With these three documentaries, we can experience wildly different subjects, but take them all with a sense of awe. One may be about a death-defying couple and the other our nocturnal friends: moths, with the last about a family relocating from living in the wild, but all three captivate and astound in their particular way.

Skywalkers: A Love Story (Jeff Zimbalist)

Skywalkers: A Love Story (2024) – source: Sundance Film Festival

Exhilarating, and breathtaking, are just some words one could use while describing the Sundance doc Skywalkers: A Love Story. Yet, this would barely broach the intensity of watching these artists take to the air, their bodies moving with a fluidity that feels nearly supernatural, but mostly just: magical. 

It was incredible to see if not nauseating to embrace, a visceral cinematographic wonder, that captured the terrifying heights with sheer wonderment. But that’s just the aesthetic factor, an alluring and significant piece, but nothing without the story and people at its center.

This is a love story, after all.

Daredevils, climbers, rooftopers, we watch Ivan Beerkus and Angela Nikolau fall in love. And there’s an undeniable sweetness, a spark on screen. As magnetic as they are alone in their ventures, they are even more so together. A beautiful kind of madness; their own.

As we see their beginning, we also witness their frustration, as the pressure mounts and events around the globe look to dampen their flame.

This brings us to the big finale, a building that seems nearly insurmountable but that holds significance. It will require research, precision, and sneakiness. Can they pull it off?

It’s challenging to watch at times (the camera movements can occasionally be dizzying, as well as the heights themselves). Still, it provokes an inspiring sort of escapism that makes you want to chase your dreams. Jeff Zimbalist‘s direction grabs the audience from the very opening and ensures that you’re under thumb until the last shot.

Skywalkers: A Love Story is a grand, sweeping work of majesty, technical skill, and artistic freedom. It defies gravity and societal norms, a devastatingly beautiful window into a love for adventure and one another. 

A triumph of documentary filmmaking.

Nocturnes (Anirban Dutta and Anupama Srinivasan)

Nocturnes (2024) – source: Sundance Film Festival

We hear the soft flutter of wings against the night sky, flocking toward the glowing light in unison. There’s a calming ambiance to the collection of moths as they cling to the screen that’s been left for them. But none of them are Hawk moths, the specific type of moth being sought.

Nocturnes, an insightful documentary that hopes to whisper the poetry of such creatures to its audience, is an educational and compelling look at these curious insects. On the border of India and Bhutan, we watch as Mansi Mungee and Bicki Marphew wait, watch, and study.

With so many varying breeds, each with their details and habits, Nocturnes aims to lift the veil. Directed by Anirban Dutta and Anupama Srinivasan, there’s a lot to be mesmerized by, as Nocturnes patiently weaves its narrative.

While this is a meditative and beautiful film, there’s also an underlying tension as we begin to find out why these specific moths are so hard to find. It’s a call to action, a reminder of the beauty of the world, but also the fragility of it.

The shots are lovingly framed, imbuing an immersive look into nature and its small inhabitants. This film will undoubtedly not be for everyone, but it’s a documentary that flutters with intent and is alight with a contemplative energy.

A New Kind of Wilderness (Silje Evensmo Jacobsen)

A New Kind of Wilderness (2024) – source: Sundance Film Festival

Silje Evensmo Jacobsen’s A New Kind of Wilderness is an intimate look at a grieving family shifting their lives after being off the map. It’s honest and eccentric, a lovely documentary, and a family to embrace. 

This Norwegian family lives outside of society, homeschooled and growing their food on the farm. Maria and Nik moved out there to create their version of joy and succeeded. When Maria passes away, the remaining family consisting of Nik, Freja, Falk, and Ulv (and Ranja who moved away), realize they can no longer afford this life. This prompts a shift in locale and a change in their norm, reverberating throughout the family.

This is a film that seems simple in theory, yet is anything but. There’s a sense of familiarity that comes with watching this household day to day, connecting with each member’s journey. It’s authentic, warm, and a joy to watch. Even if they are living differently than most, they are also relatable. 

We see them through their loss, and hardships, and their ultimate resilience and love. It’s hard to walk away from A New Kind of Wilderness and not feel hopeful.

Silje Evensmo Jacobsen captures the emotions effectively, with a nurturing kind of appreciation with each shot. You can feel the sun, smell the trees, and seem at home in the short time spent with this family. 

A New Kind of Wilderness is an honest and tender film, beautifully shot, and empathetic in its delivery. 

Follow our Sundance coverage here.

Does content like this matter to you?

Become a Member and support film journalism. Unlock access to all of Film Inquiry`s great articles. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about cinema – get access to our private members Network, give back to independent filmmakers, and more.

Join now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.