A still of actor Saul Williams in the film Neptune Frost
Photo: Neptune Frost

The festival returns with both in-person and online events in January next year.

The Sundance Film Festival remains one of North America's most coveted places to premiere a film. Over the years, it’s been a place where a handful of African filmmakers and stories have also found a welcome reception. Before she made her Cannes-debuting second film Rafiki, Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu premiered her sci-fi short film, Pumzi, at Sundance in 2010, while the South-African-set Searching for Sugar Man won the Audience Prize in 2012, and in 2017, The Wound (Inexeba) starring singer Nakhane started its journey there too.

This year, 82 features representing 28 countries will premiere at Sundance, with 15 New Frontier projects too. The offerings from African filmmakers, however, are quite slim. Still, they represent a coup for the filmmakers involved.

Some of the most highly anticipated films of the coming year make up Sundance’s slate of world premieres. Included in this showcase is South African director Oliver HermanusLiving. Adapted from the 1952 Japanese film Ikiru, directed by the great Japanese auteur, Akira Kurosawa, Living is set in London and stars Bill Nighy as a civil servant facing a fatal illness. It also stars Alex Sharp (The Trial of the Chicago Seven) and Tom Burke (Mank), with Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell taking care of the costumes.

Sharing the news on Facebook, Hermanus said: "We’re going to Park City to premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and we’re in really great company! Mad proud of team LIVING."

Hermanus, who has found great success at international film festivals in the past – Skoonheid won the Queer Palm in Cannes in 2011 – has also lined up Josh O’Connor (The Crown) and Paul Mescal (Normal People) to star in his next feature, a WWI love story titled The History Of Sound, while his most recent film Moffie opened in the US and France earlier this year.

Nigerian-American director Adamma Ebo’s Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul, will also premiere at Sundance. Ebo worked on the film as a Screenwriters Fellow at the Sundance Institute in 2019. Co-produced by Daniel Kaluuya and Ebo’s twin sister, Adanne, the film stars Regina Hall as the first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch who attempts to help her pastor husband, played by Sterling K. Brown, rebuild their congregation.

In the Short Film program, Nigerian filmmaker Olive Nwosu will share Egúngún (Masquerade) which she also wrote, and it tells the story of a young woman, in search of healing, who returns home to her birthplace, Lagos. Malian director Moïse Togo brings his non-fiction short film about albinism, titled $75,000, to Sundance, while multidisciplinary South African artist Elijah Ndoumbe will debut Prayers for Sweet Waters, a short film about the worlds of three transgender sex workers living in Cape Town during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Rwandan actress and playwright Anisia Uzeyman’s collaboration with Saul Williams, Neptune Frost, is part of Sundance's Spotlight section, a tribute to the films it loved from the past year. Neptune Frost, which has been described by one critic as an “Afrofuturist musical,” and counts Lin-Manuel Miranda and Kara Walker among its producers, had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year.

The Sundance Film Festival returns to Park City, Utah from January the 20th to 30th, 2022.

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