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5 Sundance films for athletes

Including features on marathon running, figure skating, and more

Though there’s no shortage of film festivals around the globe, Park City’s Sundance has always had a distinct vibe. With an emphasis on independent storytellers and emerging voices, the Utah-based institute also hosts workshops and programming throughout the year to foster the creative community they work hard to promote. This year, moviegoers can choose from 241 films—more than double 2018’s roster—from 49 countries, debuting between January 24 and February 3.

Here, our annual roundup featuring five compelling sports-focused picks.

brittany runs a marathon

This feature, by award-winning playwright and new filmmaker Paul Downs Colaizzo, follows a hard-partying 27-year-old New Yorker who decides to get a grip on her life by taking up running—in Converse sneakers, no less.
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fast horse

In this 13-minute short, Native American filmmaker Alexandra Lazarowich delves deep to uncover the little-known world of the Indian Relay, America’s oldest known competition. In this exceptionally dangerous and unpredictable sport, bareback riders leap from horse to horse as they race at full speed around a track.
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sonja – the white swan

Long before Peggy Fleming, Michelle Kwan, and Tara Lipinski, there was Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie, who made her Olympic debut at the age of 11 in 1924, and won 10 straight World Championships (a record that still hasn’t been broken). Norwegian director Anne Sewitsky provides an intimate look at Henie’s transformation from iconic athlete to popular Hollywood star in this feature-length film.
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stay close

This 19-minute documentary short follows the underdog story of Keeth Smart, a fencer from Brooklyn who won a silver medal in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and became the first American man to be ranked number one in the world. The film was written and co-directed by Luther Clement, a former internationally competitive fencer.
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birds in the earth

In this 11-minute short, Finnish director/screenwriter Marja Helander explores the lives of the indigenous Sámi people—inhabitants of the northern reaches of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. She addresses deeper questions of the ownership of Sámi land through an unexpected vehicle: dance performances by two young Sámi ballet students.
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