The 2019 Sundance Film Festival, now in its 35th edition, will play host to a total of 112 film selections representing 33 countries. 42% of the films were directed by women (last year that number was 38%) and there are 45 first-time filmmakers to take notice of. Of the feature film submissions, 1,767 came from the U.S. and 2,251 internationally.
As we anticipate our arrival at the festival, we’ve started to compile our to-do list. Here are 10 films already on that list.
Paddleton is similar to 50/50, where two friends must learn to live and cope after one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Mark Duplass plays the man with cancer and Ray Romano co-stars as the supportive friend, and by the looks of the trailer, a friend with the same sort of the subtle humour that Duplass often portrays in his character work elsewhere. Seeing Duplass in this role after consuming this season of Goliath is trippy, but all the more intriguing. (He played a crooked man with a fetish for amputees in case you’re wondering.) Duplass (who also wrote the film’s screenplay) creates stories around human connection so a plot about a life-altering setback like cancer complete with necessary comedic relief—we’re betting our gut will be twisted multiple times. Sundance marks its major premiere and the movie will be up on Netflix come Feb. 22. Alex Lehmann directed it and previously worked with the Duplass Brothers on Blue Jay (2016).
Fight With My Family
One of the recently announced surprise screenings that caught our attention is Dwayne Johnson and Danny Garcia’s Fighting With My Family, which premieres at Sundance on Jan. 28. The film was seed funded outside of the studio system, according to Deadline, and then MGM acquired global rights in a pretty big way. It draws from the documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family, but Johnson also tapped into his own family history. “The Rock’s” father was a pro wrestler and his grandmother was one of the few female wrestling promoters in the ’80s. The film builds around a rising female wrestler set for the WWE. Florence Pugh plays that female wrestler, Paige. Vince Vaughn also stars alongside Johnson and Game of Thrones‘ Lena Headey and Nick Frost, and Stephen Merchant (The Office, Hello Ladies, Hot Fuzz, Logan) wrote and directed the comedy-drama.
Jake Gyllenhaal teams up again with Nightcrawler writer and director Dan Gilroy on this Sundance must-see. Gyllenhaal plays an art critic and after the work of a dead artist is seized, murderous stuff starts happening to those that are greedy. This trailer, which comes with quotes like “You ever notice anything about this painting? If you look long enough it moves” is one of our favourite trailers on this list. The film co-stars Renee Russo, Daveed Diggs and John Malkovich, and will be available on Netflix and in select theatres Feb. 1.
Sound of Silence
Courtesy: Film Constellation / Sundance Institute
Now here’s an inventive plot written by Ben Nabors and Michael Tyburski. Tyburski also makes his directorial debut with the film, which is about a New York City “house turner” that tunes the acoustics in people’s homes in order to adjust their moods. The only problem is Mr. Fix-It comes across someone he can’t help. Peter the self-proclaimed “house turner” is played by Peter Sarsgaard and the film co-stars Rashida Jones. It’s based on Nabors and Tyburski’s short film Palimpsest, which snagged Sundance’s Special Jury Prize in 2013. “I’ve become fascinated by the way sounds can subconsciously affect our lives, and this story gave me the opportunity to embrace New York from a unique sound perspective,” Tyburski said in a statement. Something tells us we may be revisiting A Beautiful Mind in some capacity here.
Photo by Natasha Braier / Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Honey Boy comes from the brain of Shia Laboeuf and is loosely based on Laboeuf’s own life. The movie follows 12-year-old Otis, a child television star in Hollywood whose “ex-rodeo-clown father returns to serve as his guardian.” The story plays out in two-time segments, one where the father and son face stormy times and the other shows how they try to overcome their contempt for one another. This pain spans a decade. Labouef acts alongside one of the best young stars (we’ve said this before) Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Lady Bird, Manchester By the Sea) and the film also stars another rising name, Noah Jupe (he’s in Ford v. Ferrari with Christian Bale and Matt Damon later this year). Hedges and Jupe both play the role of Otis, just at different ages. The film is directed by Alma Har’el (Bombay Beach) and is another world premiere. Oh, and FKA Twigs also stars.
Sundance founder Robert Redford is the executive producer behind this film which stars Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Red Sparrow), Connie Britton (American Horror Story, Dirty John, Friday Night Lights) and Bruce Dern (The Cowboys, Nebraska, White Boy Rick). Premised on a convict, the story follows Roman Coleman (Schoenaerts) who’s been in prison for 12 years. In order for him to be accepted into the program, one that lands him outside of his jail cell, Coleman must learn how to build trust with a horse and avoid being attacked—he must rehabilitate. “If you can stay in there for more than five seconds, you’re in the program,” says Dern’s character (Myles) in the trailer. “Some you can break and some you can’t” he adds. It’s based on a true story and we’re looking forward to being told it. It’s great to see Gideon Adlon (Pamela Adlon’s daughter) continuing her gradual rise; she’s one to watch. This is the feature debut from French filmmaker Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and will be out for everyone to see Mar. 15.
Courtesy: Brocklehurst Productions
Based on Emma Jane Unsworth novel Animals, this story follows two women growing up and apart— specifically when your drinking bestie becomes your engaged friend. It comes with a very intriguing lineup made up of Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development, Search Party), Dermot Murphy (who played Bob Geldof in Bohemian Rhapsody), Fra Free (Les Misérables) and Holliday Grainger (My Cousin Rachel, The Finest Hours). It’s also directed by award-winning director Sophie Hyde (52 Tuesdays). We’re keen to see how friendship is experienced between these two women.
Selah and the Spades
Courtesy: Sundance Institute
Another female-led film, this written, directed and co-produced by Philadelphia’s Tayarisha Poe, also talks about growing up, but growing up in a private boarding school where ‘The Spades’ clique rules. It’s the dog-eat-dog world and 17-year-old Selah Summers is the leader of this world full of drug scores and control, but when she takes in a new wingman to continue her reign she starts to unravel. We’re getting Cruel Intentions-meets-Crazy, Beautiful vibes for some reason. This marks Poe’s feature debut and it stars Suits‘ Gina Torres, Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight) and Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy). Lovie Simone stars as Selah.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Chronicling the life of Ted Bundy is one that’s been done, sometimes terribly, so there is certainly hesitation when hearing another film about the serial killer is premiering. However, this is told from the perspective of Bundy’s ride-or-die girlfriend Liz—the woman who never wanted to believe she was with a monster. It’s also coming from one of the finest filmmakers in the world of true crime documentaries, Joe Berlinger, so that’s a big motivation to check it out. Zac Efron plays Bundy, a gamble that could pay off, and it also features John Malkovich, Lily Collins, Kaya Scoderlario (!!) and Jim Parsons. Another world premiere, too.
Memory – The Origins of Alien
Courtesy: Sundance Institute
Sometimes it’s nice to just learn and to learn about such an iconic film like Ridley Scott’s Alien, well that feels swell right about now. This untold story behind Scott’s 1979 terror flick was put together by filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe, the same man who analyzed Hitchcock’s Psycho shower scene in 78/52. Before Ridley Scott, Alien was named Memory and written by Dan O’Bannon, however, he quit writing after page 29 and the script got a new life.
Here’s the official poster: