2020 Sundance Film Festival Line-Up

The feature films that will be showcased at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, held January 23–February 2, have been announced. Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute Executive Director and Women In Film L.A. Board Member, said, “At this year’s Festival, we’ll explore the theme of ‘imagined futures,’ inside the theaters and in the conversations sparked by the work we are presenting. We believe diverse stories from independent artists around the world open us up to new perspectives and possibilities—at a time when fresh thinking and dialogue is urgently needed.”

“Announced today: 118 feature-length films, representing 27 countries and 44 first-time feature filmmakers. Of the 65 directors in all four competition categories, comprising 56 films, 46% are women, 38% are people of color, and 12% are LGBTQ+. In the U.S. Dramatic Competition, 47% of the directors are women; 53% are people of color; 5% are LGBTQ+. In this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition, 45% are women; 23% are people of color; 23% are LGBTQ+.

“44%, or 52, of all films announced today were directed by one or more women; 34%, or 40, were directed by one or more filmmaker of color; 15%, or 18, by one or more people who are LGBTQ+….

“These films were selected from a record high of 15,100 submissions including 3,853 feature-length films. Of the feature film submissions, 1,698 were from the U.S. and 2,155 were international; 29% were directed by one or more women; 40% were directed by one or more filmmaker of color; 15% by one or more people who identify as LGBTQ+.”

At Women In Film, we are especially pleased to congratulate:

  • ReFrame Rise director Haifaa al-Mansour, whose film THE PERFECT CANDIDATE is screening in the “Spotlight” category,
  • ReFrame Ambassador, producer Cassian Elwes, whose film THE LAST THING HE WANTED (dir. Dee Rees) is screening in the “Premieres” category,
  • ReFrame Rise Sponsor, producer Poppy Hanks, and ReFrame Ambassador, producer Charles D. King, whose film BLAST BEAT is screening in the U.S. Dramatic Competition,
  • 1997 Crystal Award recipient, actor Bette Midler, whose film THE GLORIAS (dir. Julie Taymor) is screening in the “Premieres” category,
  • ReFrame Ambassador, producer Lynette Howell TaylorReFrame Partner, producer Shivani Rawat; and WIF Executive Members, producers Samantha Housman and Monica Levinson—whose film WANDER DARKLY (dir. Tara Miele) is screening in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, and
  • ReFrame Ambassador, producer Christine Vachon, whose films SHIRLEY (dir. Josephine Decker) and ZOLA (dir. Janicza Bravo) are screening in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.

The films from women directors screening at Sundance 2020 are:

U.S. Dramatic Competition

“Presenting the world premieres of 16 narrative feature films, the Dramatic Competition offers Festivalgoers a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American independent film…. 47% of the directors in this year’s U.S. Dramatic Competition are women; 52% are people of color; 5% are LGBTQ+.”

    Writer/Director/Producer: Radha Blank; Producers: Lena WaitheInuka Bacote-CapigaJennifer Semler
    A down-on-her-luck New York playwright decides to reinvent herself and salvage her artistic voice the only way she knows how: by becoming a rapper at age 40.
    Writer/Director: Ekwa Msangi; Producer: Huriyyah Muhammad
    Reunited after a 17 year separation, Walter, an Angolan immigrant, is joined in the U.S. by his wife and teenage daughter. Now absolute strangers sharing a one-bedroom apartment, they discover a shared love of dance that may help overcome the emotional distance between them.
    Writer/Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples; Producers: Jeanie IgoeTheresa Steele
    Turquoise, a former beauty queen turned hardworking single mother, prepares her rebellious teenage daughter for the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant, hoping to keep her from repeating the same mistakes in life that she did.
    Writer/Director: Eliza Hittmann; Producers: Adele RomanskiSara MurphyRose Garnett
    An intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin Skylar embark on a brave, fraught journey across state lines to New York City.
    Writer/Director: Eleanor Wilson; Producers: Kara DurrettMandy TaggerAdi Ezroni
    A young Brooklyn couple head upstate to disconnect from their phones and reconnect with themselves. Cut off from their devices, they miss the news that the planet is under attack.
    Director: Josephine Decker; Screenwriter/Producer: Sarah Gubbins; Producers: Christine VachonSue Naegle
    A young couple moves in with the famed author, Shirley Jackson, and her Bennington College professor husband, Stanley Hyman, in the hope of starting a new life but instead find themselves fodder for a psycho-drama that inspires Shirley’s next novel.
    Writer/Director: Tara Miele; Producers: Lynette Howell TaylorSamantha HousmanShivani RawatMonica Levinson
    New parents Adrienne and Matteo are forced to reckon with trauma amidst their troubled relationship. They must revisit the memories of their past and unravel haunting truths in order to face their uncertain future.
  • ZOLA
    Writer/Director: Janicza Bravo; Producers: Christine VachonElizabeth HaggardGia Walsh
    2015: @zolarmoon tweets “wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out???????? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” Two girls bond over their “hoeism” and become fast friends. What’s supposed to be a trip from Detroit to Florida turns into a weekend from hell.

U.S. Documentary Competition

“Sixteen world-premiere American documentaries that illuminate the ideas, people, and events that shape the present day…. 45% of the directors in this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition are women; 23% are people of color; 23% are LGBTQ+.”

    Writer/Director/Producer: Ramona S. Diaz; Producers: Leah MarinoJulie GoldmanCarolyn Hepburn
    Nowhere is the worldwide erosion of democracy, fueled by social media disinformation campaigns, more starkly evident than in the authoritarian regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Journalist Maria Ressa places the tools of the free press—and her freedom—on the line in defense of truth and democracy.
    Director/Producer: Amanda McBaine
    In an unusual experiment, a thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.
    Writer/Director/Producer: Shalini Kantayya
    Exploring the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s startling discovery that facial recognition does not see dark-skinned faces accurately, and her journey to push for the first-ever legislation in the U.S. to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact us all.
    Director/Producer: Nicole Newnham; Producer: Sara Bolder
    Down the road from Woodstock in the early 1970s, a revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers, transforming their young lives and igniting a landmark movement.
    Writer/Director: Kirsten Johnson; Producers: Katy ChevignyMarilyn Ness
    With this inventive portrait, a cameraperson seeks a way to keep her 86-year-old father alive forever. Utilizing moviemaking magic and her family’s dark humor, she celebrates Dr. Dick Johnson’s last years by staging fantasies of death and beyond. Together, dad and daughter confront the great inevitability awaiting us all.
    Director/Producer: Elyse Steinberg; Producers: Maya SeidlerPeggy DrexlerKerry Washington
    Inside the ACLU, a team of scrappy lawyers battle Trump’s historic assault on civil liberties.
    Director: Cristina Constantini
    Once the world’s most famous astrologer, Walter Mercado seeks to resurrect a forgotten legacy. Raised in the sugar cane fields of Puerto Rico, Walter grew up to become a gender non-conforming, cape-wearing psychic whose televised horoscopes reached 120 million viewers a day for decades before he mysteriously disappeared.
    Director/Producer: Kim A. Snyder; Producers: Maria Cuomo ColeLori Cheatle
    Determined to turn unfathomable tragedy into action, the teenage survivors of Parkland, Florida catalyze a powerful, unprecedented youth movement that spreads with lightning speed across the country, as a generation of mobilized youth take back democracy in this powerful coming-of-age story.

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

“Twelve films from emerging filmmaking talents around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.”

  • CHARTER (Sweden)
    Writer/Director: Amanda Kernell; Producer: Eva Åkergen
    After a recent and difficult divorce, Alice hasn’t seen her children in two months as she awaits a custody verdict. When her son calls her in the middle of the night, Alice takes action, abducting the children on an illicit charter trip to the Canary Islands.
  • CUTIES (France)
    Writer/Director: Maïmouna Doucouré
    Amy, 11 years old, meets a group of dancers called “Cuties.” Fascinated, she initiates herself to a sensual dance, hoping to join their band and escape family dysfunction…
  • HIGH TIDE (Argentina)
    Writer/Director: Verónica Chen
    Laura is spending a few days at her beach house to supervise the construction of a barbecue shed. One afternoon, she seduces the chief builder, who never returns. Over the following days, the builders continually invade her home—until Laura grows ferocious.
  • JUMBO (France, Luxembourg, Belgium)
    Writer/Director: Zoé Wittock; Producers: Anaïs BertrandAnnabella Nezri
    Jeanne, a shy young woman, works in an amusement park. Fascinated with carousels, she still lives at home with her mother. That’s when Jeanne meets Jumbo, the park’s new flagship attraction…
  • LUXOR (Egypt, United Kingdom)
    Writer/Director: Zeina Durra
    When British aid worker Hana returns to Luxor, a sleepy city on the banks of the Nile, she comes across Sultan, a talented archeologist and former lover. As she wanders, haunted by the familiar place, she struggles to reconcile the choices of the past with the uncertainty of the present.
    Writer/Director/Producer: Fernanda Valadez; Screenwriter/Producer: Astrid Rondero
    Magdalena makes a journey to find her son, gone missing on his way to the Mexican border with the US. Her odyssey takes her to meet Miguel, a man recently deported from the U.S. They travel together, Magdalena looking for her son, and Miguel hoping to see his mother again.

World Cinema Documentary Competition

“Twelve documentaries by some of the most courageous and extraordinary international filmmakers working today.”

  • THE EARTH IS BLUE AS AN ORANGE (Ukraine, Lithuania)
    Director: Iryna Tsilyk; Producers: Anna KapustinaGiedrė Žickytė
    To cope with the daily trauma of living in a war zone, Anna and her children make a film together about their life among surreal surroundings.
  • INFLUENCE (South Africa, Canada)
    Writer/Director: Diana Neille
    Charting the recent advancements in weaponized communication by investigating the rise and fall of the world’s most notorious public relations and reputation management firm: the British multinational Bell Pottinger.
  • INTO THE DEEP (Denmark)
    Director: Emma Sullivan; Producers: Mette HeideRoslyn Walker
    In 2016, a young Australian filmmaker began documenting amateur inventor Peter Madsen. One year in, Madsen brutally murdered Kim Wall aboard his homemade submarine. An unprecedented revelation of a killer and the journey his young helpers take as they reckon with their own complicity and prepare to testify.
  • THE MOLE AGENT (Chile)
    Writer/Director: Maite Alberdi; Producer: Marcela Santibañez
    When a family becomes concerned about their mother’s well-being in a retirement home, private investigator Romulo hires Sergio, an 83 year-old man who becomes a new resident–and a mole inside the home, who struggles to balance his assignment with becoming increasingly involved in the lives of several residents.
  • ONCE UPON A TIME IN VENEZUELA (Venezuela, United Kingdom, Brazil, Austria)
    Writer/Director: Anabel Rodríguez Ríos
    Once upon a time, the Venezuelan village of Congo Mirador was prosperous, alive with fisherman and poets. Now it is decaying and disintegrating–a small but prophetic reflection of Venezuela itself.
  • SAUDI RUNAWAY (Switzerland)
    Writer/Director: Susanne Regina Meures
    Amjad, a young, fearless woman from Saudi Arabia, is tired of being controlled by the state and patronized by her family. With an arranged marriage imminent, a life without rights and free will seems inevitable. Amjad decides to escape. An unprecedented view inside the world’s most repressive patriarchy.


“Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises that the films in this section will shape a “greater” next wave in American cinema.”

    Writer/Director/Producer: Heidi Ewing; Producer: Mynette Louie
    An epic love story spanning decades is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same.
    Writer/Director: Patricia Vidal Delgado; Producer: Alicia Herder
    In Compton, a soon-to-be undocumented teenager fights for her right to stay in America while risking her family, her friendships, and her first love.
    Writer/Director/Producer: Olivia Lloyd; Writer/Directors: Hannah FidellAlexa Lim Haas, Jillian MayerCelia Rowlson-Hall
    It’s not just a speed boat ride, it’s a Miami adventure.


“A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated narrative films of the coming year.”

    Writer/Director: Julie Taymor; Screenwriter: Sarah Ruhl; Producers: Alex SachsLynn Hendee
    An equal rights crusader, journalist and activist: Gloria Steinem embodies these and more. From her role in the revolutionary women’s rights movement to her travels throughout the U.S. and around the world, Steinem has made an everlasting mark on modern history. A nontraditional chronicle of a trailblazing life.
    Director: Phyllida Lloyd; Screenwriter: Clare Dunne; Producer: Sharon Horgan
    Struggling to provide her daughters with a safe, happy home, Sandra decides to build one – from scratch. Using all her ingenuity to make her ambitious dream a reality, Sandra draws together a community to lend a helping hand to build her house and ultimately recover her own sense of self.
    Writer/Director: Miranda July; Producer: Dede Gardner
    Low-stakes grifters, Old Dolio and her parents invite a chipper young woman into their insular clan, only to have their entire world turned upside down.
    Writer/Director/Producer: Dee Rees
    A veteran D.C. journalist loses the thread of her own narrative when a guilt-propelled errand for her father thrusts her from byline to unwitting subject in the very story she’s trying to break. Adapted from the Joan Didion novel of the same title.
    Director: Liz Garbus; Producer: Anne Carey
    When Mari Gilbert’s daughter disappears, police inaction drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where Shannan was last seen. Committed to finding the truth, her search brings attention to over a dozen murdered sex workers Mari will not let the world forget. Inspired by true events.
    Writer/Director/Producer: Emerald Fennell; Producers: Margot RobbieJosey McNamaraAshley Fox
    Everyone said Cassie was a promising young woman… until something abruptly derailed her future. Nothing in Cassie’s life is as it appears: she’s smart, cunning, and living a double life by night. Now, Cassie has a chance to right the wrongs of the past in this thrilling take on revenge.
    Director: Sara Colangelo
    Kenneth Feinberg, a powerful D.C. lawyer appointed Special Master of the 9/11 Fund, fights off the cynicism, bureaucracy, and politics associated with administering government funds and, in doing so, discovers what life is worth. Based on true events.

Documentary Premieres

“Renowned filmmakers and films about far-reaching subjects comprise this section highlighting our ongoing commitment to documentaries.”

    Writer/Director/Producer: Catherine Gund; Producer: Tanya Selvaratnam
    An exploration of the nexus of art, race, and justice through the story of art collector and philanthropist Agnes Gund who sold Roy Lichtenstein’s painting “Masterpiece” in 2017 for $165 million to start the Art for Justice Fund to end mass incarceration.
    Director: Alison Ellwood; Producer: Eimhear O’Neill
    As the first all-female band to play their instruments, write their songs and have a No. 1 album, The Go-Go’s made history. Underpinned by candid testimonies, this film chronicles the meteoric rise to fame of a band born in the LA punk scene who became a pop phenomenon.
    Director/Producer: Beverly Joubert
    An insiders’ view of one of the greatest river systems on the planet, presented as a love letter, exploring the layers of paradise, limbo and inferno in a natural history echo of Dante’s Divine Comedy, a river of dreams, or beauty of conflict and turmoil.
    Director: Lana Wilson; Producers: Caitrin RogersChristine O’Malley
    A raw and emotionally revealing look at one of the most iconic artists of our time during a transformational period in her life as she learns to embrace her role not only as a songwriter and performer, but as a woman harnessing the full power of her voice.
    Director/Producer: Amy Ziering; Producer: Amy Herdy
    A brilliant former hip hop executive grapples with whether to go public about her rape by one of the most powerful men in the music industry. A gripping and profound examination of race, gender, intersectionality, and the toll sexual abuse takes on survivors and on society at large.


“From horror and comedy to works that defy genre classification, these films will keep you wide awake, even at the most arduous hour.”

    Writer/Director: Romola Garai; Producer: Maggie Monteith
    Tomaz, an ex-soldier now homeless in London, is offered a place to stay at a decaying house, inhabited by a young woman and her dying mother. As he starts to fall for Magda, Tomaz cannot ignore his suspicion that something insidious might also be living alongside them.
    Writer/Director: Natalie Erika James; Producers: Anna McLeish, Sarah ShawRiva Marker
    When Edna, the elderly and widowed matriarch of the family, goes missing, her daughter Kay and granddaughter Sam travel to their remote family home to find her. Soon after her return, they start to discover a sinister presence haunting the house and taking control of Edna.
    Writer/Director: Shana Feste; Producers: Betsy Brandt, Shoreh Aghdashloo
    A blind date turns violent and the woman has to get home through Los Angeles, with her date in pursuit.


“The Spotlight program is a tribute to the cinema we love from throughout the past year.”

    Writer/Director/Producer: Kitty Green; Producer: P. Jennifer Dana
    A day in the life of Jane, an assistant to a high-powered film executive.
    Writer/Director/Producer: Haifaa al-Mansour
    A determined young Saudi doctor’s surprise run for office in the local city elections sweeps up her family and community as they struggle to accept their town’s first female candidate.


“This section of the Festival is especially for our youngest independent film fans. Programmed in cooperation with Utah Film Center, which presents the annual Tumbleweeds Film Festival, Utah’s premiere film festival for children and youth.”

    Writer/Director: Frederike Migom; Producer: Katleen Goosens
    Twelve-year-old Binti dreams of becoming a famous vlogger like her idol Tatyana. But when the police raid her home, and try to deport her and her dad, they are forced to flee. Together with her friend Elias she now plots the perfect plan to stay in the country.
    Director: Brenda Chapman; Screenwriter: Marissa Kate Goodhill; Producer: Andrea Keir
    Before Alice found Wonderland, and Peter became Pan, they were brother and sister. When their brother dies in an accident, they seek to save their parents from downward spirals until finally they’re forced to choose between home and imagination, setting the stage for their iconic journeys into Wonderland and Neverland.