallows hill, three women strive to find their place.
Gail Bishop (Regina Hall), just instated as “Master,” a dean of students, discovers what lies behind the school’s immaculate facade; first-year student Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee) confronts a new home that is cold and unwelcoming; and literature professor Liv Beckman (Amber Gray) collides with colleagues who question her right to belong.
Navigating politics and privilege, they encounter increasingly terrifying manifestations of the school’s haunted past… and present.
Writer-director Mariama Diallo’s first feature is an ingenious blend of horror, drama, psychological thriller, and social critique. Through a deeply unnerving aesthetic,
Master demonstrates the expressive power of genre storytelling, delivering a visceral and emotional reflection on racism and white supremacy. What begins as a search for belonging becomes a chilling struggle for survival, and Diallo shrewdly reframes a basic horror trope — escaping an evil force — asking what escape is possible for communities of color confronting a racial terror that is everywhere.
Undocumented immigrant Aisha lands a job nannying for the daughter of a wealthy Manhattan couple. While she easily wins the affection of young Rose, she also finds herself caught up in the rocky marriage between the girl’s controlling mom and woke photojournalist dad.
Haunted by the absence of the young son she left behind in Senegal, Aisha hopes her precarious job will allow her to bring him into the U.S. and the life she has carefully pieced together. Just as his arrival finally feels imminent, a supernatural presence begins to invade both her dreams and her reality.
As envisioned by writer-director Nikyatu Jusu and brilliantly embodied by actor Anna Diop, Aisha is a dynamic, fascinating protagonist.
She displays tremendous strength in enduring challenging circumstances, but must reckon with both her own rage and frustration and a jarring, ominous intrusion entering her already fraught life. Jusu elegantly weaves in supernatural entities derived from West African folklore, spinning Nanny into a singular genre all its own, with horrors specifically drawn from Aisha’s life and legacy.
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
MARTE UM (MARS ONE)
The Martins family are optimistic dreamers, quietly leading their lives in the margins of a major Brazilian city following the disappointing inauguration of a far-right extremist president.
A lower-middle-class Black family, they feel the strain of their new reality as the political dust settles. Tércia, the mother, reinterprets her world after an unexpected encounter leaves her wondering if she’s cursed.
Her husband, Wellington, puts all of his hopes into the soccer career of their son, Deivinho, who reluctantly follows his father’s ambitions despite secretly aspiring to study astrophysics and colonize Mars. Meanwhile, their older daughter, Eunice, falls in love with a free-spirited young woman and ponders whether it’s time to leave home.
Writer-director Gabriel Martins weaves a tender and uplifting tapestry of a Brazilian family whose affection for each other is palpable in every frame, mining his delightful cast for authentic performances brimming with humor and charm. Delicately balancing its characters as they find themselves and their country at a crossroads, Marte Um (Mars One) invites us to dream beyond the stars.
Sandra (Thandiwe Newton) is very tired. It’s been years of trying (and failing) to please her recently deceased mother, while also navigating the challenging politics and power dynamics at the college where she teaches.
And then there is the racism, sexism, and toxic masculinity she encounters wherever she goes. But it’s a confrontation with two hunters trespassing on her property that ultimately tests Sandra’s self-restraint, pushing her grief and mounting anger to their limits.
God’s Country examines one woman’s grieving process and determination to be taken seriously amid her refusal to surrender to the confines of society.
Newton shines as Sandra in director Julian Higgins’s impressive feature debut. The script, co-written by Higgins and Shaye Ogbonna, offers Newton the opportunity to create a character who is masterfully understated, yet complex and believable.
Newton occupies almost every frame of the film; close-ups of her calm, grief-stricken face reveal the despair and tension of a crumbling human spirit. She remains cool and composed, but no longer willing to yield.
HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL.
As the proud first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, Trinitie Childs carries immense responsibility on her shoulders.
Her church, Wander To Greater Paths, once served a congregation in the tens of thousands, but after a scandal involving her husband, Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs, forced the church to close temporarily, Trinitie is struggling to manage the aftermath.
Now Trinitie and Lee-Curtis must rebuild their congregation and reconcile their faith by all means necessary to make the biggest comeback that commodified religion has ever seen.
Filmmaking power duo the Ebo Twins (writer-director Adamma Ebo, producer Adanne Ebo) make their feature film debut in this adaptation of their previous short film of the same name.
Partially shot in faux-documentary style, this lively satire on for-profit religion explores both the on-camera desperation in image rebranding and the hard truths that fester behind the scenes.
The humor is big and biting in both writing and performance, reaching lofty heights with Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown in lead roles.
JEEN-YUHS: A KANYE TRILOGY
One fateful night at Jermaine Dupri’s birthday party in 1998, Coodie, a Chicago public access TV host, 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. You think you know Kanye West, but you really don’t.
You can’t manufacture a project like jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy; it takes decades of vision, commitment, prayers, and perspective to produce. It seems providential that Coodie & Chike should be the ones to make the definitive film about West’s career thus far, as they were the filmmakers who introduced him to the masses with their documentary music video for “Through the Wire.”
This epic three-film documentary features hours of fly-on-the-wall footage and paints a sweeping portrait of one of pop culture’s most controversial figures.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY
During his nearly 50 years in show business, Bill Cosby became one of the most recognizable Black celebrities in America.
With a career that included an astronomical rise on television in the mid-1960s; work in children’s programming and education; legendary stand-up performances and albums; and an epoch-defining hit sitcom, The Cosby Show, Cosby was a model of Black excellence for millions of Americans.
But now, thanks to the brave and painful testimonies of dozens of women, we know there was a sinister reality to the man once extolled as “America’s Dad.”
Over the course of four gripping episodes that feature the voices of people closely connected to Cosby’s life on-screen and off, including several survivors, director W. Kamau Bell digs into who Cosby was and what his work and actions say about America, then and now.
We Need To Talk About Cosby is a powerful and timely reckoning destined to be widely discussed for how it urges audiences to reconsider not only what they know about Cosby but also about the culture that produced and celebrated him.
A cinematic vision born out of a war that forces its citizenry to inhabit other dimensions, Neptune Frost, which debuted to critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival, is a film that becomes richer with every rewatch, and is destined to occupy the upper echelons of the Afrofuturism canon.
If today’s world is fueled by technology, obsessed with the future, and articulated by a language that erases the power of Black people, then this poetic masterpiece of Afrofuturism invents a language that is vibrant and capacious enough to tell the complex story of how African miners digging for the rare earth minerals make up the digital network we currently depend on.
Neptune Frost is the stunning, explosively inventive first collaborative feature by Anisia Uzeyman and slam poet Saul Williams (who made his Sundance debut appearing in 1998’s Slam) that hacks the conventions of moviemaking to give us this musical science fiction hybrid set in Rwanda about a transcending connection between an intersex runaway, Neptune (played by both Cheryl Isheja and Elvis Ngabo “Bobo”), and a grieving coltan miner (Bertrand Ninteretse “Kaya Free”).
SHORT FILM PROGRAM
An investigation into the layers of mass incarceration and its shaping of the modern Black American family, seen through the eyes of a single mother in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Lost in America, an African family travels to a Louisiana church to find a cure for its problem child.
DON’T GO TELLIN’ YOUR MOMMA
The Black ABCs were born in 1970, when Black educators in Chicago developed alphabet flash cards to provide Black-centered teaching materials to the vastly white educational landscape. Fifty years later, 26 scenes provide an update to their meanings.
F^¢K ‘€M R!GHT B@¢K
A queer, Black, aspiring Baltimore rapper must outwit his vengeful day-job boss in order to avoid getting fired after accidentally eating an edible.
Two gentlemen make a living hustling metal in Cleveland, Ohio.
In Compton, California, two brothers stuck in arrested development have to figure out how to handle their annoying, fried-chicken-hating, bookworm nephew, as he attempts to hang himself with a garden hose.
PRAYERS FOR SWEET WATERS
Stories intersect across vivid realities and dreamscapes to submerge us into the worlds of three transgender sex workers living in Cape Town, South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic.
PRECIOUS HAIR & BEAUTY
An ode to the mundanity and madness of the high street, told through the window of an African hair salon.
SHORT TERM 12
A film about kids and the grown-ups who hit them.
SUB ELEVEN SECONDS
A rumination on time, loss, and hope, Sub Eleven Seconds is a poetic imagining of the quest of Sha’Carri Richardson — a young track and field athlete — to achieve her dream of qualifying for the Olympic Games.
YOU GO GIRL!
Audrey, a New York City comedian who can make a joke of any situation, faces a staggering challenge in the beautiful mountains of Oregon. Can this city woman overcome her fears and rise?
It’s the waning days of summer for four friends Dina, Lola, Daisy, and Mari, who will soon be going their separate ways when they all start middle school. While planning how to spend their last weekend together, they stumble across a mystery that takes them on a life-changing adventure.
Using investigation techniques learned from watching TV shows, the friends make a series of discoveries that are as much about solving the mystery as they are about learning the hard truths of growing up.
Director James Ponsoldt (Smashed, 2012, and The Spectacular Now, 2013) returns to the Sundance Film Festival with a film for every generation. Anchored by engaging performances from its youthful cast and a strong script from Ponsoldt and co-writer Benjamin Percy, Summering is a refreshing rarity when compared to the familiar animated and special effects-driven movies usually directed towards young audiences today.
Viewer Advisory: This film contains mentions of suicide, a dead body, and some scenes that may be frightening for younger viewers. Recommended for ages 10+.
Also, note that this isn’t a Black film, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that our little sis Madalen Mills (who starred in Netflix’s Jingle Jangle film) is in this.
JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE I.R.T.
Chantal has plans. She’s going places. She’s on track to graduate early, go to college, become a doctor, and get out of the Brooklyn projects where she’s grown up.
Life for Chantal swirls with teenage emotions — she is brash, bold, self-possessed, and irrepressibly spirited, traits that inevitably clash with the world around her.
Whether it’s her feisty resistance to the whiteness of her educational curriculum or her confrontations with the wealthy white patrons of the upscale gourmet food store where she works, her complexity and energetic sense of purpose are balanced by a hazy self-awareness of adolescence.
Part of an exciting wave of young Black filmmakers whose work reshaped and redefined indie film in the early ’90s, Leslie Harris was one of the few Black women making films from her own perspective, a rarity even in independent cinema of the era.
Before you add these Sundance 2022 films to your watch list …
Do understand that … while I am a bit annoyed at how triggering most of these Sundance 2022 films seem, I am going to give them a watch before I judge them.
So if you wanna wait until I drop reviews before checking these out, I completely understand.
But if you’re already excited to check these out, feel free to visit the Sundance website and grab a ticket or two, so we can watch these together.