Cinapse @ Sundance 2023: The Cinapse Crew’s Picks

The iconic fest keeps the hybrid model going with another year of can’t miss screenings!

While some festivals have begun to migrate back to in person, The Sundance Film Festival is keeping their well honed virtual component around another year. It’s easily one of the best virtual film festival experiences out there and I’m excited to once again be able to check out their offerings for another year. It was something many festivals struggled with during the pandemic that Sundance effortlessly cracked out of the gate, with its post film Q&As, intros and scheduled screenings that drove live reactions and virtual conversation.

“We are bringing the upcoming Festival to passionate audiences in attendance in Utah and across the country online, reaffirming our emphasis on discovering new talent, empowering independent artists and projects, and ensuring communities have access to impactful storytelling,” said Joana Vicente, CEO of the Sundance Institute. “With new offerings and comprehensive options for engagement, we welcome you to join us in celebrating the Festival experience and the programming that drives timely conversations influencing change.”

The festival kicks off in person in Park City, Utah beginning on January 19th through January 29th. On January 24th, the Festival then expands to online audiences, who will have access to a curated on-demand selection of titles featuring a lineup that once again rivals any traditional year. Along with the 110 features and 64 shorts available, the festival will also have their trademark talks and events which take place virtually and IRL.

While most passes are sadly sold out, there are still a few left over at for both in-person pass and virtual programs. Tickets are also available for both online ($20) and in-person ($25) screenings as well. Like last year, both tracks of programming are running in scheduled slots online. With that in mind, like at a traditional fest you will have to pick and chose your line-up based on screening times. Choices will have to be made, and screenings are already selling out — so get your tickets ASAP!

Not sure what to check out? Elizabeth Stoddard and Dan Tabor have got you covered, with a note to let you know how you can check the film out:

Infinity Pool (In Person Only)

Dan’s Hot Take: Brandon Cronenberg’s much anticipated followup to the surreal mindbender Possessor looks to be another slice of body horror thriller mixed with a plot that deals with identity and just what makes us human. The trailer has a man (Alexander Skarsgård) who is sentenced to death commuting his sentence while on vacation on a mysterious island and learns about the ability to commute his sentence to a clone. Throw Mia Goth in there and this makes this easily my most anticipated title of the fest.

Writer-director Brandon Cronenberg (Possessor, 2020 Sundance Film Festival) returns to Park City with a new sci-fi trip through the wicked exploits of foreigners abroad. Crushing violence and surreal horrors puncture this dark satire of the privileged few, centered on the depraved lead performances of Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth.

The Disappearance Of Shere Hite (In Person & Online)

Elizabeth’s Hot Take: The documentary has an intriguing premise: Who is Shere Hite? And why don’t we talk about her much nowadays? The description of Nicole Newnham’s film about the late feminist sex educator grabbed my attention from the get go.

Digging into exclusive archives, as well as Hite’s personal journals and the original survey responses, filmmaker Nicole Newnham (Crip Camp, Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, 2020 Sundance Film Festival) transports viewers back to a time of great societal transformation around sexuality. Her revelatory portrait is a rediscovery of a pioneer who has had an unmistakable influence on current conversations about gender, sexuality, and bodily autonomy, as well as a timely, cautionary tale of what too often happens to women who dare speak out.

Kim’s Video (In Person & Online)

Dan’s Hot Take: Being a big proponent of physical media and having managed a Blockbuster Video in my college days, its a no brainer I want to see a doc on the iconic New York video Mecca Kim’s Video. I was lucky enough to have visited the shop on one of my trips up to NYC and was flabbergasted at not only the quantity of media, but the eclectic nature of the selections. I wasn’t aware the collection has gone missing, but this love letter mixed to physical media mixed with a bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark as they travel to Italy to track down the collection’s new home landed this on my must see list.

David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s playful documentary embraces various filmic forms, from cine-essay and investigative nonfiction to experimental cinema and even heist movies, to fashion an ode to the love of cinema and the enduring power its stories hold.

Nam June Paik: Moon is the Oldest TV (In Person & Online)

Elizabeth’s Hot Take: There was a quick, but memorable, mention of Nam June Paik in the textbook for the 20th Century Music class I took in college — something about him once cutting off a piece of John Cage’s tie as performance art. I’ve been intrigued by the artist ever since and look forward to learning more about him from Amanda Kim’s debut documentary.

First-time feature director Amanda Kim tells the remarkable story of Paik as a citizen of the world and trailblazing artist, who both saw the present and predicted the future with astonishing clairvoyance. With Steven Yeun reading Paik’s own written words — showcasing the artist’s strategic playfulness and immense creativity — Nam June Paik: Moon is the Oldest TV is a celebration of perhaps the most modern artist of all time.

Sometimes I Think About Dying (In Person & Online)

Dan’s Hot Take: Sometimes I Think About Dying promises an awkward love story set in a dreary corporate environment starring Daisy Ridley, who like most that face the end of a mega franchise have issues finding roles after the fact.

Director Rachel Lambert and team craft beautiful cinema for this delicately told story of love for the socially awkward and emotionally challenged. The film is made all the more human by its lovely cast, most prominent in the penetrating eyes of lead actor-producer Daisy Ridley and the caring smile of lead actor, Dave Merheje. Sometimes I Think About Dying is an unexpected fable on the virtues of living.

Fancy Dance (In Person & Online)

Elizabeth’s Hot Take: A first-time feature from Indigenous filmmaker Erica Tremblay, this drama stars Lily Gladstone (Certain Women, The Unknown Country ) as a woman on a search — with her niece — for her missing sister. Honestly this movie had me at Gladstone, but it’s worth noting that this narrative film and Murder in Big Horn (a Showtime miniseries also making a Sundance premiere) involve stories about missing and murdered Indigenous women, an issue that hasn’t received an extreme amount of media attention in the past.

Fancy Dance announces the arrival of a major directorial talent: Erica Tremblay. Her unflinching exploration of marginalization uses a mystery narrative as a springboard for an oblique coming-of-age story, lovingly and luminously enacted by Gladstone and Deroy-Olson. Tremblay’s juxtaposition of settler violence against the strength of Indigenous communities offers a nuanced account of the human costs of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic and the possibilities of healing for those left behind.

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls (In Person & Online)

Dan’s Hot Take: You’ve probably seen a viral video or two of Andrew Bowser’s Andy Kaufman-esque fedora-wearing bearded basement dweller, which are often passed off as legit. If not, try and watch this and tell me you DON’T want to see a practical effects satanic extravaganza featuring this guy:

Based on his viral internet character of the same name, writer, director, and star Andrew Bowser takes us on a wild ride of magic and fun with just the right mix of Satanic worship and friendship. Featuring terrifying monsters and dark and silly laughs, Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is a creative and joyful celebration of weirdos of all kinds.

Going Varsity in Mariachi (In Person & Online)

Elizabeth’s Hot Take: This documentary will take the viewer into the world of competitive mariachi, through a South Texas high school’s involvement in the statewide UIL program. I’m a sucker for films like Spellbound and Mad Hot Ballroom, so I’m excited to see such a documentary with Texas ties (plus Folk Frontera, by the same filmmakers, is a fantastical doc short that played SXSW last year).

Filmmakers Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn transport their audience to this symphonically, aesthetically, and emotionally vibrant world. A directorial debut for Vasquez and sophomore effort for Osborn, Going Varsity in Mariachi is a testament to their ability to explore identity, cultural roots, and pressing social issues with a nuance that foregrounds frankness, boldness, and joy.

birth/rebirth (In Person Only)

Dan’s Hot Take: There are two things that creep me out, zombies and killer children and this Midnighter promises both in this “cerebral shocker”.

birth/rebirth follows a morgue tech who reanimates a little girl, and can only keep her “alive” by harvesting biological materials from pregnant women.

The devilishly perceptive script by Laura Moss and Brendan J. O’Brien reimagines a classic horror myth with such a complete, contemporary understanding that it becomes something exciting, terrifying, and singularly new. They ground this chilling fantasy in the complex psychologies of its leads, all too convincingly played by Judy Reyes, Marin Ireland, and A.J. Lister. This standout directorial debut by Laura Moss is a wonderfully twisted tale that is sure to be one of the big cerebral shockers of the year.

Previous post Westworld Season 4: The Final Season Hits 4K UHD
Next post The Austin Film Critics Association Announce their 2022 Award Winners