Even casual film fans will recognize at least one name in the Texas-related lineup at the Sundance Film Festival this year. But the independent-focused fest is also all about highlighting what’s undiscovered.
The pandemic cancelled in-person activities in Utah in 2021. Festival planners had hoped to hold a hybrid event this year but recently pulled back to an all-virtual event. Single tickets and festival passes are still available. The film festival runs Jan. 20-30.
1. La Guerra Civil (Documentary, Premiere)
Eva Longoria Bastón is from Corpus Christi. Audiences know her, of course, primarily as an actress but she has really expanded her influence in the film industry. She has directed a lot of TV and previously directed another documentary.
“La Guerra Civil” takes us back to the 1990s boxing rivalry of Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez and how it pitted Mexican-Americans against Mexican nationals.
2. Descendant (U.S. Documentary Competition)
Director Margaret Brown lives in Austin. She’s been involved in a couple of documentaries including the film about Townes Van Zandt – “Be Here To Love Me.”
“Descendant” is not based in Texas. It’s a really deep story about a community that is dealing with how it defines its identity and what its history means. The community has long known its ancestors were brought to the U.S. on an illegal slave ship. But “Descendant” focuses on if and how things change when the remains of that ship are discovered.
3. Mija (Documentary)
Unlike the other films on this list, the director behind this film is not a Texan but this feature crosses briefly through Texas.
“Mija” is about Doris Muñoz who has made big strides in creating more representation for Latinx artists in the music industry. One of the focuses of her attention is a young singer from Dallas, another daughter of immigrants, Jacks Haupt.
4. Cha Cha Real Smooth (U.S. Dramatic Competition)
“Cha Cha Real Smooth” is a narrative feature about an unlikely relationship among people supporting one another through different stages in life. It’s written, directed and costars Cooper Raiff, who is from Dallas. It also stars Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann. Though he’s relatively new in the film industry, Raiff’s might be a name we start hearing more often.
5. Soft Animals (Short)
Director Renee Zhan is from Houston. “Soft Animals” is unlike anything else. The visuals include paint, sketches and different kinds of animation, all rolled into one.
It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole with Zahn’s work because her website features some of her past shorts. While they’re all very different, they include a lot of adult themes presented in a way that’s very beautiful and artistic – though often also pretty dark.
6. Work (Short)
Director April Maxey is from San Antonio. She has worked a lot in shorts before and has taken on many different roles in the film industry. She is another one to keep an eye on, and she has been chosen to be part of a few prestigious directing labs.
Maxey is especially interested in focusing on underrepresented perspectives and bringing more attention to those. “Work” focuses on a young Latina who is trying to make her way forward after a tough breakup.