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Category: Now Playing

Q&A: Director Natalie Erika James Offers a Peek Inside the Making of Her Debut Feature, ‘Relic’

Natalie Erika James’s debut feature, Relic, had its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival as part of the Midnight lineup. It is now available to rent online (and is screening at select drive-ins around the United States).
As Natalie Erika James recounted during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, the seed for the horror story that would become Relic was planted when she went to Japan as an adult to spend time with her grandmother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

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Now Streaming: ‘Mucho Mucho Amor’ Reveals Why Famed TV Astrologer Walter Mercado Vanished at His Peak

After premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Mucho Mucho Amor is now streaming on Netflix. The film explores the life and mystery surrounding the late Walter Mercado, a larger-than-life TV astrologer turned cultural icon who captivated Latinx audiences for decades with his over-the-top flair before disappearing from public life at the peak of his fame.
Directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch, like so many other Latinx folks who grew up with the famed personality on their TVs, remember being mesmerized alongside their mothers and grandmothers—knowing they couldn’t dare interrupt—as they waited for Walter to get to their sign.

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‘The Infiltrators’ Directors on Releasing Their Immigration Docu-Thriller amid ICE Retaliation

After Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra’s genre-defying documentary about a for-profit immigrant detention center screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, the high of a successful premiere and winning multiple awards turned into shock and anger when one of the film’s subjects, Claudio Rojas, was detained by ICE and torn apart from his wife and children.

The Infiltrators documented a previous time Claudio was detained, in 2012—and how a group of young immigrant activists hatched a plan to purposely get caught by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, infiltrate the Florida detention center where Claudio was being held, and help him and others fight their deportations. Ibarra and Rivera won accolades for the way they challenge the documentary form, deftly weaving together footage of the activists’ work and reenactments of the detainees in a way that keeps you in the middle of the action.

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Sundance-Supported Films to Watch in July, from ‘The Fight’ to ‘Palm Springs’

The slate of Sundance Institute–supported films available in July includes powerful political documentaries that shine a spotlight on critical issues. The Fight follows heroic ACLU lawyers in four historic cases over essential rights in abortion, immigration, LGBTQ+ issues, and voting, while the award-winning Boys State looks at the state of American politics through the unlikely lens of an annual mock election among the best and brightest of Texas’s young men. And She Could Be Next documents the women of color who claimed their power by running for office during the historic 2018 midterm elections—including women like Rashida Tlaib and Stacey Abrams who are transforming politics from the ground up.

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Nancy Kelly on Her Newly Restored 1991 Film ‘Thousand Pieces of Gold’

When Thousand Pieces of Gold hit theaters in 1991, critics were quick to compare first-time feature director Nancy Kelly to filmmakers like John Ford, Budd Boetticher, and George Stevens, masters of the classic Western—and that was something Kelly and her filmmaking partner (and husband), Kenji Yamamoto, weren’t sure how to take at the time.
“We just don’t like Westerns that much,” Yamamoto told me over the phone when I caught up with the pair to find out more about the making of the project, which went through the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab in 1989, premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1991, and was recently given a 4K restoration by IndieCollect that is being released by Kino Lorber.
Not that they wrote the genre off altogether: “My favorites feature powerful leading women: Destry Rides Again, Johnny Guitar, The Big Country, The Outlaw,” Kelly wrote in a recent piece for IndieWire.

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12 Short Plays Made to Perform at Home, by Sundance Theatre Program Alumni

With so many playwrights and directors seeing their productions closed early, postponed, or, worst of all, canceled due to the impacts of COVID-19, new creative solutions are allowing creators to continue sharing their stories. Some theatres have taken to digital programming or adapting their commissions to be “listen-only,” and some artists are now sharing stories with audiences independently via social media. Play At Home, a new initiative launched by a group of regional and off-Broadway theatres, is offering its own solution for playwrights and audiences alike: it’s commissioning playwrights to write 10-minute plays that you can perform at home with your family members or roommates, or even by yourself.

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Lucía Garibaldi on Making Her Debut Feature, ‘Los Tiburones,’ Now on VOD

When she was shooting Los Tiburones (The Sharks) in a coastal town about 150 kilometers from Montevideo, Uruguay, Lucía Garibaldi had no idea the kind of reception her debut coming-of-age feature was about to receive. “We had no previous experience with anything like this, so we really went into it without having any idea what was going to happen, how it was going to be, what kind of audience we’d find,” she told us when we caught up with her via email recently ahead of the film’s VOD release.
The film not only found an audience but had its world premiere at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, where Garibaldi won the Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic.

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Sundance Selections to Watch in May, from ‘Ema’ to ‘Infiltrators’ and ‘Spaceship Earth’

Film lovers are getting a rare treat in May, with free access to Pablo Larraín’s Ema on streaming platform MUBI on May 1—offered as a one-day sneak preview ahead of the wide release later this year. With elegant choreography and masterful performances from Mariana Di Girolamo and Gael García Bernal, the 2020 Sundance Film Festival selection is an intoxicating window into family dysfunction. Alongside Ema in this month’s release lineup is Rashaad Ernesto Green’s artful coming-of-age portrait from 2019, Premature, full of breakout talent including co-writer and breakout lead Zora Howard.

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Q&A: A Chat with ‘Selah and the Spades’ Writer/Director Tayarisha Poe

Selah and the Spades begins streaming on Amazon Prime today.
While Philadelphia-born filmmaker Tayarisha Poe did in fact attend boarding school when she was growing up, she’s quick to note that there aren’t a whole lot of similarities between herself and her Selah and the Spades protagonist, Selah Summers. “I tend to write fictional characters doing the things that I wish I could do, or that I don’t have the guts to do.

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Gray-bearded man with hat and backpack leans down to talk to boy in red jacket and cap.

20 Films Sundance Programmers Are Watching from Home

As Sundance Institute adapts its artist support programs to continue providing resources for independent storytellers amid global uncertainty, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate some of the work that has previously come through our labs and Festival.
Here are a few recommendations from our programming team for films you can stream at home—from suddenly more-relatable-than-ever stories about people in isolation to thoughtful portraits that remind us of our shared humanity, to off-the-wall comedies that can provide a moment of levity in uneasy times. As we are acutely reminded of the power of art in our everyday lives, Sundance Institute remains committed to supporting the voices that enrich our world.

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What to Watch in March, from ‘Crip Camp’ to ‘Hillary’ and ‘Lost Girls’

When her third feature, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Eliza Hittman was clear about the urgency of the project’s message. “We have an administration that’s trying to chip away—successfully—women’s rights, reproductive rights,” she said after a screening at the Library Theatre in Park City.
Fittingly, the film—which follows two teenage cousins from rural Pennsylvania as they travel by train to New York City so one of them can get an abortion—premieres March 13, right in the middle of Women’s History Month.

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