The annual Sundance Film Festival went down this week in Park City, Utah and black filmmakers and celebs turned out to debut their projects in record numbers.
Stars like Idris Elba, Common, Omari Hardwick, Forest Whitaker, Spike Lee, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Datari Turner, Jay Ellis, and Jaden Smith worked on the projects in this long list of #BlackExcellence; proving 2018 may be a big year for black folks in film.
Here’s a rundown of the 39 black films that showed at Sundance Film Festival.
Synopsis: Jamaica, 1973. When a young boy witnesses his brother’s assassination, a powerful Don gives him a home. Ten years later he is sent on a mission to London. He reunites with his girlfriend and their daughter, but then the past catches up with them. Based on Victor Headley’s novel.
Cast: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo Cleary
Director: Idris Elba
Synopsis: “Monster” is what the prosecutor calls 17 year old honors student and aspiring filmmaker Steve Harmon. Charged with felony murder for a crime he says he did not commit, the film follows his dramatic journey through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison.
Cast: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson, Rakim Mayers, Jennifer Ehle, Tim Blake Nelson.
Director: Anthony Mandler
Producers include John Legend, Tonya Lewis Lee, Nas
Sorry to Bother You
Synopsis: In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, black telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success – which propels him into a macabre universe.
Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Jermaine Fowler, Armie Hammer, Omari Hardwick
Director and screenwriter: Boots Riley
Synopsis: Internationally-renowned pastor Carlton Pearson — experiencing a crisis of faith — risks his church, family and future when he questions church doctrine and finds himself branded a modern-day heretic. Based on actual events.
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Condola Rashad, Jason Segel, Lakeith Stanfield, Martin Sheen
Director: Joshua Marston
Synopsis: An investigation into one woman’s memory as she’s forced to re-examine her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive; based on the filmmaker’s own story.
Cast: Laura Dern, Isabelle Nélisse, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki, Ellen Burstyn, Common
Director and screenwriter: Jennifer Fox
A Boy, A Girl, A Dream.
Synopsis: On the night of the 2016 Presidential election, Cass, an L.A. club promoter, takes a thrilling and emotional journey with Frida, a Midwestern visitor. She challenges him to revisit his broken dreams – while he pushes her to discover hers.
Cast: Omari Hardwick, Meagan Good, Jay Ellis, Kenya Barris, Dijon Talton, Wesley Jonathan
Director: Qasim Basir, Screenwriters: Qasim Basir, Samantha Tanner
Producer: Datari Turner
Masters of the Sun
Synopsis: In 1983, Los Angeles was spared from utter destruction driven by an ancient evil. The ghetto became ground zero for drug epidemic that transformed citizens into soul-sucking zombies through Z-Drops, until a ragtag crew used one weapon to take their city back: hip-hop.
Cast: Rakim, Queen Latifah, Jason Isaacs, Stan Lee, KRS-One, Slick Rick
Synopsis: Things get complicated when three friends share a house in South LA’s Leimert Park. Despite being married, beats-maker Mickey hasn’t had an orgasm in three months, Bridget mistakes sex for love while assisting a visiting artist and Kendra shoots videos of her numerous sexual encounters, hoping for her own art show.
Cast: Ashley Blaine Featherson, Ashli Haynes, Asia’h Epperson, Wade Allain-Marcus, Franz Latten, Ikenna Okoye
Director: Mel Jones
Synopsis: Camille’s life as a lonely suburban teenager changes dramatically when she befriends a group of girl skateboarders. As she journeys deeper into this raw New York City subculture, she begins to understand the true meaning of friendship as well as her inner self.
Cast: Rachelle Vinberg, Dede Lovelace, Jaden Smith, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, Kabrina Adams.
Director: Crystal Moselle
Synopsis: A reimagining of the life and times of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas Outlaw Music movement; he gave up paradise for the sake of a song.
Cast: Benjamin Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, Charlie Sexton.
Director: Ethan Hawke
Synopsis: A buddy comedy in a world that won’t let it be one.
Cast: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones.
Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada
Synopsis: After opening a KKK shop, Klansman Michael Burden falls in love with a single mom who forces him to confront his senseless hatred. After leaving the Klan and with nowhere to turn, Burden is taken in by an African-American reverend, and learns tolerance through their combined love and faith.
Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wilkinson, Usher Raymond
Director and screenwriter: Andrew Heckler
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Synopsis: 1993: after being caught having sex with the prom queen, a girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center. Based on Emily Danforth’s acclaimed and controversial coming-of-age novel. Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, John Gallagher Jr., Jennifer Ehle.
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Monsters and Men
Synopsis: This interwoven narrative explores the aftermath of a police killing of a black man. The film is told through the eyes of the bystander who filmed the act, an African-American police officer and a high-school baseball phenom inspired to take a stand.
Cast: John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chanté Adams, Nicole Beharie, Rob Morgan
Director and screenwriter: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Synopsis: Tyler spirals out of control when he realizes he’s the only black person attending a weekend birthday party in a secluded cabin.
Cast: Jason Mitchell, Christopher Abbott, Michael Cera, Caleb Landry Jones, Ann Dowd
Director and screenwriter: Sebastian Silva
Minding the Gap
Synopsis: Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship.
Director: Bing Liu
The Price of Everything
Synopsis: With unprecedented access to pivotal artists and the white-hot market surrounding them, this film dives deep into the contemporary art world, holding a funhouse mirror up to our values and our times – where everything can be bought and sold.
Director: Nathaniel Kahn
Hearts Beat Loud
Synopsis: In Red Hook, Brooklyn, a father and daughter become an unlikely songwriting duo in the last summer before she leaves for college.
Cast: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Sasha Lane, Blythe Danner, Toni Collette
Director: Brett Haley
A Kid Like Jake
Synopsis: As married couple Alex and Greg navigate their roles as parents to a young son who prefers Cinderella to G.I. Joe, a rift grows between them, one that forces them to confront their own concerns about what’s best for their child, and each other.
Cast: Claire Danes, Jim Parsons, Octavia Spencer, Priyanka Chopra, Ann Dowd, Amy Landecker
Director: Silas Howard
Crime + Punishment
Synopsis: Over four years of unprecedented access, the story of a brave group of black and Latino whistleblower cops and one unrelenting private investigator who, amidst a landmark lawsuit, risk everything to expose illegal quota practices and their impact on young minorities.
Director: Stephen Maing
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Synopsis: Composed of intimate and unencumbered moments of people in a community, this film is constructed in a form that allows the viewer an emotive impression of the Historic South – trumpeting the beauty of life and consequences of the social construction of race, while simultaneously a testament to dreaming.
Director: RaMell Ross
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Synopsis: Fred Rogers used puppets and play to explore complex social issues: race, disability, equality and tragedy, helping form the American concept of childhood. He spoke directly to children and they responded enthusiastically. Yet today, his impact is unclear. Have we lived up to Fred’s ideal of good neighbors?
Director: Morgan Neville
Synopsis: Imagine Dragons’ Mormon frontman Dan Reynolds is taking on a new mission to explore how the church treats its LGBTQ members. With the rising suicide rate amongst teens in the state of Utah, his concern with the church’s policies sends him on an unexpected path for acceptance and change.
Director: Don Argott
The Game Changers
Synopsis: James Wilks, an elite special forces trainer and winner of The Ultimate Fighter, embarks on a quest for the truth in nutrition and uncovers the world’s most dangerous myth.
Director: Louie Psihoyos
King In The Wilderness
Synopsis: From the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to his assassination in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. remained a man with an unshakeable commitment to nonviolence in the face of an increasingly unstable country. A portrait of the last years of his life.
Director: Peter Kunhardt
We The Animals
Synopsis: Us three, us brothers, us kings. Manny, Joel and Jonah tear their way through childhood and push against the volatile love of their parents. As Manny and Joel grow into versions of their father and Ma dreams of escape, Jonah, the youngest, embraces an imagined world all his own.
Cast: Raul Castillo, Sheila Vand, Evan Rosado, Isaiah Kristian, Josiah Gabriel
Director: Jeremiah Zagar
Night Comes On
Synopsis: Angel LaMere is released from juvenile detention on the eve of her 18th birthday. Haunted by her past, she embarks on a journey with her 10 year-old sister that could destroy their future.
Cast: Dominique Fishback, Tatum Hall, John Earl Jelks, Max Casella, James McDaniel
Director: Jordana Spiro
An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn
Synopsis: Lulu Danger’s unsatisfying marriage takes a fortunate turn for the worse when a mysterious man from her past comes to town to perform an event called ‘An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn For One Magical Night Only.’
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry, Craig Robinson
Director: Jim Hosking
I Am Not a Witch
Synopsis: After a minor incident, nine-year old Shula is exiled to a witch camp where she is told that if she escapes, she’ll be transformed into a goat. As she navigates through her new life, she must decide whether to accept her fate or risk the consequences of seeking freedom.
Cast: Margaret Mulubwa, Henry B.J. Phiri, Nancy Mulilo, Margaret Sipaneia
Director and screenwriter: Rungano Nyoni
America To Me
Synopsis: This limited series captures a year-long look at one of Chicago’s most progressive and diverse public schools, located in suburban Oak Park. Unprecedented in scope, the series is both intimate and epic in its storytelling as it explores America’s charged state of race, culture and education today.
Director: Steve James/ Segment Directors: Bing Liu, Rebecca Parrish, Kevin Shaw
Synopsis: Nine high school students from around the globe navigate rivalries, setbacks, and of course, hormones, on their journey to compete at the international science fair. Facing off against 1,700 of the smartest, quirkiest teens from 78 different countries, only one will be named Best in Fair.
Directors: Cristina Costantini, Darren Foster
Synopsis: A provocative riff on Waiting for Godot, capturing the poetry, humor and humanity of this urgent and timely play about two young black men talking shit, passing the time and dreaming of the promised land.
Cast: Jon Michael Hill, Julian Parker, Ryan Hallahan, Blake Delong.
Director: Spike Lee, Playwright/Screenwriter: Antoinette Nwandu
Synopsis: Faced with an emergency situation, a group of young Black and Latino friends carefully weigh the pros and cons of calling the police.
Director: Carey Williams, Screenwriter: K.D. Dávila
Synopsis: In a black hair salon in gentrifying Brooklyn, the local residents fend off a strange new monster: white women intent on sucking the lifeblood from black culture.
Director and screenwriter: Mariama Diallo
Synopsis: Ask your doctor if LaZercism is right for you.
Director and screenwriter: Shaka King
Synopsis: A young black girl in South L.A. experiences a series of events at the convergence of racism and sexism during the 4th of July holiday.
Director and screenwriter: Katrelle N. Kindred
Synopsis: The director’s baby brother moves back in with his parents.
Director and screenwriter: Kamau Bilal
Wild Wild West: A Beautiful Rant by Mark Bradford
Synopsis: Where do artists come from? An answer explored through paper, percussion, and one pissed off artist.
Director and screenwriter: Dime Davis
On My Way
Synopsis: In a Tesla, multiple Yung Jakes rap about money, cars, drugs and things of that nature, among interactive elements.
Cast: Yung Jake
Space Explorers: A New Dawn
Synopsis: Experience the journey of NASA astronauts as they navigate the trials and sacrifices of their training and missions. An immersive VR experience that shines a light on mankind’s most ambitious endeavor to understand our planet, our universe and our origins.
Cast: Jeanette Epps, Jessica Meir, Victor Glover, Michael Gernhardt