The Sundance Film Festival helped put “Sorry to Bother You,” “Strong Island,” “Blindspotting” and many other acclaimed films about racial justice and identity on the path to theaters and homes worldwide. The 2019 festival, whose main roster was announced yesterday (November 28), will showcase several scripted and documentary features that tackle these topics head-on. 


Storylines about economic segregation, Indigenous history, Asian-American familial relationships, immigration policing and other facets of life in communities of color populate the following noteworthy films:

“Native Son.” Screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog/Underdog”) and debut narrative feature film director Rashid Johnson update Richard Wright’s seminal 1940 novel (and the 1951 and 1986 films based on it) for contemporary times. The new movie follows Bigger Thomas, a young Black Chicagoan whose acceptance of a job with an influential White family places him on a tumultuous path. Ashton Sanders, KiKi Layne and Sanaa Lathan star.

“Words from a Bear.” Kiowa writer and Native American Renaissance figure Navarro Scott Momaday discusses his work and its relationship to his own Indigenous identity and ancestral lineage. Fellow Kiowa tribal member Jeffrey Palmer makes his feature film debut as director and producer.

“Ms. Purple.” A karaoke hostess in Los Angeles’ Koreatown reconnects with her estranged brother and looks at her own life after her father’s hospice care nurse leaves. Justin Chon (“Gook”) directs from a script he co-wrote with Chris Dinh (“Parker and the Crew”). Tiffany Chu stars.

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco.” Two friends seek to reclaim a family home in a city where rapid gentrification threatens to diminish a long-standing Black community. Debut feature filmmaker Joe Talbot directs from a screenplay he co-wrote with Rob Richert (“Kosu”). Jimmie Fails, whose own life inspired the plot, stars alongside Jonathan Majors and Tichina Arnold.

“Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.” The celebrated writer and scholar explores her work, American racism and the human condition alongside her literary peers and other commentators. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (“The Out List”) directs.

“The Infiltrators.” Youth of undocumented status intentionally subject themselves to arrest by U.S. Border Customs and Protection agents to infiltrate a mysterious for-profit detention center. Cristina Ibarra (“The Last Conquistador”) and Alex Rivera (“Futurestates”) direct from a script Rivera co-wrote with Aldo Velasco (“The People I’ve Slept With”). Maynor Alvarado and Chelsea Rendon star.

“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool.” Documentarian Stanley Nelson (“Tell Them We Are Rising”) chronicles the life of the genre-bending Black musical pioneer. 

Learn more about the films selected to screen at the festival at SundanceInstitute.org.