2024 Sundance Film Festival: Films We’re Excited About

The 2024 Sundance Film Festival officially opens Thursday in Park City and Salt Lake City, and the full lineup includes more than 80 films that will be screening at this year’s festival, including film premieres and film entries competing in a variety of categories. 

There is always hype around a handful of Sundance films before most people, including critics and industry insiders, even have a chance to see them, but one of the best parts of the Sundance Film Festival is the films that surprise us. 

We spoke to Salt Lake magazine film contributors Michael Mejia and Jaime Winston to get their list of films that they think will make an impact this year, and we spoke with one of the people responsible for selecting Sundance’s film lineup. Heidi Zwicker is a Senior Programmer with Sundance Film Festival and she outlined some of the films that have her excited. 

Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun appear in Love Me by Sam Zuchero and Andy Zuchero, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Justine Yeung.

LOVE ME 

“It’s maybe no surprise that AI is a trending topic, with documentaries in the U.S. and World competitions (Love Machina and Eternal You, respectively), NEXT (Seeking Mavis Beacon), and an interactive project in New Frontier [Being (the Digital Griot)],” explains Meijia. “Also I’m very interested in Love Me, the Alfred P. Sloane Feature Film Prize winner, a post-apocalyptic love story between two pieces of space detritus.”

Starting off, there was a lot of buzz about Love Me this year, as Sundance had already given the film an award before the Festival began. “Love Me stars Kristen Stewart and Stephen Yeun, who are both amazing actors. And I don’t think I could say better than the logline,” says Zwicker. The film is about “a buoy and a satellite” who meet online and fall in love long after humanity’s extinction. 

“It’s really inventive, but it’s hard. It’s a love story that plays out in all these exciting ways, but it’s about human connection and so it’s beautiful and different. That’s something that we really like to see, too, is stuff we haven’t seen before,” says Zwicker 

The 2024 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize is an annual award given to an artist with “the most outstanding depiction of science and technology in a feature film.” 

A still from Presence by Steven Soderbergh, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

PRESENCE

“I am also looking forward to checking out new projects by Sundance legends Steven Soderbergh (Presence, Premieres) and Richard Linklater (God Save Texas, Episodic; Hitman, Spotlight),” says Michael Mejia.

Zwicker is likewise excited that Sundance has artists like Steven Soderbergh bringing their work to the festival. “This is someone who has been so successful for so long, but he continues to take chances. He has a true spirit of innovation and independence in his work and in his new film, Presence…Throughout their careers, there’s always a home for them at Sundance. And I love that about our festival, too.” 

Kieran Culkin and Jesse Eisenberg appear in A Real Pain by Jesse Eisenberg, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

A REAL PAIN

“We saw a lot of films about family this year, which I think can be such universal stories,” says Zwicker. “I, personally, am a sucker for a tear-jerker. We found some really lovely, resonant stories about family and growing coming of age—universal themes that filmmakers continually find new ways to express.”

“I’m thinking about films like A Real Pain, Jesse Eisenberg’s film, which is a film about two cousins whose grandmother has recently passed, and they travel to Poland to honor her legacy as a Holocaust survivor, but while also managing their own relationship,” says Zwicker. “It’s funny and it’s emotional, and that’s a film that I found extremely moving.” 

Richard Roundtree and June Squibb appear in Thelma by Josh Margolin, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by David Bolen.

THELMA

“We have a very different kind of film in our Premiere section,” says Zwicker. “I love to see films that are not like anything we’ve seen.” Thelma—a film about a woman who is “duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson” and takes matters into her own hands to get retribution—stars an actress named June Squibb, a long-running character actress, but, says Zwicker, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her highlighted in a lead role. She’s 93 years old. Thelma is a family film, too, but also a thriller and also funny. It’s kind of a film that I think that everybody can enjoy, but it’s definitely not a story I had seen before”

A still from In The Summers by Alessandra Lacorazza, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

IN THE SUMMERS

Family-oriented films are certainly having a moment at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. “I am excited to see In The Summers (U.S. Dramatic Competition), a coming-of-age film about two siblings and their annual visits with their loving, yet volatile, father,” says Winston. “It stars Lío Mehiel and Sasha Calle. I last saw Sasha as Supergirl in The Flash movie. While her Supergirl standalone film seems unlikely, I’m happy to see her career progressing. Last year at Sundance, I saw Lio in Mutt, and their performance completely blew me away.” You can see Jaime Winston’s review of Mutt here

A still from Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Warner Bros / Alamy.

SUPER/MAN: THE CHRISTOPHER REEVE STORY

“Speaking of ‘super’ people, Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story, which features unseen footage and personal archives of the legendary actor, has captured my attention,” says Winston.

Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story is the Salt Lake Opening Night Film. The documentary premieres on January 19 at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. The documentary shows never-before-seen home movies and personal archives, which reveal how Christopher Reeve went from an unknown actor to an iconic movie star as the ultimate screen superhero, and how he learned the true meaning of heroism as an activist after suffering a tragic accident that left him quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator to breathe.

“I think biographical docs in the last few years have really been having a moment,” says Zwicker. “And this one is what I think is the best of what a biographical doc can be because it’s made with love and honesty. You really understand what made this man so special,” she says. “And you understand that through the people who loved him telling truthful stories about who he was and his impact on their lives. It is a movie that had me just crying buckets.”

A still from As We Speak by J.M. Harper, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Music and musician-centered documentaries

Several other documentaries, falling into a few notable themes and trends, have caught our attention as well. 

“I’m particularly excited by the array of music docs,” says Michael Mejia. “From an exploration of the use of rap lyrics as evidence in American courts (As We Speak, U.S. Documentary) to a NEXT doc on the Irish-language rap group Kneecap (Kneecap), looks at DEVO in Premieres (DEVO) and Brian Eno in New Frontiers (Eno), and Johan Grimonprez’s Soundtrack to a Coup d’État, picking through the CIA’s deployment of jazz artists to distract from its undermining of the independence movement in the Congo in 1960.”

“We also have a biographical doc about Luther Vandross, which is a really thoughtful study of him as an and through his art,” says Zwicker about Luther: Never Too Much (Premieres). “You kind of learn more about him as a person, which I think is a really smart and caring approach.”

Frida Kahlo appears in FRIDA by Carla Gutiérrez, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, S.C.

LatinX-centered documentaries

“I’m eager to check out the entries from Latin America, including U.S. and World docs on Frida Kahlo (Frida), Argentinian gauchos (Gaucho Gaucho), and social justice in Colombia (Igualada), and features from Brazil (Malu), Peru (Reinas), and Mexico (Sujo),” says Meijia.

BLACK BOX DIARIES

“The Japanese film Black Box Diaries (World Cinema Documentary Competition), about a journalist investigating a high-profile offender in her own sexual assault, sounds interesting as well,” says Jaime Winston. 

Will Ferrell and Harper Steele appear in Will & Harper by Josh Greenbaum, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

WILL & HARPER

Continuing with the documentaries that have us excited, is a documentary about Will Ferrell and his longtime friendship with a writer who he’d collaborated with many times, who transitioned, called Will & Harper. “It’s about their friendship through Harper’s transition, and it’s funny, too, because it’s Will Ferrell, of course, but super emotional,” says Zwicker. 

A still from Girls Will Be Girls by Shuchi Talati, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS

“We have some terrific first features,” says Zwicker of this year’s lineup, which has a showing of films that broach the nuances and complexities of gender, identity and sexuality. “Girls Will Be Girls is an amazing Indian film in our World Competition that deals with coming-of-age female empowerment, female sexuality from a different cultural lens.

“It’s so lovely to see experiences that we know from our own lives told in a different cultural perspective,” says Zwicker. “it’s the kind of thing that makes you excited about world cinema. This sort of shared experience in storytelling. I see a lot of different voices around the world getting their first moment to get this spotlight. And that’s what I feel like our festival is for.” 

THE MOOGAI

This year’s Midnight selection, which features horror, thrillers and genre-defying works has a few standouts for us. “Last year, the horror film Talk to Me made me nervous driving home so late following the screening,” says Jaime Winston. “I can foresee a similar experience after watching The Moogai (Midnight), which is about a mother defending her baby from a sinister spirit.” Read the Talk to Me review here

THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MAGICAL NEGROES

Zwicker admits she’s particularly adept and giving people Sundance film screening recommendations based on which Sundance films they’ve enjoyed in the past. We decided to put it to the test. One of our favorite Sundance films in recent years was Cha Cha Real Smooth, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Competition Audience Award winner. Cha Cha Real Smooth is a sharp, offbeat but heartfelt dramedy about relationships and growing up, centered around a floundering 20-something who works the bar mitzvah party circuit, that made Salt Lake magazine’s list of festival highlights that year as well. What 2024 film would Zwicker recommend based on that? 

“Let’s see, something charming…I’m going to say there’s a film in our Premiere section called The American Society of Magical Negroes,” she says. “It is part fantasy. It is part rom.com. It is totally inventive. And it’s this conception of the magical Negro trope that appears in many sorts of old films…and this film totally flips that dated convention on its head. It’s really funny, but it’s also sweet. If you’re a fan of Real Smooth, that would be my recommendation.”


There you have it. For more on this year’s lineup, check out Salt Lake magazine’s overview of the 2024 Sundance film programming. For tickets and more information about individual film screening locations and schedules, visit festival.sundance.org.

Christie Porter
Christie Porterhttps://christieporter.com/
Christie Porter is the managing editor of Salt Lake Magazine. She has worked as a journalist for nearly a decade, writing about everything under the sun, but she really loves writing about nerdy things and the weird stuff. She recently published her first comic book short this year.

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