2021 Sundance Docs in Focus: USERS

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Natalia Almada


USERS
Natalia Almada offers a thought-provoking essay about the unexpected consequences of our dependence on technology.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

Acclaimed filmmaker Natalia Almada captures the ruthless locomotion of technology. Her camera flies with ferocious speed alongside jet streams, trains, trucks, and underwater cables that carry data at the speed of light. But just as her lens documents the power of frenetic human invention, so does it dive into technology’s greatest existential competitor: rising oceans, crackling fires, scorched mountain tops—a planet at war with so-called societal progress. In the center of this storm, Almada’s young son stares unquestioningly into his computer screen and is rocked to sleep by a seamlessly paced electronic crib. He’s soothed by forces outside of Almada’s—or, for that matter, any parent’s—influence.

With transcendent camerawork that peers into the internal organs of a technologically dependent planet, USERS both marvels at and fears for a world in which a child is not only at risk from a warming Earth but comes to trust a perfectly constructed artificial caretaker over his own biological mother.

Some Background:

Director:
Natalia Almada
Past Sundance docs:
EL GENERAL (2009)
All Water Has a Perfect Memory (short, 2002)

Almada was part of the Sundance Institute’s Talent Forum with this, her fourth documentary feature. She is also a past Sundance Institute Art of Non-Fiction Fellow and the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant. Almada picked up the Documentary Directing Award for her previous Sundance doc feature.

Producers:
Elizabeth Lodge Stepp
Past Sundance docs:
BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS (2020)

Department of Motion Pictures. Stepp is a past Sundance Feature Film Creative Producing Fellow and Stories of Change Lab Fellow. She previously served as a producer or consulting producer on a number of Sundance fiction feature alumni, including MONSTERS AND MEN, FAREWELL AMOR, and THE BETTER ANGELS. Stepp also serves as a consulting producer for the 2021 Premieres docuseries PHILLY DA.

Josh Penn
Past Sundance docs:
BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS
A THOUSAND THOUGHTS (2018)
WESTERN (2015)

Department of Motion Pictures. Penn received an Oscar nomination for BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, one of several Sundance fiction feature alumni projects he has produced or executive produced, including WENDY, FAREWELL AMOR, MONSTERS AND MEN, and PATTI CAKE$. He has been a past advisor to the Sundance Institute’s Stories of Change Convening and Creative Producing Lab. Penn also produced this year’s PHILLY DA.

Executive Producers:
Sean King O’Grady
Founder, Atlas Industries. O’Grady previously co-produced or executive produced Sundance fiction feature alumni THE ASSISTANT, DINNER IN AMERICA, IN A WORLD…, and BIG SUR.

Bill Stertz
EVP, Atlas Industries. Stertz is an entertainment attorney with a background as a record producer and film executive. He previously executive produced DINNER IN AMERICA.

Charlotte Cook
Past Sundance docs:
DISCLOSURE (2020)
Church and the Fourth Estate (short, 2020)
Ghosts of Sugar Land (short, 2019)
LIBRE (short, 2019)
CABLESTREET (short, 2019)
CRIME + PUNISHMENT (2018)
HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING (2018)
OUR NEW PRESIDENT (2018)
A Night at The Garden (short, 2018)
NUUCA (short, 2018)
PEACE IN THE VALLEY (short, 2016)
SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT (short, 2016)

Co-founder/executive producer, Field of Vision. Cook is a News & Documentary Emmy nominee and a former director of programming at Hot Docs.

Tony Hsieh
Co-founder, Zappos. Hsieh also has executive producer credits on fellow 2021 US Documentary Competition titles AILEY, AT THE READY, HOMEROOM, REBEL HEARTS, and TRY HARDER!, as well as Premieres title BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE. The Internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist, who passed away in late November, was a backer of Bryn Mooser’s XTR.

Roberto Grande
Grande also executive produced AILEY, AT THE READY, HOMEROOM, REBEL HEARTS, and TRY HARDER!. The investor and entrepreneur managed Tony Hsieh’s partnership with XTR.

Mimi Pham
Pham also executive produced AILEY, AT THE READY, HOMEROOM, REBEL HEARTS, and TRY HARDER!. She recently co-executive produced 76 DAYS (Toronto, DOC NYC).

Bryn Mooser
Past Sundance docs:
BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS
FEELS GOOD MAN (2020)
THE FIGHT (2020)
MUCHO MUCHO AMOR (2020)
US KIDS (2020)
THE BRINK (2019)
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MY MOTHER (2019)
ON HER SHOULDERS (2018)

Founder/CEO, XTR. Mooser also executive produced AILEY, AT THE READY, REBEL HEARTS, TRY HARDER!, BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE, and the 2021 Next fiction title THE BLAZING WORLD, as well as co-executive produced HOMEROOM. The Oscar nominee and Emmy winner previously co-founded RYOT.

Kathryn Everett
Past Sundance docs:
BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS
FEELS GOOD MAN
THE FIGHT
MUCHO MUCHO AMOR

Head of film, XTR. Everett is also an executive producer of AILEY, AT THE READY, REBEL HEARTS, TRY HARDER!, and BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE, and co-executive producer of HOMEROOM.

Noah Kadner
First Sundance credit. Co-founder/marketing Director, FCPWORKS. Kadner is a tech analyst and writer. He was an executive producer of Natalia Almada’s fiction feature debut, TODO LO DEMÁS (EVERYTHING ELSE).

Rune Hansen
Co-founder/CTO, Simplemente and FCPWORKS. Hansen is a production/postproduction expert. He previously was an associate producer for Sundance fiction feature alum HALLEY, as well as an editor for short fiction alum KID. Hansen also executive produced TODO LO DEMÁS (EVERYTHING ELSE).

Mónica Reina
Co-founder/CEO, Simplemente and FCPWORKS. Reina is a production/postproduction expert. She was also an associate producer for HALLEY, and an executive producer for KID. Reina also executive produced TODO LO DEMÁS (EVERYTHING ELSE).

Co-Producers:
Daniela Alatorre
Past Sundance docs:
VIVOS (2020)
MIDNIGHT FAMILY (2019)
EL GENERAL
Co-founder, No Ficción. In addition to her filmmaking work, Alatoree is the head of the documentary programming committee of the Morelia International Film Festival, which she produced for a decade. Alatorre has previously participated in Sundance Editing, Music, and Creative Producing Labs.

Elivia Shaw
First Sundance credit. Shaw’s background includes projects with Show of Force, Al Jazeera, and National Geographic.

More Info:
Meet the Artist
Website

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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