Sundance Film Festival: Interview with Jim Brunzell III

FOLLOW SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL


Interview by Taylor Wallace-Riegel

By Jim Brunzell III, the festival director of the Minneapolis, MN & Austin, TX based Sound Unseen Music+Film Festival.

Beginning Thursday, January 18, and running through Sunday, January 28, the 2024 Sundance Film Festival takes place in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah–and your living room. (Note, not all films will be available virtually, but all the competition and short films will be made available starting Thursday, January 25 through the end of the festival, including jury prize winning films.)


This year’s Sundance lineup has 14 different categories: U.S. Dramatic Competition, U.S. Documentary Competition, World Cinema Dramatic Competition, World Cinema Documentary Competition, Premieres, Spotlight (films that premiered at other 2023 film festivals, including Richard Linklater’s latest, HIT MAN), NEXT (low-budget and innovative storytelling), Indie Series Program (Episodic), Short Film Programs (multiple short programs), New Frontier Films, Special Screenings, From the Collection, Family Matinee and Midnight.

This year, the music-related films include fiction films, documentaries, short films, and Episodic Programs. The feature films will cover musicians from Devo, Brian Eno, Luther Vandross, a documentary on behind the scenes and making of one of the greatest pop songs ever, “We Are the World”, a 20th anniversary screening of Sundance Jury Winner, “Dig!” (retitled, DIGXX!) and a new Paramount+ series on the beginnings and history of the landmark music festival Lollapalooza.

In addition to Sundance, and taking over a longtime Sundance staple in The Yarrow Hotel, the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival will take place Friday, January 19 through Sunday, January 28. Slamdance always provides eclectic and solid music films and some of this year’s highlights include, “The Bitcoin Car” a Norwegian musical about cryptocurrency; “Roll Bus Roll: A Jeffrey Lewis Documentary” about New York based musician Jeffrey Lewis and “Leilani’s Fortune” about queer Ethiopian-Eritrean artist, Witch Prophet.

Descriptions are provided by the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute


AS WE SPEAK – U.S. Documentary Competition
Bronx rap artist Kemba explores the growing weaponization of rap lyrics in the United States criminal justice system and abroad — revealing how law enforcement has quietly used artistic creation as evidence in criminal cases for decades. World Premiere. Available online.

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.

DEVO – Premieres
Born in response to the Kent State massacre, new wave band Devo took their concept of “de-evolution” from cult following to near–rock star status with groundbreaking 1980 hit “Whip It” while preaching an urgent social commentary. World Premiere. (“Devo” is not available as an online screening.)

Barry Schultz A still from DEVO by Chris Smith, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

DIG! XX – 40th Edition Celebration
DIG! XX tracks the tumultuous rise of two talented musicians, Anton Newcombe, leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Courtney Taylor, leader of the Dandy Warhols, and dissects their star-crossed friendship and bitter rivalry. Through their loves and obsessions, gigs and recordings, arrests and death threats, uppers and downers, and ultimately to their chance at a piece of the profit-driven music business, they stage a self-proclaimed revolution in the music industry. World Premiere.  (“Dig! XX” is not available as an online screening.)

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

ENO – New Frontier
Visionary musician and artist Brian Eno — known for producing David Bowie, U2, Talking Heads, among many others; pioneering the genre of ambient music; and releasing over 40 solo and collaboration albums — reveals his creative processes in this groundbreaking generative documentary: a film that’s different every time it’s shown. World Premiere. (“Eno” is not available as an online screening.)

All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute pro A still from Eno by Gary Hustwit, an official selection of the New Frontier program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

KNEECAP – NEXT
There are 80,000 native Irish speakers in Ireland. 6,000 live in the North of Ireland. Three of them became a rap group called Kneecap. This anarchic Belfast trio becomes the unlikely figurehead of a civil rights movement to save the mother tongue. World Premiere. Available online.

All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute pro Liam Óg Ó hAnnaidh, Naoise Ó Cairealláin, and JJ Ó Dochartaigh appear in Kneecap by Rich Peppiatt, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

LOLLA: THE STORY OF LOLLAPALOOZA – Episodic
In the summer of ’91, the Lollapalooza music festival was born. What started as a farewell tour for the band Jane’s Addiction rose from the underground to launch a cultural movement and change music forever. World Premiere. Available online. (The Festival proudly presents the first two episodes of this three-part documentary series.)

A still from LOLLA: THE STORY OF LOLLAPALOOZA by Michael John Warren, an official selection of the Episodic Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

LUTHER: NEVER TOO MUCH – Premieres
Luther Vandross started his career supporting David Bowie, Roberta Flack, Bette Midler, and more. His undeniable talent earned platinum records and accolades, but he struggled to break out beyond the R&B charts. Intensely driven, he overcame personal and professional challenges to secure his place amongst the greatest vocalists in history. World Premiere. (“Luther: Never Too Much” is not available as an online screening.)

Matthew Rolston Luther Vandross appears in Luther: Never Too Much by Dawn Porter,an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Matthew Rolston.

SOUNDTRACK TO A COUP d’ETAT – World Cinema Documentary Competition
In 1960, United Nations: the Global South ignites a political earthquake, musicians Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach crash the Security Council, Nikita Khrushchev bangs his shoe denouncing America’s color bar, while the U.S. dispatches jazz ambassador Louis Armstrong to the Congo to deflect attention from its first African post-colonial coup. World Premiere. Available online.

British Pathé A still from Soundtrack to a Coup d’Etat by Johan Grimonprez, an official selection of the World Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by British Pathé.

THE GREATEST NIGHT OF POP – Special Screening
In 1985, 46 music icons, including Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, and Stevie Wonder, came together for the most star-studded recording session in history. This is the untold story of the legendary global pop song “We Are the World” — which very nearly didn’t happen. World Premiere. (“The Greatest Night of Pop” is not available as an online screening.)

All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute pro A still from The Greatest Night in Pop by Bao Nguyen, an official selection of the Episodic Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

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