Sophie Barthes’ ‘The Pod Generation’ wins Sundance’s Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize

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Sophie Barthes [Courtesy]

Writer-director Sophie Barthes’ “The Pod Generation” has been named the winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

The festival will take place in person Jan. 19-29 in Utah’s Park City, Salt Lake City, and the Sundance Resort, along with a selection of films available online across the country Jan. 24-29. Festivalgoers will again return to theaters to check out the festival’s lineup of independent films, which this year will include 99 features.

The Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize is an annual award given to an artist for the most outstanding depiction of science and technology in a feature film. “The Pod Generation” is an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

A social satire of detachment parenting, “The Pod Generation” delves into the fraught, comedically tantalizing relationship between technology, nature, and society.

Emilia Clarke, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rosalie Craig appear in a still from “The Pod Generation,” by Sophie Barthes, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. [Photo by Andrij Parekh.

Barthes’ third feature, the film centers on a New York couple, Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who live in a not-so-distant future where technology provides ever-more convenient living.

A rising tech company executive, Rachel lands a coveted spot at the Womb Center, which offers couples a convenient (and shareable) maternity by way of detachable artificial wombs, or pods. But Alvy, a botanist with an affection for nature, prefers a natural pregnancy. And yet, as Rachel’s AI therapist puts it, why is that “natural”? So begins the tech-paved path to parenthood.

In Barthes’ imaginative world, AIs make coffee, print toast, track productivity and measure people’s “bliss index.” But at what cost? According to the Sundance Institute, Barthes brings to “The Pod Generation” a funny, philosophical sensibility to her questioning of society’s giddy pursuit of convenience, tech’s intrusion in our lives, womb envy and the commodification of everything.

A Columbia University graduate, Barthes is a Franco-American filmmaker. Her directorial debut, 2009’s “Cold Souls,” with Paul Giamatti and Emily Watson, was released by Samuel Goldwyn. “Cold Souls” played in competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

Barthes is a Sundance Screenwriters & Directors Lab alumna. Her second feature, “Madame Bovary,” with Mia Wasikowska, was released in 2015 after premiering at Telluride Film Festival in California.

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