A still from Knock Down The House by Rachel Lears, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Rachel Lears.
A still from Knock Down The House by Rachel Lears, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Rachel Lears.

Additional Standout Films This Year Include: Ask Dr. Ruth, The Biggest Little Farm, Honeyland, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and Blinded by the Light

The Sundance Film Festival has wrapped up their 2019 edition with a wide selection of cinema to review.

This year the festival continued to showcase the brightest talent within independent filmmaking. These pieces of cinema represent 121 feature-length films and 73 short films that were selected from 14,259 submissions in 2019.


“At this critical moment, it’s more necessary than ever to support independent voices, to watch and listen to the stories they tell.” – Robert Redford

As an independent media publisher, I directly identify with the core principals that Redford wishes to see evolve into the future. In addition, Keri Putnam summarizes the difficult task of directing the event.

“As the Festival comes to a close, we look forward to watching the stories and conversations that started here as they shape and define our culture in the year to come.” – Keri Putnam, the Institute’s Executive Director

Each year, I look forward to seeing the most talented filmmakers showcase their work in the mountains of Utah. After the festival, films that produce the biggest reaction from the crowds in Park City will often be released nationally and internationally in some cases.

The festival organizers provided a detailed summary of the top selections from this year:

Knock Down the House, which had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, follows four women political candidates from around the country – a young bartender in the Bronx, a coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia, a grieving mother in Nevada and a registered nurse in Missouri – during the 2018 mid-term elections as they took to the campaign trail, built and engaged their bases, and built a movement. The film was directed by Rachel Lears and produced by Lears, Sarah Olson and Robin Blotnick.

Ask Dr. Ruth / U.S.A. (Director: Ryan White, Producers: Rafael Marmor, Ryan White, Jessica Hargrave, Christopher Leggett— A documentary portrait chronicling the incredible life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America’s most famous sex therapist. As her 90th birthday approaches, Dr. Ruth revisits her painful past and her career at the forefront of the sexual revolution.

The Biggest Little Farm / U.S.A. (Director: John Chester, Screenwriters: Mark Monroe, John Chester, Producers: Sandra Keats, John Chester) — Two dreamers and a dog embark on an odyssey to bring harmony to their lives and the land. As their plan to create perfect harmony takes a series of wild turns, they will have to reach a far greater understanding of the intricacies and wisdom of nature, and life itself.

Other strong-showing audience favorites included:

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Producers: Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan) — Against all odds, a thirteen year old boy in Malawi invents an unconventional way to save his family and village from famine. Based on the true story of William Kamkwamba. Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maxwell Simba, Lily Banda, Noma Dumezweni, Aissa Maiga, Joseph Marcell.

Blinded by the Light United Kingdom (Director: Gurinder Chadha, Screenwriters: Sarfraz Manzoor, Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, Producers: Gurinder Chadha, Jane Barclay, Jamal Daniel) — In 1987 during the austere days of Thatcher’s Britain, a teenager learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen. Cast: Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura.

The festival organizers have announced the official dates for 2020: January 23 through February 2.

Check out a full of list winners via the festival’s main website.

Watch over the Sundance Film Festival YouTube playlist below for highlights of the event.

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Matthew McGuire is the founder and editor of Crescent Vale News. In 2014, he acquired a master's degree in Professional Media and Media Management from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.