Five Sundance documentaries you can’t miss

Trenton Ahern gives the scoop on which documentaries to keep an eye out for.

Trenton Ahern, Writer

Honorable Mention

I did not get to see it, but “Blood Brother” won both Jury and Audience Award. Many of my friends who did see it said it was their favorite film of Sundance. Here’s a synopsis from the website:

BLOOD BROTHER – a documentary feature directed by Rocky’s longtime friend Steve Hoover traces Rocky’s story of working in the village of Tamil Nadu, India since five years to present.  The film illustrates his commitment to the children and their families who face life and death situations on a daily basis.

5. God Loves Uganda

For almost two decades, Uganda has been on the radar of the evangelical community and thousands of short- and long-term missionaries have come and gone. “God Loves Uganda” analyzes the disadvantages of these ministries. Certainly, there has been much good done by the work of American churches in Uganda, but there have been some negative effects. This film focuses on the issue of homosexuality in this Christian country and how it has been dealt with. We are introduced to members of the International House of Prayer and their mission to rid homosexuality from Uganda. The image of Christianity presented in this film is not the most flattering. In fact, it’s heart wrenching to see how twisted the gospel has become in certain areas of the evangelical ministry. If you have the chance to see the film, do not go into it hostile. Meet the film on its own turf and listen to what it has to say. It’s a one-sided account of the problems of the church, but there’s truth to it nonetheless.

4. The Square (Al Midan)

One of the most attractive things about documentaries is the chance for me, as the viewer, to learn about something of which I had little knowledge. "The Square" highlights the lives of some of the key players in the Egyptian Revolution. I'm sorry to say that I did not know much about the events occurring in Egypt. I knew about Mubarak and the fighting that was going on, but I didn't understand why such events started in the first place. I was introduced to Christians, Muslims and seculars who were united in forming a democracy run by the people while battling against the tyranny of the military and ancient traditions. Unlike some documentaries, there are no formal or in-studio interviews. The whole film has a rawness about it that makes you want more and more.

3. Linsanity

This was the perfect start to my first-ever visit to Sundance. It is a combination of two of my favorite things: sports and documentaries. “Linsanity” spans the athletic career of basketball player Jeremy Lin from his humble beginnings in the Bay Area to his triumphant arrival in the NBA. Lin has had his share of remarkable achievements and heartbreaking setbacks. While Lin’s talent is undeniable, many of the critics were not quick to believe the hype. Jeremy was turned down by many high profile Division I schools like Stanford, went undrafted in the NBA draft and was repeatedly sent down to the developmental league. The film is an emotional rollercoaster for Lin and the audience. Not only does Lin face the pressure and stigma of being the first professional, Asian-American basketball player, but also the responsibility of being a Christian in a very un-Christian environment.

2. Stories We Tell

Have you ever wondered what you would learn if you made a documentary about your parents? What stories would come out? Who would be interviewed? “Stories We Tell” dives into these questions with an in-depth investigation into a mother’s unexplored past. Director Sarah Polley tries to piece together her mother’s past by going to her children, friends and lovers. Polley beautifully weaves interviews and old super 8 home movies together to create one of the most honest and reflective documentaries I’ve ever seen. Do yourself a favor and take a trip full of nostalgia and buried emotions with the Polley family.

1. Cutie and the Boxer

Two Japanese artists meet on the streets of New York, fall in love and support each other’s work in the art industry. It sounds like a simple concept, but it was my favorite movie at Sundance. There are no explosions, government secrets or unsolved murders. Just a couple dealing with each other’s personalities and the unforgiving art scene. The stars of “Cutie and the Boxer” are Ushio, a bold nonconformist who became famous in Japan for his sculptures and “boxing” paintings, and his wife Noriko, a proud and unapologetic painter. Much of the film explores Noriko’s resolve during her husband’s alcoholic years and how the ups and downs inspire her artwork. The audience sees the struggles of being an artist and the beautiful honesty of a less than picturesque marriage. “Messy” doesn’t even capture their lives, but it’s a gorgeous depiction of what it means to love and support one another.


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