Sundance is ringing in the 2018 year with a list of features that call attention to some of today’s most prominent social issues.

Sundance has announced their full lineup for 2018, and it’s one that’s definitely not out of touch.

As Variety notes, the number of films is slightly smaller than usual this year, with a list of 110 compared to last year’s 118, but of those features are a variety of diverse stories that address numerous social issues. Many of which feel very in tune with the world’s struggles today. To name a few in the dramatic category, Tyrel, which is about a man who realizes he is the only black person at a weekend birthday party, and Monsters and Men, a story centered around police brutality, deal specifically with issues of race. Another dramatic feature, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a coming of age story about a girl who is sent to conversion therapy, dives into LGBTQ issues. And in the documentary category, films such as Seeing Allred, about Gloria Allred, a famous women’s rights attorney, and Kusama-Infinity, about artist Yayoi Kusama and her struggle against sexism and racism, and mental illness throughout her career, both have focuses on women’s issues. There are also others, both dramas, and documentaries that tackle matters of climate change, politics, and other social movements. Overall, there appears to be a balanced mix of stories from both seasoned and new voices.

Giving voice to diverse and marginalized perspectives is always essential, but especially with our current social and political climate. Like the Variety article also notes, Sundance has usually always been pretty balanced in terms of its lineup, both for those represented in front of and behind the camera. But today, things would feel amiss without such representation in film.

In troubled times, thinking about award season and film festivals can feel a little trivial. But this lineup is evidence of the great importance behind it. Art so often replicates reality, and films are a way for us to make sense of the world. Part of filmmaking and watching films is about escapism, sure, but a large part of it is also about uncovering real-world issues and establishing a space for discourse and connection. While it may take filmmakers a couple years to catch up with specific current events of this year, or even last year, what’s clear is that often social issues at large don’t change too much. They may progress forward some, but a lot of times, the heart of the problem still lingers. Issues pertaining to sexism and racism feel just as prominent today as they did in the 50s and 60s.  Previous events and movements have the ability to intertwine with our current day, hence why some of these historical documentaries hit so close to home. On the other hand, those that take place in the present day, about timely issues, have the power to encapsulate and bring awareness to a moment or an issue that we have the power to change now.

When thinking of that, it’s hard to deny the large role film festivals such as Sundance have at providing a space for these films. Not only do festivals offer awards and prestigious titles to filmmakers, they also help get conversations going. The buzz that surrounds these films, some of which may never have a wide release, is important at getting audiences outside of the festival sphere to at least take note of them. And if mainstream theaters don’t always run films that tackle relevant but harsh social issues or portray a variety of different viewpoints, film festivals can. At the same time, these festivals can also help push diverse voices and filmmakers forward with their future work.

With this lineup, the festival appears to be off to a powerful and timely start. Seeing what resonates most with audiences and what has a lasting impact once these films have made their premiere will be interesting to see.

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