U.K. Films 'Layla' & 'Kneecap' Among Sundance Film Festival Premieres

Bilal Hasna as Layla waiting backstage in 'Layla'

Bilal Hasna as Layla waiting backstage in 'Layla'


While Hollywood is prepping for awards season leading up to the Mid-march Oscars, slowly working its way back up the calendar, the Sundance Film Festival is already looking ahead. The January event is the first major festival of the year and the first spot for filmmakers to trot out potential Oscar-worthy films for buyers. It's also the first glimpse of where indie filmmaking is heading thematically, and with almost a dozen U.K. productions or co-productions included on the slate, a window into what's to come for the mid-2020s.

There are 11 U.K. productions or co-productions that will be screened during the festival, which runs from January 18-28, 2024, in Salt Lake City, matching the number screened in 2023, though the balance is different. 2023 saw six U.K. productions and five co-pros, whereas this year, it's only two U.K. productions and nine co-pros on the schedule.

One of those two productions, Layla, will be a World Premiere debut and be screened in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Written and directed by Amrou Al-Kadhi and produced by Savannah James-Bayly, the film centers on a struggling Arab drag queen, played by Bilal Hasna, who falls in love for the first time, "losing and finding themself in a transformative relationship that tests who they really are."

The other U.K. film screening at the festival, How to Have Sex, already premiered last year at Cannes. However, the Irish-U.K. co-production Kneecap is catching a lot of attention. A World Premiere under the Next banner is a fictionalized story of the real-life anarchic Belfast rap trio who became the unlikely figurehead of a civil rights movement to save the Irish language. The film was written and directed by Rich Peppiatt and produced by Jack Tarling and Trevor Birney. It stars the actual group playing themselves.

Here's the full lineup of U.K. productions at Sundance 2024:

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

  • Layla (U.K.: Director/Screenwriter: Amrou Al-Kadhi, Producer: Savannah James-Bayly) — When Layla, a struggling Arab drag queen, falls in love for the first time, they lose and find themself in a transformative relationship that tests who they really are. Cast: Bilal Hasna, Louis Greatorex, Safiyya Ingar, Darkwah, Terique Jarrett, Sarah Agha. World Premiere.
  • Sebastian (U.K., Finland, Belgium: Director/Screenwriter: Mikko Mäkelä, Producer: James Watson) — Max, a 25-year-old aspiring writer living in London, begins a double life as a sex worker in order to research his debut novel. Cast: Ruaridh Mollica, Hiftu Quasem, Ingvar Sigurdsson, Jonathan Hyde, Leanne Best, Lara Rossi. World Premiere. 

World Cinema Documentary Competition

  • Black Box Diaries (U.K., Japan, U.S.A.: Director/Producer: Shiori Ito, Producers: Eric Nyari, Hanna Aqvilin) — Journalist Shiori Ito embarks on a courageous investigation of her own sexual assault in an improbable attempt to prosecute her high-profile offender. Her quest becomes a landmark case in Japan, exposing the country’s outdated judicial and societal systems. World Premiere.


  • Kneecap (Ireland, U.K.: Director/Screenwriter: Rich Peppiatt, Producers: Jack Tarling, Trevor Birney) — There are 80,000 native Irish speakers in Ireland. 6,000 live in the North of Ireland. Three of them became a rap group called Kneecap. This anarchic Belfast trio becomes the unlikely figurehead of a civil rights movement to save the mother tongue. Cast: Liam Óg Ó hAnnaidh, Naoise Ó Cairealláin, JJ Ó Dochartaigh, Michael Fassbender, Josie Walker, Simone Kirby). World Premiere.

Other Premieres

  • DEVO (U.K., U.S.A.: Director: Chris Smith, Producers: Chris Holmes, Anita Greenspan, Danny Gabai) — Born in response to the Kent State massacre, new wave band Devo took their concept of “de-evolution” from cult following to near–rock star status with groundbreaking 1980 hit “Whip It” while preaching an urgent social commentary. World Premiere. Documentary.
  • The Outrun (U.K., Germany: Director/Screenwriter: Nora Fingscheidt, Screenwriter: Amy Liptrot, Producers: Sarah Brocklehurst, Dominic Norris, Jack Lowden, Saoirse Ronan) — After living life on the edge in London, Rona attempts to come to terms with her troubled past. She returns to the wild beauty of Scotland’s Orkney Islands — where she grew up — hoping to heal. Adapted from the bestselling memoir by Amy Liptrot. Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Paapa Essiedu, Stephen Dillane, Saskia Reeves. World Premiere.
  • Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story (U.K., U.S.A.: Director/Producer: Ian Bonhôte, Director/Screenwriter: Peter Ettedgui, Producers: Lizzie Gillett, Robert Ford) — Never-before-seen home movies and extraordinary personal archives reveal how Christopher Reeve went from unknown actor to iconic movie star as the ultimate screen superhero. He learned the true meaning of heroism as an activist after suffering a tragic accident that left him quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator to breathe. World Premiere. Documentary. Salt Lake Opening Film

Midnight Premieres

  • Love Lies Bleeding (U.S.A., U.K.: Director/Screenwriter: Rose Glass, Producers: Andrea Cornwell, Oliver Kassman) — Reclusive gym manager Lou falls hard for Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder headed through town to Las Vegas in pursuit of her dream. But their love ignites violence, pulling them deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov. World Premiere.


  • How to Have Sex (U.K.: Director/Screenwriter: Molly Manning Walker, Producers: Ivana MacKinnon, Emily Leo, Konstantinos Kontovrakis) — Three British teenage girls go on a rite-of-passage holiday, drinking, clubbing, and hooking up in what should be the best summer of their lives. As they dance their way across the sun-drenched streets of Malia, they find themselves navigating the complexities of sex, consent, and self-discovery. Cast: Mia McKenna-Bruce, Samuel Bottomley, Shaun Thomas, Lara Peake, Enva Lewis, Laura Ambler. U.S. Premiere. 

Family Matinee:

  • 10 Lives (U.K.: Director/Screenwriter: Christopher Jenkins, Screenwriters: Karen Wengrod, Ken Cinnamon, Producers: Guy Collins, Sean Feeney, Yann Zenou, Adrian Politowski, Martin Metz) — A pampered cat takes for granted the lucky hand he has been dealt after he is rescued and loved by Rose, a kind-hearted and passionate student. When he loses his ninth life, fate steps in to set him on a transformative journey. Cast: Mo Gilligan, Simone Ashley, Sophie Okonedo, Dylan Llewellyn, Zayn Malik, Bill Nighy. World Premiere.

New Frontier

  • Eno (U.S.A., U.K.: Director: Gary Hustwit) — Visionary musician and artist Brian Eno — known for producing David Bowie, U2, and Talking Heads, among many others; pioneering the genre of ambient music; and releasing over 40 solo and collaboration albums — reveals his creative processes in this groundbreaking generative documentary: a film that’s different every time it’s shown. World Premiere.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

More to Love from Telly Visions