It’s the start of a new year, which means new resolutions and cold weather (for some of us, at least), but it also means we get to head to the mountains of Park City, Utah for the annual Sundance Film Festival.
So why should you care about the Sundance Film Festival?
Well some of the year’s most exciting and most talked-about films will premiere at Sundance first. This year’s big awards contender Manchester By the Sea debuted at the festival last year, and not only do they have a great track record when it comes to awards contenders, but many of Hollywood’s next great filmmakers, actors and actresses will be discovered there.
If you are a movie fan, you want to keep an eye on Sundance. And when it comes to this year’s big movies, performances and storylines, we got you covered.
Our 5 Most Anticipated Movies
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Jon Bernthal
Story: The film follows a rookie FBI agent and a U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent as they venture deep into the cold Wyoming wilderness in search of the person responsible for a murder.
Why We’re Excited: Wind River marks the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the screenplays for two of our favorite films of the past couple years, the excitingly intense Sicario and Hell or High Water.
Stars: Kyle Mooney, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins
Story: Billed as a love letter to the art of making movies, Brigsby Bear follows a 25-year-old who is thrust into the real world after spending his entire life with his protective parents who live an off-the-grid kind of life.
Why We’re Excited: Saturday Night Live writer Dave McCary makes his directorial debut with this film, and the dudes from Lonely Island also produced it. We’ve also been hearing great things; that it feels like a more heartwarming Napoleon Dynamite. Something tells us this will be one of the must-see comedies premiering at the fest this year.
The Big Sick
Stars: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano
Story: Follows the struggles of real-life couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (who also wrote the script) as they navigate the ups and downs of dating, stand-up comedy and being of mixed ethnicities.
Why We’re Excited: Apart from the fact that we love everything Kumail Nanijiani touches these days (his scene-stealing performance in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates completely wrecked us), director Michael Showalter (The Baxter, Wet Hot American Summer) has a terrific knack at creating supremely funny movies that also tug at the heartstrings. The talent involved in this is pretty tremendous.
An Inconvenient Sequel
Stars: Al Gore
Story: A decade after An Inconvenient Truth won two Oscars for its compelling look at the effects of global warming, former vice president Al Gore returns with a globetrotting look at how the world is responding to its ever-changing environment.
Why We’re Excited: An Inconvenient Truth was revolutionary, not just in how it truly helped inspire a movement, but in what it did for documentary film in general. Its follow-up is sure to be a monster conversation starter, especially since it’s the first film to play Sundance this year, the evening before the presidential inauguration.
The Polka King
Stars: Jack Black, Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman
Story: Jack Black stars in this quirky real-life tale of a Pennsylvania polka king and the Polka Ponzi scheme that eventually sent him to prison.
Why We’re Excited: Director Maya Forbes’ previous film, Infinitely Polar Bear, also premiered at Sundance and it was one of the fest’s biggest crowd pleasers that year. The role of kitschy polka king Jan Lewan seems like a perfect fit for Black, who, paired with Jenny Slate as his wife, is a comedic combo too fierce to ignore.
Stars: Nicholas Hault, Laia Costa
Story: Follows two millennials attempting to navigate hookup culture in the age of social media.
Why We’re Excited: Whenever director Drake Doremus premieres a new film at Sundance, it’s worth seeing. His film Like Crazy first took the fest by storm, winning its Grand Jury prize in 2011 and officially putting star Felicity Jones on the map. Now he’s back with his third Sundance film, and one that came together in only a few months, shot on the quick from a script by Doremus’ Like Crazy cowriter, Ben York Jones. Whenever these two get together (also see Breathe In), they deliver incredible insightful (and emotional) stories that move us in ways we wish more cinema would do.
Our 5 Most Anticipated Performances
Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke in Thoroughbred
Anticipated because… Taylor-Joy and Cooke are coming off major Sundance appearances in both The Witch and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl respectively. Now the up-and-coming duo will star opposite each other in a film Taylor-Joy told us was “f**king bonkers.” In it, the women play two childhood friends who reunite and hatch a plan for murder.
Chanté Adams in Roxanne Roxanne
Anticipated because… There will always be a number of breakout performances during any given year at Sundance, but we’re keeping a particular eye on newcomer Chanté Adams, who will play iconic female rapper Roxanne Shanté in a film about her rise in the rap world amidst the pressures of success that come with being a teenager from the housing projects in Brooklyn. Shanté was a force, igniting some of the earliest rap beefs long before she was even able to drive a car. We can’t wait to see what Adams does with the role.
Alden Ehrenreich in The Yellow Birds
Anticipated because… As Star Wars fans from around the world await Alden Ehrenreich’s take on Han Solo in a spinoff movie due out in 2018, we’ll get a different look at the actor during this year’s Sundance fest in the film The Yellow Birds. Unlike his dueling takes on Old Hollywood in 2016’s Hail, Caesar! and Rules Don’t Apply, this time Ehrenreich plays a soldier in Iraq who returns home carrying the weight — and potential secrets — of his good friend and fellow soldier’s mysterious disappearance.
Marianna Palka in Bitch
Anticipated because… What’s a Sundance list without mentioning at least one Midnight movie, and this year there’s a film called Bitch that just sounds… amazing. Marianna Palka (Good Dick) writes, directs and stars in this film about a suburban mom who snaps, taking on the psyche of vicious dog as her family and sanity slowly crumble around her. It’s one thing to star in your own project, but to do so as a housewife who thinks she’s a crazy canine? That’s something we have to see for ourselves.
Danielle MacDonald in Patty Cake$
Anticipated because… If we can fit in two performances from women playing aspiring hip-hop artists, we shall do just that. In Patty Cake$, Danielle MacDonald (who also appeared in the Sundance film The East) steps front and center in this tale of a girl from New Jersey who’s struggling to break out as a hip-hop artist, but not really moving beyond her neighborhood. MacDonald has hovered in the background of various TV shows and indie movies for the past few years, but this one she owns, and we can’t wait to see what she does with it.
5 More Things to Keep an Eye On
The festival’s New Frontier section continues to grow and evolve, with it leaning heavily on the evolving VR space over the past few years. This year sees over 20 virtual reality projects in multiple locations, including a new film called ASTEROIDS! (pictured above) from the director of Madagascar, as well as VR installations about the evolution of life on Earth, a look at how we remember loved ones and more.
Though there isn’t necessarily an uptick in the amount of female filmmakers debuting new works at Sundance this year, demand has never been higher for a greater amount of films helmed by women. That puts a greater spotlight on the movies that are directed by women at the festival this year.
Some of them include Before I Fall (Ry Russo-Young), Fun Mom Dinner (Alethea Jones), Mudbound (Dee Rees), Band Aid (Zoe Lister Jones), Beach Rats (Eliza Hittman), Berlin Syndrome (Cate Shortland) and the horror anthology XX (pictured above), which features four female directors, Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, and Jovanka Vuckovic.
Here are some additional stats, courtesy of Alicia Malone, host of Fandango’s Indie Movie Guide.
— Only four of the 18 narrative films premiering are women-directed, amounting to 22 percent of the program.
— Female filmmakers fare much better in the Documentary Premieres section. Of ten films screening, five are directed or co-directed by women?—?50 percent of the lineup.
— The Midnight Section, a collection of genre films and “works that defy genre classification,” includes eight films, and only two of them are helmed by women (25 percent of the program)
— 36 percent of films in Competition at Sundance 2017 are directed by women. That’s slightly down from last year, which had 41% of films in competition directed by women.
The New Climate
This year Sundance is doing something it’s never done by curating a program within its larger slate of programming that’s dedicated solely to driving “attention and action around a specific theme: climate change and environmental preservation,” according to the official website.
Here’s more: “The program includes Chasing Coral (pictured above), which follows a team of divers, photographers and scientists documenting the world’s changing coral reefs; Trophy, an in-depth look at the controversial, multi-billion-dollar big-game hunting industry; Water & Power: A California Heist, an investigation of California’s convoluted water system; and Plastic China, an examination of employee life at a Chinese recycling plant.”
Inauguration + Trumped
With the presidential inauguration happening during the first full day of Sundance this year, expect a certain politically-charged electricity to be coursing through the festival. A major march is planned on Main Street that day (look for us to be in the mix covering it), and that’ll be followed by the premiere of a new documentary called Trumped, which promises a startling behind-the-scenes look at the recent election.
From its official festival description: “In a behind-the-scenes look at the biggest political upset in recent history, Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, and Mark McKinnon offer unprecedented access and never-before-seen footage of candidate Trump, from the primaries through the debates to the dawning realization that the controversial businessman will become the 45th president of the United States.”
In order to take full advantage of not just our coverage, but all of the coverage coming out of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, make sure you follow all of the appropriate handles across social media. Much of our coverage from both Movies.com and our friends at Fandango will be living on our social channels this year, giving you an up-to-the-minute account of our experience in Park City.
Follow all of these and you’ll be good to go.
Official hashtag: #Sundance