THE JANES (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Co-directors Tia Lessin and Ema Pildes remind viewers of the importance of knowing our collective history in their timely new documentary The Janes. The film profiles the Jane Collective, a fearless, radical group of underground activists that believed in reproductive freedom, and came together to aid women of the pre-Roe V. Wade era in getting safe abortions. Between 1968 and 1973, they were able to make 11,000 safe abortions happen, when, without them, long term negative consequences or death was a distinct possibility for those who sought to end their pregnancies.

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EMILY THE CRIMINAL (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Lauren Anderson

“You can’t make money any other way?” Emily the Criminal is one of the smartest films to debut at Sundance 2022. Produced by and starring the versatile Aubrey Plaza, Emily the Criminal showcases how far someone will go to clear themselves of personal debt — even if that means joining the dark underbelly of the scamming world.

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LIVING (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Director Oliver Hermanus and writer Kazuo Ishiguro have that rare mix of hubris, knowledge of film history, and love of subject that have led to adapting the screenplay of writer/director Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 masterpiece Ikiru. Bill Nighy’s performance and the evocative cinematography that captures mid-century London make Living a film that will have its own staying power and great value in repeat viewing. Shame on any critic that points to Ikiru in denying the richness of Living. Note to Hermanus and Ishiguro: Kurosawa would be proud.

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LUCY AND DESI (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Director Amy Poehler;s documentary Lucy and Desi can arguably be called the definitive work on these sitcom trailblazers and first popular interracial couple in Hollywood. Fans of the gorgeous redheaded powerhouse called ‘The Queen of the Bs’, and the man who was both a brilliant producer and a magnetic performer who popularized the rhumba in the US, will learn lots of new information from the subjects themselves and love every minute of it.

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PALM TREES AND POWER LINES (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Lauren Anderson

Filmmaker Jamie Dack’s Palm Trees and Power Lines was incredibly frustrating to watch. Based on the 2018 short of the same name, Palm Trees and Power Lines follows Lea (Lily McInerny), a 17-year-old girl with a typical teenage life: she gets high with her friends, occasionally has sex with one of them in the backseat of a car, and doesn’t really care for her mom’s (Gretchen Mol) revolving door of men. Only when she meets Tom (Jonathan Tucker) after a morally misguided mishap at a local diner does Lea start to feel seen.

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SIRENS (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Writer/director Rita Baghdadi’s new documentary Sirens profiles Slave to Sirens bandmates Shery, Maya, Alma and Tatyana as they work on the outskirts of Beirut and out on the road to break into an area of the male-dominated music business that is even more devoid of female representation. Fans of heavy metal, especially the thrash and death metal sub-genres, will enjoy the introduction and a view into Slave to Siren’s world. This band is clearly struggling to make it, whether the music business and cultural zeitgeist are ready for them or not.

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SUMMERING (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Lauren Anderson

Summering is one of the most nostalgia-inducing films that premiered at Sundance 2022. Set in the present day (one of the girls mentions TikTok), James Ponsoldt’s Summering encapsulates the angst of the precious dwindling moments of summer through the lens of four girls headed for middle school.

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WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Martha K Baker

Among the many significant aspects of W. Kamau Bell’s analysis of Bill Cosby is Bell’s timeline. Bell addresses the issue of Cosby because both are Black and both comedians, albeit one a seeming role model and the other once a fan. Who better than Bell to talk about the comedian who went from America’s Dad to a pervert?

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SHARP STICK (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Lauren Anderson

After a decade away from feature films, Lena Dunham return to the Sundance Film Festival in 2022 with Sharp Stick, a witty sex comedy that explores coming-of-age through female sexuality. Starring Dunham, Sharp Stick is the story of a 26-year-old woman’s desire to explore sex in the most grandiose and bizarre way. Sharp Stick is a hilarious and engaging return to the screen for the Girls creator. Much like the HBO series did during its six-season run, Sharp Stick demonstrates growth and change through some of the oddest occurrences.

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