The 2019 Sundance Film Festival, which runs Jan. 25 through Feb. 3, in Park City, Utah, received a record-breaking 14,259 submissions from 152 countries. The festival’s diverse programming includes dramatic and documentary features, short films, series and episodic content and emerging media.
This year’s lineup features films and projects from CalArts alumni.
The New Frontier program focuses on the intersection of art, film and technology, pushing the boundaries of “new media.”
Directed and written by Christine Marie (Theater/IM MFA 09), “(antiquated) Augmented Reality” immerses audiences into a 3D world created with pre-cinematic, nondigital stereo imaging techniques. Audiences are given 3D glasses through which 30-foot tall figures come to life. “The vivid choreography and score leave a lasting impression within one’s psyche…” according to the performance program. The cast includes Taylor Unwin, Sandra Ruiz and Melissa Ferrari (Film/Video MFA 19).
“Ashe ’68” is a virtual reality (VR) experience directed by Brad Lichtenstein. It’s part of a larger multi-component documentary project created and produced by Rex Miller that includes a documentary film, photo exhibition and education outreach campaign, celebrating the tennis champion and civil rights activist Arthur Ashe, who became the first black man to win the US Open.
CalArts Character Animation Program faculty Masha Vasilkovsky (Film/Video MFA 98) and Ruah Edelstein (Film/Video BFA 10) were key collaborators on the VR experience being showcased at Sundance. The cast features Chris Eubanks, Michael Cleary, Peter Begley, Andrew Panter and Alex LaCroix.
Another New Frontier Exhibition is “The Dial” by artist and CalArts Theater faculty Peter Flaherty, in collaboration with NightLight Labs — founded by CalArtians Trey Gilmore (Theater-IM MFA 17), Jesse Garrison (Theater-IM MFA 17) and Sal Mannino (Theater MFA 17). Fellow alum Theotime Vaillant (Film/Video BFA 15) also contributed to this work, which uses augmented reality, projection mapping and sculptural elements to create a murder mystery.
In this experience, four participants must learn why a woman crashes her car through the stone wall of her wealthy family’s compound. “The Dial” uses phones and open-ear headphones to analyze the unfolding drama. The shifting perspectives of the characters and the seasonal changes of the house itself help uncover what happened that fateful night.
Sundance’s Next section features “pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling…that will shape a ‘greater’ next wave in American cinema” according to Sundance.
“Adam,” the debut directorial feature film from Emmy Award-nominated director and CalArts alum Rhys Ernst (Film/Video MFA 11), is a coming-of-age comedy about an awkward teenager who becomes entangled in new romances and friendships in New York City’s lesbian and trans activist scene. The cast includes Nicholas Alexander, India Menuez, Leo Sheng, Chloe Levine and Margaret Qualley.
Read about Ernst’s experience working on “Adam” in an article he published on Medium.
The Midnight slate is a showcase of feature films that defy genre classification.
Produced by CalArts alum Natalie Metzger (Dance MFA 11) and directed by Jocelyn DeBoer, “Greener Grass” is a “twisted comedy set in a demented, timeless suburbia where every day adults wear braces on their straight teeth, couples coordinate meticulously pressed outfits and coveted family members are swapped in more ways than one in this competition for acceptance.” The cast features DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe, Beck Bennett, Neil Casey, Mary Holland and D’Arcy Carden.
“It’s Going to Be Beautiful” was written and directed by Luis Gutierrez Arias (Film/Video MFA 20) and John Henry Theisen (Film/Video MFA 20). The documentary is about the U.S. Border Patrol’s selection process to choose the winning design for the US-Mexico border wall.
“Sister” by Siqi Song (Film/Video MFA 16) is an animated short about a man who reflects on his childhood memories of growing up in China with his annoying younger sister.
For the complete Sundance lineup visit Sundance.org/festival.
— By Elizabeth Liang