Top brass at the Park City festival have rounded out the feature line-up with a dazzling selection on paper that includes new work from Asif Kapadia and other returning alumni such as Todd Solondz, Taika Waititi and Joshua Marston.
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Road movie The Fundamentals Of Caring by Rob Burnett starring Paul Rudd will close the festival, while Maggie Greenwald’s Sophie And The Rising Sun is the Salt Lake City Gala Film. Heid Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You is a Day One Film.
The Premieres line-up introduces Indignation, the feature directorial debut from former Focus Features CEO and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon screenwriter James Schamus, and the latest world premieres from John Carney, Kenneth Lonergan, Ira Sachs and Diego Luna.
The Documentary Premieres section encompass latest films from Werner Herzog, Spike Lee, Liz Garbus and Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.
The Spotlight strand of programmers’ favourite titles from the festival circuit will afford festival-goers the chance to catch up with The Lobster, The Embrace Of The Serpent, Land Of Mine, Rams, Miles Ahead and Viva, among others.
The Special Events roster covers episodic work and shorts from the likes of Alex Gibney and Kevin Macdonald.
The Sundance Film Festival is scheduled to run from January 21-31 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Sundance and Ogden, Utah.
“The Sundance Film Festival is truly a place for discovery,” said festival director John Cooper. “We have seen an increase in younger audiences in recent years, showing that the next generation of independent film fans is culturally adventurous and drawn to the diverse lineup we offer each year.”
Director of programming Trevor Groth added: “Many of our selections this year reveal that what resides at the core of captivating stories are fascinating, and at times heroic, characters. In shining light on these people, independent filmmakers are doing what they’ve always done best: connecting the dots of human existence with a deeply charged emotional current.”
An announcement of the short film programme is forthcoming.
All synopses that appear below are provided by the festival. Every title hails from the US and is a world premiere unless stated otherwise.
A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated narrative films of the coming year.
Agnus Dei (France-Poland)
Director: Anne Fontaine
1945 Poland: Mathilde, a young French doctor, is on a mission to help World War II survivors. When a nun seeks her assistance in helping several pregnant nuns in hiding, who are unable to reconcile their faith with their pregnancies, Mathilde becomes their only hope.
Cast: Lou de Laâge, Agata Kulesza, Agata Buzek, Vincent Macaigne, Joanna Kulig, Katarzyna Dabrowska.
Ali & Nino (UK)
Director: Asif Kapadia
Muslim prince Ali and Georgian aristocrat Nino have grown up in the Russian province of Azerbaijan. Their tragic love story sees the outbreak of the First World War and the world’s struggle for Baku’s oil. Ultimately they must choose to fight for their country’s independence or for each other.
Cast: Adam Bakri, Maria Valverde, Mandy Patinkin, Connie Nielsen, Riccardo Scamarcio, Homayoun Ershadi.
Captain Fantastic (home page picture)
Director: Matt Ross
Deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and re-enter society, beginning a journey that challenges his idea of what it means to be a parent.
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, George MacKay, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Ann Dowd.
Director: Kelly Reichardt
The lives of three woman intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.
Cast: Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, James Le Gros, Jared Harris, Lily Gladstone.
Director: Joshua Marston
When Tom and his wife host a dinner party to celebrate his birthday, one of their friends brings a date named Alice. Tom is convinced he knows her, but she’s going by a different name and a different biography – and she’s not acknowledging that she knows him.
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates, Danny Glover.
Frank & Lola
Director: Matthew Ross
A psychosexual noir love story – set in Las Vegas and Paris – about love, obsession, sex, betrayal, revenge and, ultimately, the search for redemption.
Cast: Michael Shannon, Imogen Poots, Michael Nyqvist, Justin Long, Emmanuelle Devos, Rosanna Arquette.
The Fundamentals Of Caring
Director: Rob Burnett
Having suffered a tragedy, Ben becomes a caregiver to earn money. His first client, Trevor, is a hilarious 18-year-old with muscular dystrophy. One paralysed emotionally, one paralyzed physically, Ben and Trevor hit the road, finding hope, friendship, and Dot in this funny and touching inspirational tale.
Cast: Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle, Megan Ferguson, Frederick Weller.
CLOSING NIGHT FILM
Director: John Krasinski
Aspiring New York City artist John Hollar returns to his Middle America hometown on the eve of his mother’s brain surgery. Joined by his girlfriend, eight months pregnant with their first child, John is forced to navigate the crazy world he left behind.
Cast: John Krasinski, Anna Kendrick, Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley, Charlie Day.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople (New Zealand)
Director and screenwriter: Taika Waititi
Ricky is a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues, and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this heartwarming adventure comedy.
Cast: Julian Dennison, Sam Neill, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley.
Director: James Schamus
It’s 1951, and among the new arrivals at Winesburg College in Ohio are the son of a kosher butcher from New Jersey and the beautiful, brilliant daughter of a prominent alum. For a brief moment, their lives converge in this emotionally soaring film based on the novel by Philip Roth.
Cast: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts, Linda Emond, Danny Burstein, Ben Rosenfield.
Little Men (pictured)
Director: Ira Sachs
When 13-year-old Jake’s grandfather dies, his family moves back into their old Brooklyn home. There, Jake befriends Tony, whose single Chilean mother runs the shop downstairs. As their friendship deepens, however, their families are driven apart by a battle over rent, and the boys respond with a vow of silence.
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina Garcia, Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri.
Love & Friendship (Ireland-France-Netherlands)
Director: Whit Stillman
From Jane Austen’s novella, the beautiful and cunning Lady Susan Vernon visits the estate of her in-laws to wait out colorful rumors of her dalliances and to find husbands for herself and her daughter. Two young men, handsome Reginald DeCourcy and wealthy Sir James Martin, severely complicate her plans.
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Tom Bennett, Stephen Fry.
Manchester By The Sea
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
After his older brother passes away, Lee Chandler is forced to return home to care for his 16-year-old nephew. There he is compelled to deal with a tragic past that separated him from his family and the community where he was born and raised.
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler.
Mr. Pig (Mexico)
Director: Diego Luna
On a mission to sell his last remaining prize hog and reunite with old friends, an aging farmer abandons his foreclosed farm and journeys to Mexico. After smuggling in the hog, his estranged daughter shows up, forcing them to face their past and embark on an adventurous road trip together.
Cast: Danny Glover, Maya Rudolph, José María Yazpik, Joel Murray, Angélica Aragón, Gabriela Araujo.
Sing Street (Ireland)
Director: John Carney
A boy growing up in Dublin during the ’80s escapes his strained family life and tough new school by starting a band to win the heart of a beautiful and mysterious girl.
Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Mark McKenna.
Sophie And The Rising Sun
Director: Maggie Greenwald
In a small Southern town in the autumn of 1941, Sophie’s lonely life is transformed when an Asian man arrives under mysterious circumstances. Their love affair becomes the lightning rod for long-buried conflicts that erupt in bigotry and violence with the outbreak of World War ll.
Cast: Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Lorraine Toussaint, Takashi Yamaguchi, Diane Ladd, Joel Murray.
SALT LAKE CITY GALA FILM
Director: Todd Solondz
This film tells several stories featuring people who find their life inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading comfort and joy.
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Kieran Culkin, Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn, Julie Delpy, Zosia Mamet.
Renowned filmmakers and films about far-reaching subjects comprise this section highlighting our ongoing commitment to documentaries.
Eat That Question – Frank Zappa in His Own Words (France-Germany)
Director: Thorsten Schütte
This entertaining encounter with the premier of sonic avant-garde is acidic, fun-poking, and full of rich and rare archival footage. This documentary bashes favorite Zappa targets and dashes a few myths about the man himself.
Directors: JJ Garvine, Tai Parquet
Trace Bob Hawk’s early years as the young gay child of a Methodist minister to his current career as a consultant on some of the most influential independent films of our time.
LO AND BEHOLD, Reveries Of The Connected World
Director: Werner Herzog
Does the internet dream of itself? Explore the horizons of the connected world.
Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures
Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
This examination of Robert Mapplethorpe’s outrageous life is led by the artist himself, speaking with brutal honesty in a series of rediscovered interviews about his passions. Intimate revelations from friends, family, and lovers shed new light on this scandalous artist who ignited a culture war that still rages on.
Maya Angelou And Still I Rise
Directors: Bob Hercules, Rita Coburn Whack
The remarkable story of Maya Angelou — iconic writer, poet, actress and activist whose life has intersected some of the most profound moments in recent American history.
Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall
Director: Spike Lee
Catapulted by the success of his first major solo project, Off the Wall, Michael Jackson went from child star to King of Pop. This film explores the seminal album, with rare archival footage and interviews from those who were there and those whose lives its success and legacy impacted.
Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You
Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
How did a poor Jewish kid from Connecticut bring us Archie Bunker and become one of the most successful television producers ever? Norman Lear brought provocative subjects like war, poverty, and prejudice into 120 million homes every week. He proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism: laughter.
DAY ONE FILM
Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper
Director: Liz Garbus
Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper each tell the story of their past and present, their loves and losses, and reveal how some family stories have the tendency to repeat themselves in the most unexpected ways.
Director: James Redford
This film chronicles the birth of a new movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators, and communities using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction, and disease. These professionals help break the cycles of adversity by daring to talk about the effects of divorce, abuse, and neglect.
Richard Linklater—Dream Is Destiny
Directors: Louis Black, Karen Bernstein
This is an unconventional look at a fiercely independent style of filmmaking that arose in the 1990s from Austin, Texas, outside the studio system. The film blends rare archival footage with journals, exclusive interviews with Linklater on and off set, and clips from Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Boyhood and more.
Under The Gun
Director: Stephanie Soechtig
The Sandy Hook massacre was considered a watershed moment in the national debate on gun control, but the body count at the hands of gun violence has only increased. Through the lens of the victims’ families, as well as pro-gun advocates, we examine why our politicians have failed to act.
Unlocking The Cage
Directors: Chris Hegedus, Donn Alan Pennebaker
Follow animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. By filing the first lawsuit of its kind, Wise seeks to transform a chimpanzee from a “thing” with no rights to a “person” with basic legal protection.
Regardless of where these films have played throughout the world, the Spotlight programme is a tribute to the cinema we love. All films have premiered elsewhere.
Cemetery Of Splendor (Thailand)
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakull
A lonesome middle-aged housewife tends to a soldier with sleeping sickness and falls into a hallucination that triggers strange dreams, phantoms, and romance.
Cast: Jenjira Pongpas, Banlop Lomnoi, Jarinpattra Rueangram.
Embrace Of The Serpent (Colombia)
Director: Ciro Guerra
This blistering, poetic story is inspired by the original journals of scientists Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes, who meet lone survivor Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman. Over 40 years, they develop a friendship while traveling through the Colombian Amazon in search of the sacred, psychedelic yakruna plant.
Cast: Jan Bijvoet, Brionne Davis, Antonio Bolivar, Nilbio Torres, Miguel Dionisio Ramos.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
This wickedly fun horror-thriller tells a story about the owner of a neo-Nazi club who squares off against an unsuspecting but resilient young punk band after they witness a horrific act of violence.
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Patrick Stewart.
Land Of Mine /(Denmark)
Director: Martin Zandvliet
At the end of World War II, a group of young German POWs captured by the Danish army are forced to defuse and clear landmines from the Danish coastline with no training. Inspired by real events, the film exposes the untold story of one tragic moment in Denmark’s history.
Cast: Roland Møller, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Emil Belton, Oskar Belton.
The Lobster (Ireland-UK-Greece-France)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
In a dystopian near future, single people are obliged to find a mate in 45 days or else be transformed into an animal of their choice and be released into the woods.
Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman.
Director: Rebecca Miller
A young woman’s determination to have a child catapults her into a nervy love triangle with a heart-throb academic and his eccentric critical-theorist wife.
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel.
Director: Don Cheadle
Inspired by events in Miles Davis’s life, this is a wildly entertaining, impressionistic, no-holds-barred portrait of one of twentieth-century music’s creative geniuses.
Cast: Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lakeith Lee Stanfield, Michael Stuhlbarg.
Director: Grímur Hákonarson
In a remote Icelandic farming valley, two brothers who haven’t spoken in 40 years have to come together to save what’s dearest to them—their sheep.
Cast: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson.
Director: Paddy Breathnach
In contemporary Cuba, a father and son struggle to escape from each other’s expectations, duty, and the burden of past sins.
Cast: Héctor Medina, Jorge Perugorría, Luis Alberto García.
This section of the festival is especially for our youngest independent film fans. Programmed in cooperation with Utah Film Center which presents the annual Tumbleweeds Film Festival, Utah’s premiere film festival for children and youth.
The Eagle Huntress
Director: Otto Bell
Step aside, Daenerys and Katniss—Aisholpan is a real-life role model on an epic journey in a faraway world. Follow this 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl as she battles to become the first female to hunt with a golden eagle in 2,000 years of male-dominated history.
Little Gangster (Netherlands)
Director: Arne Toonen
Rik Boskamp wants a life where he’s not constantly bullied. When he and his family move, the people in their new town think his father is a Mafia boss, and everybody treats them with respect—until a bully from Rikkie’s past turns up. How long can he keep up his lie?
Cast: Thor Braun, Henry Van Loon, Rene Van ‘T Hof, Meral Polat, Fedja Van Huêt, Maas Bronkhuyzen.
North American premiere
Directors: Jean-François Pouliot, François Brisson
To amuse themselves during their winter break from school, the kids in a small village have a massive snowball fight. But what starts out as pure youthful fun and enthusiasm deteriorates into a more serious conflict as the children learn the role that love and friendship play in their lives.
Cast: Sandra Oh, Ross Lynch, Angela Gallupo, Lucinda Davis, Don Shepherd, Sonja Ball.
North American premiere
One-of-a-kind moments highlighting new independent works that add to the unique Festival experience. An evolving section, this year includes episodic work, short films and live post-screening discussions.
11.22.63 (main story picture)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy was killed, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Take a journey to find out in this genre-busting, epic new nine-hour event series. The Festival will debut the two-hour premiere of the series, followed by an extended Q&A.
Cast: James Franco, Sarah Gadon, Daniel Webber, George MacKay, Josh Duhamel, Chris Cooper.
Behind The Scenes Of Anomalisa
Directors: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson
Michael Stone – husband, father and respected author – is crippled by the mundanity of his life. On a business trip, he checks into the Fregoli Hotel. He’s amazed to discover a possible escape from his desperation in an unassuming woman, who may or may not be the love of his life. The Festival will present a screening of the film followed by a Q&A with the creators. Separately, they will speak on a Festival panel explaining their creative process and how they brought their extraordinary film to life.
Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan, David Thewlis.
Director: Eddie Schmidt
This four-part documentary series features Chelsea Handler as she explores topics of personal and universal fascination: marriage, racism, Silicon Valley, and drugs. The Festival will premiere one installment of the series with clips from the other three installments, followed by an extended Q&A with Chelsea Handler, Director Eddie Schmidt, and Executive Producer Morgan Neville.
The Girlfriend Experience
Directors: Lodge Kerrigan, Amy Seimetz
Law student Christine Reade is introduced to the world of transactional relationships in this original anthology series. Providing “The Girlfriend Experience” (an emotional and sexual relationship offered at a high price) gives Christine a rush of control and intimacy, but she soon finds herself juggling two very different lives. The Festival will premiere four episodes of the series, followed by an extended Q&A.
Cast: Riley Keough, Paul Sparks, Mary Lynn Rajskub, James Gilbert, Kate Lyn Sheil.
The New Yorker Presents
Executive Producers: Alex Gibney, Kahane Cooperman, Showrunner: Kahane Cooperman
A groundbreaking new series that brings America’s most award-winning magazine, The New Yorker, to the screen with documentaries, short narrative films, comedy, poetry, animation, and cartoons from the hands of acclaimed filmmakers and artists. The Festival will premiere the first two episodes of the series, followed by an extended Q&A.
O.J.: Made in America
Director: Ezra Edelman
This is the story of O.J. Simpson, one of the most polarizing people of the twentieth century, and the city in which he lived for much of his life, Los Angeles. The film explores Simpson’s rise and fall, centered around two of America’s greatest fixations —
race and celebrity. The festival will premiere the full 7.5-hour documentary, followed by an extended Q&A.
Director: Jessie Kahnweiler
Follow feminist and wannabe YouTube star Jessie as she struggles to live, love, and get over her bulimia. The Festival will premiere six 10-minute episodes, followed by an extended Q&A with Kahnweiler.
Cast: Jessie Kahnweiler, Illeana Douglas, Spencer Hill, Ryan Pinkston, Megan Ferguson, Sadie Calvano.
United Shades Of America
Executive Producers: Jimmy Fox, W. Kamau Bell, Star Price
Political comedian W. Kamau Bell explores the racial subcultures of America. In this original series premiere, he uses humor to challenge Klansmen looking to rebrand their message. The screening will include an extended Q&A.