Sundance Film Festival announced the works selected across the Indie Episodic, Shorts and Special Events sections of the 2020 Festival. Of the projects announced, 48% were directed or created by one or more women, 33% were directed or created by one or more filmmaker of color, and 19% by one or more people who identify as LGBTQIA. 7 were supported by Sundance Institute in development, whether through direct granting or Labs.
74 short films will screen at the Festival from 27 countries and chosen from 10,397 submissions – 4,992 from the U.S. and 5,405 international. The Institute’s support for short films extends internationally and year-round, with select Festival shorts presented as a traveling program at seventy-five theaters in the U.S., Canada and Europe each year, and short films and filmmakers taking part in regional Master Classes geared towards supporting emerging shorts-makers in several cities.
Among the shorts the Festival has shown in recent years are Fauve, Aziza, Ghosts of Sugar Land, Thunder Road, Whiplash and The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.
A dedicated showcase for emerging creators of independently produced episodic content for broadcast, web, and streaming platforms. Past projects that have premiered within this category include Work in Progress, State of the Union, Wu Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men and Quarter Life Poetry.
Awkward Family Photos / U.S.A. (Director: William Kirkley, Executive Producers: Mike Bender, Doug Chernack, William Kirkley, Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, Terry Dougas, Jean-Luc De Fanti) — A hilarious, odd, and heartfelt exploration of the imperfect family experience. The families behind some of the most viral photos from the archives of AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com tell their unique stories and reunite to recreate their original photos, forcing them to reconcile their past and celebrate their awkwardness. World Premiere
Chemo Brain / Denmark (Director: Kristian Håskjold, Screenwriters: Kristian Håskjold, Johan Wang) — When Oliver is diagnosed with testicular cancer, his life is turned upside down. This lighthearted drama-series depicts the derailment of a young man that is doing everything he can to not lose his friends, his girlfriend, himself, and ultimately his life. Cast: Adam Ild Rohweder, Karoline Brygmann, Jens Jørn Spottag, Mads Reuther, Stephanie Nguyen, Mathilde Passer. International Premiere
City So Real/ U.S.A. (Director: Steve James) — An impressionistic mosaic portrait of current-day Chicago which delivers a deep, multifaceted look into the soul of America’s third-largest city, set against the backdrop of its history-making 2019 mayoral campaign. World Premiere
Embrace/ U.S.A. (Director: Jessica Sanders, Creators: Kathreen Khavari, Chuck Neal) — Against the backdrop of Oakland California, Iranian-American medical student Kat tries to save her Iranian family by taking on a surprising side hustle. The show is a culturally diverse, quasi-surrealist dramedy that captures the ever-increasing need for human connection and the subsequent commodification of it. Cast: Kathreen Khavari, Eddie Huang, Mitra Jouhari. World Premiere
Hey Lady!/ Canada (Directors: Sarah Polley, Adriana Maggs, Will Bowes, Screenwriter: Morris Panych) — A fearlessly off-the-charts rampage of urban vengeance as senior-citizen Lady, along with her friend Rosie, upturns everything in her path–social norms, rules of etiquette, and even the series itself. Cast: Jayne Eastwood, Jackie Richardson. World Premiere
Laetitia / France (Director: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, Screenwriters: Antoine Lacomblez, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade) — Eighteen-year-old Laetitia has disappeared. Police quickly arrest Tony Meilhon but investigators still can’t find the body. This story follows the repercussions for Laetitia’s family and twin sister Jessica; the police force inner workings and social services; the judicial system and government itself. Based on real events. Cast: Marie Colomb, Sophie Breyer, Yannick Choirat, Sam Karmann, Kevin Azïas, Noam Morgensztern. International Premiere
The Ride/ U.S.A. (Director: Linas Phillips, Executive Producers: Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass) — Wayne, a 40-year-old ride share driver and spiritual coach, recently moved back in with his mom and discovers the only thing that gives his life meaning is to help his passengers let go of their negative thoughts, whether they want his help or not. Cast: Linas Phillips, Maria Thayer, Alex Karpovsky, Punkie Johnson, Joslyn Jensen, Timm Sharp. World Premiere
Untitled Pizza Movie / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Shapiro) — How do you remember somebody in a disposable world? Weaving an abandoned film about pizza (NYC in the early 90s), a stunning, physical archive (thousands of objects) with a remarkable triple portrait, this series traces three lives over thirty years, three continents, and the faultlines of class, dreams, and memory. World Premiere
One-of-a-kind moments highlighting new independent works that add to the unique Festival experience. Past projects that have played in this category include Lorena, Now Apocalypse, Wild Wild Country and Top of the Lake.
Hillary / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nanette Burstein) — A portrait of a public woman, interweaving moments from never-before-seen 2016 campaign footage with biographical chapters of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s life. Featuring exclusive interviews with Hillary herself, Bill Clinton, friends, and journalists, an examination of how she became simultaneously one of the most admired and vilified women in the world. World Premiere
LANCE / U.S.A. (Director: Marina Zenovich, Producers: Marina Zenovich, P.G. Morgan) — This deeply personal examination of one of the world’s most controversial figures examines a man who’s both winner and loser, saint and sinner. With unprecedented access to Lance’s world, this psychological portrait is a powerful study of that 21st century phenomenon: the celebrity who falls spectacularly and publicly from grace. World Premiere
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist / U.S.A., Spain (Director: Alexandre O. Philippe, Producer: Kerry Deignan Roy) — A lyrical and spiritual cinematic essay on The Exorcist, and an exploration of the uncharted depths of William Friedkin’s mind’s eye, the nuances of his filmmaking process, and the mysteries of faith and fate that have shaped his life and filmography. Cast: William Friedkin. North American Premiere
Love Fraud / U.S.A. (Directors: Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing, Executive Producer: Vinnie Malhotra, Amy Goodman Kass, Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing) — Bigamy. Identity theft. Fraud. For the last 20 years Richard Scott Smith has used the internet and his dubious charms to prey upon unsuspecting women in search of love–conning them out of their money and dignity. But now his victims ban together and seek sweet revenge. World Premiere
Max Richter’s Sleep/ United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Natalie Johns) — Following the composer as he navigates an ambitious performance of his acclaimed 8-hour opus. Centring around an open air concert in Los Angeles, alongside footage from Berlin, Sydney and Paris, we are plunged deep into the life and process of both the artist and his creative partner Yulia Mahr. North American Premiere
McMillions/ U.S.A. (Directors: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte, Executive Producers: Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Archie Gips, James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte) — McMillions is the definitive, real-life account of the McDonald’s Monopoly game scam, which defrauded the American public throughout the 1990s, as told by the “prize winners,” criminals, government officials, and FBI agents, whom eventually took the crime ring down. World Premiere
Siempre, Luis / U.S.A. (Director: John James, Executive Producer: Michael Stolper) — Follow one single-minded immigrant’s improbable journey from Puerto Rico to the halls of power. Witness Luis Miranda’s unflappable idealism as he battles his health, mobilizes the mainland Latinx community, matches wits with his youngest child applying to college and brings Hamilton to his island home, all in twelve months. Cast: Luis Miranda, Lin-Manuel Miranda. World Premiere
The Trade / U.S.A. (Director: Matthew Heineman, Executive Producers: Pagan Harleman, Matthew Heineman, Vinnie Malhotra, Joedan Okun) — A deeply personal and intimate portrait of human smuggling, sex trafficking, and the struggle to survive the migrant cycle between Central America and the United States. World Premiere
We Are Freestyle Love Supreme / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Fried, Producers: Sarina Roma, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Jill Furman, Jon Steingart, Jenny Steingart) — Follow the 15-year journey of the founding members of the improv hip-hop group Freestyle Love Supreme, as they reflect upon why this show remains such an important piece of their personal, creative, and professional history–from the basement of the Drama Bookshop in NYC to the Broadway stage. Cast: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Anthony Veneziale, Christopher Jackson, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Chris Sullivan. World Premiere
U.S. NARRATIVE SHORT FILMS
Arabian Alien/Saudi Arabia, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Meshal Aljaser) — Saad, a Muslim married man, gets over his depression after a space Alien is introduced into his life. World Premiere
Baldwin Beauty / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Thembi Banks) — Farrah, new to LA, goes on the mobile styling app Get Glam, to find new clients. When she arrives at an appointment, she finds a house of girls pre-gaming for a party and maybe a new crew of friends.
Blocks / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bridget Moloney) — An existential comedy about the mother of two young children who begins to spontaneously vomit plastic toy blocks. World Premiere. DAY ONE
Buck / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Elegance Bratton, Jovan James) — Caught in the throes of a depressive fugue, young Lynn resorts to debauchery to find joy — only to discover that happiness is a much more complicated proposition. World Premiere
Danny’s Girl / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Emily Wilson) — Danny meets his online girlfriend for the first time, but accidentally discovers her unspeakable possession, which throws their first night together into a dizzying tailspin. World Premiere
Dirty / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Matthew Puccini) — Marco cuts class to spend the afternoon with his boyfriend, Graham. Things do not go as planned. World Premiere
He’s the One/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jessie Kahnweiler) — A girl meets guy and falls head over heels, but a shocking discovery forces her to question everything. A dark comedy about falling in love with the one person you’re supposed to hate. World Premiere
How Did We Get Here? / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michelle Miles) — A visual exploration of progressive atrophy. A study in how microscopic changes can go unnoticed, but amass over time. Even as these changes become drastic, we sometimes fail to realize anything has happened at all. World Premiere
Lance (in a Neck Brace) / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Chloé Aktas) — After a devastating breakup, Lance listens to instructional cassette tapes on how to heal his broken heart. World Premiere. DAY ONE
Little Chief / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Erica Tremblay) — The lives of a Native woman and a troubled young boy intersect over the course of a school day on a reservation in Oklahoma. World Premiere
Meats / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ashley Williams) — A pregnant vegan struggles with her newfound craving for meat. World Premiere
Meridian / U.S.A., Italy (Director and screenwriter: Calum Walter) — Footage transmitted by the last unit in a fleet of autonomous machines is sent to deliver an emergency vaccine. The film follows the machine before its disappearance, tracing a path that seems to stray further and further from its objective.
Pillars / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Haley Elizabeth Anderson) — After seeing a boy she likes before church, Amber sneaks out to the Sunday school bathroom during the service and is given her first kiss. World Premiere
Place / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jason Gudasz) — Wanting a fresh start, Lauren moves into a house with her daughter and new boyfriend–but the spirits of the house have plans to turn them all against each other in very bizarre ways.
-Ship: A Visual Poem / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Terrance Daye) — A black boy learns contradicting lessons of manhood and masculinity on the day of his cousin’s funeral.
T / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Keisha Rae Witherspoon) — A film crew follows three grieving participants of Miami’s annual T Ball, where folks assemble to model R.I.P. t-shirts and innovative costumes designed in honor of their dead.
Three Deaths / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jay Dockendorf) — Three strangers confront death in a modern interpretation of a Tolstoy short story. World Premiere
Valerio’s Day Out / Colombia, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Arcos) — A young jaguar goes on a killing spree when he escapes from his enclosure at a zoo. After he’s captured, sedated and relocated, he makes a video diary for his significant other, Lula.
INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE SHORT FILMS
Are You Hungry? / Finland (Director: Teemu Niukkanen, Screenwriter: Antti Toivonen) — A single mother struggles to connect with her adopted teenage son, whom she believes is gay. U.S. Premiere. DAY ONE
Backpedal / Australia (Director and screenwriter: Dani Pearce) — A collage of an American poem, exploring the universality of womanhood.
Bad Hair / Estonia (Director and screenwriter: Oskar Lehemaa) — Insecure and balding Leo has decided to try a mysterious hair growth liquid to fix up his looks. The liquid causes a series of grotesque metamorphoses, as Leo tries to get his bodily changes under control, the evening quickly turn into chaos.
Benevolent Ba / Malaysia, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Diffan Sina Norman) — A devout woman’s lust for virtue thrusts her family into a sacrificial slaughter of biblical proportions. World Premiere
The Devil’s Harmony / United Kingdom (Director: Dylan Holmes Williams, Screenwriters: Dylan Holmes Williams, Jess O’Kane) — A bullied teenage girl leads an a cappella club on a trail of destruction against her high school enemies.
Exam / Iran (Director: Sonia K. Hadad, Screenwriters: Sonia K. Hadad, Farnoosh Samadi) — A teenage girl gets involved in the process of delivering a pack of cocaine to its client, and gets stuck in a weird cycle of occurrences. DAY ON
Former Cult Member Hears Music For The First Time / Norway, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kristoffer Borgli) — After a woman escapes the captivity of her abusive family, a magazine invites her to a journalistic experiment: to hear music for the first time. World Premiere
I’ll End Up in Jail / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Alexandre Dostie) — A stay-at-home mom gets into a murderous car crash where nobody wants to take the blame. U.S. Premiere
Leave of Absence / Russia (Director and Screenwriter: Anton Sazonov) — In Russia, supressed masculinity has led to a feeling of unfulfillment as men feel that the country rejects them, leading to a drastic decline in male life expectancy. North American Premiere. DAY ONE
No One is Crazy in This Town / Indonesia (Director: Wregas Bhanuteja, Screenwriters: Wregas Bhanuteja, Henricus Pria) ) — The owner of a big hotel orders Marwan and his team to remove mentally ill people from the city streets and cast them away in the forests. North American Premiere
Olla / France, United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Ariane Labed) — Olla has answered an ad on a dating website for Eastern European women. She moves in with Pierre, who lives with his old mother, but nothing goes as expected.
Paola Makes A Wish / Switzerland (Director and screenwriter: Zhannat Alshanova) — On an ordinary day at work, Paola starts to feel that she is missing out something exciting in her life. U.S. Premiere
Pattaki / Cuba (Director: Everlane Moraes, Screenwriter: Tatiana Monge Herrera) — In the dense night, when the moon rises, those who live in a monotonous daily life without water are hypnotized by the powers of Yemaya, the goddess of the sea. U.S. Premiere
Regret / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Santiago Menghini) — Following the death of his father, a man must survive the manifestations of his inner demons over the course of a dreary night. World Premiere
Sadla / South Africa (Director and screenwriter: Zamo Mkhwanazi) — While going on a simple errand, Nathi’s journey is marked by disturbing interactions with authority. But is he an innocent victim? U.S. Premiere. DAY ONE
So What If The Goats Die / France, Morocco (Director and screenwriter: Sofia Alaoui) — Abdellah, a young shepherd living in the mountains, is forced to brave the snow blocking him in order to get food and save this cattle. Once he gets to the village, he faces a supernatural phenomenon. World Premiere
Song of Clouds / Nepal (Director and screenwriter: Ankit Poudel) — A haunting visual fever dream, and a meditation on the afterlife; the journey to the next world, and what gets left behind among the living. World Premiere
Sticker / Macedonia (Director and screenwriter: Georgi M. Unkovski) — After an unsuccessful attempt to renew his car registration, Dejan falls in a bureaucratic trap that tests his determination to be a responsible father. North American Premiere
A Thousand Sails / Hong Kong (Director and screenwriter: Hing Weng Eric Tsang) — Ren promises to keep a secret for her neighbor’s son–a secret she can share with no one on the island. Her only refuge from sleepless nights is her deceased husband. International Premiere
DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILMS
Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa / U.S.A. (Directors: Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, Mike Attie) — At a Philadelphia abortion helpline, counselors answer nonstop calls from women who seek to end a pregnancy but can’t afford to. In this documentary we learn how economic stigma and cruel legislation determine who has access to abortion.
All That Perishes at the Edge of Land / Pakistan (Director: Hira Nabi, Screenwriters: Hira Nabi, Qurratulain Hyder) — A ship berthed at Gadani and the shipbreakers coming from all over Pakistan to break it discover that they might have more in common than otherwise imagined when they enter into a conversation.
Bereka / U.S.A., Ethiopia (Director and screenwriter: Nesanet Teshager Abegaze) — A family history archive as told by matriarch Azalu Mekonnen and her granddaughter Samira Hooks. Shot on Super 8 film in Los Angeles and Gondar, Ethiopia, capturing the Ethiopian coffee ceremony and explores migration, memory and rebirth.
Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business / U.S.A. (Director: Christine Turner) — At age 93, there’s no stopping the legendary artist Betye Saar. World Premiere
Broken Orchestra / Canada, U.S.A. (Director: Charlie Tyrell) — The Symphony for a Broken Orchestra project collected hundreds of broken instruments from the Philadelphia public school system, fixed them and then returned them into the hands of students.
Character / U.S.A. (Director: Vera Brunner-Sung) — Actor Mark Metcalf made his reputation in Hollywood playing aggrieved authority figures. Now in his 70s, he takes a look back on his career in this meditation on power, privilege, and the perils of being a “type.” World Premiere
Church and the Fourth Estate / U.S.A. (Director: Brian Knappenberger) — A reporter uncovers a file that reveals a shocking series of child abuse allegations in Idaho’s Boy Scouts, which rattle the community and implicate the Mormon church. The story reveals long-running crimes that threaten to bankrupt the Boy Scouts. World Premiere
The Deepest Hole / U.S.A. (Director: Matt McCormick) — While the space and arms races are Cold War common knowledge, few know about the United States and Soviet Union’s race to dig the deepest hole. This is particularly surprising since Hell may have been inadvertently discovered in the process. World Premiere
Día de la Madre / U.S.A. (Directors: Ashley Brandon, Dennis Höhne) — A band of juveniles embark on a 24-hour spree of breaking into houses and causing a ruckus. World Premiere
Do Not Split / U.S.A., Norway (Director: Anders Hammer) — The story of the 2019 Hong Kong protests, told through a series of demonstrations by local protestors that escalate into conflict when highly armed police appear on the scene. World Premiere
E-Ticket / Hong Kong, U.S.A. (Director: Simon Liu) — A frantic (re)cataloguing of a personal archive and 16,000 splices in the making. 35mm frames are obsessively rearranged in evolving-disorienting patterns, as a Dante’s Inferno for the streaming age emerges, illustrating freedom of movement for the modern cloud.
Guisado on Sunset / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Terence Nance) — Missed connection regret at that one late-night spot–the kind you keep playing back in your head but not quite ever remembering right, until it starts to look like something else. International Premiere
John Was Trying to Contact Aliens / U.S.A. (Director: Matthew Killip) — John Shepherd spent 30 years trying to contact extraterrestrials by broadcasting music millions of miles into space. After giving up the search he makes a different connection here on earth. World Premiere. DAY ONE
Junior Bangers / United Kingdom (Director: Danny Lee) — In England, banger racing isn’t just a sport, but a way of life. Join 11-year-olds Finn and Harley on a cold winter race day in Birmingham. North American Premiere
Lichen / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Lisa Jackson) — An otherworldly deep dive into the hidden beauty of lichens, asking what we might learn from them. Ancient and diverse, thriving in adversity, confounding scientists to this day, lichen is a model of emergence. International Premiere
A Love Song for Latasha / U.S.A. (Director: Sophia Nahli Allison) — A dreamlike archive in conversation with the past and the present to reimagine a more nuanced narrative of Latasha Harlins by excavating intimate and poetic memories shared by her cousin and best friend.
Narcissister Breast Work / U.S.A. (Director: Narcissister) — Focusing on the exercise by women of their right to bare their breasts in public, this film is an investigation into how prohibitions on female toplessness are grounded in fear of, and desire to control, the female body. World Premiere
Now Is the Time / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Christopher Auchter) — On the 50th anniversary of the first new totem pole raising on British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii in almost a century, we revisit the day that would signal the rebirth of the Haida spirit.
See You Next Time / U.S.A. (Director: Crystal Kayiza) — A window into the intimate moments shared across a nail salon table between a Chinese nail artist and her black client in Brooklyn, NY.
The Shawl / U.S.A. (Director: Sara Kiener) After years of long distance, a pair of big and beautiful boyfriends celebrate their reunion at a Stevie Nicks concert, where they share a brush with magic. World Premiere
The Starr Sisters / U.S.A. (Directors: Beth Einhorn, Bridey Elliott) — Patte and Randa Starr are fun specialists. After overcoming a dark past, these sisters are inseparable. Now in their 70s, they do exactly as they please and their candy drawer is always fully stocked.
While I’m Still Breathing (Tandis Que Je Respire Encore) / France (Directors: Laure Giappiconi, Elisa Monteil, La Fille Renne, Screenwriter: Laure Giappiconi) — The blurred portrayal of a young woman as she moves through three steps of her sexuality. North American Premiere
ANIMATED SHORT FILMS
Daughter / Czech Republic (Director and screenwriter: Daria Kashcheeva) — Should you hide your pain, close yourself inside your inner world, and long for your father’s love? Or should you understand and forgive before it’s too late?
Daytime Noir / U.S.A. (Director: Jeron Braxton, Screenwriters: Jeron Braxton, Jay Ellis, Antonio Maclin) — A mother and son’s journey through the exploitative world of tabloid TV. World Premiere
eadem cutis: the same skin / Germany (Director: Nina Hopf) — “I just want to be seen as who I am today!” John shares his thoughts on identity, body and gender and gives a very personal insight into his life–and an intimate proximity to his body. North American Premiere
Eli / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nate Milton) — A true story from the realms of high strangeness, magical thinking, and manic delusion.
Farce / Norway (Director and screenwriter: Robin Jensen) — A man, a woman and a meat grinder. Love is messy.
Hot Flash / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Thea Hollatz) — Ace is having a hot flash, and she’s about to go live on local television. How one woman tries to keep her cool when one type of flash leads to another. International Premiere
Hudson Geese / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bernardo Britto) — A goose remembers his last migration. World Premiere. DAY ONE