Let’s take a quick break from all the excitement of awards season to focus on what awaits us in the coming year. The Sundance Institute has announced their slate of feature films playing at 2018’s Sundance Film Festival, and the lineup is immense.
It includes 110 independent feature-length films from 29 different countries. Of those films, 47 are directorial debuts, including 30 in competition. If those numbers sound high, take into account the 13,468 film submissions, consisting of 3,901 feature-length films and 8,740 shorts! That’s more movies than some people see in a lifetime.
Next year’s festival will be held from January 18-28th when filmmakers, film critics and all-around film lovers will be making their annual pilgrimage to Park City, Utah. Here’s a quick look at some of the highlights in Sundance’s four main sections.
Considering this year’s Premieres included The Big Sick, Call Me By Your Name and Mudbound, three current awards contenders, this section is always worth keeping an eye on. Next year promises new films from established filmmakers like Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting), Brad Anderson (The Machinist) and Ben Lewin (The Sessions). Here are some of the premieres we’re excited for, with details provided by Sundance:
U.S.A. (Director: Brad Anderson, Screenwriter: Tony Gilroy) — A U.S. diplomat flees Lebanon in 1972 after a tragic incident at his home. Ten years later, he is called back to war-torn Beirut by CIA operatives to negotiate for the life of a friend he left behind. Cast: Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Shea Whigham, Dean Norris. World Premiere
U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, Producers: Nathan Zellner, Chris Ohlson, David Zellner) — Samuel Alabaster, an affluent pioneer, ventures across the American Frontier to marry the love of his life, Penelope. As Samuel, a drunkard named Parson Henry and a miniature horse called Butterscotch traverse the Wild West, their once-simple journey grows treacherous, blurring the lines between hero, villain and damsel. Cast: Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Robert Forster, Nathan Zellner, Joe Billingiere. World Premiere
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot
U.S.A. (Director: Gus Van Sant, Screenwriters: Gus Van Sant (screenplay), John Callahan (biography), Producers: Charles-Marie Anthonioz, Mourad Belkeddar, Steve Golin, Nicolas Lhermitte) — John Callahan has a talent for off-color jokes…and a drinking problem. When a bender ends in a car accident, Callahan wakes permanently confined to a wheelchair. In his journey back from rock bottom, Callahan finds beauty and comedy in the absurdity of human experience. Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black. World Premiere
Futile and Stupid Gesture
U.S.A. (Director: David Wain, Screenwriters: John Aboud, Michael Colton, Producers: Peter Principato, Jonathan Stern) — The story of comedy wunderkind Doug Kenney, who co-created the National Lampoon, Caddyshack, and Animal House. Kenney was at the center of the 70’s comedy counter-culture that gave birth to Saturday Night Live and a whole generation’s way of looking at the world. Cast: Will Forte, Martin Mull, Domhnall Gleeson, Matt Walsh, Joel McHale, Emmy Rossum. World Premiere
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
U.S.A. (Director: Marina Zenovich, Producers: Alex Gibney, Shirel Kozak) — This intimate portrait examines one of the world’s most beloved and inventive comedians. Told largely through Robin’s own voice and using a wealth of never-before-seen archive, the film takes us through his extraordinary life and career and reveals the spark of madness that drove him. World Premiere
The competition section itself is split four ways between U.S. and World Cinema selections for both narrative and documentary features. On the scripted side we have new films from Ethan Hawke and Sebastian Silva and a slew of directorial debuts from Paul Dano, Idris Elba and comedian Bo Burnham. Here’s a select cut of the competition:
U.S.A. (Director: Ethan Hawke, Screenwriters: Ethan Hawke, Sybil Rosen, Producers: Jake Seal, John Sloss, Ryan Hawke, Ethan Hawke) — A reimagining of the life and times of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas Outlaw Music movement; he gave up paradise for the sake of a song. Cast: Benjamin Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, Charlie Sexton. World Premiere
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bo Burnham, Producers: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, Christopher Storer, Lila Yacoub) — Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school — the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year — before she begins high school. Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton. World Premiere.
U.S.A. (Director: Craig William Macneill, Screenwriter: Bryce Kass, Producers: Naomi Despres, Liz Destro) — Based on the 1892 murder of Lizzie Borden’s family in Fall River, MA, this tense psychological thriller lays bare the legend of Lizzie Borden to reveal the much more complex, poignant and truly terrifying woman within — and her intimate bond with the family’s young Irish housemaid, Bridget Sullivan. Cast: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, Kim Dickens, Denis O’Hare. World Premiere
The Tale (pictured at top)
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jennifer Fox, Producers: Oren Moverman, Lawrence Inglee, Laura Rister, Mynette Louie, Sol Bondy, Simone Pero) — An investigation into one woman’s memory as she’s forced to re-examine her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive; based on the filmmaker’s own story. Cast: Laura Dern, Isabel Nelisse, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki, Ellen Burstyn, Common. World Premiere
U.S.A. (Director: Paul Dano, Screenwriters: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Producers: Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Oren Moverman, Ann Ruark, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker) — Montana, 1960: A portrait of a family in crisis. Based on the novel by Richard Ford. Cast: Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp, Jake Gyllenhaal. World Premiere
United Kingdom (Director: Idris Elba, Screenwriters: Brock Norman Brock, Martin Stellman, Producers: Gina Carter, Robin Gutch) — Jamaica, 1973. When a young boy witnesses his brother’s assassination, a powerful Don gives him a home. Ten years later he is sent on a mission to London. He reunites with his girlfriend and their daughter, but then the past catches up with them. Based on Victor Headley’s novel. Cast: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo Cleary. World Premiere
Sundance describes this section as “pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program.” Recent festivals featured films the existential quandary A Ghost Story and Sean Baker’s shot-on-iPhone gem Tangerine. Here’s a few to look forward to:
An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn
United Kingdom, U.S.A. (Director: Jim Hosking, Screenwriters: Jim Hosking, David Wike, Producers: Sam Bisbee, Theodora Dunlap, Oliver Roskill, Emily Leo, Lucan Toh, Andy Starke) — Lulu Danger’s unsatisfying marriage takes a fortunate turn for the worse when a mysterious man from her past comes to town to perform an event called ‘An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn For One Magical Night Only.’ Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry, Craig Robinson. World Premiere
U.S.A. (Director: Aneesh Chaganty, Screenwriters: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian, Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Sev Ohanian, Adam Sidman, Natalie Qasabian) — After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her. A thriller that unfolds entirely on computer screens. Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing. World Premiere. WINNER: 2018 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize.
We The Animals
U.S.A. (Director: Jeremiah Zagar, Screenwriters: Daniel Kitrosser, Jeremiah Zagar, Producers: Jeremy Yaches, Christina D. King, Andrew Goldman, Paul Mezey) — Us three, us brothers, us kings. Manny, Joel and Jonah tear their way through childhood and push against the volatile love of their parents. As Manny and Joel grow into versions of their father and Ma dreams of escape, Jonah, the youngest, embraces an imagined world all his own. Cast: Raul Castillo, Sheila Vand, Evan Rosado, Isaiah Kristian, Josiah Santiago. World Premiere
U.S.A. (Director: Daryl Wein, Screenwriters: Daryl Wein, Vivian Bang, Producers: Daryl Wein, Vivian Bang) —A dramatic comedy following a Korean American performance artist who struggles to be authentically heard and seen through her multiple identities in modern Los Angeles. Cast: Vivian Bang, Nana Ghana, Nico Evers-Swindel, Tracy Hazas, Elizabeth Sung, Michelle Sui. World Premiere
The Babadook, Get Out, The Greasy Strangler, The Guest, What We Do in the Shadows – these are just a handful of the films that have played after gutless festival goers have crawled back to their hotel rooms. As for fearless attendees, a world of horror and twisted comedy will always keep you company. Here’s what we are willing to stay up late for come January:
U.S.A. (Director: Jonathan Watson, Screenwriter: Luke Del Tredici, Producers: Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Ryan Friedkin, Danny McBride, Brandon James) — Set in the midst of the 2009 housing crisis, this darkly comedic story follows Cassie Fowler, a single mom and struggling realtor whose life goes off the rails when she witnesses a murder. Cast: Danny McBride, Rosemarie DeWitt, Luke Wilson, Lolli Sorenson, Elizabeth Gillies, Kaitlin Olson. World Premiere
Belgium, U.S.A. (Director: Panos Cosmatos, Screenwriters: Panos Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn, Producers: Daniel Noah, Josh Waller, Elijah Wood, Nate Bolotin, Adrian Politowski) — Pacific Northwest. 1983 AD. Outsiders Red Miller and Mandy Bloom lead a loving and peaceful existence. When their pine-scented haven is savagely destroyed by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand, Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire. Cast: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke. World Premiere
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nicolas Pesce, Producers: Josh Mond, Antonio Campos, Schuyler Weiss, Jake Wasserman) — In this twisted love story, a man seeks out an unsuspecting stranger to help him purge the dark torments of his past. His plan goes awry when he encounters a woman with plans of her own. A playful psycho-thriller game of cat-and-mouse based on Ryu Murakami’s novel. Cast: Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska, Laia Costa, Marin Ireland, Maria Dizzia, Wendell Pierce. World Premiere
France (Director and screenwriter: Coralie Fargeat, Producers: Marc-Etienne Schwartz, Jean-Yves Robin, Marc Stanimirovic) — Three wealthy married men get together for their annual hunting game in a desert canyon. This time, one of them has brought along his young mistress, who quickly arouses the interest of the other two. Things get dramatically out of hand as a hunting game turns into a ruthless manhunt. Cast: Matilda Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchede, Jean-Louis Tribes. Utah Premiere
You can see the full list of features premiering at the 2018 Film Festival here.