Your Guide To The Sundance Film Festival 2016: U.S. Documentary Competition



The 2016 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 21st through the 31st in Park City, Utah. The festival is a destination for both up-and-coming and veteran filmmakers, and has earned a reputation as a showcase for some of the most critically acclaimed and Oscar-worthy films of the year. This year, out of the 12,793 they received, the committee has selected just over 200 feature length and short films to play at the festival. That’s a lot of films to go through in 10 days. Which is why this week, we’re bringing you a new curated list each day that highlights the films we think are worth checking out in Park City.

And don’t forget to check out our exclusive party and event grid!

This year’s contenders for the U.S. Documentary Competition are varied, covering subjects from religious cults to political sex scandals. Here are handful that you should put on your list.



Synopsis: Just out of college, a young filmmaker joins a loving, secretive, and spiritual community led by a charismatic teacher in 1980s West Hollywood. Twenty years later, the group is shockingly torn apart. Told through two decades of the filmmaker’s archival materials, this is their story.
: William Allen
Why do we want to watch it? Whether told in documentary or narrative form, films about cults are always a fascinating watch.



Synopsis: This psychological thriller follows actor as she prepares to play the role of Christine Chubbuck, a Florida television host who committed suicide on air in 1974. Christine’s tragic death was the inspiration for Network, and the mysteries surrounding her final act haunt Kate and the production.
Cast: , , , ,
Why do we want to watch it? Between this and the feature film Christine, is really focusing on the story of Christin Chubbuck. They’re definitely reeling us in with this one.



Synopsis: Owen Suskind, an autistic boy who could not speak for years, slowly emerged from his isolation by immersing himself in Disney animated movies. Using these films as a roadmap, he reconnects with his loving family and the wider world in this emotional coming-of-age story.
: Roger Ross Williams
Writers: Roger Ross Williams,
Cast: Owen Suskind, , ,
Why do we want to watch it? It’s not that often that we get to see an uplifting story. Plus, it further proves the pure power and joy of Disney movies.



Synopsis: With unrestricted access to Anthony Weiner’s mayoral campaign, this film reveals the human story behind the scenes of a high-profile political scandal as it unfolds, and it offers an unfiltered look at how much today’s politics are driven by an appetite for spectacle.
Directors: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
Writers: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg,
Why do we want to watch it? There’s a glorious schadenfreude the world enjoyed when it came to the Weiner scandal. This will help us relive it all. He was a cautionary tale for all sext-hungry politicians out there.



Synopsis: The public execution of American conflict journalist James Foley captured the world’s attention, but he was more than just a
man in an orange jumpsuit. Seen through the lens of his close childhood friend, Jim moves from adrenaline-fueled front lines and devastated neighborhoods of Syria into the hands of ISIS.
: Brian Oakes
Writers: , , Brian Oakes
Why do we want to watch it? There are too many stories that focus on his horrific execution and the depraved people behind it. It’s refreshing to see a documentary that celebrated his life and work.



Synopsis: American abortion clinics are in a fight for survival. Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws are increasingly being passed by states that maintain they ensure women’s safety and health, but as clinics continue to shut their doors, opponents believe the real purpose of these laws is to outlaw abortion.
: Dawn Porter
Writers: Dawn Porter,
Cast: , , , , ,
Why do we want to watch it? There haven’t been many documentaries about abortion. This provides an interesting take on an age-old debate.


See all of our preview posts for the 2016 Festival, and catch up with our full coverage of the festival in our Sundance Spotlights!

For a complete list of films and details in the Festival’s U.S. Documentary Competition lineup, visit

Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer

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