Sundance Film Festival: A Promising Display of Female Directors’ Work

This year, Sundance Film Festival hosted 235 films across Park City, Salt Lake City, and the Sundance Resort in Utah. This was the festival’s most diverse year to date; 38 percent of the feature film submissions were directed by one or more filmmakers of color, a significant increase from year’s past, according to IndieWire.  In addition, women made up 46 percent of the festival’s short and feature film directors.

I was lucky enough to attend the second week of the festival and watch 10 of the films screened at Sundance. They varied from beautiful, dystopian worlds to documentaries about contemporary issues and events. Here are my favorite three films I watched at Sundance that were directed by women. Each provides a unique look at a niche aspect of our history and even our own experiences. 

Photo by Angel Martinez

“Hail Satan?” Directed by Penny Lane

This riveting documentary about a Satanic Temple premiered at Sundance on Jan. 25. Penny Lane, who has directed two other feature-length films, invites viewers into the world of modern-day Satanists. From the eyes of a few figureheads of the Satanic Temple, such as Lucien Graves and Jex Blackmore, we come to understand what it actually means to be a Satanist today. The answer will surprise you, and the radical antics of the Satanists will have you laughing, cringing, and questioning whether or not we are truly a secular nation. By the end of this documentary, Lane hopes that viewers will understand the journey she went through to make this film, as well as how Satanists are different than the stereotypes attached to their community.

“Sonja ­— The White Swan,” Directed by Anne Sewitsky 

This feature-length, fiction film is based on the true story of Sonja Henie, a Norwegian figure skater and film star. In 1936, Sonja left her home in Norway to expand her figure skating career and move to Hollywood. Ine Marie Wilmann plays the ethereal and charismatic Sonja and brings new life to the classic trope of a Hollywood star whose excessive partying and drinking ruin their career and relationships. The audience starts out rooting for Sonja, but there is a gradual shift where Sonja becomes more of a monster who knows no bounds in getting what she wants. Director Anne Sewitsky sheds a strong cinematic light on the true events of Sonja’s life and creates an exceptional biopic. 

“Troop Zero,” Directed by Bert and Bertie

First-time feature-length co-directors, Bert and Bertie, gift audiences with a truly unique experience. In collaboration with writer Lucy Alibar, these women bring us into the world of Christmas Flint, a young girl who is isolated from her classmates and believes in aliens. Christmas lives with her dad, played by Jim Gaffigan, and is sometimes cared for by his assistant, played by Viola Davis. Christmas forms a Birdie Scout troop of misfit kids, led by Davis as the den mother. What ensues is a feel-good tale with ups and downs that remind us how hard it is to be a kid. However, Bert and Bertie do not fall into the clichés of the usual kids’ movies, but instead fall into the category of unique films where the child actors outshine the adults, like in “Eighth Grade” and “Stand by Me.”


Sundance Film Festival took place from Jan. 24 to Feb. 3 and set the stage for female directors to shine in the film industry. 

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