Sundance announces diverse line-up

40% of 112 features directed by women

by Amber Wilkinson

Joanna Hogg's The Souvenir
Joanna Hogg's The Souvenir Photo: Protagonist Pictures
The Sundance Film Festival underlined its commitment to diversity as it announced the bulk of its 2019 line-up yesterday, with 40 per cent of all films announced directed by one or more women, 36 per cent directed by one or more filmmaker of colour and 13 per cent helmed by one or more people who identify as LGBTQIA.

The UK has a strong showing in the World Dramatic Competition, including the latest from Archipelago director Joanna Hogg, whose latest film The Souvenir, starring Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton, sees a film student attempt to navigate a difficult relationship while also trying to find her voice as an artist.

The Last Tree, directed by Shola Amoo, also joins the section, charting the story of a British boy of Nigerian heritage who, after a happy childhood in rural Lincolnshire, struggles to cope when he moves to inner London. UK co-production Dirty God shows life for a woman struggling to keep her life and relationships together after an acid attack.

There are two UK and Irish films in contention for the World Documentary Competition - Midnight Traveller, which sees director Hassan Fazili document his own flight from the Taliban, and veteran filmmaker Kim Longinotto's Shooting The Mafia, which charts photographer Letizia Battaglia's liftetime of bearing witness to the violence of the Mafia.

Chiwetel Ejiofor's feature debut The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, about a young boy in Malawi trying to savet his family from famine and UK/Ireland/Australian co-production Animals, about a friendship under pressure, will feature in the Premieres section. Meanwhile, Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes star in Official Secrets, The true story of British Intelligence whistleblower Katharine Gun.

British and Irish interest in the Midnight section falls to Lee Cronin's The Hole In The Ground, about a woman who begins to think her son may not be her son at all and starring Seána Kerslake and James Cosmo, and UK/American co-production The Lodge, directed by Veronika Franz, about the trouble that brews for a woman and her reticent new stepchildren when they are isolated in a remote cabin, directed by .

Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, said: “Society relies on storytellers. The choices they make, and the risks they take, define our collective experience. This year’s Festival is full of storytellers who offer challenges, questions and entertainment. In telling their stories, they make difficult decisions in the pursuit of truth and art; culture reaps the reward.”

John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, added: “These films and artists tell the truth: whether documentaries that illuminate hidden histories or fiction features that spotlight diverse, human experiences, this year’s slate is layered, intense and authentic.”

In total, there are 112 feature-length films in the programme for the festival, which runs from January 24 to February 3. They come from 33 countries and include 45 first-time filmmakers.

Keri Putnam, executive director of Sundance Institute, said: "Focusing a bright light on these independent stories is urgent and crucial, especially in the noise of today’s globalized media landscape. Voices from many places and perspectives, often shut out of the mainstream, offer us new insights. It’s immensely heartening to see these bold visions and their tellers thriving.”

We'll be bringing full details of the programme soon and you can read our coverage from previous Sundance editions here.

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