Little Richard/ Willie Nelson/ Still from 'Going Varsity in Mariachi'
Little Richard: I Am Everything/ GAB Archive/Redferns/ Going Varsity in Mariachi

5 Must-See Films From the 2023 Sundance Film Festival


The 2023 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah has been praised for its commitment to diversifying voices and amplifying underrepresented perspectives in the film industry. This year's festival featured a number of films that explored the lives and experiences of a wide range of communities and individuals, including the Black trans sex workers, Asian Americans, Indigenous women, LGBTQIA+ and LatinX populations.

The festival gave a platform for filmmakers, directors and producers to showcase their talents in creating stories that are politically and socially relevant in today's world. These films are not only engaging, but leave a lasting impression on issues that are particularly relevant today. 

See below for some of our favorites to check out once available to the general audience.

Willie Nelson & Family

UNSPECIFIED - circa 1970:  (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of Willie Nelson

Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns

The documentary Willie Nelson & Family offers an intimate and personal look at the legendary musician's life and career, featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews with those closest to him. Directed by Thom Zimny and Oren Moverman, the documentary is a heartfelt tribute to Nelson's enduring legacy and career spanning seven decades. Coming up on his 90th birthday, the documentary showcases the complexities of his life, from his humble beginnings in Abbott, Texas to his status as a cultural icon, acclaimed songwriter and singer, actor and author. The film also touches on his activism, marijuana advocacy, and support of the American farmer. The festival showed all five episodes to viewers who were able to get a glimpse into the mindset of Nelson in an story that is told in his own voice.


Little Richard: I Am Everything 

Little Richard

Courtesy of Sundance

Lisa Cortés' documentary Little Richard: I Am Everything corrects the record and shines a light on the Black, queer origins of rock 'n' roll.  Richard Wayne Penniman, better known as Little Richard, passed away in May 2020 at the age of 87 but left behind a legacy. The film explores the complex life he lived as he navigated strained conversations around race and sexuality.

 "Anyone looking at Little Richard in the throes of his career could tell you this man was definitely not straight, he was queer in all of the senses of that word, but he rarely spoke about it openly and that's where the complication came," says scholar Jason King.

Following these themes in an era where being queer was not openly talked about, the film provided color and context to Little Richard's personality, way of dressing and musical impact. The film also includes rare footage of Penniman and other scenes with his Black and queer predecessors, friends, family and prior interviews that highlight the origins of Black rock 'n' roll from that time period.

Going Varsity in Mariachi

Going Varsity in Mariachi documentary

Courtesy of Sundance

This heartwarming and inspiring film follows the journey of young high school students in Edinburg North High School in Texas. Though the students experience a number of issues at home and at school, they find solace in the mariachi band at their local high school. Going Varsity in Mariachi is not just a story about music, but a narrative about family, community and perseverance that is deeply rooted in culture and tradition. Directed by Sam Osborn and Mexican- American filmmaker Alejandra Vasquez, it captures the essence of Mexican-American culture and the role of music in it. Plus, the film is beautifully shot with visuals of the vibrant mariachi music performances and the traditional clothing that comes with it.


Murder in Big Horn

Still from "Murder in Big Horn"

Still from "Murder in Big Horn"

This powerful docuseries is directed by Razelle Benally and Mathew Galkin and delves into the case of missing Indigenous women from the Crow and Northern Cheyenne Nations in Big Horn County, the sixth-largest county in Montana. The biggest question that the docuseries focuses on is the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Discussed through the perspectives of people closest to these women, the series aims to raise awareness of their legacy, explore the impact Native American tribes played in history and shed light on how the cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women are underreported and often aren't properly investigated by law enforcement.

Murder in Big Horn premieres globally on Feb. 3.

It's Only Life After All 

Still from documentary It's Only Life After All

It's Only Life After All/ Sundance

The Indigo Girls, a folk rock duo consisting of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, have been a staple in the music industry for over 30 years. Their new documentary, It's Only Life After All, offers a behind-the-scenes look at their journey as musicians and activists, especially in the area of LGBTQ rights and environmental causes. One of the most striking aspects of the documentary is the way it portrays the friendship between the two bandmates, who have been close friends since they met in high school, and how their friendship flourished both musically and personally. 

Though Ray and Saliers are the only ones to address the camera (besides a few notable mentions from fans), the documentary does demonstrate the impact the duo had on their own careers and the music industry.



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