The Sundance 2020 lineup is finally out, and there’s a lot to be excited about. Most prominently, Netflix will premiere Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, the very documentary that caused the singer to plead her case against Scooter Braun and Big Machine Records in recent weeks. The film, directed by Lana Wilson, will kick off the Utah-based festival, premiering on Opening Night as the first of 118 feature films presented this year. In a press release, Netflix describes it as “a raw and emotionally revealing look at one of the most iconic artists of our time during a transformational period in her life as she learns to embrace her role not only as a songwriter and performer, but as a woman harnessing the full power of her voice.”
Also among our most highly-anticipated entries this year: Julie Taymor’s The Glorias, a biopic about Gloria Steinem starring Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, and Janelle Monáe; Shirley, a thriller about horror legend Shirley Jackson directed by Josephine Decker and starring Elizabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Odessa Young; Come Away, Pixar director Brenda Chapman’s live-action debut; Dee Rees’ The Last Thing He Wanted, based on a Joan Didion novel and starring Anne Hathaway as a DC-based journalist alongside Ben Affleck; Miranda July’s Kajillionaire; Liz Garbus’ Lost Girls; and obviously, Zola, Janicza Bravo’s wild true story movie inspired by Aziah Wells’ viral tweet-storm from 2016. (Bonus: it also stars none other than Nicholas Braun, aka Succession’s Cousin Greg!)
One thing these films have in common? They’re all directed by women. That’s not such a surprise, given that Sundance has led the way in festivals pushing for inclusion worldwide. While Cannes has pledged to reach 50/50 by 2020 (we’ll see), and Venice struggles to showcase more than one woman director at a time, Sundance is close to reaching gender parity in its competition slate. This year Sundance reports that of the 65 directors competing in the festival’s four categories, 46% are women, 38% are people of color, and 12% identify as LGBTQ+.
That’s not perfect, but it does show a willingness by the festival organizers to continue to strive for diversity, as well as gender parity. Of the 112 films screened in the 2019 official selection, 40% were directed or co-directed by a woman, while 39% of directors competing in the four top categories were people of color, up 3% from 2018.
According to Variety, one noteworthy difference this year is that Sundance has increased visibility for Latinx filmmakers, in response to a report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative showing worrying levels of Latinx erasure in Hollywood. That study found that in over 1,200 top-grossing box office films between 2007 and 2018, only 4.5% of the 47,268 total characters studied were Latinx. A dismal 3% of those movies featured Latinx actors in lead roles. What’s more, only two Latina lead roles were played by an actor 45 or older, and both were Jennifer Lopez, who has now added a third with Hustlers, a role that could make her the second Latinx person to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. (To this day, no Latinx person has ever won Best Actress.)
To make things even easier for filmmakers contemplating submissions and opportunities, the festival has also launched an Inclusion Resource Map, a searchable collection of programs and initiatives available to U.S. based artists from underrepresented communities.
Helming this push are festival director John Cooper and Sundance director of programming Kim Yutani. “You’re basically telling people there is a possibility,” Cooper told Variety about Sundance’s commitment to representation. “Someone will see, ‘Oh, that person looks like me, and they got in. There’s a pathway there.’ I think that does inspire people to take action and follow their dreams.”