Sundance ’17 | U.S. Documentary

The 16 films in this section are all world premieres.

Casting JonBenet
(U.S.-Australia / Director: Kitty Green) — The unsolved death of 6-year-old American beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey remains the world’s most sensational child murder case. Over 15 months, responses, reflections, and performances were elicited from the Ramsey’s Colorado hometown community, creating a bold work of art from the collective memories and mythologies the crime inspired.

Chasing Coral
(Director: Jeff Orlowski) — Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers, and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world. (The New Climate)

City of Ghosts
(Director: Matthew Heineman) — With unprecedented access, this documentary follows the extraordinary journey of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently — a group of anonymous citizen journalists who banded together after their homeland was overtaken by ISIS — as they risk their lives to stand up against one of the greatest evils in the world today.

Dina
(Directors: Dan Sickles, Antonio Santini) — An eccentric suburban woman and a Walmart door-greeter navigate their evolving relationship in this unconventional love story.

Dolores
(Director: Peter Bratt) — Dolores Huerta bucks 1950s gender conventions by co-founding the country’s first farmworkers’ union. Wrestling with raising 11 children, gender bias, union defeat and victory, and nearly dying after a San Francisco Police beating, Huerta emerges with a vision that connects her newfound feminism with racial and class justice.

The Force
(Director: Pete Nicks) — This cinema verité look at the long-troubled Oakland Police Dept. goes deep inside its struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson, and an explosive scandal.

Icarus
(Director: Bryan Fogel) — When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death, and Olympic Gold — exposing the biggest scandal in sports history.“The New Radical” (Director: Adam Bhala Lough) — Uncompromising millennial radicals from the United States and the United Kingdom attack the system through dangerous technological means, which evolves into a high-stakes game with world authorities in the midst of a dramatically changing political landscape.

Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press
(Director: Brian Knappenberger) — The trial between Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media pitted privacy rights against freedom of the press, and raised important questions about how big money can silence media. This film is an examination of the perils and duties of the free press in an age of inequality.

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Quest
(Director: Jonathan Olshefski) — For more than a decade, this portrait of a North Philadelphia family and the creative sanctuary offered by their home music studio was filmed with vérité intimacy. The family’s 10-year journey is an illumination of race and class in America, and it’s a testament to love, healing, and hope.

Step
(Director: Amanda Lipitz) — The senior year of a girls’ high-school step team in inner-city Baltimore is documented, as members try to become the first in their families to attend college. The girls strive to make their dancing a success against the backdrop of social unrest in the troubled city.

Strong Island
(U.S.-Denmark / Director: Yance Ford) — Examining the violent death of the filmmaker’s brother and the judicial system that allowed his killer to go free, this documentary interrogates murderous fear and racialized perception, and re-imagines the wreckage in catastrophe’s wake, challenging us to change.

Trophy
(Director: Shaul Schwarz, Co-Director: Christina Clusiau) — This in-depth look into the powerhouse industries of big-game hunting, breeding, and wildlife conservation in the U.S. and Africa unravels the complex consequences of treating animals as commodities. (The New Climate)

Unrest
(Director: Jennifer Brea) — When Harvard PhD student Jennifer Brea is struck down at 28 by a fever that leaves her bedridden, doctors tell her it’s “all in her head.” Determined to live, she sets out on a virtual journey to document her story — and four other families’ stories — fighting a disease medicine forgot.

Water & Power: A California Heist
(Director: Marina Zenovich) — In California’s convoluted water system, notorious water barons find ways to structure a state-engineered system to their own advantage. This examination into their centers of power shows small farmers and everyday citizens facing drought and a new, debilitating groundwater crisis. (The New Climate)

Whose Streets?
(Director: Sabaah Folayan, Co-Director: Damon Davis) — A nonfiction account of the Ferguson uprising told by the people who lived it, this is an unflinching look at how the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown inspired a community to fight back — and sparked a global movement.

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