The second year of the Indie Episodic section at Sundance Film Festival brings world premieres of the Nick Hornby marriage therapy comedy State Of The Union directed by Stephen Frears and starring Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd, and Kyra Sedgwick’s Girls Weekend, about a queer daughter who returns for a family gathering in Las Vegas.
Festival programmers have lined up 12 Episodic works, alongside four special events, among them Gregg Araki’s half-hour Starz comedy series Now Apocalypse about the misadventures of four friends in Los Angeles. Steven Soderbergh is among the executive producers.
Special Events includes Amazon Studios’ Lorena Bobbitt documentary series Lorena, on which Jordan Peele serves as executive producer, and Untitled Amy Berg Documentary, in which the Oscar-nominated filmmaker explores feminism and discrimination.
Of the projects announced on Monday (December 3), 53% were directed or created by one or more women; 51% were directed or created by one or more filmmaker of colour; and 26% by one or more people who identify as LGBTQIA. Twelve were supported by Sundance Institute in development, whether through direct granting or residency Labs.
All synopses provided by the festival. Entries hail from the US and are world premiere unless stated otherwise.
Past projects that have played in this category include I’m Poppy, Mr. Inbetween, and America To Me.
Creator: Danielle Uhlarik
Director: Stephanie Laing
Best friends Madeline and Aimee are underdog entrepreneurs who launch a fashion and tech startup out of a garage in their hometown of Kansas City. The duo’s overly positive attitude convinces two other coders to join them on their broke-ass entrepreneurial journey to make BitchThatWouldLookBetterOnMe.Com a household name.
Cast: Danielle Uhalrik, Maribeth Monroe, Sam Richardson, Kezii Curtis, Nancy Lenehan, Erika Alexander.
Delhi Crime Story (India)
Director and screenwriter: Richie Mehta
Following the Delhi Police during their investigation of a horrific gang rape of a young woman on a bus in 2012. Based on actual events and case files.
Cast: Shefali Shah, Rasika Dugal, Rajesh Tailang, Adil Hussain, Gopal Datt, Vinod Sherawat.
Director and screenwriter: Kate Krieger
Tricia is a woman struggling with her identity, living in a fiercely Catholic household leading a double life, selling drugs to make ends meet and carrying on an affair. She fights for the courage to embrace her future as the first of many delivery girls.
Cast: Kate Krieger, Adam LeFevre, Liz Larsen, Joe Holt.
Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared (UK)
Creators and screenwriters: Becky Sloan, Joseph Pelling, Baker Terry
In the small town community of Clayhill, roommates Red Guy, Yellow Guy and Duck live simple, uneventful lives - until Mayor Pigface disappears.
Cast: Baker Terry, Joseph Pelling, Becky Sloan.
The Dress Up Gang
Creators: Robb Boardman, Cory Loykasek, Donny Divanian
Executive Producers: Dave Kneebone, Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim
Donny, a responsible adult with the innocence and outlook of a child, relies on guidance and life advice from his friend Cory, the dad-like thirtysomething who has been crashing on his couch for quite some time.
Cast: Donny Divanian, Cory Loykasek, Frankie Quinones, Andie MacDowell, Christian Duguay, Brent Weinbach.
Director: Kyra Sedgwick
Creator: Ali Liebegott
When a queer daughter returns home to Las Vegas for a “girls weekend” with her estranged homophobic sister and people-pleasing mother, her gun-toting dad lets it slip that her mother’s cancer is back with a vengeance, forcing her to decide whether or not she can rejoin her family.
Cast: Ali Liebegott, Linda Lavin, Amy Landecker, Ken Jenkens.
It’s Not About Jimmy Keene
Creator: Caleb Jaffe
Executive Producers: Jim Frohna, Diana Kunce
The police shooting of an unarmed black teen reveals deep divisions within a mixed race family.Ivan, the youngest sibling, stalked by visions of Jimmy Keene’s floating corpse,is torn between opposing worldviews of his two older sisters.
Cast: Caleb Jaffe, Roger Guenveur Smith, Gabrielle Maiden, Okwui Okpokwasili, Ayana Peters, David Warshofsky.
Director and screenwriter: Sasha Gordon
A darkly comedic series about a struggling new mom who ditches her dreary postpartum group for the stand-up comedy class next door. In the pilot episode, Maggie struggles with inappropriate fantasies about her live-in nanny.
Cast: Christine Woods, David Walton, Maddison Ridley, Veronica Mosey, Dina Hashem, Jon Bander.
Quarter Life Poetry
Creator: Samantha Jayne, Arturo Perez Jr.
Screenwriter: Samantha Jayne
Poems for the young, broke and hangry.
Cast: Samantha Jayne, Tori Ward, Meredith Thomas, Hailey Harris, Samantha Dockser, Tyler Haines.
State Of The Union (UK, pictured)
Creator: Nick Hornby
Director: Stephen Frears
Producer: Amy Jackson
Executive Producers: Jamie Laurenson, Hakan Kousetta, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Nick Hornby, Stephen Frears.
Every week before their weekly marital therapy session, estranged couple Tom and Louise meet at a pub to try and get their story straight for the therapist. With each successive episode we piece together how their lives were, what drew them together and what has started to pull them apart.
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Chris O’Dowd.
Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics And Men
Director: Sacha Jenkins
Executive Producers: Peter J Scalettar, Peter Bittenbender, Chris Gary
The cultural history of Wu-Tang Clan; artists who escape the poverty, violence, and oppression of their neighborhoods through music. They encounter wild success and heartbreak along the way to becoming the most recognized musical movement in the world – all while walking the tightrope that links business with brotherhood.
Cast: All members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Work In Progress
Creators and screenwriters: Abby McEnany, Tim Mason
After her therapist dies mid-session and she begins to date a trans man, Abby is forced to re-evaluate her life choices, her dating options and whether or not to confront the woman responsible for ‘ruining her life’: SNL’s Julia Sweeney.
Cast: Abby McEnany, Theo Germaine, Karin Anglin, Celeste Pechous, Julia Sweeney, Alison Gates.
Past projects that have played in this category include Wild Wild Country, Top Of The Lake, O.J.: Made In America, and The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst.
Documentary Now! Season 52 Preview
The documentary series returns. Celebrate the art of nonfiction storytelling as the creators of Documentary Now! present two new films: “Waiting for the Artist”, starring Cate Blanchett and Fred Armisen, and “Original Cast Album: Co-op”, starring John Mulaney, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Alex Brightman, Paula Pell, Richard Kind and Taran Killam. Post screenings, they will share their insights into these two episodes from the upcoming season and about the game of paying loving homage to documentary filmmaking.
Untitled Amy Berg Documentary
Director: Amy Berg, Producers: Amy Berg, Paul McGuire, Ruchi Mital, Joy Gorman Wettels
While the 2016 election catalysed the Women’s March and a new era of feminist activism, Tamika Mallory and Erika Andiola have been fighting for their communities for decades. Their stories expose the fundamental connection between personal and political and raise the question: what’s intersectionality and can it save the world?
Executive Producers: Joshua Rofé, Steven J Berger, Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Thomas Lesinski, Jenna Santoianni
25 years after the notorious case of John and Lorena Bobbitt, this groundbreaking series re-investigates the story that made international headlines and helped birth a 24-hour news cycle, exploring vital moral issues and the missed opportunity for a national discussion about domestic violence and sexual assault within this American scandal.
Director: Gregg Araki
Executive Producers: Gregg Araki, Gregory Jacobs, Steven Soderbergh
Ulysses and his friends are trying to navigate Los Angeles, as they pursue love, sex and fame. Between dating app adventures, Ulysses grows increasingly troubled as foreboding dreams make him paranoid – or maybe he’s just smoking too much weed.
Cast: Avan Jogia, Kelli Berglund, Beau Mirchoff, Roxane Mesquida.
For the full line-up of the 73 shorts, visit the official website.
Kim Yutani, the festival’s director of programming, said: “Our newly expanded programming team took in a full spectrum of human experience across genres and formats in creating this year’s festival programme. Following the success of last year’s inaugural Indie Episodic section, we’re immensely proud to showcase these stories told across installments, alongside several provocative, conversation-starting Special Events.”
Mike Plante, senior programmer, added: “This year’s crop of shorts are rowdy, reflective, visionary – we are excited to discover so many new voices and perspectives on today’s world.”
Sundance Film Festival 2019 runs from January 24-February 3.