Film lovers, rejoice! Because the renowned 2023 Sundance Film Festival is officially on its way back to Utah!
Per a press release sent to The Root, this year’s slate of films will see an array of entertaining, timely, and evocative films that are sure to whet the appetites of both critics and movie lovers until they’re released to a broader audience. And because you know how we get jiggy ‘round these parts, we’ve gathered a handful of Black-leading, centric and/or directed and produced works that you ought to keep your eyes and ears perked for.
First up is Magazine Dreams, from director and screenwriter Elijah Bynum. Starring Devotion’s Jonathan Majors, Taylour Paige, and Harrison Page, the forthcoming feature centers around “an amateur bodybuilder struggles to find human connection as his relentless drive for recognition pushes him to the brink.” While this description and the sheer star power of Majors is all I need to show up with popcorn in hand, I’d be remiss not to mention that the still image of him in the film below does a good job of convincing me to show up as well.
He already broke the internet a couple months back with his Men’s Health Magazine cover and spread and with Magazine Dreams, I’m sure he’ll break whatever’s left of it.
In Young. Wild. Free. from director Thembi L. Banks and producers Baron Davis, Charles D. King, Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd and Tommy Oliver, Judas and the Black Messiah’s Algee Smith stars as a high school senior drowning in responsibilities whose world is turned upside down after being robbed at gunpoint by the girl of his dreams. Additional cast includes Sanaa Lathan, Mike Epps, and Sierra Capri.
On the documentary front, Michèle Stephenson invites us to go to Mars in her upcoming feature, Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project. It’s set to feature intimate vérité, archival footage, and visually innovative treatments of poetry to take us on a journey through the dreamscape of legendary poet Nikki Giovanni as she reflects on her life and legacy.
Another legend will be at the center of a documentary and it’s none other than Little Richard. In Little Richard: I Am Everything, director and producer Lisa Cortés reveals the Black queer origins of rock ’n’ roll finally exploding the whitewashed canon of American pop music. Through archival and performance footage, the revolutionary icon’s life unspools with all of its switchbacks and contradictions.
Next is All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt by director and screenwriter Raven Jackson and produced by Barry Jenkins. Starring The Woman King star Sheila Atim, Charleen McClure, Moses Ingram and more, the upcoming film revolves around a “decades-spanning exploration of a woman’s life in Mississippi and an ode to the generations of people, places, and ineffable moments that shape us.”
Next up is A Thousand and One from director and screenwriter: A.V. Rockwell and produced by Lena Waithe. Starring Teyana Taylor and Will Catlett, the upcoming film tells the story of unapologetic and free-spirited Inez, who kidnaps 6-year-old Terry from the foster care system, convinced it’s one last, necessary crime on the path to redemption. Holding on to their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability in New York City.
In director, screenwriter and producer Qasim Basir’s To Live and Die and Live, Snowfall’s Amin Joseph stars as Muhammad who returns home to Detroit to bury his stepfather and is thrust into settling his accounts. But his struggles with depression and addiction may finish him before he can finish the task. Additional cast includes Omari Hardwick, Cory Hardrict, Skye P. Marshall, Dana Gourrier, and Maryam Basir.
Mami Wata, from Nigerian filmmaker C.J. “Fiery” Obasi, tells the story of two sisters who must fight to save their people and restore the glory of a mermaid goddess to the land after the harmony in a village is threatened by outside elements. Its cast includes Evelyne Ily, Uzoamaka Aniunoh, Kelechi Udegbe, and more.
In the documentary, The Stroll from director Kristen Lovell, the history of New York’s Meatpacking District, is told from the perspective of transgender sex workers who lived and worked there. Lovell, who walked “The Stroll” for a decade, reunites her community to recount the violence, policing, homelessness, and gentrification they overcame to build a movement for transgender rights.
In the documentary Milisuthando, South African director and screenwriter: Milisuthando Bongela invites audiences into a poetic, memory-driven exploration of love, intimacy, race, and belonging set in past, present, and future South Africa.
Other titles include Rye Lane, Mami Wata, Girl, Drift, Kokomo City, Bravo, Burkina!, Invisible Beauty, SLAM (From the Collection), Talk to Me and Landscape with Invisible Hand.
The 2023 Sundance Film Festival takes place in Park City, Utah and streaming online beginning Jan. 19-29.