Idris Elba’s directorial debut, Yardie will get its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not a Witch will get its American premiere at the festival.

Sundance Film Festival is America’s biggest independent film festival, showcasing films from across the globe. Kicking off festival season, Sundance tends to solidify the best indie films we’re to look out for each year (Think Get Out which premiered at this year’s festival… and the rest is as you well know, blissful, record-breaking history). Sundance takes place Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance Mountain Resort, from January 18–28.

The Festival represents the flagship of the Institute’s public programs, which also include Festivals in London and Hong Kong and other screenings throughout the year. Sundance Institute supports independent artists with year-round programs, granting more than $2.5 million and convening 25 global residency Labs focusing on theatre, film, New Frontier, and episodic content.

Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, said, “The work of independent storytellers can challenge and possibly change culture, illuminating our world’s imperfections and possibilities. This year’s Festival is full of artfully-told stories that provoke thought, drive empathy and allow the audience to connect, in deeply personal ways, to the universal human experience.”

For the 2018 Festival, 110 feature-length films were selected, representing 29 countries and 47 first-time filmmakers, including 30 in competition.These films were selected from 13,468 submissions including 3,901 feature-length films and 8,740 short films. Of the feature film submissions, 1,799 were from the U.S. and 2,102 were international. One-hundred feature films at the Festival will be world premieres. In 2017, the Festival drew 71,638 attendees, generated $151.5 million in economic activity for the state of Utah and supported 2,778 local jobs. – Sundance website.

So, that Elba’s Yardie has been chosen is a big deal. Based on the cult classic novel by Victor Headley (1992),  Yardie’s synopsis is as follows – Jamaica, 1973. When a young boy witnesses his brother’s assassination, a powerful Don gives him a home. Ten years later he is sent on a mission to London. He reunites with his girlfriend and their daughter, but then the past catches up with them. The screenplay has been adapted by Brock Norman Brock and Martin Stellman. The cast includes Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Naomie Ackie, Fraser James and Mark Rhino Smith.

Audience reaction is paramount to this premiere. A lot is riding on this tale, Elba’s debut as a director. It’s a British film, about Jamaicans, the narrative written by two white guys. Sundance’s legacy is that apart from being a fantastic place to network and form important connections. It helps films find their audience which is important for indies. Even more important for British black indie films that struggle to find audiences at home and abroad. Fingers crossed for Yardie.

Runango Nyoni’s I Am Not a Witch is about nine-year-old Shula who is exiled to a witch camp where she is told that if she escapes, she’ll be transformed into a goat. As she navigates through her new life, she must decide whether to accept her fate or risk the consequences of seeking freedom. The film has already gained popularity prior to, and since its UK premiere at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. Not perfect, it is a good film which attempts to poke satirical fun at African spiritual traditions and beliefs. Nominated in 13 categories at this year’s British Independent Awards and set to rack a few more nominations across awards season, we’re confident Nyoni’s film will resonate with audiences at Sundance.


Find out more about the 2018 Sundance schedule here.

Read TBB’s #OutOf100 review of I Am Not a Witch here.