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.
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In the category of U.S. Dramatic Competition, the festival features domestic narrative films from up and coming filmmakers. Some of them are emotionally dense stories while others are lighthearted dramedies. This year, there’s a good range of the two. Here are some that caught our attention.
Synopsis: Set in the early ’90s, As You Are is a telling and retelling of a relationship between three teenagers as it traces the course of their friendship through a construction of disparate memories prompted by a police investigation.
Director: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte
Writer: Madison Harrison, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Charlie Heaton, John Scurti, Mary Stuart Masterson, Owen Campbell, Scott Cohen,
Why do we want to watch it? It’s a director and cast of general unknowns. That always puts expectations at bay and leaves audiences with an open mind. Stenberg is a familiar face from the Hunger Games, but we haven’t seen much else from her besides her passion for people of color in Hollywood. It will good to see what she is really capable of. Also, there seems to be a fetishization of the ’90s in Hollywood lately. Set that to an intriguing coming-of-age story and a police investigation and you got yourself a nostalgic indie flick.
Synopsis: Josh treats what would have been his bachelor party as an opportunity to reconnect with his friends.
Director/Writer: Jeff Baena
Cast: Adam Pally, Alex Ross Perry, Brett Gelman, Jenny Slate, Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch
Why do we want to watch it? Baena penned the transcendental insanity that was I Heart Huckabees and made his directorial debut with the zombie comedy, Life After Beth, which took a bow at Sundance in 2014. With a solid cast of comedic actors and improvisers, this one should be a treat.
Synopsis: Hank, a hopeless man stranded in the wild, discovers a mysterious dead body. Together the two embark on an epic journey to get home. As Hank realizes the body is the key to his survival, this once suicidal man is forced to convince a dead body that life is worth living.
Directors/writers: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Paul Dano
Why do we want to watch it? Who wouldn’t be excited about this film? It’s like Weekend at Bernie’s but not as slapstick… and with Harry Potter.
Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Morris, a hip-hop loving American, moves to Heidelberg, Germany, with his father. In this completely foreign land, he falls in love with a local girl, befriends his German tutor-turned- confidant, and attempts to navigate the unique trials and tribulations of adolescence.
Director/writer: Chad Hartigan
Cast: Craig Robinson, Carla Juri, Jakub Gierszal, Levin Henning, Lina Keller, Markees Christmas
Why do we want to watch it? Fish-out-of water stories always prove to be a good watch, especially if it’s a situation where an American has to acclimate to life in a foreign country. It’s a different kind of immigrant story. The fact that it’s a coming-of-age element makes it all the better.
Synopsis: In 1974, a female TV news reporter aims for high standards in life and love in Sarasota, Florida. Missing her mark is not an option. This story is based on true events.
Director: Antonio Campos
Writer: Craig Shilowich
Cast: J. Smith-Cameron, Maria Dizzia, Michael C. Hall, Rebecca Hall, Tracy Letts
Why do we want to watch it? The true story about the real-life on-air suicide of Christine Chubbuck is a devastating story. To see how it is handled as a feature film may be a compelling story or simply too much to take in. Or it may feed into Hollywood’s morbid curiosity of unfortunate events. Either way, it would be worth a watch.
Synopsis: Southside With You chronicles a single day in the summer of 1989 when the future president of the United States, Barack Obama, wooed his future First Lady on an epic first date across Chicago’s South Side.
Director/writer: Richard Tanne
Cast: Parker Sawyers,Tika Sumpter,Vanessa Bell Calloway
Why do we want to watch it? It may be too soon for a movie like this, but out of all the presidents and first ladies in history, this is the “how did you meet?” stories I want to hear. It’s like How I Met Your Mother, but with a more satisfying ending.
Synopsis: A female investment banker, fighting to get a promotion at her competitive Wall Street firm, leads a controversial tech IPO in the post-financial-crisis world, where regulations are tight but pressure to bring in big money remains high. Director: Meera Menon
Writer: Amy Fox
Cast: Alysia Reiner, Anna Gunn, James Purefoy, Sarah Megan Thomas
Why do we want to watch it? Because it’s about time we saw a female-driven movie about Wall Street. With Breaking Bad‘s Gunn in the lead, it’s already a winner.
Synopsis: A struggling comedy writer, fresh from breaking up with his boyfriend, moves to Sacramento to help his sick mother. Living with his conservative father and younger sisters, David feels like a stranger in his childhood home. As his mother worsens, he tries to convince everyone (including himself) he’s “doing okay.”
Director/writer: Chris Kelly
Cast: Bradley Whitford, Jesse Plemons, June Squibb, Maude Apatow, Molly Shannon, Zach Woods
Why do we want to watch it? Career struggles, breakups, ailing loved ones, coming home to an estranged household — there’s at least one depressing thing in this film that you can relate to. But coming from the mind of someone like Kelly who has written for Saturday Night Live and Broad City, it should have enough irreverent humor to cut through all that sentiment.
Synopsis: Summer, New York City: A college student goes to extremes to get her drug dealer boyfriend out of jail.
Director/writer: Elizabeth Wood
Cast: Adrian Martinez, Brian ‘Sene’ Marc, Chris Noth, India Menuez, Justin Bartha, Morgan Saylor
Why do we want to watch it? Wood is already getting buzz as the breakout director of Sundance. Although simplistic in its synopsis, the movie is based on moments from Wood’s life and explores today’s culture of self-indulgent youth, struggles between race and class in New York as well as the lengths young people go through for extreme thrills. Count us in.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer