Sundance 2022 is almost upon us, and the film buffs at That Shelf are counting down the hours until the festival kicks off this Thursday. This year’s slate of titles includes a wealth of can’t-miss dramas, riveting docs, and bone-chilling Midnight flicks.
If you’re taking part in Sundance 2022 and interested in virtually supporting homegrown talent, That Shelf has you covered. We’ve assembled a list of projects with Canadian ties that are set to wow digital audiences at Sundance 2022.
Fire of Love – US Documentary Completion
Katia and Maurice Krafft loved two things — each other and volcanoes. For two decades, the daring French volcanologist couple were seduced by the thrill and danger of this elemental love triangle. They roamed the planet, chasing eruptions and their aftermath, documenting their discoveries in stunning photographs and breathtaking film to share with an increasingly curious public in media appearances and lecture tours. Ultimately, Katia and Maurice would lose their lives during a 1991 volcanic explosion on Japan’s Mount Unzen, but they would leave a legacy that would forever enrich our knowledge of the natural world.
Inspired by the French New Wave, director Sara Dosa and the filmmaking team fashion a lyrical and joyous celebration of the intrepid scientists’ love and their spirit of adventure, drawing from the Kraffts’ spectacular archive of indelible, often otherworldly images, set against a playful soundtrack. Narrated by the inquisitive, inimitable Miranda July, Fire of Love tells a story of primordial creation and destruction, following two bold explorers as they venture into the implacable unknown — all for the sake of love.
Midwives – World Cinema Documentary Competition
Hla and Nyo Nyo live in a country torn by conflict. Hla is a Buddhist and the owner of a makeshift medical clinic in western Myanmar, where the Rohingya (a Muslim minority community) are persecuted and denied basic rights. Nyo Nyo is a Muslim and an apprentice midwife who acts as an assistant and translator at the clinic. Her family has lived in the area for generations, yet they are still considered intruders. Encouraged and challenged by Hla, who risks her own safety daily by helping Muslim patients, Nyo Nyo is determined to become a steady health care provider for her community.
Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing’s remarkable feature debut was filmed over five turbulent years in a country that has long been exoticized and misunderstood. The filmmaker’s gentle, impartial gaze grants unique access to these courageous women who unite to bring forth life. Filled with love, empathy, and hope, Midwives offers a rare insight into the complex reality of Myanmar and its people.
Babysitter – Midnight
Middle-aged sexist Cédric (Patrick Hivon) gets suspended from work after drunkenly kissing a female reporter during a prank on live TV. Stuck at home with his long-suffering girlfriend, Nadine (director Monia Chokri), and their incessantly crying baby, Cédric teams up with his sensitive brother, Jean-Michel (Steve Laplante), to co-author a confessional book apologizing for their past misogyny. Enter Amy (Nadia Tereszkiewicz): a mysterious and provocative young babysitter, who, like a Mary Poppins of the libido, forces the trio to face their sexual anxieties while turning their lives upside down.
Chokri’s cockeyed comedy, adapted by Catherine Léger from her play, deftly skewers modern sexual mores while putting the screws to middle-class hypocrisy. Babysitter combines rapid-fire dialogue and explosive slapstick with playful optical effects and eccentric colorful compositions in a bold style best described as screwball surrealism. Chokri gives a comically unhinged but affecting performance as a repressed woman emerging from her shell, while Hivon and Laplante are hilarious as the newly minted, clueless male feminists.
Framing Agnes – Next
Agnes, the pioneering, pseudonymized transgender woman who participated in Harold Garfinkel’s gender health research at UCLA in the 1960s, has long stood as a figurehead of trans history. In this rigorous cinematic exercise that blends fiction and nonfiction, director Chase Joynt explores where and how her platform has become a pigeonhole. Framing Agnes endeavors to widen the frame through which trans history is viewed — one that has remained too narrow to capture the multiplicity of experiences eclipsed by Agnes’s. Through a collaborative practice of reimagination, an impressive lineup of trans stars (Zackary Drucker, Angelica Ross, Jen Richards, Max Wolf Valerio, Silas Howard, and Stephen Ira) take on vividly rendered, impeccably vintage reenactments, bringing to life groundbreaking artifacts of trans health care.
Joynt’s signature form-rupturing style radically reenvisions the imposition of the frame on the cultural memory of transness through his brilliantly crafted, communally driven excavation. This reclamation tears away with remarkable precision the myth of isolation as the mode of existence of transgender history-makers, breathing new life into a lineage of collaborators and conspirators who have been forgotten for far too long.
Bump – Shorts Film Program
A young man’s unwillingness to let go of a trivial encounter leads him to seek retribution.
This is Not a Ceremony – Project (Virtual Reality)
The buffalo spirit Inii and two trickster poets serve as the guides in this immersive experience that transports you to a place transcending time, where an elder beams down from the stars to invite you to become a part of the human ledger. The elder makes space for us to collectively bear witness to tragic events in the lives of two Indigenous men — Adam North Peigan and Brian Sinclair — and entrusts us to share what we’ve seen and heard.
Part performance, part participatory media, This Is Not a Ceremony asks us to consider our role in engaging with documentaries about social injustice and to confront modern notions of empathy and personal responsibility. Darkly humorous and occasionally caustic, This Is Not a Ceremony offers contemporary insights into the lived experience of Indigenous men, and extends a chance to embrace responsibility and the meaningfulness of redemption.