Evelyne Ily appears in a still from Mami Wata by C.J "Fiery" Obasi , an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Sundance 2023: Feature and Short Films by African and African Diaspora Filmmakers

The comprehensive list of films selected across the feature and short film categories for the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, is now public. Below are the titles from artists of African and African diaspora descent found across the Festival’s U.S. and World sections.

Might any of these titles follow in the footsteps of 2022 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Grand Jury Prize winner, Nikyatu Jusu’s feature debut “Nanny”?

The information below is courtesy of Sundance, including images, clips, trailers, and other marketing materials wherever available.

The 2023 Festival will take place January 19–29, 2023, in person in Park City, Salt Lake City, and the Sundance Resort. A selection of films will be available online across the country from January 24–29, 2023.



Writer-director: Sofia Alaoui

Section: World Cinema Drama

Available to watch in person and online

Synopsis: A young, pregnant woman finds emancipation as aliens land in Morocco. This science-fiction work by a French-Moroccan filmmaker doubles as a psychological rumination on the end of the world. “With a hypnotic visual sensibility,” according to the Festival Film Guide, “‘Animalia’ explores the tension between faith and purpose, eroding myths and challenging class prejudice to expose the ways we are all more connected than we know.”

Mami Wata

Writer-director: C.J. “Fiery” Obasi

Section: World Cinema Drama

Available to watch in person and online

Synopsis: When the harmony in a village [in West Africa] is threatened by outside elements, two sisters must fight to save their people and restore the glory of a mermaid goddess to the land. This Nigerian film, with its elements of fantasy and magical realism, portrays the dichotomy of traditionalism and so-called modern progress. “C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi’s potent modern fable deploys vivid monochromatic black-and-white cinematography, rich sound design, and a hypnotic score in a folk-futurist style both earthy and otherworldly,” according to the Festival Film Guide.


Writer-Director: Milisuthando Bongela

Section: World Cinema Documentary

Available to watch in person and online

Synopsis: Set in past, present, and future South Africa — an invitation into a poetic, memory-driven exploration of love, intimacy, race, and belonging by the filmmaker, who grew up during apartheid but didn’t know it was happening until it was over. The filmmaker grew up in a Xhosa community in South Africa, effectively shielded from apartheid. According to the Festival Film Guide: “Bongela invites the audience in as she plumbs the anatomy of race as bequeathed to us by our ancestors, and explores what roles our ancestors play in how we create our personhood.”

“Milisuthando”. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Bravo, Burkina

Writer-director: Walé Oyéjidé

Section: NEXT

Available to watch in person and online 

Synopsis: A Burkinabé boy flees his [West African] village and migrates to Italy. When disillusioned by heartbreak and haunted by memories of home, he travels through time in hope of regaining all he has lost. 

This poetic story of migration “bends time to explore the meaning of existing in two states, coming and going, running away and running toward,” according to the Festival website. “It is a multidimensional exploration of love and migration.” Nigerian-American writer-director Walé Oyéjidé is also a fashion designer (Ikiré Jones), so his artful eye is apparent in this film.


Director: Anthony Chen

Section: Premieres

Available to watch only in person

Synopsis: Jacqueline, a young refugee [from Liberia], lands alone and penniless on a Greek island where she tries to survive, then cope with her past. While gathering her strength, she begins a friendship with a rootless tour guide and together they find the resilience to forge ahead.

Expect a dynamic performance from Cynthia Erivo. “Erivo, who was nominated for an Oscar for 2019’s ‘Harriet’, vividly portrays Jacqueline’s bone-deep grief and all-too-fresh fears, as well as her guarded attempts at human connection,” according to the Festival website. Available only in person. Premieres.

A still from “Drift” Courtesy of Sundance Institute


Writer-director: Adura Onashile

Section: World Cinema Drama

Available to watch in person and online

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Ama and her mother, Grace, take solace in the gentle but isolated world they obsessively create [in Glasgow, Scotland]. Ama’s growing up threatens the boundaries of their tenderness and forces Grace to reckon with a past she struggles to forget. Grace is an immigrant from Africa with a traumatic past. “The comforting fairytale-like origin story that Grace has been telling Ama for years is interrupted by flashbacks of her painful past — their sheltered world begins to erode from the inside,” according to the Festival website.

A still from “Girl” Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project

Writer-directors: Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson

Section: U.S. Documentary

Available to watch in person and online

Synopsis: Intimate vérité, archival footage, and visually innovative treatments of poetry take us on a journey through the dreamscape of legendary poet Nikki Giovanni as she reflects on her life and legacy. Giovanni draws parallels between space exploration and the Black experience. “The Afro-futuristic lens honors Giovanni’s complexity and transports us on a journey through Black liberation from the perspective of one of America’s most acclaimed and beloved writers, a profound artist and activist.”

Still from “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Rye Lane

Director: Raine Allen-Miller

Section: Premieres

Available to watch in person only

Synopsis: Two twenty-somethings reeling from bad breakups deal with their nightmare exes and connect over the course of an eventful day in South London. The two spend the day meandering the city, enjoying themselves at karaoke bars, playgrounds, and the like. “For her visually inventive feature debut, director Raine Allen-Miller launches us into a playful and vibrant world, shaping a romantic comedy that celebrates meeting the right person at the wrong time.”

A still from “Rye Lane” Courtesy of Sundance Institute

To Live and Die and Live

Writer-director: Qasim Basir

Section: NEXT

Available to watch in person and online

Synopsis: Muhammad returns home to Detroit to bury his stepfather and is thrust into settling his accounts, but Muhammad’s struggles with depression and addiction may finish him before he finishes the task.

Sundance programmers describe the film as a love letter to Detroit. “Featuring an exceptional Amin Joseph as Muhammad, ‘To Live and Die and Live’ is an emotional testament to the astonishing power community can provide in a cruel world,” according to the Festival Film Guide. 


Shorts, grouped into one of nine programs, are available online and in person. The descriptions are short synopses from the Printed Program Guide.

By Water

Director: Iyabo Kwayana

Program: Short Animated Film Program

Synopsis: An unlikely hero’s journey into his own memories becomes a vehicle for reconciliation and healing for himself and his sibling.

A still from By Water by Iyabo Kwayana. Courtesy of Sundance Institute


Writer-director: Sterling Hampton

Program: Short Documentary Film Program

Synopsis: A young Black ballerina expresses her passion and pain as a dancer in the ballet community while performing in the inner-city neighborhoods of Los Angeles.


Writer-director: Maisha Maene

Program: Short Film Program 5

Synopsis: An “afronaut” emerges from the wreckage of his spaceship in the volcanic crater of Mount Nyiragongo. As he encounters the people of present-day Goma in the city, he begins to understand how to change the future for his people.

Still from “Mulika”. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.


Writer-director: Xenia Matthews

Program: Short Film Program 6

Synopsis: The long-dead Ourika, a Senegalese girl enslaved by a French aristocrat, is awoken in the eerie space between life and death, between body and soul, where she finds her way back to life and into liberation.

Still from “OURIKA!” Courtesy of Sundance Institute.


Writer-director: Jeron Braxton

Program: Short Animated Film Program

Synopsis: Cash for organs and anything for love.

A still from “Oxytocin”. Courtesy of Sundance Institute


Directors: Sharon Liese and Catherine Hoffman

Program: Short Film Program 1

Synopsis: Three generations of a Kansas City family are finally unified when they do something that countless other African Americans could not — choose their own last name.

A still from “Parker”. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Rest Stop

Writer-director: Crystal Kayiza

Program: Short Film Program 2

Synopsis: On a bus ride from New York to Oklahoma, Meyi, a young Ugandan-American girl, realizes her place in the world through her mother’s ambitious effort to reunite their family. English subtitles.

Still from “Rest Stop”. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sèt Lam

Writer-director: Vincent Fontano

Program: Short Film Program 4

Synopsis: In an insular city, a young girl is paralyzed by the fear of her loved ones disappearing. Her grandmother tells her the tale of Edwardo, the first one of his kind to have fought death.

The Vacation

Writer-director: Jarreau Carrillo

Program: Short Film Program 6

Synopsis: A Black man attempts to take a vacation.

Still from “The Vacation”. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

We Were Meant To

Director and co-writer: Tari Wariebi

Program: Shorts Film Program 2

Synopsis: In a world where Black men have wings and their first flight is a rite of passage, Akil must defy fears, insecurities, and societal barriers while discovering his perfect launch into manhood.

A still from “We Were Meant To”. Courtesy of Sundance Institute