The hottest films heading to Sundance 2013 include eagerly awaited biopics, the latest instalments in celebrated indie series and work from major documentary film-makers. Screen profiles some of the buzz titles.
With 103 world premieres heading to Park City this year, buyers will be spoilt for choice at Sundance — though, as ever, seeing through the festival hype to judge real commercial potential will be crucial.
The festival’s line-up includes several eagerly awaited biopics. These include closing night film jOBS from Joshua Michael Stern, a Premieres entry that could become the biggest ticket of the festival. Ashton Kutcher stars as the late Apple boss Steve Jobs. Open Road pounced on US rights at the start of the year in a deal with CAA on behalf of financier-producer Five Star Feature Films. Inferno handles international sales.
Also in Premieres is Michael Winterbottom’s The Look Of Love, starring Steve Coogan as adult entertainment kingpin Paul Raymond. Co-financier StudioCanal holds international rights and will distribute in the UK.
Amanda Seyfried, riding high on the success of Les Misérables, stars in Premieres entry Lovelace as the celebrated porn star Linda Lovelace. Nu Image handles international sales and Millennium Films represents North American rights.
Before Sunrise and Before Sunset’s Jesse and Celine as portrayed by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy continue their marathon love affair in Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight (Premieres) [pictured]. Cinetic is the US sales agent and IM Global handles international sales.
Park City alumnus Lynn Shelton follows Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister with Touchy Feely (US Dramatic Competition), about a massage therapist (Rosemarie DeWitt) who develops an aversion to bodily contact just as her uptight brother’s dental practice takes off. Submarine co-represents worldwide rights with UTA.
David Gordon Green is another Sundance hero, and his comedy-drama Prince Avalanche (Premieres) stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as highway workers horsing around in 1988. Cinetic represents North American rights.
Sundance has lapped up Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Hesher, Brick and Mysterious Skin, but what will the crowd make of the Looper star’s feature directorial debut? Don Jon’s Addiction (Premieres) stars Gordon-Levitt as a self-absorbed hedonist alongside Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore. WME and CAA co-represent North American rights and Voltage Pictures handles international sales.
Drake Doremus brought his widely admired debut Like Crazy to Park City in 2011 and Doremus reunites with UK actress Felicity Jones on Breathe In (Premieres), about an exchange student who upsets the dynamic of her host family’s household. Guy Pearce also stars and UTA holds North American rights.
UPDATE JAN 17: Calvin Reeder shocked audiences in 2011 with The Oregonian and returns to horror-mystery territory with The Rambler (Park City At Midnight). Dermot Mulroney stars and the producer roster includes XYZ Films, the Los Angeles-based trio behind The Raid: Redemption. Celluloid Nightmares handles international sales. Anchor Bay acquired North American, UK and Australian rights on the eve of Sundance.
The film-makers behind last year’s V/H/S anthology also return with S-VHS (Midnight), about private investigators who break into a house and discover a sinister collection of videos. WME represents worldwide rights.
Sebastian Silva’s The Maid won the Dramatic Jury Prize at Sundance in 2009 and his Old Cats screened in 2011. The Chilean film-maker returns with two new movies. Day one selection Crystal Fairy (World Cinema Dramatic Competition) is a druggy road-trip comedy starring Michael Cera. UTA holds North American rights. Cera also plays the lead in Silva’s horror entry Magic Magic (Midnight), about a lonely girl who unravels while on vacation in Chile. UTA represents North American rights and The Exchange is international sales agent.
Roger Corman presents Virtually Heroes (Midnight) — believe it or not, the first movie he has ever presented at Sundance. Paradigm represents rights.
Naomi Watts delivered one of the best performances of 2012 in The Impossible and is expected to bring her trademark intensity to the drama Two Mothers (Premieres), which was previously known as The Grandmothers. Watts stars alongside Robin Wright in the story of lifelong friends who fall for each other’s grown-up sons. CAA holds US rights and Gaumont is international sales agent.
Swedish commercials director Fredrik Bond makes his feature directorial debut on The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman (Premieres). Shia LaBeouf plays a young man in Bucharest who pursues a gangster’s girl, played by Evan Rachel Wood. Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger of Little Miss Sunshine fame produced the action comedy. CAA represents US rights and Voltage handles international sales.
Each year at Sundance there are at least a couple of comedies that boast crack casts of indie darlings.
In A.C.O.D. (Premieres) Adam Scott plays a man who learns he was part of a divorce study as a child. Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler and Mary Elizabeth Winstead round out the cast. WME holds worldwide sales rights.
The Way, Way Back (Premieres) is a rights-of-passage comedy set in a water park and stars Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph and Liam James. The Descendants screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash make their feature directorial debut. WME and CAA co-represent North American rights and Sierra/Affinity is the international sales agent.
Naomi Foner’s Very Good Girls (Premieres) has a strong cast including Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss and Ellen Barkin in the tale of two young women who fall for the same man. CAA is the North American sales agent while K5 represents international rights.
Upstream Color (US Dramatic Competition) marks Shane Carruth’s first feature in nine years since Primer won the Grand Jury Prize and the Alfred P Sloan Feature Film Prize at Sundance. The story follows a couple of damaged souls who struggle to piece their lives together.
In May In The Summer (US Dramatic Competition, day one film), Cherien Dabis’ follow-up to 2009 Park City hit Amreeka, Dabis plays a woman contemplating her impending marriage while travelling with her family in Jordan. Elle Driver represents worldwide rights.
Francesca Gregorini’s thriller Emanuel And The Truth About Fishes (US Dramatic Competition) is about a troubled girl who thinks her new neighbour may be her dead mother; Jessica Biel and Alfred Molina star. Preferred Content represents worldwide rights.
Actress Lake Bell’s feature directorial debut In A World… (US Dramatic Competition) is a comedy about a woman who follows in the footsteps of her father, a famous movie trailer voice-over artist. UTA is the North American sales agent.
Fruitvale (US Dramatic Competition) from Ryan Coogler is the true story of a Bay Area man who was shot by police on New Year’s Day 2009. WME represents worldwide rights.
David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (US Dramatic Competition) stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck and tells of an outlaw who sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his family. WME co-represents North American rights with Elevated Film Sales and The Weinstein Company holds international rights.
Yen Tan’s Pit Stop (NEXT) explores loneliness in rural America as two gay men in a small Texas town try to find that special someone. Preferred Content holds worldwide rights.
ICM Partners is the North American sales agent on Hannah Fidell’s A Teacher (NEXT), about a Texas High School teacher who has an affair with one of her students. Visit Films is the international sales agent.
Two Premieres entries deserve special mention. Fox Searchlight co-financed with Indian Paintbrush and holds worldwide rights to Stoker, the English-language debut of South Korea’s Park Chan-wook, whose Vengeance trilogy earned global adulation. Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode star in the family horror-mystery.
Jane Campion and Garth Davis direct the UK-Australia-New Zealand-US six-hour TV mystery Top Of The Lake, which will screen with an intermission and short lunch break. BBC Worldwide is the international distributor and See-Saw (The King’s Speech) produces.
A rich Documentary Premieres line-up includes: Sebastian Junger’s Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life And Time Of Tim Hetherington; rocker Dave Grohl’s directorial debut Sound City; Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks; Lucy Walker’s The Crash Reel; RJ Cutler and Greg Finton’s The World According To Dick Cheney; and Robert Stone’s nuclear power tale Pandora’s Promise.
Martha Shane and Lana Wilson’s abortion saga After Tiller screens in the US Documentary Competition, as do Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish, about a killer whale in captivity, and Steve Hoover’s HIV film Blood Brother. From the World Cinema Documentary Competition come Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer, Ben Lewis’ account of the world’s biggest online library project in Google And The World Brain and mountaineering tale The Summit from Passion Pictures, among others.