US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey August 26, 2019. — AFP pic
US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey August 26, 2019. — AFP pic

UTAH, Jan 23 — Women directors and stars will be at the forefront of this year’s Sundance Film Festival starting tomorrow, at a time when a lack of diversity among nominees has been the focus of the Hollywood awards season.

Women directed 44 per cent of the 118 feature-length films to be previewed at the 10-day festival in the ski resort town of Park City, Utah. Minorities have directed 34 per cent, and directors identifying as LGBTQ 15 per cent.

Last year, women directed 40 per cent of the official selection at Sundance.

At the upcoming Academy Awards on February 9, no female directors are up for an Oscar, and stories by or about men dominate the Best Picture lineup.

“It’s part of a trend at Sundance,” said Brent Lang, executive editor for film and media at movie trade magazine Variety.

“Over the last decade the festival’s put a real premium on providing a platform for female filmmakers, for under-represented filmmakers of all stripes, and I think this is a continuation of that effort.”

Kicking off Sundance, the biggest US showcase for independent cinema, will be director and Emmy winner Lana Wilson with her Netflix documentary, Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, which the streaming service says promises a “raw and emotionally revealing look” at the pop star.

Record submissions 

Organisers of the festival founded by actor Robert Redford say they received a record-breaking 15,100 submissions this year.

Angelina Jolie stars in the children’s movie Come Away, which explores the stories of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland; Olivia Colman plays a daughter trying to look after her elderly parent in The Father and Carey Mulligan is a woman who seeks revenge after a tragic event in Promising Young Woman.

Elisabeth Moss plays horror author Shirley Jackson in Shirley, Ethan Hawke plays Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla in Tesla, and Benedict Cumberbatch is a spy during the Cold War in Ironbark.

Across the documentary categories, Ron Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise shows the wildfires in California that destroyed the town of Paradise in 2018; Be Water explores the life of Bruce Lee, and the 4-part Hulu series Hillary centres on former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Meanwhile, streaming platforms hope to use Sundance to generate buzz around their offerings.

Along with the opening film, Netflix titles include Crip Camp, a documentary about a camp for disabled teenagers from Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions. — Reuters