Sundance unveils US, World Competition, NEXT entries
By Jeremy Kay
New films from Nicole Kidman, Michael Fassbender, Louie Psihoyos and Sebastian Silva are featured in the festival’s line-up of US and world competition strands and the NEXT programme.
Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper and head of programming Trevor Groth have unleashed their first volley of films in what will be a 118-strong line-up overall culled from 12,166 submissions. Of these, 103 features are world premieres. The festival will run January 22 to February 1.
US Dramatic Competition includes Craig Zobel’s post-apocalytpic tale Z For Zachariah starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine; Jack Black in comedy The D Train; and Kristen Wiig in the 1970s San Francisco-set coming-of-age story The Diary Of A Teenage Girl.
Other likely highlights are Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s The Stanford Prison Experiment starring Billy Crudup and Ezra Miller; and Saoirse Ronan in Stockholm, Pennsylvania, about a young woman who returns to live with her parents after she is freed from her abductor of 17 years
The US Documentary Competition features The Covedirector Louie Psihoyos back in action with his endangered species film Racing Extinction; covert counter-terrorism footage in (T)ERROR; and Finders Keepers, about an amputee locked in a battle with a man who found his mummified leg in a grill.
World Cinema Dramatic Competition selections include Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes as desperate parents in Kim Farrant’s Australian thriller Strangerland; and Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn in the Western adventure Slow West(pictured) directed by former Screen Star of Tomorrow John Maclean.
Screen LA Star Of Tomorrow Gerard Barrett makes the cut with Grassland, about a taxi driver struggling to protect his family. Jack Reynor, Toni Collette and Michael Smiley star.
World Cinema Documentary Competition entries include Pervert Park, about the lives of sex offenders in a Florida trailer park, and Censored Voices, which reveals in full for the first time recordings with soldiers returning from the Six-Day War.
Among the ten NEXT selections are Sebastian Silva’s Nasty Baby, about a gay couple’s efforts to have a baby with the aid of their best friend, and H., which centres on two women whose lives are affected when a meteor allegedly explodes over their town.
A Day One Film will screen from each of the US documentary, US dramatic, international documentary, international dramatic and the shorts sections. Selections so far are The Bronze, The Summer Of Sangaile and How To Change The World.
“The selections for our 2015 Festival will take audiences on a wild ride of emotional extremes,” said Cooper. “With approaches ranging from comedic to dramatic, genre to documentary, experimental to short, independent filmmakers are bravely illuminating new opportunities for understanding and empathy.”
Sundance will announce selections in the coming days for Spotlight, Park City At Midnight, New Frontier, Sundance Kids, Premieres and Documentary Premieres, Short Film and a new Special Events section and offscreen programming.
All synopses below provided by the festival
US DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Presenting the world premieres of 16 narrative feature films, the Dramatic Competition offers festival-goers a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American independent film.
In a near-future city where soaring opulence overshadows economic hardship, Gwen and her daughter, Jules, do all they can to hold on to their joy, despite the instability surfacing in their world.
Cast: Jacqueline Kim, James Urbaniak, Freya Adams, Ken Jeong, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Kim.
In 2004, Hope Ann Greggory became an American hero after winning the bronze medal for the women’s gymnastics team. Today, she’s still living in her small hometown, washed-up and embittered. Stuck in the past, Hope must reassess her life when a promising young gymnast threatens her local celebrity status.
Cast: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Thomas Middleditch, Sebastian Stan, Haley Lu Richardson, Cecily Strong.
DAY ONE FILM
The D Train
Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel
With his 20th reunion looming, Dan can’t shake his high school insecurities. In a misguided mission to prove he’s changed, Dan rekindles a friendship with the popular guy from his class and is left scrambling to protect more than just his reputation when a wild night takes an unexpected turn.
Cast: Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike White, Kyle Bornheimer.
The Diary Of A Teenage Girl
Minnie Goetze is a 15-year-old aspiring comic-book artist, coming of age in the haze of the 1970s in San Francisco. Insatiably curious about the world around her, Minnie is a pretty typical teenage girl. Oh, except that she’s sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend.
Cast: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni, Kristen Wiig.
Malcolm is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.
Cast: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Blake Anderson, Zoë Kravitz, A$AP Rocky.
I Smile Back
All is not right in suburbia. Laney Brooks, a wife and mother on the edge, has stopped taking her meds, substituting recreational drugs and the wrong men. With the destruction of her family looming, Laney makes a last, desperate attempt at redemption.
Cast: Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles, Thomas Sadoski, Mia Barron, Terry Kinney, Chris Sarandon.
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Screenwriter: Jesse Andrews
Greg is coasting through senior year of high school as anonymously as possible, avoiding social interactions like the plague while secretly making spirited, bizarre films with Earl, his only friend. But both his anonymity and friendship threaten to unravel when his mother forces him to befriend a classmate with leukemia.
Cast: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon.
Alex, Emily, and their son, RJ, are new to Los Angeles. A chance meeting at the park introduces them to the mysterious Kurt, Charlotte, and Max. A family “playdate” becomes increasingly interesting as the night goes on.
Cast: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche.
People, Places, Things
James C Strouse
Will Henry is a newly single graphic novelist balancing being a parent to his young twin daughters and teaching a classroom full of college students, all the while trying to navigate the rich complexities of new love and letting go of the woman who left him.
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Stephanie Allynne, Jessica Williams, Gia Gadsby, Aundrea Gadsby.
Two mismatched personal trainers’ lives are upended by the actions of a new, wealthy client.
Cast: Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Michael Hall, Brooklyn Decker.
Songs My Brothers Taught Me
This complex portrait of modern-day life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation explores the bond between a brother and his younger sister, who find themselves on separate paths to rediscovering the meaning of home.
Cast: John Reddy, Jashaun St. John, Irene Bedard, Taysha Fuller, Travis Lone Hill, Eléonore Hendricks.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Kyle Patrick Alvarez
This film is based on the actual events that took place in 1971 when Stanford professor Dr Philip Zimbardo created what became one of the most shocking and famous social experiments of all time.
Cast: Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller, Michael Angarano, Tye Sheridan, Johnny Simmons, Olivia Thirlby.
A young woman is returned home to her biological parents after living with her abductor for 17 years.
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Cynthia Nixon, Jason Isaacs, David Warshofsky.
When Samantha Abbott begins her final semester teaching science at a Chicago high school, she faces some unexpected news: she’s pregnant. Soon after, Samantha learns that one of her favorite students, Jasmine, has landed in a similar situation. Unexpected follows the two women as they embark on an unlikely friendship.
Cast: Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail Bean, Elizabeth McGovern.
New England in the 1630s: William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life with five children, homesteading on the edge of an impassable wilderness. When their newborn son vanishes and crops fail, the family turns on one another. Beyond their worst fears, a supernatural evil lurks in the nearby wood.
Cast: Anya Taylor Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Lucas Dawson, Ellie Grainger.
Z for Zachariah
Craig Zobel, Screenwriter: Nissar Modi
In a post-apocalyptic world, a young woman who believes she is the last human on Earth meets a dying scientist searching for survivors. Their relationship becomes tenuous when another survivor appears. As the two men compete for the woman’s affection, their primal urges begin to reveal their true nature.
Cast: Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor.
US DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Sixteen world-premiere American documentaries that illuminate the ideas, people, and events that shape the present day.
On November 23, 2012, unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis was shot at a Jacksonville gas station by Michael David Dunn. 3 1/2 minutes explores the aftermath of Jordan’s tragic death, the latent and often unseen effects of racism, and the contradictions of the American criminal justice system.
An unprecedented, candid portrait of American icon Robert “Evel” Knievel and his legacy.
Best Of Enemies
Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon
Best Of Enemies is a behind-the-scenes account of the explosive 1968 televised debates between the liberal Gore Vidal and the conservative William F Buckley Jr., and their rancorous disagreements about politics, God, and sex.
Call Me Lucky
Barry Crimmins was a volatile but brilliant bar comic who became an honoured peace activist and influential political satirist. Famous comedians and others build a picture of a man who underwent an incredible transformation.
In this classic Western set in the 21st century, vigilantes on both sides of the border fight the vicious Mexican drug cartels. With unprecedented access, this character-driven film provokes deep questions about lawlessness, the breakdown of order, and whether citizens should fight violence with violence.
City Of Gold
Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jonathan Gold casts his light upon a vibrant and growing cultural movement in which he plays the dual roles of high-low priest and culinary geographer of his beloved Los Angeles.
Bryan Carberry, Clay Tweel
Recovering addict and amputee John Wood finds himself in a stranger-than-fiction battle to reclaim his mummified leg from Southern entrepreneur Shannon Whisnant, who found it in a grill he bought at an auction and believes it to therefore be his rightful property.
Hot Girls Wanted
Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus
Hot Girls Wanted is a first-ever look at the realities inside the world of the amateur porn industry and the steady stream of 18- and 19-year-old girls entering into it.
How To Dance In Ohio
In Columbus, Ohio, a group of teenagers and young adults on the autism spectrum prepare for an iconic American rite of passage — a spring formal. They spend 12 weeks practicing their social skills at a local nightclub in preparation for the dance.
Larry Kramer In Love And Anger
Author, activist, and playwright Larry Kramer is one of the most important and controversial figures in contemporary gay America, a political firebrand who gave voice to the outrage and grief that inspired gay men and lesbians to fight for their lives. At 78, this complicated man still commands our attention.
Jimmy Chin, E Chai Vasarhelyi
Three elite mountain climbers sacrifice everything but their friendship as they struggle through heartbreaking loss and nature’s harshest elements to attempt the never-before-completed Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru, the most coveted first ascent in the dangerous game of Himalayan big wall climbing.
Academy Award-winner Louie Psihoyos (The Cove) assembles a unique team to show the world never-before-seen images that expose issues surrounding endangered species and mass extinction. Whether infiltrating notorious black markets or exploring humans’ effect on the environment, Racing Extinction will change the way you see the world.
Lyric R Cabral, David Felix Sutcliffe
(T)ERROR is the first film to document on camera a covert counterterrorism sting as it unfolds. Through the perspective of *******, a 63-year-old Black revolutionary turned FBI informant, viewers are given an unprecedented glimpse of the government’s counterterrorism tactics, and the murky justifications behind them.
Welcome To Leith
Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K Walker
A white supremacist attempts to take over a small town in North Dakota.
Bill Ross, Turner Ross
For generations, all that distinguished Eagle Pass, Texas, from Piedras Negras, Mexico, was the Rio Grande. But when darkness descends upon these harmonious border towns, a cowboy and lawman face a new reality that threatens their way of life. Western portrays timeless American figures in the grip of unforgiving change.
Six bright teenage brothers have spent their entire lives locked away from society in a Manhattan housing project. All they know of the outside is gleaned from the movies they watch obsessively (and recreate meticulously). Yet as adolescence looms, they dream of escape, ever more urgently, into the beckoning world.
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Twelve films from emerging filmmaking talents around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.
Jenny, 17, dreams of becoming a synchronized swimmer. Family events turn her life upside down and she is forced move to a remote area to look after her ill father and younger brother. It won’t be long before Jenny starts pursuing her dreams again.
Cast: Sara Serraiocco, Ivan Franek, Giorgio Colangeli, Anatol Sassi, Piera Degli Esposti, Andrea Vergoni.
A separated couple meet again after 10 years when the body of their missing son is found. Amid the guilt of losing a loved one, they hesitantly move toward affirmation of life, acceptance of death, and even the possibility of reconciliation.
Cast: Sébastien Ricard, Fanny Mallette, Pierre Curzi, Genevieve Bujold.
In a desperate attempt to reunite his broken family, a young taxi driver becomes entangled in the criminal underworld.
Cast: Jack Reynor, Toni Collette, Will Poulter, Michael Smiley.
When Charlotte, 27, meets her brother Henrik, 35, for the first time, two people who don’t know what a normal family is begin an encounter without boundaries. How does sibling love manifest itself if you have never experienced it before?
Cast: Ine Marie Wilmann, Simon J. Berger, Anneke von der Lippe, Silje Storstein, Oddgeir Thune, Kari Onstad.
Sarmasik is sailing to Egypt when the ship’s owner goes bankrupt. The crew learns there is a lien on the ship, and key crew members must stay on board. Ivy is the story of these six men trapped on the ship for days.
Cast: Nadir Sar?bacak, Özgür Emre Y?ld?r?m, Hakan Karsak, Kadir Çermik, Osman Alka?, Seyithan Özdemiro?lu.
Alexander is like any other kid: playful, curious and naive. He is also a trained assassin. Raised in a hidden paradise, Alexander has grown up seeing the world filtered through his father, Gregori. As Alexander begins to think for himself, creeping fears take shape, and Gregori’s idyllic world unravels.
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Jeremy Chabriel, Florence Mezzara.
Tali Shalom Ezer
While her mother is away from home, 12-year-old Adar’s role-playing games with her stepfather move into dangerous territory. Seeking an escape, Adar finds Alan, an ethereal boy that accompanies her on a dark journey between reality and fantasy.
Cast: Keren Mor, Shira Haas, Ori Pfeffer, Adar Zohar Hanetz.
The Second Mother (Brazil)
Having left her daughter, Jessica, to be raised by relatives in the north of Brazil, Val works as a loving nanny in São Paulo. When Jessica arrives for a visit 13 years later, she confronts her mother’s slave-like attitude and everyone in the house is affected by her unexpected behavior.
Cast: Regina Casé, Michel Joelsas, Camila Márdila, Karine Teles, Lourenço Mutarelli.
Slow West (pictured, New Zealand)
Set at the end of the nineteenth century, 16-year-old Jay Cavendish journeys across the American frontier in search of the woman he loves. He is joined by Silas, a mysterious traveller, and hotly pursued by an outlaw along the way.
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Rory McCann, Ben Mendelsohn, Brooke Williams, Caren Pistorius.
When Catherine and Matthew Parker’s two teenage kids disappear into the remote Australian desert, the couple’s relationship is pushed to the brink as they confront the mystery of their children’s fate.
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Lisa Flanagan, Meyne Wyatt, Maddison Brown.
The Summer Of Sangaile (France)
Seventeen-year-old Sangaile is fascinated by stunt planes. She meets a girl her age at the summer aeronautical show, nearby her parents’ lakeside villa. Sangaile allows Auste to discover her most intimate secret and in the process finds in her teenage love, the only person that truly encourages her to fly.
Cast: Julija Steponaityte, Aiste Dirziute.
DAY ONE FILM
When a young village boy discovers that his brother, long believed to be in America, has actually gone missing, he begins to invent letters on his behalf to save their mother from heartbreak, all the while searching for him.
Cast: Suraj Sharma, Tony Revolori, Smita Tambe, Adil Hussain, Rajesh Tailang, Prateik Babbar.
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Twelve documentaries by some of the most courageous and extraordinary international filmmakers working today.
The Amina Profile (Canada)
During the Arab revolution, a love story between two women — a Canadian and a Syrian American — turns into an international sociopolitical thriller spotlighting media excesses and the thin line between truth and falsehood on the Internet.
Censored Voices (Israel-Germany)
One week after the 1967 Six-Day War, renowned author Amos Oz and editor Avraham Shapira recorded intimate conversations with soldiers returning from the battlefield. The Israeli army censored the recordings, allowing only a fragment of the conversations to be published. Censored Voices reveals these recordings for the first time.
The Chinese Mayor (China)
Mayor Geng Yanbo is determined to transform the coal-mining center of Datong, in China’s Shanxi province, into a tourism haven showcasing clean energy. In order to achieve that, however, he has to relocate 500,000 residences to make way for the restoration of the ancient city.
Chuck Norris vs Communism (UK-Romania-Germany)
In 1980s Romania, thousands of Western films smashed through the Iron Curtain, opening a window to the free world for those who dared to look. A black market VHS racketeer and courageous female translator helped bring the magic of film to the masses and sowed the seeds of a revolution.
Dark Horse (UK)
Dark Horse is the inspirational true story of a group of friends from a workingman’s club who decide to take on the elite “sport of kings” and breed themselves a racehorse.
Dreamcatcher takes us into a hidden world seen through the eyes of one of its survivors, Brenda Myers-Powell. A former teenage prostitute, Brenda defied the odds to become a powerful advocate for change in her community. With warmth and humor, Brenda gives hope to those who have none.
How To Change The World (UK-Canada)
A group of friends creates, grows, and finally globalises the set of ideas we now associate with Greenpeace; the film uses never-before-seen archival footage that brings these characters and their extraordinary world to life.
DAY ONE FILM
Listen To Me Marlon (UK)
With exclusive access to previously unheard audio archives, this is the definitive Marlon Brando cinema documentary. Charting his exceptional career and extraordinary life away from the stage and screen, the film fully explores the complexities of the man by telling the story uniquely in Marlon’s own voice.
Pervert Park (Sweden-Denmark)
Frida Barkfors, Lasse Barkfors
Pervert Park follows the everyday lives of sex offenders in a Florida trailer park as they struggle to reintegrate into society, and try to understand who they are and how to break the cycle of sex crimes being committed.
The Russian Woodpecker (UK)
A Ukrainian victim of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster discovers a dark secret and must decide whether to risk his life by revealing it, amid growing clouds of revolution and war.
Samba Gadjigo, Jason Silverman
In 1952, Ousmane Sembene, a Senegalese dockworker and fifth-grade dropout, began dreaming an impossible dream: to become the storyteller for a new Africa. This true story celebrates how the “father of African cinema,” against enormous odds, fought a monumental, 50-year-long battle to give Africans a voice.
The Visit (Denmark-Austria-Ireland-Finland-Norway)
“This film documents an event that has never taken place…” With unprecedented access to the United Nations’ Office for Outer Space Affairs and space agencies, The Visit explores humans’ first encounter with alien intelligent life and thereby humanity itself. “Our scenario begins with the arrival. Your arrival.”
Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises that the films in this section will shape a “greater” next wave in American cinema. Presented by Adobe.
Bob And The Trees (US-France)
Bob, a 50-year-old logger in rural Massachusetts with a soft spot for golf and gangsta rap, is struggling to make ends meet in a changed economy. When his beloved cow is wounded and a job goes awry, Bob begins to heed the instincts of his ever-darkening self.
Cast: Bob Tarasuk, Matt Gallagher, Polly MacIntyre, Winthrop Barrett, Nathaniel Gregory.
Christmas, Again (US)
A heartbroken Christmas tree salesman returns to New York, hoping to put the past year behind him. He spends the season living in a trailer and working the night shift, until a mysterious woman and some colorful customers rescue him from self-destruction.
Cast: Kentucker Audley, Hannah Gross, Jason Shelton, Oona Roche.
North American premiere
Twenty-two-year-old Louis doesn’t know whether his childhood friendship with Jack will last beyond today.
Cast: George Sample III, Zurich Buckner, Brian Kowalski.
En route to meeting with his estranged daughter, in an attempt to revive his dwindling career, a broken, aging comedian plays a string of dead-end shows in the Mojave Desert.
Cast: Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera, Amy Seimetz, Lotte Verbeek.
Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia
Two women, each named Helen, find their lives spinning out of control after a meteor allegedly explodes over their city of Troy, New York.
Cast: Robin Bartlett, Rebecca Dayan, Will Janowitz, Julian Gamble, Roger Robinson.
James White (US)
A young New Yorker struggles to take control of his reckless, self-destructive behavior in the face of momentous family challenges.
Cast: Chris Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Scott Mescudi, Makenzie Leigh, David Call.
Nasty Baby (US)
A gay couple try to have a baby with the help of their best friend, Anna. The trio navigates the idea of creating life while confronted by unexpected harassment from a neighborhood man called The Bishop. As their clashes grow increasingly aggressive, odds are someone is getting hurt.
Cast: Sebastian Silva, Tunde Adebimpe, Kristin Wiig, Reg E. Cathey, Mark Margolis, Denis O’Hare.
The Strongest Man (US)
An anxiety-ridden Cuban man who fancies himself the strongest man in the world attempts to recover his most prized possession, a stolen bicycle. On his quest, he finds and loses much more.
Cast: Robert Lorie, Paul Chamberlain, Ashly Burch, Patrick Fugit, Lisa Banes.
Take Me To The River (US)
A naive California teen plans to remain above the fray at his Nebraskan family reunion, but a strange encounter places him at the center of a long-buried family secret.
Cast: Logan Miller, Robin Weigert, Josh Hamilton, Richard Schiff, Ursula Parker, Azura Skye.
It’s Christmas Eve in Los Angeles, and Sin-Dee discovers that her boyfriend has been unfaithful to her. With best friend Alexandra in tow, the streetwalking prostitute sets out to right this wrong.
Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, Alla Tumanyan, James Ransone.
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