Sundance 2019’s World Cinema strands introduced audiences to Monos, The Last Tree, The Souvenir and the Oscar-nominated Honeyland. What does 2020 hold in store?
Dir. Amanda Kernell
Swedish filmmaker Kernell returns with her second feature following debut Sami Blood, which won awards at Venice and played Sundance in 2017. Charter centres on recent divorcee Alice (Ane Dahl Torp), who has not seen her children in two months as she awaits a custody verdict. After receiving a late-night call from her son, Alice abducts the children and takes them on a trip to the Canary Islands to assert her role as their mother. Kernell’s award-winning shorts include Northern Great Mountain, which screened at Sundance in 2015.
Dir. Maïmouna Doucouré
French writer/director Doucouré is making her feature debut following 2015’s short film Maman(s), which won awards at Sundance, Toronto and the Césars. The screenplay for Cuties won the global filmmaking award for emerging talent at Sundance 2017 (Mustang co-writer Alice Winocour served as a script consultant). The story follows 11-year-old Amy who attempts to twerk her way into a young dance group and escape simmering family dysfunction. Netflix has picked up worldwide rights excluding France.
Contact: Bac Films
Dir. Visar Morina
Kosovo-born Morina picked up numerous awards, including best director at Karlovy Vary, for his 2015 debut Babai. Exil is a psychological thriller that centres on a Kosovan chemical engineer in Germany (Misel Maticevic) who feels bullied at work and is plunged into an identity crisis. Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann) produces with Komplizen Film cohorts Jonas Dornbach and Janine Jackowski, while Toni Erdmann star Sandra Hüller plays the scientist’s wife. The script for Exil won the German Film Academy prize for best unfilmed screenplay in 2018.
Contact: The Match Factory
High Tide (Arg)
Dir. Veronica Chen
Class and racial paranoia are explored in the latest feature from Argentinian filmmaker Chen. The story centres on Laura (Gloria Carra), a wealthy woman who employs indigenous workers to build a shed in the backyard of her beach house. After she sleeps with the foreman — who disappears soon after — she retreats behind the walls of her home as tensions with the workers begin to rise. Chen was previously at Sundance in 2002 with her feature debut Smokers Only and won awards at Locarno and Palm Springs with 2006 feature Agua.
Identifying Features (Mex-Sp)
Dir. Fernanda Valadez
Mexican filmmaker Valadez makes her feature debut with Identifying Features, the story of a mother who goes in search of her son — missing since he made his way to the US-Mexico border. On her travels she meets a man deported from the US who hopes to see his mother again. Valadez came to international attention with her 2014 short400 Maletas and produced Astrid Rondero’s The Darkest Days Of Us (2017). Identifying Features won the main prize at San Sebastian’s Films in Progress strand in September.
Contact: Alpha Violet
Dir. Zoé Wittock
Belgium-born Wittock makes her feature debut with this film about a shy young woman (Noémie Merlant, seen in Céline Sciamma’s Cannes 2019 award winner Portrait Of A Lady On Fire) who still lives at home with her uninhibited mother and works the night shift as a cleaner at an amusement park. When she becomes infatuated with a new ride at the park, this objectophilia leads her to act out an intimate scene with a tilt-a-whirl ride she names Jumbo. Wittock is currently developing her second feature with France’s Gaumont.
Dir. Zeina Durra
In this romantic drama, Andrea Riseborough plays a UK aid worker who returns to the ancient city of Luxor. There, she unexpectedly comes across Sultan (Karim Saleh), a talented archaeologist and former lover, reigniting old feelings. It marks UK writer/director Durra’s follow-up to her 2010 feature debut The Imperialists Are Still Alive!, which also premiered at Sundance. Film Clinic chief and Cairo International Film Festival director Mohamed Hefzy produces alongside Mamdouh Saba.
North America contact: Creative Artists Agency International contact: Totem Films
Dir. Brandon Cronenberg
Canadian writer/director Cronenberg (son of body-horror maestro David) follows debut featureAntiviral with a violent sci-fi thriller starring Andrea Riseborough as an agent working for a secretive organisation that uses brain implant technology to drive people to commit assassinations. She finds herself trapped in the mind of a man (played by Christopher Abbott) whose identity threatens to obliterate her own. Antiviral debuted at Cannes in 2012 and went on to win prizes at Toronto and Sitges film festivals.
Contact: Arclight Films
Summer White (Mex)
Dir. Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson
Mexican writer/director Ruiz Patterson makes his feature debut following eye-catching 2016 short Australia, with which he graduated with honours from Mexico’s prestigious Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica. His feature centres on Rodrigo, an introverted 13-year-old whose best friend and protector is his mother. When she lets a new boyfriend stay the night, a psychological battle ensues between this new man and the young teenager, who desperately fights back to regain his solace. Contact: Visit Films
Dir. Aneil Karia
Set over 24 hours, this thriller stars Ben Whishaw as a quiet man, largely ignored by the world, who goes on a reckless journey of self-liberation through London after robbing a bank. Karia, a 2014 ScreenStar of Tomorrow, makes his feature debut after directing TV dramas such as Top Boy for Netflix and shorts including Bafta-nominated Work. It is produced by Rooks Nest Entertainment (The Witch) with BBC Films and the BFI.
Contact: Protagonist Pictures
This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection (Lesotho-S Afr-It)
Dir. Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese
Set in the mountains of Lesotho, this feature centres on an 80-year-old widow who finds a new will to live when her village is threatened with forced resettlement due to the planned construction of a reservoir. Berlin-based Mosese is a self-taught filmmaker from Lesotho, whose documentary Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You. premiered at the Berlinale in 2019. His first film was 2013’s For Those Whose God Is Dead.
Contact: Memento Films
Yalda, A Night For Forgiveness (Iran-Fr-Ger-Switz-Lux)
Dir. Massoud Bakhshi
This Iranian feature is about a young woman who has been sentenced to death for killing her husband. Iranian law allows for the victim’s family to forgive her and spare her life, and the woman’s fate is therefore to be decided by the man’s daughter by his first wife on a popular televised reality show during the winter solstice celebration of Yalda. Tehran-born Bakhshi has roots in documentary but made the move into narrative features with A Respectable Family, which played in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes in 2012.
Contact: Pyramide International