The highly anticipated film “Exhibiting Forgiveness” premiered Saturday night at the Sundance Film Festival, earning rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. Directed by renowned artist Titus Kaphar in his feature directorial debut, the drama explores racial injustice and reconciliation in America through the story of a Black artist seeking to reconnect with his estranged father.
Overwhelming critical acclaim
Critics praised the film as a triumph, with many singling out Kaphar’s assured direction and the powerful lead performances from stars André Holland and Aunjanue Ellis.
The Hollywood Reporter called it “a searing, magnificent debut,” declaring that “Kaphar has instantly arrived as a major directorial talent.” Variety said the film “announces the emergence of an important new cinematic voice in Titus Kaphar,” praising it as “a shattering portrait of intergenerational racial trauma.”
The Guardian wrote that Holland gives “the performance of his career” and Ellis is “equally superb,” concluding that “`Exhibiting Forgiveness’ is the rare film that matches aesthetic beauty with emotional power.”
|The Hollywood Reporter
|“a searing, magnificent debut”
|“shattering portrait of intergenerational racial trauma”
|“matches aesthetic beauty with emotional power”
|“emotionally devastating yet beautifully cathartic”
|“André Holland gives the performance of the year”
Moving standing ovation at premiere
The film received a lengthy standing ovation from the packed house at its premiere Saturday night at the Eccles Theater, one of the largest venues at the festival.
Director Titus Kaphar and stars André Holland, Aunjanue Ellis and Taylor James were visibly emotional during the ovation, with Ellis and James embracing on stage.
Critics agreed the reaction was well-deserved, with Variety calling it “a powerful premiere that left the audience profoundly moved.”
The Hollywood Reporter described “a palpable catharsis in the theater” during the lengthy standing ovation at the credits.
Early Oscar buzz
In addition to the acclaim, the film is already garnering awards season buzz, particularly for Holland’s lead performance.
“It’s the type of wrenching character showcase that earns Oscar nominations,” wrote Deadline, echoing similar Oscar predictions from Variety, IndieWire, and other outlets.
The Playlist went so far as to call Holland “the current front-runner for the Best Actor Oscar next year,” while Vanity Fair predicted “a likely awards season juggernaut.”
If nominated, it would be the first Oscar nomination for Holland, who has drawn widespread acclaim for performances in films like “Moonlight” and “Selma” but has yet to break through with major awards recognition.
What critics are saying
On the performances:
On the direction and visual style:
What comes next
With rave reviews out of Sundance and early Oscar predictions, “Exhibiting Forgiveness” seems poised to be one of the breakout indie hits of 2024. Distributor Searchlight Pictures will likely look to capitalize on the buzz by releasing it this fall to keep it fresh in voters’ minds for awards season.
Holland seems destined to remain in the Oscar conversation all year for his devastating lead performance, while Kaphar’s assured direction also makes him one to watch going forward. As Sundance wraps up, “Exhibiting Forgiveness” leaves the festival marked as a triumphant new highlight of Black cinema that could resonate for years to come.
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