The documentary areas at Sundance are often where you find some of the festival’s consistently strongest work, and this year was no exception. There’s a natural double bill to be had with “Judy Blume Forever” and “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Task,” each of which supply insightful, entertaining profession overviews of wonderfully scrappy writers. Both “Judy Blume” (directed by Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok) and “Nikki Giovanni” (Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson) track their subjects across their respective event-filled lives as a kids’s book author and as a poet, pausing on their profession accomplishments, reviewing personal turning points and surveying political battles with initial interviews, terrific archival product and some animated flourishes.Both of these documentaries, like the majority of the nonfiction work I saw at this year’s Sundance, were more intellectually interesting than formally revelatory, even with their visual flights of fancy. Among the nice features of documentaries, however, is that a film can grab hold of you merely through the power of its topic. That’s true of” Criticism,”an absorbing, eye-opening take a look at the fight for a complimentary and open press in the Muscogee(Creek)Country directed by Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler. That’s likewise the case with” Victim/Suspect, “Nancy Schwartzman’s blood-boiler about a reporter examining cases in which ladies who, after reporting their sexual attack to the authorities, are implicated of lying, then apprehended and prosecuted.Despite its appeal and typically favorable press, Sundance has frequently been the target of a certain amount of mockery
, both good-natured and meanspirited. Its earlier years are still, fondly and not, branded as its granola period, a characterization that speaks with the kinds of modest, regionally minded movies that the celebration typically provided. To a degree, a few of the gibes also reflected some observers’feelings about Redford, whose earnestness has actually long made him a huge and certainly tempting target (when he’s not amazing everyone with his stardom). The mockery continued even as Sundance’s imprint on the market greatly expanded– partially since it expanded. Steven Soderbergh broke there, and so did Dee Rees.This year, I didn’t hear any jokes about Redford or the experiment in neighborhood and storytelling that he developed many years back. More instructively, I didn’t even hear many complaints about the lineup, which was solid if not remarkable, and chock-full of fine, excellent and very good motion pictures, the majority of which will land at your regional theater or, most likely, on among your streaming platforms. After a number of years of being far from the celebration and so much bad and bleak news about the market, and despite the typical logistic grievances about the celebration, I think that a lot of us were just grateful to be back in Park City, seeing motion pictures, discovering talent, finding new ideas and going to other worlds. I understand that I was.