The Sundance Film Festival always marks the beginning of an exciting new year in cinema just as the previous awards season lumbers to a conclusion (the 2019 Oscar nominations will be announced just days before Sundance starts on January 24). Two years ago, Jordan Peele’s Get Out premiered at the festival and quickly became one of the most talked-about movies of 2016. Last year, a slew of hits including Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, RBG, and Three Identical Strangers took off at Sundance, presaging a hot summer at the box office for documentaries. The 2019 festival promises similarly resonant nonfiction films, along with the usual mix of directorial debuts and intriguing new talent.
Perhaps the splashiest upcoming movie is also one of Sundance’s longest entries. Leaving Neverland, a four-hour examination of two child-molestation accusations against the late Michael Jackson, is certain to revive the storm of controversy that first engulfed the now-dead singer in 1993. Decades later, two men (now in their 30s) recount allegations of sustained abuse by the singer, which the Jackson estate has already denied. The film, directed by Dan Reed, will air on HBO in April in two parts, but its subject matter will undoubtedly dominate headlines from the first screening on.
Several other Sundance documentaries are taking aim at notorious real-life figures. Ursula Macfarlane’s Untouchable digs into the history of the disgraced mega-producer Harvey Weinstein and how he leveraged his power in the movie industry to protect himself from charges of sexual harassment and assault. Matt Tyrnauer’s Where’s My Roy Cohn?, titled after a reported Donald Trump quote, profiles the infamous attorney’s relationships with Joseph McCarthy and Trump, casting Cohn as an avatar for this era of American politics. Alex Gibney’s The Inventor sums up the rise-and-fall story of Elizabeth Holmes and her blood-testing company, Theranos, which collapsed in 2018 after its founder was charged with massive fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission.