Sundance Class of ’92: The Year Indie Exploded

Sundance Class of ’92: The Year Indie Exploded

23 Episodes

1992 was a watershed year for American independent cinema, led by the Sundance Film Festival, where a generation of filmmakers proved that passion and personal vision could overcome any budgetary limitation. It was the year that idiosyncratic gems like IN THE SOUP, THE WATERDANCE, and GAS FOOD LODGING found acclaim for their bold, offbeat storytelling; the year that the New Queer Cinema (a term popularized at the festival’s “Barbed Wire Kisses” panel) crystallized with touchstone works by Gregg Araki (THE LIVING END), Derek Jarman (EDWARD II), and Tom Kalin (SWOON); and it was a banner year for documentaries, with nonfiction triumphs by Errol Morris (A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME), Michael Apted (INCIDENT AT OGLALA), and Camille Billops and James Hatch (FINDING CHRISTA) all making waves. Thirty years later, these films remain fresh and exciting landmarks from a time when the possibilities of indie filmmaking seemed limitless.

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Sundance Class of ’92: The Year Indie Exploded
  • Sundance ’92 Introduction

    Episode 1

    This interview with Sundance festival director emeritus John Cooper and senior programmer John Nein was recorded in 2021.

  • A Brief History of Time

    Episode 2

    Directed by Errol Morris • 1991 • United Kingdom, Japan, United States

    Errol Morris turns his camera on one of the most fascinating men in the world: the pioneering astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, afflicted by a debilitating motor neuron disease that has left him without a voice or the use of hi...

  • Danzón

    Episode 3

    Directed by María Novaro • 1991 • Mexico, Spain
    Starring María Rojo, Carmen Salinas, Tito Vasconcelos

    The slow, sensuous ballroom-style dance known as the danzón is at the heart of María Novaro’s luminous tale of a woman’s awakening, a key work of nineties Mexican cinema that became the country’...

  • Delicatessen

    Episode 4

    Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro • 1991 • France
    Starring Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Jean-Claude Dreyfus

    This darkly surrealist comedy from directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet (AMÉLIE) and Marc Caro unfolds in a grim, postapocalyptic future where food is so scarce that it is used...

  • Edward II

    Episode 5

    Directed by Derek Jarman • 1991 • United Kingdom, Japan
    Starring Steven Waddington, Andrew Tiernan, Tilda Swinton

    Derek Jarman’s New Queer Cinema classic offers a postmodern take on Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan drama. Pleasure-seeking King Edward II (Steven Waddington) sets the stage for a ...

  • Finding Christa

    Episode 6

    Directed by Camille Billops and James Hatch • 1991 • United States

    This startlingly personal documentary presents a moving yet unsentimental view of motherhood and adoption. It explores the feelings surrounding the reunion of a young woman with her birth mother twenty years after being given up ...

  • The Hours and Times

    Episode 7

    Directed by Christopher Munch • 1991 • United States
    Starring David Angus, Ian Hart

    This much is known: in April 1963, John Lennon and Beatles manager Brian Epstein, the mastermind behind the band’s meteoric rise, travelled to Barcelona for an extended weekend getaway. What happened there is ...

  • The Inland Sea

    Episode 8

    Directed by Lucille Carra • 1991 • United States
    Starring Donald Richie

    In 1971, author and film scholar Donald Richie published a poetic travelogue about his explorations of the islands of Japan’s Inland Sea, recording his search for traces of a traditional way of life as well as his own journe...

  • Intimate Stranger

    Episode 9

    Directed by Alan Berliner • 1991 • United States

    Cinematic essayist Alan Berliner carves a poetic and emotional jigsaw puzzle out of the voluminous memorabilia of his grandfather’s remarkable life story. Family members try to make sense of an enigmatic man who was at once ordinary and endlessly ...

  • Night on Earth

    Episode 10

    Directed by Jim Jarmusch • 1991 • France, United Kingdom, Germany, United States, Japan
    Starring Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, Rosie Perez

    Five cities. Five taxicabs. A multitude of strangers in the night. Jim Jarmusch assembled an extraordinary international cast of actors (including Gena Rowlan...

  • Brother’s Keeper

    Episode 11

    Directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky • 1992 • United States
    Starring Delbert Ward, Roscoe Ward, Lyman Ward

    Both a gripping true-crime story and an incisive portrait of a community, this acclaimed documentary from Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky delves into the peculiarities surrounding ...

  • Deep Blues

    Episode 12

    Directed by Robert Mugge • 1992 • United States
    Starring R. L. Burnside, Big Jack Johnson, Junior Kimbrough

    In the early nineties, commissioned by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, veteran music film director Robert Mugge and renowned music scholar Robert Palmer ventured deep into the heart of the Nor...

  • Incident at Oglala

    Episode 13

    Directed by Michael Apted • 1992 • United States
    Starring Robert Redford, Leonard Peltier, Norman Zigrossi

    Acclaimed documentarian Michael Apted directs and Robert Redford narrates this urgent, eye-opening look at a startling case of American injustice. Focusing on the circumstances surrounding ...

  • In the Soup

    Episode 14

    Directed by Alexandre Rockwell • 1992 • United States
    Starring Steve Buscemi, Seymour Cassel, Jennifer Beals

    Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival, Alexandre Rockwell’s offbeat gem is a wryly affectionate snapshot of New York’s early-nineties indie scene built around ...

  • Light Sleeper

    Episode 15

    Directed by Paul Schrader • 1992 • United States
    Starring Willem Dafoe, Susan Sarandon, Dana Delany

    Willem Dafoe stars in this moody character study as John LeTour, a drug dealer who faces a midlife crisis now that his supplier (Susan Sarandon) wants a change of career. LeTour reencounters an ol...

  • The Living End

    Episode 16

    Directed by Gregg Araki • 1992 • United States
    Starring Mike Dytri, Craig Gilmore

    A gay THELMA & LOUISE for the New Queer Cinema movement, Gregg Araki’s couple-on-the-run romance follows two HIV-positive lovers—hustler Luke (Mike Dytri) and film critic Jon (Craig Gilmore)—who, with nothing left ...

  • My Crasy Life

    Episode 17

    Directed by Jean-Pierre Gorin • 1992 • United States

    Jean-Pierre Gorin's gripping and unique film about a Samoan street gang in Long Beach, California, is, like other works by the filmmaker, a probing look at a closed community with its own rules, rituals, and language. Part observational docu...

  • Shoot for the Contents

    Episode 18

    Directed by Trinh T. Minh-ha • 1991 • United States

    Reflecting on Mao’s famous saying “Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend,” Trinh T. Minh-ha’s SHOOT FOR THE CONTENTS—a title that alludes to a Chinese guessing game—is a unique excursion into the maze of allegor...

  • Some Divine Wind

    Episode 19

    Directed by Roddy Bogawa • 1992 • United States

    Japanese American filmmaker Roddy Bogawa explores the complexities of multicultural identity through the story of Ben, young American-born man whose father was part of a bombing mission that destroyed his Japanese mother’s village and killed her en...

  • Swoon

    Episode 20

    Directed by Tom Kalin • 1992 • United States
    Starring Daniel Schlachet, Craig Chester, Ron Vawter

    The notorious case of Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb—two young, gay University of Chicago students whose 1924 thrill-killing of fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks captured headlines as the “crime o...

  • The Tune

    Episode 21

    Directed by Bill Plympton • 1992 • United States
    Starring Daniel Neiden, Maureen McElheron, Marty Nelson

    Bill Plympton’s first feature-length film incorporates elements from a handful of his early shorts into a kaleidoscopically oddball musical fantasia. Del is a songwriter for the obnoxious Mr....

  • Where Are We? Our Trip Through America

    Episode 22

    Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman • 1992 • United States

    Academy Award–winning documentary filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman take a journey through unfamiliar lands—in their own country. Having spent most of their lives on one coast or the other, they wondered what they coul...

  • Zebrahead

    Episode 23

    Directed by Anthony Drazan • 1992 • United States
    Starring Michael Rapaport, Kevin Corrigan, N’Bushe Wright

    In this interracial “Romeo and Juliet”–style romance set in 1990s Detroit, Zack (Michael Rapaport), a white Jewish boy accused of “acting Black” because of his love for hip-hop, falls in l...