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Here's the thing about independent films. When you pick them apart, you feel mean-spirited. Because there is just so much PASSION, LOVE, and HEART that the filmmakers all put into their work. There is an element of 'good' in all of them. Hey - they are a heck of a lot better than anything I could ever bring to life.
That's why I sigh in relief when I watch films I genuinely like. Because, well... only some of the films at Sundance are great; this is a festival where weird and wacky and off the beaten path is the norm. All three of the films below I recommend are worth your time to watch. On the big screen - or just at home. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares three Sundance Film Festival movies you should make the time to see in 2023.
These are three independent films recommended by the author of the blog, Stacy Jones, that they enjoyed at the Sundance Film Festival and suggest others to watch:
The Deepest Breath - A documentary about two free divers who change each other's lives through their passion for the ocean. The film captures the underwater world of divers and the all-importance of breath.
Rye Lane - A romantic comedy about two Londoners who, in a single night, learn what truly matters and fall in love. The film is funny, relatable, and has bright, poppy colors.
Still: Michael J. Fox - A movie directed by David Guggenheim about Michael J. Fox and his journey with Parkinson's disease.
I am a major lover of the ocean and scuba diving. So much so that the license plate on my car says "Diver Girl" (in a more confusingly lettered way than that). I've traveled the world to cage dive with great whites in South Africa, glide with manta rays in Bora Bora, descend into the dark of the ocean's most bottomless blue hole with giant tarpon in Belize, and swim in the open sea with hundreds of bull, nurse and reef sharks in Fiji. At one point in my life, I'd only need to hear a story of some phenomenal underwater adventure to get me to start planning my next trip immediately, and it became a reason for me to explore the world.
I didn't start scuba diving until I was thirty, and in the years prior, I was a fond lover of free diving, where I'd hold my breath and swim down as deep as I could, where the world's sounds became blanketed in silence except for the thud of my heartbeat, ears popping on my way up as I fought to stay under the sea as long as possible.
The ocean, to me, is where I can meditate and recover. The nonstop of the world above comes to a stall, as the focus is solely on the beauty of the underwater creatures and fauna - and breath. When you have to focus on your breath to live, your perspective on everything else changes, and nothing matters more.
The documentary, The Deepest Breath, deserves to be nominated for Best Documentary. It is a powerful film that completely captures the underwater world of the diver - free or scuba alike. And the all-importance of breath.
The director, Alessia Zecchini, is exceptionally talented. With her vision, she brought to life the always-entwined stories of two free divers who, across the world from one another, would change each other's lives through each of their dedication and passion.
With footage and recorded voices taken from each of their real-world diving and travel filmed adventures, friends and family interviews, and incredible ocean videography, the story of two star-crossed lovers of the ocean and each other comes to a crashing end that is profoundly impactful, and tearful. It will touch your soul.
Watching this film transported me back to being underwater - it is truly a sensory film experience that is based on absolute reality. For readers who have not had the opportunity to spend hours underwater or don't understand why other people would fathom doing so, this film will answer why some, like me, would choose to risk their lives.
This is the one film of the three that I suggest you try to see in a theater if you can. The giant swells of ocean waves that come pounding and crashing down are the driver behind that thought, along with the tiny tiny bodies descending into the ocean's darkest depths in the great wide open sea.
I only saw two scripted films while at Sundance - everything else was a documentary. Of the two, this was by far my favorite. It was more commercial, it had a linear storyline (thank you for not making me over use my brain) and a good plot. It actually is one of my favorite rom-com I've seen in quite some time.
I was LOLing throughout it. Serious guffaws coming out when I least expected it. I don't know why I didn't expect to laugh, and I laughed. A lot. The humor is excellent, and there is a lovely hidden easter egg for Love, Actually.
The film is about two down-on-their-luck-with-relationships Londoners who, in a single night, see the BS they have been telling themselves is all actually a lie and learn what truly matters - falling in love in the process. It's a relatable film for anyone who has found that they are not perfect, and who has had even an ounce of heartache. That means you'll relate, too, unless you are a sociopath. :)
The director, Raine Allen-Miller, brings a lot of fun and bright, poppy colors into the film, making you smile. Again and again. Converse, Pepsi, and KFC had big wins in this film, and Searchlight should be giving them calls to see if they will help co-promote the release.
I wrote about the David Guggenheim-directed Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie last week before I could watch it myself. Now that I have seen it, I am telling you - run, don't walk, to turn on Apple TV+ when it debuts in a few months. It is genuinely excellent and funny. The craftsmanship of the film by their team is fantastic. The film was written based on excerpts from books Michael J. Fox previously wrote, and resulted in a storyline that began in his childhood and extended to the present day.
For footage, besides some limited re-enactments, they used clips from his catalog of work over the years to tell a story that felt like it was shot specifically for this film. Yes, he has Parkinson's, and that is an element of his story and what he has had to overcome.
No, that should not turn you away from this film. It is not depressing or dark.
It's just one small aspect of the film - so much more the film shows a life lived with some challenges along the way that continues to be lived. Nike, you should eat your heart out at the love you are about to be given. It might be the right time to do a retro release since Nike Back To The Future shoes are selling for over $150,000. SERIOUSLY. (read it here.).
Did this post pique your interest in Hollywood film events? Then you'll love these blog posts from our Hollywood Branded team!
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Stacy Jones, Hollywood Branded's founder and CEO, has over twenty six years of leadership experience building global entertainment branding campaigns for top Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of brands. Her career started after receiving her BFA in Theater Production & Scenic Design from the University of Arizona. Acknowledged as an expert in the field, she has appeared on CNN and MSNBC; spoken at conferences around the globe from Germany to Beijing; and has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, Financial Times, The Economist, Brandweek, Advertising Age, Variety, B&C and Mediaweek amongst others. Originally from Texas, you will still hear her ya’ll as she gathers the team for strategy planning sessions. Like all true entrepreneurs, Stacy is an adventurer at her core – having sky dived, hang glided off bi-planes, swam with crocs while rafting the Zambezi in Africa, photographed grizzly bears in Alaska, trekked Mayan ruins in Belize, explored the ocean as an avid scuba diver, and who loves owning an advertising agency where she swims with a different type of Hollywood shark on a daily basis.