The Sundance Film Festival is returning to the Utah mountains in January armed with documentaries about Bill Cosby, Princess Diana, Kanye West and Lucille Ball and the directorial debuts of Eva Longoria, Tig Notaro and Jesse Eisenberg.
Festival organizers unveiled the lineup for the 2022 edition on Thursday, which includes 82 feature-length films culled from over 3,700 submissions.
“This year’s program reflects the unsettling and uncertain times we’ve been living in for the past year and a half,” said Kim Yutani, Sundance’s director of programming.
As in years past, the festival boasts a robust documentary lineup, including “We Need to Talk About Cosby,” in which director W. Kamau Bell attempts to examine the art and artist question as it applies to the actor/comedian, who spent time in prison before his sexual assault conviction was overturned.
Festival director Tabitha Jackson says the Cosby doc is, “A real cultural analysis of what happened.”
“Lucy and Desi,” which marks Amy Poehler’s documentary debut, and “The Princess” from director Ed Perkins are also in the lineup.
Directors Clarence “Coodie” Simmons and Chike Ozah also have “jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy,” chronicling 21 years of Kanye West with never-before-seen footage, and Kathryn Ferguson charts the career of Sinéad O’Connor in “Nothing Compares.”
The documentaries also go beyond the big names and biopics. Director Ramin Bahrani will debut his film “2nd Chance,” about the bankrupt pizzeria owner who invented the modern bulletproof vest, and Rory Kennedy has “Downfall: The Case Against Boeing,” which looks at the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes and the aftermath. Others look at the last ship carrying enslaved Africans to the U.S. (“Descendant”), the U.S. maternal health crisis (“Aftershock”), TikTok (“TikTok, Boom”) and midwives in Myanmar (“Midwives”).
Lena Dunham goes behind the camera once more with “Sharp Stick,” about a 26-year-old who begins an affair with her older boss, Michel Hazanavicius will premiere his zombie comedy, “Final Cut,” and Riley Stearns will debut “Dual,” starring Karen Gillan as a woman who attempts to clone herself after a terminal diagnosis.
There are some notable debuts, like “AM I OK?” a film about female friends directed by Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne and starring Dakota Johnson and Sonoya Mizuno. Eva Longoria directs a documentary about the rivalry between boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez, and Jesse Eisenberg has “When You Finish Saving the World,” starring Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard as mother and son. “Carol” screenwriter Phyllis Nagy has also written and directed “Call Jane,” about abortions in the late 1960s. It stars Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver.
The U.S. dramatic competition slate, which has launched films like “CODA,” “Passing” and “Minari,” includes one of Michael Kenneth Williams’ final projects, “892,” starring John Boyega as a desperate veteran who is on the brink of homelessness.
“We saw a lot of films that have psychological thriller or horror elements throughout the program. We do have a dedicated midnight section, but we were able to find places for so many of these films that were just doing really interesting things,” Yutani said. “And in our U.S. Dramatic section, there are several films written by women exploring racial injustice and the status of women of color in Academia through this horror film lens.”
After going largely virtual in 2021, organizers are planning to return to an in-person festival in Park City, Utah, with some satellite screenings at regional theaters across the U.S. during the second weekend and virtual options as well. Earlier this year, the festival announced that all attendees, from filmmakers to ticket buyers and volunteers, would be required to have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re excited to return to our home in Utah, but also to come together in new ways,” Jackson said. “Building on our experience last year, we’ve discovered new possibilities of convergence, and we embrace the fact that we are now an expanded community in which active participation matters, and audience presence — however it manifests — is essential to our mission.”
In that spirit, the festival will kick off on Jan. 20 with the “immersive live-cinema” documentary “32 Sounds,” which will debut online and in Park City’s Egyptian Theater. Other day one premieres include Longoria’s “La Guerra Civil” and “The Princess.”
“This year, we look forward to celebrating this generation’s most innovative storytellers as they share their work across a wide range of genres and forms,” said Robert Redford, the founder and president of the Sundance Institute. “These artists have provided a light through the darkest of times, and we look forward to welcoming their unique visions out into the world and experiencing them together.”