10 films to watch out for at sundance, part two

From Black Lives Matter to Standing Rock and a Japanese pop idol, power and protest form the backbone of the documentary strands premiering at Sundance film festival this week. Here are ten of i-D’s most anticipated docs.

by Colin Crummy
19 January 2017, 2:15pm

The Standing Rock Sioux protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline brought global attention to indigenous resistance in North America, and this eight-part documentary series from VICE — the first two of which premiere at Sundance — looks at both the origins and aftermath of the stand off. But filmmaker Michelle Latimer and host Sarain Fox take the story further to examine the the Native American and indigenous population's fight across America, meeting Apache defending the last of their sacred grounds against mining, and the Sioux youth standing against a environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.

An Inconvenient Sequel
The former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's 2006 documentary brought climate change crisis to a mainstream audience and this none-too-timely follow up examines the escalation of the catastrophic environmental problems and how possible a solution is. In a post-fact era — and with a President-elect hell bent on climate change denial — this Sundance premiere is essential viewing.

Strong Island
Filmmaker Yance Ford goes on an extremely personal journey in racial politics, examining loss and grief through his family's own trauma. In 1992, the director's brother 24-year-old William was shot and killed by a 19-year-old white mechanic after a row about a car repair spiraled out of control. An all white jury acquitted the accused, despite the fact that William was unarmed. Promising intimate and artful storytelling, Strong Island explores the injustice and the effect on Ford's family as well as reflecting on what blackness means in America — then and 20 years since.

The Force
In Oakland — where police misconduct and civil rights abuses are historically rife — the boys in blue are trying to clean up their act. Filmmaker Peter Nicks follows them in his bracing, cinema verite style on dangerous jobs, amidst fresh accusations of harassment and against the backdrop of an increasingly organized Black Lives Matter movement. The Force is likely to be edge-of-your-seat stuff, with a bird's eye view of law enforcement issues in modern America.

The New Radical
Filmmaker Adam Lough delves into the dark web to explore a world where young, politicized radicals have found ways to resist corporate and political power. But to what end do the makers of Dark Wallet, a Bitcoin app that allows users to 'go dark', want to follow? And what ideals, if any, lie behind the pursuit of freedom of information and the downfall of old economic and political structures? In an era where hacking can change election fortunes and may yet change the fortunes of the U.S. president-elect, The New Radical could prove a crucial peek into the online underground.

Whose Streets?
"My biggest piece of advice is don't wait for an invitation," Sabaah Folayan told i-D last year of her activism. "You don't need permission to get involved — every American is involved by default. The question is where will you stand?" The answer to the question for the Brooklyn based filmmaker is in Whose Streets? her debut documentary, which follows four young activists in the aftermath of the Ferguson uprising in 2014.

Related: 13 New Yorkers on the importance of Black Lives Matter

Cries from Syria
Director Evgeny Afineevsky gathers firsthand accounts of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, in a film that records events there since 2011. Cries from Syria hears from activists and child protesters about the civil war. HBO has already picked up rights to the film, which head of documentaries Sheila Nevins said, is about 'exposing war as it is, not as it seems to be.'

Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower
It could be a neat title for a comic book adaptation but Joe Piscatella's documentary, Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower, is about a real life have-a-go hero. But that description undersells Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong college student unafraid to take on the Chinese regime. He galvanizes a new generation of activists into a 79-day campaign of civil disobedience aimed at shutting down the city's Financial District.

Tokyo Idols
The Japanese pop industry, female objectification, and internet come under scrutiny in Kyoko Miyake's documentary about Ri Ri, a Tokyo pop idol who has amassed followers or 'brothers', who give up their jobs to follow their female fantasy. If on the face of it, this looks about as cutesy as Hello Kitty, Miyake delves deeper as the female idols like Ri Ri become younger and the disconnect between men and women, and reality and online, widens.

This Is Everything - Gigi Gorgeous
Academy Award-winning documentarian Barbara Kopple follows a very public coming out as Canadian diver Gregory Lazzarato first declares he is gay on his YouTube channel then, after the death of his mother, announces "I am transgender." As the internet star takes on a new name, Gigi Gorgeous, the filmmaker is there to document her transition.


Text Colin Crummy

sundance film festival