Amidst the array of outstanding projects featured at Park City this year, from wholesome immigration stories to a different take on a ‘zombie’ resurrection, we are delighted to highlight the remarkable talent within the FTW Community. Their creations captivated audiences all week long at the Sundance ’24 festival, leaving a lasting impact on us.

Ponyboi, Written by River Gallo + Directed by Esteban Arango — US Dramatic Competition

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Unfolding over the course of Valentine’s Day in New Jersey, a young intersex sex worker must run from the mob after a drug deal goes sideways, forcing him to confront his past. Gallo, who  plays the titular Ponyboi, originally conceived this idea while at NYU more than 10 years ago. They have bravely unveiled the entirety of their history in Ponyboi, sparking a crucial and groundbreaking dialogue about the diverse spectrum of acceptable masculinity and femininity. The film sheds light on the societal pressure for specific queer individuals to conform and assimilate. The movie features Dylan O’Brien as the boyfriend of Ponyboi’s best friend Angel, played by Victoria Pedretti.

Ponyboi has received major success at Sundance as well as outstanding reviews from multiple publications including Variety, IndieWire, The Hollywood Reporter, WWD, and more.

River Gallo is a GLAAD award-winning Salvadoran-American filmmaker, actor, writer, model and intersex activist from New Jersey. They are a recipient of the 2019 GLAAD Media Rising Star Award and was named one of the “Most Exciting Queer People to Follow in 2019” by Out Magazine, PAPER Magazine’s list of “100 People Taking Over 2019”, and were the cover star of the 2019 Fall/Winter issue UK Hunger Magazine shot by RANKIN.

Esteban Arango, an award-winning Colombian-American writer/director, made his debut with the feature film Blast Beat, produced by Macro Ventures and starring Moises Arias, Mateo Arias, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, and Kali Uchis. His visually striking and lyrical style has garnered acclaim at prestigious film festivals worldwide. Arango’s artistic flair extends beyond narrative films, evident in works like the music video for ‘¿Teo’s? Uno Dos’ featuring Jaden Smith.

ALOK, Produced by Natalie Shirinian + Elizabeth Baudouin

Section: Short Film Program

In this captivating short documentary, filmmaker Alex Hedison paints a vivid picture of Alok Vaid-Menon, an internationally acclaimed individual known for their non-binary identity, authorship, poetry, comedy, and public speaking. The thought-provoking film delves into the boundless realms of self-expression, confronts societal norms, and encourages audiences to embrace personal freedom beyond divisive binaries. The documentary features insights from influential figures such as Dylan Mulvaney, Chani Nicholas, and other cultural change makers. Jodie Foster served as the Executive Producer.

Natalie Shirinian is a distinguished director, actor, writer, and producer, acclaimed for her intimate and dramatic storytelling across narrative, documentary, and conceptual genres. 

Elizabeth Baudouin is a writer/producer/director. She is known for creating meaningful stories that capture the human experience through emotional depth, nuanced complexity, subtle humor, and cultural totems.

More here.

DìDi, Written and directed by Sean Wang

Section: US Dramatic Competition

DÌDI follows an impressionable 13-year-old Taiwanese American boy in 2008 during the last month of summer before high school begins, as he learns what his family can’t teach him: how to skate, how to flirt, and how to love your mom. DÌDI (which means ‘Little Brother’ in Mandarin) did phenomenally well at Sundance getting acclaim from Hollywood Reporter, The Wrap, Variety and more for Sean’s directorial debut. It stars Izaac Wang, Shirley Chen, Chang Li Hua and Joan Chen. Carlos López Estrada and Chris Columbus serve as producer and executive producer 

Sean is a filmmaker from Fremont, CA, currently based in Los Angeles. His previous film, Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó (Grandma & Grandma), premiered at SXSW 2023 where it won the Grand Jury Prize & Audience Award. It went on to win Grand Jury awards from AFI Fest & SIFF 2023, was acquired by Disney+ to release in early 2024, and was shortlisted for Best Documentary Short Film for the 96th Academy Awards. And it was just announced that Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Short Film category.

Love Lies Bleeding, Written by Weronika Tofilska

Section: Midnight

Reclusive gym manager Lou falls hard for Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder headed through town to Vegas in pursuit of her dream. But their love ignites violence, pulling them deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family. Directed and written by Rose Glass and Weronika Tofilska, and stars Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone and Anna Baryshinkov. The film explores the destructive nature of relationships, marked by strong performances and a visually arresting narrative.

The Midnight category screens films guaranteed to provoke a reaction, which is exactlyw hat Love Lies Bleeding did. As the narrative ventures into wild and garish territory, the film delivers a midnight noir that exceeds expectations but lands precisely where it should—a place where even valiant characters must confront extremes. Love Lies Bleeding received critical acclaim from Indie Wire, Screen Daily, New York Post, and is now heading to Berlin Film Festival and Glasgow Film Festival. The movie opens to the public on March 8th 2024.

Weronika, a graduate of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Film School and the National Film and Television School, has directed episodes for series like “HIS DARK MATERIALS,” “HANNA,” and “THE IRREGULARS.” Weronika has earned acclaim for her short films, including festival-winner “LAST TRAIN” and Frightfest Short Film Competition winner “PINK AND BLUE,” showcasing her diverse talent in dark comedies and horror.

Handling the Undead, Written and Directed by Thea Hvistendahl

Section: World Cinema Dramatic Competition

In Handling the Undead, Mahler and his daughter Anna grapple with the premature loss of Mahler’s grandson. A strange electric field and a shared migraine grip Oslo during a sweltering summer day, wreaking havoc on electronic devices. The disruption ends suddenly, but a profound aftermath lingers—the event has triggered the reanimation of the recently departed. The film features a cast including Renate Reinsve, Bjørn Sundquist, Bente Børsum, Anders Danielsen Lie, Bahar Pars, and Inesa Dauksta. Writer and director Hvistendahl intentionally steers clear of the “classic zombie look and behavior,” emphasizing that the narrative revolves more around grief than fear.

Handling the Undead was a breakout film at Sundance, receiving outstanding reviews from Variety, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter and the film is scheduled to be released in Norway on February 9th, 2024.

Thea Hvistendahl is a Norwegian music video director, who also makes short films, and most recently feature films. She is known for the Children of Satan (2019) and Virgins4lyfe (2018)

Luther: Never Too Much, Written and Directed by Dawn Porter

Section: Premieres

A celebration of the life and work of one of the greatest musical vocalists and performers of all time, Luther Vandross, exploring his musical talent but also his character, style, humor, relationship with family, friends, fans and the incredible artists he collaborated with. The most surprising thing was that until now, there was never a documentary about the standout musician who truly changed the music industry. Luther Vandross worked with the likes of David Bowie, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick and 

Luther: Never Too Much is a documentary rich in archival material, skillfully woven together by director Porter. Porter employs a unique visual technique, presenting rehearsal footage in black and white and live concert videos in color. This stylistic choice serves to delineate Vandross’s subdued working style from his magnetic stage presence.

Luther: Never Too Much received amazing feedback from Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter, The Wrap, and more. As The Wrap says: “Ultimately, Luther: Never Too Much will have fans dancing in their seats, playing karaoke to some of his best slow songs, or in the mood for love, which is how his friends, family, and Porter want him to be remembered most.”

Dawn Porter, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, has contributed impactful work to platforms like ESPN, Netflix, HBO, PBS, and Discovery. Known for exploring overlooked topics, revealing policy consequences, amplifying marginalized voices, and offering unique perspectives on the familiar, she has directed projects such as “The Lady Bird Diaries,” “37 Words,” and “The Me You Can’t See”—an Apple TV series with Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry focusing on mental health. Additionally, she is the founder of Trilogy Films, a production company specializing in non-fiction content creation.

Although we highlighted some of our favorites, we have a LOT more FTW community members who had projects premiere at Sundance. Check them out below!

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