Starting tomorrow, Park City will once again be the center of the filmmaking universe for 10 days of quality documentaries, transmedia projects, short films and features from some of the world’s most talented filmmakers, writers and visual creators. Born out of the independent spirit we embrace as vital in film’s artistic evolution and not a bottom-line focused puppy mill, some may argue that recent editions of the Sundance Film Festival have become void of its true indie roots, focusing more on lucrative corporate partnerships then quality filmmaking. Despite the criticism, it is undeniable that, year after year, Sundance provides audiences with low budget, independent and art house films which would, by other means, struggle to find the same reach as its seminal favorites.
We have compiled a list of some of our most looked forward to films at this years edition of the Sundance Film Festival. Going through the entire slate of films, representatives from the documentary, midnight and narrative (US & International) have found their way onto this list, representing a slew of themes, ideas, visual approaches and social criticisms that only the autonomous world of unfiltered, independently produced filmmaking can effectively provide.
Directed by Park Chan-Wook
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Nicole Kidman
The first foray into the English language from South Korean ‘Oldboy’ Director Park-Chan Wook, ‘Stoker’ is a haunting, multi-layered glimpse into the mind of those void of morality in an increasingly isolated world. Nothing is as it seams as an ensemble cast, talented writing discovery Wentworth Miller and an established visionary combine forces to bring, surely, one of 2013’ most talked about films.
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheriden, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard
Fresh of its premier at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, ‘Take Shelter’ Director Jeff Nichols brings his third feature to Sundance. Continuing the re emergence of Matthew McConaughey into a staple of quality indie film (see 2012’s ‘Bernie’ and ‘Killer Joe’ amongst others), ‘Mud’ ventures down similar paths as last years big winner ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’. With wonder, mystery, possibility and confusion abound in a deep-south set coming-of-age-tale; ‘Mud’ is an unbridled aesthetic experience with the visual flares of a talented directorial presence.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Directed by David Lowery
Starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker, Keith Carradine
What seems to be an early contender for the “feel bad” movie of the year, ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as a 20th Century outlaw couple struggling with the consequences of traditional justice in a modern world. A combination of ‘Natural Born Killers’, ‘Badlands’ and ‘Bonnie & Clyde’, ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ offers a distinctly humanist perspective on the nature of crime, love, family and redemption.
Directed by Calvin Lee Reeder
Starring Dermot Mulroney, Lindsay Pulsipher, Natasha Lyonne, James Cady, Scott Sharot
The traditional representations of modern Americana, from its lost highways to back-alleys, are fully explored when a mysterious stranger embarks on a soul-searching journey of reconnection following his incarceration discharge. Intercut with sequences of graphic violence and supernatural hallucinations, ‘The Rambler’ mixes twisted humor and social criticism into a genre-less meditation of modern depravity.
Directed by Sebastian Silva
Starring Michael Cera, Juno Temple, Emily Browning, Catalina Sandino, Agustin Silva
An unsettling film about sexual repression and the fear of isolation, starring the talented young cast of Michael Cera, Juno Temple and Emily Browning, ‘Magic Magic’ offers a glimpse inside the troubled mind of chronic insomnia. The lines between reality and nightmare are blurred against the lush backdrop of the Chilean landscape, as talented director Sebastian Silva and the top-flight cinematography team of Christopher Doyle and Glenn Kaplan offer a unique look at the effects of even our most mundane choices.
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Starring Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Patricia Clarkson
In the world of modern socio-economic disparity, ‘The East’ carves its place into the conversation with an intense and interesting look into the world of anarchy and idealism. With an ensemble cast headed by Brit Marling, Director Zal Batmanglij (‘The Sound of My Voice’) sophomore effort is undeniably relevant as words like Occupy, Anonymous, Omnipotent and Corporatization become ever more prevalent in the cultural zeitgeist.
Directed by Shaul Schwarz
The sole documentary on our list (this is no way indicative of a weak documentary program, including ‘The Life & Time of Tim Hetherington’, ‘We Steal Stories’, ‘Sound City’ and ‘The World According to Dick Cheney’), ‘Narco Cultura’ explores the increasingly dangerous world of American free-market fueled Mexican narco trafficking, especially in an age of heavy sensationalism throughout the mass media. All sides of the debate are explored in this artfully shot documentary on one of the 21st centuries most dangerous subcultures.
Directed by Sean Ellis
Starring Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla, Althea Vega
In a world premier from celebrated short film director Sean Ellis, ‘Metro Manila’ offers a glimpse into the cutthroat world of Philippine slum life. The choices we make for our families, and in the name of a better life, are explored as one of the world’s most populous and bustling metropolises (and all its socio-economic disparity) struggles to develop, as culture and community.
Directed by Quentin Dupieux
Starring Marilyn Manson, Mark Burnham
Gonzo filmmaking of the highest degree, ‘Wrong Cops’ is the latest from ‘Rubber’ Director and French electronic musician Quentin Dupieux (aka Mr. Oizo). In an alternate universe Los Angeles, the crime rate has dropped to the point where police must entertain themselves through the harassment of an innocent population. Shot in chapters and released as part of a larger transmedia project, ‘Wrong Cops’ is the first 45 minutes of the social meta-order, surrealist fantasy.
The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman
Directed by Fredrik Bond
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger, Rupert Grint, James Buckley
A impulsive American transplant; a mysterious Russian Moll; Mads Mikkelsen and Til Schweiger as hard-nosed Eastern European goons; ‘The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman’ is a full sensory stimulation as a cast of colorful, yet disturbed characters fighting for love in a land where emotion may very well get you killed. Renowned Swedish commercial director Fredrik Bond pulls Shia LaBeouf further into ex-Spielberg protégé territory, and the always-excellent Evan Rachel Wood personifies withdrawn nihilism in this frantic odyssey of meaning and salvation.
– Steve Rickinson