Sundance Film Festival 2019

From 24 January to 3 February the 35th edition of the Sundance Film Festival the most important film festival in the United States and the most prestigious showcase dedicated to independent filmmakers from around the world. Packed with movies and documentaries featuring new visions groundbreaking stories, diverse storytelling, the 2019 Sundance Film Festival offers 112 feature-length films representing 33 countries, 102 world premieres, 45 debut films, over 40% women filmmakers.

 

US DRAMATIC COMPETITION

HALA by Minhal Baig – The story of an irreproachable teenager, Hala, the only child of Pakistani immigrants in the United States. As the high-school graduation approaches his father attempts to arrange a marriage for her with a man of his choice. But Hala is in love with Jesse, a classmate with whom she shares a passion for poetry.

 

US DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

MIKE WALLACE IS HERE by Avi Belkin – Journalism in America is on the chopping block viewed as “enemy of the people” by Donal Trump. Lies, fake news, propaganda all threaten to cripple the First Amendment of the Constitution. Mike Wallace with his hard-hitting ann unconstrained style is considered the inventor of this style of journalism. During fifty years of career he interviewed the biggest celebrities on the world scene, always maintaining his aggressive reporting style. Mike Wallace Is Here is the portrait of a dogged journalist who through the decades mixing public and private life has contributed to redifined American broadcast journalism.

ONE CHILD NATION by Nanfu Wang – The chilling untold history of China’s one-child policy.An investigation into the stories of millions of forced sterilizations, abandoned children, state abductions. One Child Nation reveals the relentless and terrifying propaganda that pushed many Chinese citizens to commit crimes against friends and relatives. Through interviews with both victims and their perpetrators, and with data regarding the number of abandoned or disappeared children, One Child Nation unveils decades of silence on one of the most terrible and unprecedented experiment of social manipulation ever made in the history of humanity.

 

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

ADVOCATE by Rachel Leah Jones – Original and provocative, a film that looks into the consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a perspective of pacification. Lea Tsemel is an Israeli lawyer for human rights, often exposed to criticism in the press and public view for defending the Palestinians. The film shows two of Tsemel’s cases, one professional and the other personal. A minor accused of attempted murder and the personal case of his  husband, an activist accused of treason against the State of Israel.

COLD CASE HAMMARSKJOLD by Mads Brügger – The United Nations’ Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was misteriously killed when his plane crashed in then Northern Rhodesia in 1961. He was flying in to peace talks to end fighting in the mineral-rich Katanga province in Congo. At that time Hammarskjöld was committed to advocating the independence of the former colony against the wishes of the European mining companies. It was not an accident. 55 years after the case is still unsolved. An impressive investigative documentary that tries to confront the truth buried under conspiracies, false clues and cover-ups. Göran Björkdahl, the protagonist in the film, has researched the case for years, and his conclusion, supported by new statements and previously unpublished documents, is, that Hammarskjöld‘s plane was brought down. The motive was to maintain the Westen control of Katanga minerals.

GAZA by Garry Keane – A delicate portrait of Palestinian life through 17-year-old Karma Khaial immersed in the heart of Gaza. Inside a Gaza City taxi, we meet a teacher, student, and a barber, who all share with humanity and humor their dreams with the driver, Ahmad. He could take them anywhere except out of the enclave.

MIDNIGHT TRAVELER by Hassan Fazili – A story of migration, an autobiographical story filmed by the protagonist. In 2015 the Taliban sentenced Hassan Fazili to death for his documentary Peace in Afghanistan. Following the killing of the main actor, Fazili, with his wife and sought refuge in Tajikistan. After 14 months, they were rejected back in Afghanistan. From here they started their journey across Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, running into smugglers of migrants, criminal gangs and refugees like them.

SEA OF SHADOW by Richard Ladkani – In Mexico’s Sea of Cortez drug cartels and Chinese traffickers have joined forces to exploit  the rare totoaba fish threatening to destroy all marine life in the region, including the mysterious whale species known as the vaquita. A group of brilliant scientists, high-tech activists, investigative journalists and courageous undercover agents attempt to rescue the endangered whale and bring the vicious international crime to justice.

THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY by Petra Costa – Under the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva 20 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty. In 2010, Lula passed the presidential baton to the former female guerrilla Dilma Rousseff. Behind the official celebration people rage against the institutional corruption much of it abetted by a partisan judge who fed news outlets sensational, deeply flawed corruption reports that targeted Lula and Dilma Rousseff. The Edge of Democracy carries a potent warning against the present Brazil’s political crisis, allegedly fomented by Western superpowers.

THE GREAT HACK by Karim Amer – Data we give with our researches has surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable asset. Data are the new weapons to wage cultural and political wars. The Great Hack uncovers the dark world of data exploitation. Starting from the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data breach, an unsettling insight into the genesis of the information we consume daily in the digital age.

 

PREMIERES

OFFICIAL SECRETS by Gavin Hood – The true story of Katharine Gun, a British whistleblower who in the run up of the US military escalation of Iraq in 2003 leaked information to the press about an illegal NSA spy operation designed to push the UN Security Council into sanctioning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. A very important piece of the Iraq war puzzle.

THE REPORT by Scott Z. Burns – The story of Daniel Jones, lead investigator for the US Senate’s sweeping study into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was found to be brutal, immoral and ineffective. Jones battled tirelessly to make public what many in power sought to keep hidden. A gripping political thriller on a decade of political intrigues and cover-ups.

THE INFILTRATORS by Alex Rivera – Based on true events, the story of Claudio Rojas, a man taken from his home in Florida and transferred without any explanation the Broward Transitional Center, a detention facility used as a holding space for imminent deportations. Claudio’s family contacts the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), a group of activists known for stopping deportations. NIYA enlists an infiltrator, Marco Saavedra, who discovers a for-profit institution housing hundreds of multinational immigrants, all imprisoned without trial. A hard-hitting snapshot of the American immigration detention system.

 

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