Sundance Favorites

Sundance Favorites

27 Episodes

For four decades, the Sundance Film Festival has been at the heart of American independent cinema, providing a vital launching pad for up-and-coming filmmakers wholly committed to their singular artistic vision. From acclaimed features by maverick directors like the Coen brothers (BLOOD SIMPLE), Wendell B. Harris Jr. (CHAMELEON STREET), Gregg Araki (THE DOOM GENERATION), and Kelly Reichardt (OLD JOY) to crossover hits like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and touchstone documentaries such as STREETWISE, PARIS IS BURNING, and HOOP DREAMS, this selection of highlights from across the festival’s history celebrates its ongoing dedication to bold, personal storytelling from outside the mainstream.

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Sundance Favorites
  • Sundance at 30

    Episode 1

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

  • Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One

    Episode 2

    Directed by William Greaves • 1968 • United States
    Starring William Greaves, Patricia Ree Gilbert, Don Fellows

    In his one-of-a-kind fiction/documentary hybrid SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM TAKE ONE, director William Greaves presides over a beleaguered film crew in New York’s Central Park, leaving them t...

  • Blood Simple

    Episode 3

    Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen • 1984 • United States

    Joel and Ethan Coen's career-long darkly comic road trip through misfit America began with this razor-sharp, hard-boiled neonoir set somewhere in Texas, where a sleazy bar owner releases a torrent of violence with one murderous though...

  • In Heaven There Is No Beer?

    Episode 4

    Directed by Les Blank • 1984 • United States

    The life, culture and food of the polka culture in America today.

  • Stranger Than Paradise

    Episode 5

    Directed by Jim Jarmusch • 1984 • United States, Germany
    Starring John Lurie, Richard Edson, Eszter Balint

    With this breakout film, Jim Jarmusch established himself as one of the most exciting voices in the burgeoning independent-film scene, a road-movie poet with an affinity for Americana at it...

  • Streetwise

    Episode 6

    Directed by Martin Bell • 1984 • United States

    Seattle, 1983. Taking their camera to the streets of what was supposedly America’s most livable city, filmmaker Martin Bell, photographer Mary Ellen Mark, and journalist Cheryl McCall set out to tell the stories of those society had left behind: hom...

  • The Times of Harvey Milk

    Episode 7

    Directed by Robert Epstein • 1984 • United States

    A true twentieth-century trailblazer, Harvey Milk was an outspoken human rights activist and one of the first openly gay U.S. politicians elected to public office; even after his assassination in 1978, he continues to inspire disenfranchised peop...

  • Desert Hearts

    Episode 8

    Directed by Donna Deitch • 1985 • United States

    Donna Deitch's swooning and sensual first narrative feature, DESERT HEARTS, was groundbreaking upon its release in 1985: a love story about two women, made entirely independently, on a shoestring budget, by a woman. In this 1959-set film, adapted...

  • Smooth Talk

    Episode 9

    Directed by Joyce Chopra • 1985 • United States
    Starring Laura Dern, Treat Williams, Mary Kay Place

    Suspended between carefree youth and the harsh realities of the adult world, a teenage girl experiences an unsettling awakening in this haunting vision of innocence lost. Based on Joyce Carol Oate...

  • Working Girls

    Episode 10

    Directed by Lizzie Borden • 1986 • United States
    Starring Louise Smith, Ellen McElduff, Amanda Goodwin

    Sex work is portrayed with radical nonjudgment in Lizzie Borden’s immersive, richly detailed look at the rhythms and rituals of society’s most stigmatized profession. Inspired by the experience...

  • Chameleon Street

    Episode 11

    Directed by Wendell B. Harris Jr. • 1989 • United States
    Starring Wendell B. Harris Jr., Angela Leslie, Amina Fakir

    Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival—yet criminally underseen for over three decades—CHAMELEON STREET recounts the improbable but true story of Michiga...

  • For All Mankind

    Episode 12

    Directed by Al Reinert • 1989 • United States

    In July 1969, the space race ended when Apollo 11 fulfilled President Kennedy’s challenge of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” No one who witnessed the lunar landing will ever forget it. Al Reinert’s documentary FOR...

  • Christo in Paris

    Episode 13

    Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Deborah Dickson, and Susan Froemke • 1990 • United States

    Christo and Jeanne Claude's first grand-scale urban project, wrapping the oldest bridge in Paris - the same bridge where Christo courted Jeanne-Claude. A love story set in the heart of Paris: bet...

  • Metropolitan

    Episode 14

    Directed by Whit Stillman • 1990 • United States
    Starring Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Taylor Nichols

    One of the great American independent films of the 1990s, the surprise hit METROPOLITAN, by writer-director Whit Stillman, is a sparkling comedic chronicle of a young man’s romantic misadven...

  • Paris Is Burning

    Episode 15

    Directed by Jennie Livingston • 1990 • United States
    Starring Dorian Corey, Pepper LaBeija, Angie Xtravaganza

    Where does voguing come from, and what, exactly, is throwing shade? This landmark documentary provides a vibrant snapshot of the 1980s through the eyes of New York City’s African America...

  • A Brief History of Time

    Episode 16

    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...

  • Mississippi Masala

    Episode 17

    Directed by Mira Nair • 1991 • United States, Uganda
    Starring Denzel Washington, Sarita Choudhury, Roshan Seth

    The vibrant cultures of India, Uganda, and the American South come together in Mira Nair’s MISSISSIPPI MASALA, a luminous look at the complexities of love in the modern melting pot. Yea...

  • Slacker

    Episode 18

    Directed by Richard Linklater • 1991 • United States
    Starring Richard Linklater, Kathy McCarty, Rudy Basquez

    SLACKER, directed by Richard Linklater, presents a day in the life of a loose-knit Austin, Texas, subculture populated by eccentric and overeducated young people. Shooting on 16 mm for a ...

  • Thank You and Good Night

    Episode 19

    Directed by Jan Oxenberg • 1991 • United States

    A lost-and-found revelation from indie film and TV maverick Jan Oxenberg is a docu-fantasy narrative focused on the filmmaker’s hilarious, messy, Jewish family as they prepare to say goodbye to someone they love. Narrated by a cardboard cutout of O...

  • My Crasy Life

    Episode 20

    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...

  • Before the Rain

    Episode 21

    Directed by Milcho Manchevski • 1994 • Republic of Macedonia
    Starring Grégoire Colin, Katrin Cartlidge, Rade Šerbedžija

    The first film made in the newly independent Republic of Macedonia, Milcho Manchevski’s BEFORE THE RAIN crosscuts the stories of an orthodox Christian monk (Grégoire Colin), a ...

  • Hoop Dreams

    Episode 22

    Directed by Steve James • 1994 • United States

    Two ordinary inner-city Chicago kids dare to reach for the impossible, professional basketball glory, in this epic chronicle of hope and faith. Filmed over a five-year period, HOOP DREAMS, by Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert, follows y...

  • The Doom Generation

    Episode 23

    Directed by Gregg Araki • 1995 • United States, France
    Starring James Duval, Rose McGowan, Johnathon Schaech

    Newly restored to its audacious, uncut glory, the blistering second installment in Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy is a wild, meth- and fast-food-fueled joyride through the fring...

  • When We Were Kings

    Episode 24

    Directed by Leon Gast • 1996 • United States
    Starring Muhammad Ali

    In 1974, Leon Gast traveled to Africa to film Zaïre 74, a music festival planned to accompany an unprecedented sports spectacle: the Rumble in the Jungle, in which late-career underdog Muhammad Ali would contend with the younger...