Well folks, if everything is right in the world, we have our first true (and most deserving) awards contender of the year.

Exhibiting Forgiveness debuted to a warm reception and standing ovations during its Sundance Film Festival premiere on Saturday at Eccles Theater in Park City. While it is sometimes a long road to awards season from Sundance, due to the fact that it is at the top of the year, there are films that remain in the conversation the rest of the year, such as Past Lives, a 2023 critical darling that was a Sundance film.

Led by André Holland and also starring John Earl Jelks, Andra Day and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, the film revolves around Holland’s Terrell a talented and successful artist whose life is upended by his estranged father’s (who is recovering from addiction) return to his family’s orbit– and it ponders the question– is forgetting harder than forgiving? It is the debut feature of acclaimed painter Titus Kaphar.

On stage at the premiere, Holland spoke about how working on the film hit home for the cast in a certain way.

“It’s a brilliant group of artists up here and I think that one thing we all, [and] they all do is give all of themselves to it. And so I’m reminded right now of one particular night on set, of which there were many, where we were in a scene that was dealing with grief and several of us who were part of that scene needed to take a moment and step away. And I think that was because that grief…that feeling that the characters are trying to metabolize was very much on the surface for all of us. And so I think that the movie in addition to being, I think a beautiful film is also like an invitation. I think it was an invitation for us and a gift, I think to us to help process some of the things that we’ve been going through.”

Day explained, “I looked at it as a cathartic and therapeutic experience. I was able to, you know, just get on set and work out my own family issues…particularly, the idea of wanting to create a life that you’ve not necessarily experienced or you’ve not necessarily seen. I’ve said this before, but I still really do believe in miracles, but I think they’re more practical than you think. And the idea that we can somehow create a future or reality that we’ve never seen or experienced was really what was impressed upon my spirit.”

“So you see where I tried really hard to see it as different,” said Kaphar when comparing his work as a filmmaker to his work as a painter. “I never see film as a different kind of practice. So the kinds of decisions I made the same way I make decisions in the studio is the same way I make decisions on the set while writing, while painting. And as I’ve said before it started with experience, experience led to writing, the writing led to painting, painting led to the script and then the film started making more paintings. So it’s been this cycle and it still continues.

Exhibiting Forgiveness is on the market, and after this showing, it will be a big ticket for a lucky studio– hopefully one that can make sure it is talked about for the rest of the year.