For the first time ever, I will be attending The Sundance Film Festival and I cannot be more excited. Sundance is one of the most acclaimed film festivals in the world, highlighting a ton of independent films and up and coming storytellers. This year is no different, as there are many promising films to look forward to. I have now picked the first 9 films I will be seeing at the festival and will be breaking down why I’m excited to see them all.
The Nightingale (dir. Jennifer Kent)
Director Jennifer Kent is no stranger to Sundance, as her first feature film The Babadok premiered at the 2014 festival. Since Sundance, that film has generated a huge following and Kent a very promising director. Her newest film, The Nightingale premiered at the 2018 Venice International Film Festival and is one of the featured Spotlight films playing at Sundance. It currently has garnered very mixed reception, dividing audiences, which makes me even more excited to see it. A gothic period piece about a young girl seeking revenge, Kent’s next feature seems promised to deliver a violent and horrific tale. It stars Aisling Franciosi (The Fall), Sam Claflin (Hunger Games), and Damon Herriman (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood). The Nightingale was picked up by IFC Films for a summer release.
Mope (dir. Lucas Heyne)
The Midnight category of Sundance always features very out there films – Mope being no exception. Within the world of pornography, a “mope” is a low-level, wannabe porn actor. This film follows two mopes who are also best friends hoping to one day make it to the big time within the industry. This is director Lucas Heyne’s feature debut and is set to shine a light on this world that not that many people know of, about two people trying to figure out who they are. Not to mention it’s a true story.
Share (dir. Pippa Bianco)
The first, and hopefully not the last A24 film I will be watching at Sundance, Share is Pippa Bianco’s directorial debut. A story about a high school sophomore finding out videos of her have gone viral, videos she would not want to get out. From the description, it quickly reminds me of another Sundance film, Assassination Nation, however, this one will probably be a lot more grounded in reality. The protagonist Mandy is played by newcomer Rhianne Barreto who alongside Bianco directing will hopefully tell a poignant story of how this modern generation looks at communication and isolation.
This Is Not Berlin (dir. Hari Sama)
As someone who has watched previous Mexican films from the World Cinema category at Sundance, This Is Not Berlin stood out to me right away. Sure, my Mexican bias probably had something to do with that, but this coming of age story about a teenage boy from Mexico discovering the underground nightclub scene seems promising. Taking place in the late ’80s as Mexico is set to host the World Cup, Carlos is not interested in soccer at all and would rather listen to music and fantasize about his best friends sister. With director Hari Sama being a musician himself, This Is Not Berlin will most definitely be fueled by the music of his teenage years. I am interested to see this blending of art and music during a time in Mexico which was very politically charged and how it could translate to what is happening there and everywhere in today’s world.
Sweetheart (dir. J.D. Dillard)
Another director familiar with Sundance, J.D. Dillard’s directorial debut Sleight in the NEXT category back in 2016. Sleight would be picked up by Blumhouse Productions, which is also producing his second film Sweetheart. Jen (Kiersey Clemons) washes up on an island and must survive by any means necessary. Although, when night strikes that is when the monster surfaces to feed. A monster movie produced by Blumhouse, starring Kiersey Clemons who has made a name for herself in recent years being in films such as Dope, Hearts Beat Loud and eventually will be in DC’s Flash movie, playing at midnight – count me in.
The Mustang (dir. Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre)
Following a convict who turns to a rehabilitation program to train wild mustangs, The Mustang is Tonnerre’s debut based off a short she directed. The convict is played by seasoned actor Matthias Schoenaerts and is joined by Bruce Dern, Connie Britton, and Jason Mitchell in what is being hailed as a deep character study. Behind the film is Focus Features and based on the last couple of horse-related movies I’ve seen I’m hopeful this continues the trend of good horse movies.
Hala (dir. Minhal Baig)
As a minority, myself, being able to see stories highlighting minorities is important. Hala seems to fit the bill perfectly. Hala is the name of the lead character, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, and her father’s pride and joy. This film seems to tell a layered coming-of-age story that is very personal to director Minhal Baig. I hope we get to see the contrasting experience of someone who immigrated to America versus someone who was raised here, and how that might cause challenges. Hala is based off a short of the same name by Baig and will be competing in the U.S. Dramatic category.
The Souvenir (dir. Joanna Hogg)
Joanna Hogg is a well-respected director in the UK. I personally am not too familiar with her previous work, but from all accounts, she is a promising talent. Having directed the films Unrelated (2008), Archipelago (2010) both starring Tom Hiddleston and Exhibition (2013), Hogg finds herself at Sundance with her latest effort The Souvenir. Set in what seems to be a film school in the ‘80s, Julie meets Anthony at a party triggering this love story. It stars Honor Swinton Byrne in her breakout performance along with Tom Burke and the great Tilda Swinton. The Souvenir is also produced by A24 so yet another reason to be excited. Hogg is also currently working on the second part of this story which stars Robert Pattinson.
Relive (dir. Jacob Estes)
Having two other films play at Sundance (Mean Creek, The Details), Jacob Estes returns with his film Relive. Being called a supernatural police procedural thriller, it stars David Oyelowo as LA detective Jack Radcliff who receives a mysterious call from his niece. However, when he arrives at the scene he finds her dead. This sets off a chain of events that Jack must try and piece together. Relive is being produced by Blumhouse and also stars A Wrinkle in Time star Storm Reid, Alfred Molina, and Brian Tyree Henry.