The 2016 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 21st through the 31st in Park City, Utah. The festival is a destination for both up-and-coming and veteran filmmakers, and has earned a reputation as a showcase for some of the most critically acclaimed and Oscar-worthy films of the year. This year, out of the 12,793 submissions they received, the Sundance committee has selected just over 200 feature length and short films to play at the festival. That’s a lot of films to go through in 10 days. Which is why this week, we’re bringing you a new curated list each day that highlights the films we think are worth checking out in Park City.
There are plenty of films making their world debut at the festival this year, movies of every genre that will be premiered for the first time. From films about the New Zealand bush and ’80s teen new wave bands, to the intersecting lives of women in small town America and–you guessed it–wiener dogs, here is a hearty serving of some of the most intriguing films making their premieres at Sundance.
Synopsis: Ricky is a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues, and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this heartwarming adventure comedy.
Director/writer: Taika Waititi
Cast: Julian Dennison, Oscar Kightley, Rachel House, Rima Te Wiata, Sam Neill
Why do we want to see this film? If you’ve seen Waititi’s Boy and What We Do In the Shadows, then you’d understand why. Marvel seems to like him considering he is directing the next installment of Thor so maybe you should like him too.
Synopsis: The lives of three women intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Writer: Kelly Reichardt, based on the stories by Maile Meloy
Cast: James Le Gros, Jared Harris, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Lily Gladstone, Michelle Williams
Why do we want to see this film? Because intersecting storylines always make for a good watch and because we miss Michelle Williams.
Synopsis: Having suffered a tragedy, Ben becomes a caregiver to earn money. His first client, Trevor, is a hilarious 18-year-old with muscular dystrophy. One paralyzed emotionally, one paralyzed physically, Ben and Trevor hit the road, finding hope, friendship, and Dot in this funny and touching inspirational tale.
Director/writer: Rob Burnett
Cast: Craig Roberts, Frederick Weller, Jennifer Ehle, Megan Ferguson, Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez
Why do we want to see this film? Films that squeeze out comedy, hope, and friendship from tragedy are always a good thing.
Synopsis: This film tells several stories featuring people who find their life inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading comfort and joy.
Director/writer: Todd Solondz
Cast: Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn, Greta Gerwig, Julie Delpy, Kieran Culkin, Zosia Mamet
Why do we want to see this film? Because there’s a wiener dog in it! You have no choice but to smile when you hear the title… or look at that photo for that matter.
Synopsis: When 13-year-old Jake’s grandfather dies, his family moves back into their old Brooklyn home. There, Jake befriends Tony, whose single Chilean mother runs the shop downstairs. As their friendship deepens, however, their families are driven apart by a battle over rent, and the boys respond with a vow of silence.
Director: Ira Sachs
Writers: Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Barbieri, Paulina Garcia, Theo Taplitz
Why do we want to see this film? Sachs told a really special story about the modern family with Love Is Strange. Let’s just hope he does it again with this.
Synopsis: On a mission to sell his last remaining prize hog and reunite with old friends, an aging farmer abandons his foreclosed farm and journeys to Mexico. After he smuggles in the hog, his estranged daughter shows up, forcing them to face their past and embark on an adventurous road trip together.
Director: Diego Luna
Writers: Augusto Mendoza, Diego Luna
Cast: Angelica Aragon, Danny Glover, Gabriela Araujo, Jose María Yazpik, Joel Murray, Maya Rudolph
Why do we want to watch this film? If a prized hog can reunite a father and his daughter, there must be something special about this story… and that pig.
Synopsis: Aspiring New York City artist John Hollar returns to his Middle America hometown on the eve of his mother’s brain surgery. Joined by his girlfriend, eight months pregnant with their first child, John is forced to navigate the crazy world he left behind.
Director: John Krasinski
Writer: Jim Strouse
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Charlie Day, John Krasinski, Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley
Why do we want to watch this film? Honestly, the names attached to this movie are the main selling point.
Synopsis: A boy growing up in Dublin during the ‘80s escapes his strained family life and tough new school by starting a band to win the heart of a beautiful and mysterious girl.
Director/writer: John Carney
Cast: Aidan Gillen, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Jack Reynor, Lucy Boynton, Mark McKenna
Why do we want to watch this film? The trailer itself is a delight, but the fact the movie infuses ’80s new wave music and culture is the cherry on top.
Synopsis: This intimate portrait of director, producer, and improvisational comedy icon Mike Nichols shows his final and historic interviews filmed just months before his death. Director Douglas McGrath documents Nichols’s early life, as he opens up to his friend and director Jack O’Brien about the storied beginnings of his career.
Director: Douglas McGrath
Cast: Jack O’ Brien, Mike Nichols
Why do we want to watch this film? Everyone could afford to learn a little bit more about this legend.
Synopsis:Iconic writer, poet, performer, and activist Maya Angelou overcame the Jim Crow South and devastating abuse to become one of our culture’s greatest voices. Rare footage and never-before-seen photos unveil a public and personal life that intersected with some of the most profound moments in recent American history.
Directors: Bob Hercules, Rita Coburn Whack
Why do we want to watch this film? She had stories, words of wisdom and inspiration that no one else could replicate. It’s surprising that a documentary about her life hasn’t already been made.
Synopsis: Catapulted by the success of his first major solo project, Off the Wall, Michael Jackson went from child star to King of Pop. This film explores the seminal album with rare archival footage and interviews from those who were there, and those whose lives its success and legacy impacted.
Director: Spike Lee
Why do we want to watch this film? Considering how Off the Wall sculpted the music industry and defined MJ as an icon, this is the perfect chunk of time to document of his life.
Synopsis: How did a poor, Jewish kid from Connecticut bring us Archie Bunker and become one of the most successful television producers ever? Norman Lear brought provocative subjects like war, poverty, and prejudice into 120 million homes every week. He proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism — laughter.
Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
Cast: Alan Horn, Bill Moyers, George Clooney, Norman Lear
Why do we want to watch this film? If you’ve ever watched a TV show from the 1970s, Lear probably had a hand in it. He changed the landscape and content of television. The least we could do is watch a documentary about him.
Synopsis: The Sandy Hook massacre was considered a watershed moment in the national debate on gun control, but the body count at the hands of gun violence has only increased. Through the lens of the victims’ families, as well as pro-gun advocates, we examine why our politicians have failed to act.
Director: Stephanie Soechtig
Writer: Brian Lazarte, Mark Monroe, Stephanie Soechtig
Why do we want to watch this film? It’s relevant more now than ever.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer