The Sundance Film Festival might have gone unexpectedly virtual this year, but that didn’t stop Asian and Pacific Islander filmmakers from shining on the screen.
Following a sudden switch from its planned hybrid format, the festival ran online from Jan. 20 to 30 and featured numerous projects with APIs at the helm and on screen. Several features, from the Filipina-created “Leonor Will Never Die” to the Burmese documentary “Midwives,” landed Special Jury Awards recognizing achievement in filmmaking. Asian creatives also swept in the short film categories, with “The Headhunter’s Daughter” taking the Short Film Grand Jury Prize.
The festival also saw the return of the 18th Asian Pacific Filmmakers Experience (APFE) via Zoom on Sunday, Jan. 23. The annual event celebrates API filmmakers and featured conversations with Kanaka Maoli filmmaker Alika Tengan (“Every Day in Kaimukī”), co-directors Julie Ha and Eugene Yi (“Free Chol Soo Lee”), “Leonor Will Never Die” creator Martika Ramirez Escobar and many more. Destin Daniel Cretton also joined for a special fireside chat following last year’s breakout success of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Veteran documentary editor Jean Tsien received the Irene Cho Pioneer Award, recognizing API creatives and leaders in the entertainment industry. “Jean is a great example of one who has truly supported our API creative community,” APFE organizer Laarni Rosca Dacanay shared with The Diaspora Times. “She embodies the spirit of the mission of the group with her mentorship and support of the many filmmakers she works with, including both API and non-API filmmakers.”
Other notable feature films created and led by APIs at this year’s festival include Kogonada’s “After Yang,” the Sonoya Mizuno-starring dramedy “Am I OK?,” World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary recipient “All That Breathes” and the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary winner “The Exiles.” Shorts programs also saw the premieres of films like “Night Bus” and “Champ.” You can read the full 2022 Sundance Film Festival program here, and learn about all of this year’s award winners here.