• Festivals

The Women Who Rocked Sundance

Sundance is all about pre-planning and making difficult choices as there are so many screenings happening at the same time, often across town from each other. But I’m a sucker for any story about woman musicians, so I made sure to prioritize seeing two films in particular: It’s Only Life After All and Flora and Son. (Another female-driven project, the hybrid documentary/mockumentary Band, was covered by my colleague here.)


With Alexandria Bombach’s It’s Only Life After All we finally get a documentary about the seminal band The Indigo Girls, consisting of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. They are musical, cultural, and activism pioneers who changed the life trajectory of many queer, Gen-X youth. Told through a mix of Ray’s personal audiotape and camcorder footage, in addition to new interviews with the band and archival footage, the film enjoyed a sold-out, day-one premiere slot at the festival. The event included an electric and tear-jerking performance by Ray and Saliers.


Bombach’s career includes On Her Shoulders and Frame by Frame. Her new documentary is one of the few times that the band members have been cast in a somewhat objective light, as musicians and intellectuals. Oftentimes, the group’s groundbreaking artistic work has been reduced to Ray and Saliers’ perceived sexual orientation. The film also does a good job of explaining the band’s activism arc: from LGBTQ causes, death penalty reform, and Native American rights, while also providing some raw and introspective moments of the band’s admitted missteps.

It’s Only Life After All also proves how difficult it was and still is for the world to take in justified female rage. As Ray says in the film, “They can understand Rage Against the Machine, but they can’t understand the Indigo Girls.” The Indigo Girls has recorded 16 studio albums and sold over 15 million records thus far.

Although a fictional musical comedy, Flora and Son also deals with issues of female empowerment and the struggle for women to be seen as multi-dimensional, complicated, angry, brilliant, and hilarious human beings. The John Carney project (director and writer of Sing Street, Once, and Begin Again) follows a riotous, single mother as she navigates the challenges of raising a difficult son, an apple who doesn’t fall far from the tree. More difficult still: she is also trying to find love and fulfillment in working-class Dublin.

The film will undoubtedly serve as a star-launching vehicle for Eve Hewson (the daughter of U2’s vocalist Bono). She previously portrayed Adele in the Netflix miniseries Behind Her Eyes, and Becka in the Apple TV+ series Bad Sisters.


Flora and Son screened in the festival’s Premieres section. Eve’s mother, Ali Hewson, was in attendance – to the delight of all U2 diehards who were present. Apple enjoyed the film as much as the audience seemed to and bought it for over $20 million, beating out Amazon Studios for rights to the feel-good charmer. The buying rush is a huge win for those of us hankering to see more women who sing, cry, yell, repent, lust, and… rock!