P.T. Philben ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The Sundance Film Festival takes place annually in Utah and serves as arguably the most notable showcase of independent films from both American and international filmmakers. 118 feature length films where selected, including 19 in competition, to be featured at this years festival.
Here are ten selected films (all dramatic english language feature films listed in alphabetical order) already getting a lot of award buzz to keep your eye on.
The D Train
Directors: Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel
With his reunion just around the corner, Dan (Jack Black) is still suffering from his old high school insecurities. In desperation, he rekindles a friendship with the popular guy (James Marsden) from his class but things take an unexpected turn. It sounds suited to Black’s comedic talents, Marden is perfect for his role and it has gotten a lot of good word in the competitive categories it was submitted for. There’s nothing wrong with a good comedy.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Director: Marielle Heller
A 15 year old aspiring comic book artist in the haze and daze of 1970s San Francisco. Minnie is apparently a normal teenaged girl with the one exception of being sexually involved with her mother’s boyfriend. Details, details. If nothing else, it gets your attention. The stellar cast includes Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni and Kristen Wiig.
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
You can almost already tell it’s set in Los Angeles. The story follows Malcolm, who struggles to survive in a tough LA neighborhood while simultaneously trying to complete all of the work necessary to be able to go and get a good college education. An invitation he receives to an underground party sets off a series of events that become an adventure.
Director: Gerard Barret
A young taxi driver gets caught up in the crossfires of the criminal underworld in an attempt reunite his broken family. Apparently there isn’t many more details of the plot of this Irish film that don’t go into spoiler territory, but the fact that the film’s lead, Irish actor Jack Reynor won the Special Jury Prize for acting makes this film worth mentioning. This prize is not given out every year, which means that the voting body activated the category for an especially impressive performance. This is also surprising because the most noteworthy credit Reynor has otherwise was playing Mark Wahlberg’s daughter’s boyfriend in Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction which, frankly, he was terrible in (and the fact that he was Irish was quite obvious while he was portraying a Texan). But then again, Wahlberg was also quite terrible. The prestige of this award puts this film as well as Reynor on the map. Now if he can improve his abilities with accents he might just find success outside of Ireland.
I Am Michael
Director: Justin Kelly
The controversial true story of Michael Glatze (James Franco), a former gay activist known for co-founding Young Gay America with his then boyfriend (Zachary Quinto), who denounced homosexuality and became a Christian Pastor, falling in love with Rebekah Fuller (Emma Roberts). Given the controversy and media attention surrounding this story, it is going to be impossible for this film not to enrage one demographic or another. That alone makes it quite intriguing and worth watching.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Greg is a young filmmaker who is going through high school avoiding social interaction like the plague. His only friend is Earl, with whom he makes bizarre artistic films. His entire way of life is threatened when his mother puts him in a position where he has to befriend a girl with leukemia. The premise is odd and it’s clear that they aren’t going for taking in big box-office. The film did however take home the big prize for U.S. Dramatic film, meaning its considered the best non-doc film at the festival made in the states so it will definitely be worth checking out.
Director: John Maclean
Winner of the top World Cinema prize, this film is set in 19th century America and follows 16 year old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as he treks the American frontier in search of the woman he loves. He is accompanied by the mysterious Sillas (Michael Fassbender) and pursued along the way by outlaws. Fassbender and the young lead have both gotten rave reviews for their performances. It all sounds quite epic.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
The winner of the festivals to award for screenwriting, this film is about an actual social experiment that took place in 1971. Anybody who has ever taken a psychology class probably remembers hearing about how a psychology professor had several volunteers simulate a prison as either a prisoner or prison guard. The simulation yielded intense psychological effects on the participants including the guards becoming abusive authoritarians and the prisoners becoming depressed and hopeless. Once again; they were pretending. The experiment itself has caught many people’s fascination and this film will likely do the same.
Director: Robert Eggers
Director Robert Eggers won the festivals directing prize for this horror film about a devoutly Christian family in 1630s New England living on the edge of an “impassable wilderness”. There is a pretty visible historical backdrop for those who know colonial history in relation to witchcraft. One of the family’s five children goes missing and crops start dying. As the family turns to one another, an evil beyond their imagining lurks in the wilderness and its coming for them. This premise is borderline cliche but attendees and critics all loved it so there is most likely a special something to make this one stand out.
Z For Zachariah
Director: Craig Zobel
Based on the novel of the same name, this post-apocalyptic sci-fi film tells the story of the three survivors who may be the last of humanity. The three survivors are portrayed by Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chris Pine (Into the Woods) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). The two men, naturally, start to compete for the woman’s affections which cumulates in primal urges and the emergence of the true nature of man. About as raw as a premise comes, an impressive cast and an ambition that will definitely raise some eyebrows. Also: what a title.
What are you excited to see?