Sundance Film Festival 2022: Documentary Wrap-Up

As the 2022 Sundance Film Festival year’s festival has come to an end, there are still some films that must be afforded the spotlight.

This year was a great year for documentaries. W. Kamau Bell’s “We Need to Talk About Cosby” docuseries is the one I found the most striking and effective, but there were others that moved and stayed with me as well.

As always, the festival included many docs that were culturally and/or socially relevant. Here are three that I find to be some of the best from this year’s fest.

“The Janes”-

The Janes” is the documentary of the Chicago-based underground abortion network founded by a group of activist women in the 1960s.

An excellent companion piece to the great feature film based on the subject, “Call Jane”, which also premiered at this year’s fest.

As the battle for a woman’s reproductive rights once again rages strong in America with Roe v Wade on the ropes, this timely film takes an informed look at the abortion-rights movement of the time. Filmmakers Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes find the parallels with the civil rights movements of the day, taking on not only the main issue of abortion, but also the racism that many of these women had to endure.

This potent film is informative, moving, and sadly relevant.


“The Princess”-

Filmmaker Ed Perkins’s documentary on Diana Spencer, “The Princess“,  is created completely from existing footage, home movies, news broadcasts, archival interviews, etc.

We see Diana through many different lenses and bear witness to the misogyny and tabloid thrashing she was subject to in the later part of her life from the relentlessly intrusive media.

As the film progresses, we realize that we are seeing a destruction of sorts, by the media. An eroding of a fairy tale life (that was also crumbling inside the palace) just to sell “tawdry tales” at the newsstands. Perkins shows how the media constantly surrounded Spencer and (although it was Prince Charles who was the philanderer who ultimately drove her out) painted her as scandalous when she found another man.

The press surrounded her every day until it seems her world was one of suffocation. The constant barrage of cameras was like a prison for Diana and never stopped until it finally caused her tragic death in 1997.

By film’s end, the viewer wonders if the public was complicit in Diana’s demise. Everyone watched. Everyone bought the magazines. The whole world was watching her every move, so the press kept stalking right to her untimely end. If only the public would have turned away and shown more support and respect. As Diana Spencer was dubbed, “The People’s Princess” was sadly brought down by that very moniker.


“Lucy and Desi”-

Unlike Aaron Sorkin’s misguided and deadening dull 2021 film “Being the Ricardos”, Amy Pohler’s wonderful documentary “Lucy and Desi” captures not only Lucille Ball’s unique comedic gifts as a performer and writer, but also The Ricardo’s life story and partnership that would change television comedy and define an era.

The couple created Desilu Productions (one of the most successful studios in the 1960s) and set the tone for the way tv comedy was crafted.

Lucy and Desi’s love story was true to the heart and complex as hell. Pohler doesn’t shy away from their issues as a married couple but never loses sight of what made the two so special, finding a perfect balance between their unfiltered history and a loving admiration.

“Lucy and Desi” premieres on Amazon Prime Video on March 4.
“The Janes” and “The Princess” are currently awaiting distribution.