I'm a sucker for King-inspired things, and this one hits that chord well enough to be worth a look over your Christmas break.
While the competition categories of Sundance often bring in a share of new talent, the premieres in narrative and documentary often thrive on recognition, whether the actor/filmmaker is a festival alumni, or a simply big star. In a category that's previously given the world "Boyhood," "Wiener-Dog" and "Manchester by the Sea," many projects with notable stars and reputable directors can be found here.
In this year's batch, narrative premieres of curious note include the latest from "A Bigger Splash'" director Luca Guadagnino ("Call Me By Your Name"), "The One I Love" director Charlie McDowell ("The Discovery," starring Jason Segel and Rooney Mara), an ensemble comedy that puts Katie Aselton, Toni Collette, Bridget Everett and Molly Shannon in the same scenes ("Fun Mom Night"), a true story starring Jack Black about a ponzi-scheming polka king ("The Polka King") and much more.
The same effect of recognition applies for the festival's premiere docs, which include a lot of recognizable names in filmmakers. Evgeny Afineevsky (director of 2015's "Winter on Fire"), Barbara Kopple ("Miss Sharon Jones!" most recently) and Stanley Nelson (2015's "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution") are just a few names that make the premiere lineup intriguing with the promise of newly challenging subjects.
Of course, a key part of Sundance is the unusual fare to be found in its Midnight lineup, which offers some eye-catching films right off the bat: "78/52" takes a deep look at the famous shower scene in "Psycho"; "The Little Hours" has "Joshy" writer/director Jeff Baena tackling a medieval convent in Tuscany with a cast that includes Alison Brie, Dave Franco and Aubrey Plaza; horror anthology "XX" is an all-women affair, with four female directors including Karyn Kusama at helm.
There's much more after those three categories, including Spotlight titles and Special Events, the latter which will include the heavily anticipated world premieres of series "Shots Fired" and "TIME: The Khalief Browder Story." A complete listing of the newly announced titles (straight from the press release) can be found below.
Beatriz at Dinner / U.S.A. (Director: Miguel Arteta, Screenwriter: Mike White) — Beatriz, an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a health practitioner. Doug Strutt is a cutthroat, self-satisfied billionaire. When these two opposites meet at a dinner party, their worlds collide and neither will ever be the same. Cast: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow. World Premiere
Before I Fall / U.S.A. (Director: Ry Russo-Young, Screenwriter: Maria Maggenti) — Samantha Kingston has everything. Then, everything changes. After one fateful night, she wakes up with no future at all. Trapped into reliving the same day over and over, she begins to question just how perfect her life really was. Cast: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, Elena Kampouris, Diego Boneta. World Premiere
The Big Sick / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Showalter, Screenwriters: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani) — Based on the real-life courtship: Pakistan-born comedian Kumail and grad student Emily fall in love, but they struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail must navigate the crisis with her parents and the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart. Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher. World Premiere
Call Me by Your Name / Italy, France (Director: Luca Guadagnino, Screenwriters: James Ivory, Luca Guadagnino) — The sensitive and cultivated Elio, only child of the American-Italian-French Perlman family, is facing another lazy summer at his parents’ villa in the beautiful and languid Italian countryside when Oliver, an academic who has come to help with Elio’s father’s research, arrives. Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois. World Premiere
The Discovery / U.S.A. (Director: Charlie McDowell, Screenwriters: Charlie McDowell, Justin Lader) — In a world where the afterlife has just been scientifically proven—resulting in millions of people taking their own lives to get there—comes this love story. Cast: Jason Segel, Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, Jesse Plemons, Riley Keough, Ron Canada. World Premiere
Fun Mom Dinner / U.S.A. (Director: Alethea Jones, Screenwriter: Julie Rudd) — Four women, whose kids attend the same preschool class, get together for a "fun mom dinner." When the night takes an unexpected turn, these unlikely new friends realize they have more in common than just marriage and motherhood. Together, they reclaim a piece of the women they used to be. Cast: Katie Aselton, Toni Collette, Bridget Everett, Molly Shannon, Adam Scott, Adam Levine. World Premiere
The Incredible Jessica James / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jim Strouse) — Jessica James, an aspiring NYC playwright, is struggling to get over a recent breakup. She sees a light at the end of the tunnel when she meets the recently divorced Boone. Together, they discover how to make it through the tough times while realizing they like each other—a lot. Cast: Jessica Williams, Chris O'Dowd, Keith Stanfield, Noël Wells. World Premiere. CLOSING NIGHT FILM
The Last Word / U.S.A. (Director: Mark Pellington, Screenwriter: Stuart Ross Fink) — Harriett is a retired businesswoman who tries to control everything around her. When she decides to write her own obituary, a young journalist takes up the task of finding out the truth, resulting in a life-altering friendship. Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Heche, Thomas Sadoski, Philip Baker Hall. World Premiere
Manifesto / Germany (Director and screenwriter: Julian Rosefeldt) — Can history’s art manifestos apply to contemporary society? An homage to the twentieth century’s most impassioned artistic statements and innovators, from Futurists and Dadaists to Pop Art, Fluxus, Lars von Trier and Jim Jarmusch, this series of reenactments performed by Cate Blanchett explores these declarations’ performative components and political significance. Cast: Cate Blanchett. World Premiere
Marjorie Prime / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Almereyda) — In the near future—a time of artificial intelligence—86-year-old Marjorie has a handsome new companion who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance? Cast: Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Tim Robbins. World Premiere
Mudbound / U.S.A. (Director: Dee Rees, Screenwriters: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees) — In the post–World War II South, two families are pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape as they simultaneously fight the battle at home and the battle abroad. This epic pioneer story is about friendship, heritage and the unending struggle for and against the land. Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund. World Premiere
The Polka King / U.S.A. (Director: Maya Forbes, Screenwriters: Maya Forbes, Wally Wolodarsky) — Based on the remarkable true story of the world's only known Polka Ponzi scheme, this mix of comedy and tragedy is about Jan Lewan, a polish immigrant who believed in the American Dream. But with big dreams came big mistakes for the man who became the "King of Pennsylvania Polka." Cast: Jack Black, Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman, Jacki Weaver, J.B. Smoove. World Premiere
Rebel in the Rye / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Danny Strong) — This portrait of the life and mind of reclusive author J.D. Salinger goes from the bloody front lines of World War II to his early rejections and the PTSD-fueled writer's block that led to his iconic novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Spacey, Sarah Paulson, Zoey Deutch, Hope Davis, Victor Garber. World Premiere
Rememory / U.S.A., Canada (Director: Mark Palansky, Screenwriters: Michael Vukadinovich, Mark Palansky) — A visionary inventor found dead. A machine that can record people’s memories. A man haunted by the past. This noir mystery explores the ways in which memory defines the present. Cast: Peter Dinklage, Julia Ormond, Martin Donovan, Anton Yelchin, Henry Ian Cusick, Evelyne Brochu. World Premiere
Sidney Hall / U.S.A. (Director: Shawn Christensen, Screenwriters: Shawn Christensen, Jason Dolan) — Over the course of 12 years, and three stages of life, Sidney Hall falls in love, writes the book of a generation and then disappears without a trace. Cast: Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Monaghan, Nathan Lane, Margaret Qualley. World Premiere
Where is Kyra? / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Dosunmu, Screenwriters: Andrew Dosunmu, Darci Picoult) — Pushed to the brink after losing her job, a woman struggles to survive. As the months pass and her troubles deepen, she embarks on a perilous and mysterious journey that threatens to usurp her life. Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland. World Premiere
Wilson / U.S.A. (Director: Craig Johnson, Screenwriter: Daniel Clowes) — Wilson, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged misanthrope, reunites with his estranged wife and gets a shot at happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter he has never met. In his uniquely outrageous and slightly twisted way, he sets out to connect with her. Cast: Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer. World Premiere
Wind River / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Taylor Sheridan) — An FBI agent teams with the town's veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that ocurred on a Native American reservation. Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Jon Bernthal. World Premiere
500 YEARS / U.S.A. (Director: Pamela Yates) — From a historic genocide trial to the overthrow of a president, the sweeping story of mounting resistance played out in Guatemala’s recent history is told through the actions and perspectives of the majority indigenous Mayan population, who now stand poised to reimagine their society. World Premiere
Cries from Syria / U.S.A., Syria, Czech Republic (Director: Evgeny Afineevsky) — This documentary attempts to recontextualize the European migrant crisis and ongoing hostilities in Syria, through eyewitness and participant testimony. Children and parents recount the revolution, civil war, air strikes, atrocities and ongoing humanitarian aid crises, in a portrait of recent history and the consequences of violence. World Premiere
Give Me Future: Major Lazer in Cuba / U.S.A., Cuba (Director: Austin Peters) — In the spring of 2016, global music sensation Major Lazer performed a free concert in Havana, Cuba—an unprecedented show that drew an audience of almost half a million. This concert documentary evolves into an exploration of youth culture in a country on the precipice of change. World Premiere
Legion of Brothers / U.S.A. (Director: Greg Barker) — Afghanistan, immediately post-9/11: Small teams of Green Berets arrive on a series of secret missions to overthrow the Taliban. What happens next is equal parts war origin story and cautionary tale, illuminating the nature and impact of 15 years of constant combat, with unprecedented access to U.S. Special Forces. World Premiere
Oklahoma City / U.S.A. (Director: Barak Goodman) — The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 is the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history; this documentary explores how a series of deadly encounters between American citizens and federal law enforcement—including the standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco—led to it. World Premiere
Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman / U.S.A. (Directors: Susan Froemke, John Hoffman, Beth Aala) — From the Montana Rockies to the wheat fields of Kansas and the Gulf of Mexico, families who work the land and sea are crossing political divides to find unexpected ways to protect the natural resources vital to their livelihoods. These are the new heroes of conservation, deep in America's heartland. World Premiere. THE NEW CLIMATE
TAKE EVERY WAVE: The Life of Laird Hamilton / U.S.A. (Director: Rory Kennedy) — This is the remarkable story of an American icon who changed the sport of big wave surfing forever. Transcending the surf genre, this in-depth portrait of a hard-charging athlete explores the fear, courage and ambition that push a man to greatness—and the cost that comes with it. World Premiere
Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities / U.S.A. (Director: Stanley Nelson) — A haven for Black intellectuals, artists and revolutionaries—and path of promise toward the American dream—Black colleges and universities have educated the architects of freedom movements and cultivated leaders in every field. They have been unapologetically Black for 150 years. For the first time ever, their story is told. World Premiere
This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous / U.S.A. (Director: Barbara Kopple) — Are there limits to your love for your family? One family's acceptance is tested when a champion diver, destined for the Olympics, announces he's transitioning into a woman—and invites his YouTube followers along for every moment. It's a story about unconditional love and finding the courage to be yourself. World Premiere
Untitled Lucy Walker / Buena Vista Social Club Documentary / U.S.A., United Kingdom, Cuba (Director: Lucy Walker) — The musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club exposed the world to Cuba's vibrant culture with their landmark 1997 album. Now, against the backdrop of Cuba’s captivating musical history, hear the band’s story as they reflect on their remarkable careers and the extraordinary circumstances that brought them together. World Premiere
78/52 / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandre Philippe) — This is an unprecedented look at the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the "man behind the curtain," and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema. World Premiere
Bad Day for the Cut / Northern Ireland (Director: Chris Baugh, Screenwriters: Chris Baugh, Brendan Mullin) — A middle-aged Irish farmer, who still lives at home with his mother, sets off on a mission of revenge when the old lady is murdered. Cast: Nigel O'Neill, Susan Lynch, Józef Pawłowski, Stuart Graham, Anna Próchniak, Ian McElhinney. World Premiere
Bitch / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Marianna Palka) — A woman snaps under crushing life pressures and assumes the psyche of a vicious dog. Her philandering, absentee husband is forced to become reacquainted with his four children and sister-in-law as they attempt to keep the family together during this bizarre crisis. Cast: Jason Ritter, Jaime King, Marianna Palka, Brighton Sharbino, Rio Mangini, Kingston Foster. World Premiere
Bushwick / U.S.A. (Directors: Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott, Screenwriters: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick) — Lucy emerges from a Brooklyn subway to find that her neighborhood is under attack by black-clad military soldiers. An ex-Marine corpsman, Stupe, reluctantly helps her fight for survival through a civil war, as Texas attempts to secede from the United States of America. Cast: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow, Angelic Zambrana, Jeremie Harris, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Arturo Castro. World Premiere
Killing Ground / Australia (Director and screenwriter: Damien Power) — Ian and Samantha arrive at an isolated campsite to find an SUV and a tent—with no sign of the occupants. The discovery of a distressed child wandering in the woods unleashes a terrifying chain of events that will test the young couple's breaking point. Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Ian Meadows, Harriet Dyer, Aaron Glenane. International Premiere
Kuso / U.S.A. (Director: Steven Ellison, Screenwriters: Steven Ellison, David Firth, Zach Fox) — Broadcasting through a makeshift network of discarded televisions, this story is tangled up in the aftermath of Los Angeles's worst earthquake nightmare. Travel between screens and aftershocks into the twisted lives of the survived. Cast: Iesha Coston, Zack Fox, Hannibal Buress, The Buttress, Tim Heidecker, Mali Matsuda. World Premiere
The Little Hours / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jeff Baena) — A young servant fleeing from his master takes refuge at a dysfunctional convent in medieval Tuscany. Cast: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon. World Premiere. DAY ONE
XX / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vuckovic) — This all-female horror anthology features four dark tales from four fiercely talented women. Cast: Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool, Christina Kirk. World Premiere
Colossal / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nacho Vigalondo) — An unapologetic party girl dreams of a fresh start only to discover a mysterious and fantastical connection between herself and a city-wrecking monster on the other side of the globe. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell.
Frantz / France, Germany (Director: François Ozon, Screenwriters: François Ozon, Philippe Piazzo) — In a small German town after World War I, Anna mourns daily at the grave of her fiancé, Frantz, killed in battle in France. One day a young Frenchman, Adrien, also lays flowers at the grave. His presence, so soon after the German defeat, ignites passions. Cast: Pierre Niney, Paula Beer, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Johann von Bülow, Anton von Lucke.
Lady Macbeth / United Kingdom (Director: William Oldroyd, Screenwriter: Alice Birch) — Rural England, 1865: Katherine is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man and his unforgiving family. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a stableman from the estate, the force unleashed inside her is so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Cast: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank. U.S. Premiere
Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry / U.S.A. (Directors: Laura Dunn, Jef Sewell) — This cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture is seen through the mind’s eye of farmer and writer Wendell Berry.
Raw / France (Director and screenwriter: Julia Ducournau) — When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, she develops an unbidden taste for meat, with unexpected consequences. Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss.
Sami Blood / Sweden (Director and screenwriter: Amanda Kernell) — Elle Marja, 14, is a reindeer-breeding Sámi girl. Exposed to race biology examinations at her boarding school and the racism of the 1930s, she starts dreaming of another life—one that demands she become someone else and break all ties with her family and culture. Cast: Lene Cecilia Sparrok, Mia Sparrok, Maj-Doris Rimpi, Olle Sarri, Hanna Alström, Malin Crépin. U.S. Premiere
Their Finest / United Kingdom (Director: Lone Scherfig, Screenwriter: Gaby Chiappe) — During the 1940 London Blitz, untried screenwriter Catrin struggles to find her voice amidst war, as she and a makeshift cast work under fire to create a film to lift the nation's spirits—and inspire America to join the war. Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Jake Lacy, Jeremy Irons. U.S. Premiere
The Mars Generation / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Barnett) — Aspiring teenage astronauts reveal that a journey to Mars is closer than you think. World Premiere. SALT LAKE CITY OPENING NIGHT FILM
My Life as a Zucchini / Switzerland, France (Director: Claude Barras, Screenwriter: Céline Sciamma) — After his mother’s death, Zucchini is befriended by a police officer, Raymond, who accompanies him to a foster home filled with other orphans his age. There, with the help of his newfound friends, Zucchini eventually learns to trust and love as he searches for a new family of his own. World Premiere (English Version)
RED DOG: True Blue / Australia (Director: Kriv Stenders, Screenwriter: Daniel Taplitz) — When 11-year-old Mick is shipped off to his grandfather's cattle station in Australia’s remote Pilbara, he prepares himself for a life of dull hardship but instead finds myth, adventure and a friendship with a scrappy, one-of-a-kind pup that will change his life forever. Cast: Levi Miller, Bryan Brown, Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, Thomas Cocquerel, Jason Isaacs. North American Premiere
Downward Dog / U.S.A. (Showrunners: Kat Likkel, John Hoberg, Creators: Michael Killen, Samm Hodges) — The story of a struggling millennial, Nan, as observed from the point of view of her lonely and philosophical dog, Martin. The Festival will premiere the first four episodes of the series, followed by an extended Q&A with the cast, creators and showrunners. Cast: Allison Tolman, Samm Hodges, Lucas Neff, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Barry Rothbart. World Premiere
The History of Comedy / U.S.A. (Executive Producers: Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, Mark Herzog, Christopher G. Cowen) — Utilizing archival footage punctuated by contemporary interviews with comedy legends and scholars, this is the history of not only what makes us laugh, but how comedy has affected the social and political landscape throughout history. The Festival will premiere two episodes of this docuseries, Spark of Madness and Going Blue, followed by an extended Q&A. World Premiere
I Love Dick / U.S.A. (Directors: Jill Soloway, Andrea Arnold, Kimberly Peirce, Executive Producers: Jill Soloway, Sarah Gubbins, Andrea Sperling, Victor Hsu) — Chris and Sylvere, a married couple in the intellectual community of Marfa, Texas, become obsessed with a charismatic artist named Dick. What follows is the unraveling of a marriage, the deification of a reluctant messiah and the awakening of the female gaze. The Festival will present the first three episodes of this Amazon original series, followed by an extended Q&A. Cast: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Hahn, Griffin Dunne, Roberta Colindrez, India Menuez, Phoebe Robinson. World Premiere
RISE / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Michelle Latimer) — This vibrant and immersive documentary series explores the front lines of indigenous resistance. Episodes Apache Stronghold, Sacred Water and Red Power examine factors that threaten indigenous liberation in the 21st century. A series of contrasts, this series is both a condemnation of colonialism and a celebration of indigenous peoples. Continuing Sundance Institute’s ongoing commitment to presenting bold stories from within the Native American and Indigenous communities, we are proud to debut three episodes: Apache Stronghold, Sacred Water and Red Power, followed by an extended Q&A. World Premiere. THE NEW CLIMATE
Shots Fired / U.S.A. (Executive Producers: Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo) — After racially-charged shootings in a North Carolina town, an investigator digs into the cases alongside a special prosecutor. Together they seek justice while navigating the ensuing media attention and public unrest threatening the divided town. The Festival will premiere two episodes of this 10-hour series, followed by an extended Q&A. Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, Helen Hunt, Richard Dreyfuss, Stephen Moyer, Mack Wilds. World Premiere
TIME: The Kalief Browder Story / U.S.A. (Director: Jenner Furst, Executive Producers: Jenner Furst, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, Harvey Weinstein, David C. Glasser, Nick Sandow, Julia Willoughby Nason, Michael Gasparro) — After his arrest at age 16, Kalief Browder fought the system and prevailed, despite unthinkable circumstances. He became an American hero. The Festival will debut the first two episodes of this in-depth, humanizing look at a broken justice system, followed by an extended Q&A. World PremiereTo see a list of films screening in competition at Sundance 2017, click here.
The staff choices for the best films of 2018.
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