Sundance Film Festival

It’s that time of year again, where SAGindie and filmmakers from all over the world pack their most fashionable parkas and head to higher elevation. Yes, the 2015 Sundance Film Festival kicks off in Park City, Utah, on January 22, and we’ll be there to rub elbows, drink soul-warming beverages, and see an obscene amount of movies. From a huge and diverse slate of features, shorts, and documentaries playing at this year’s festival, take a look at which films the SAGindie staff is most excited to see.


Darrien’s Picks:

I Smile Back
I SMILE BACK (US Dramatic Competition, Directed by Adam Salky)
Laney Brooks does bad things. Married with kids, she takes the drugs she wants, sleeps with the men she wants, disappears when she wants. Now, with the destruction of her family looming, and temptation everywhere, Laney makes one last desperate attempt
at redemption.

Just really curious to watch Sarah Silverman finally act inappropriately.

JAMES WHITE (Sundance NEXT, Written and Directed by Josh Mond)
A young New Yorker struggles to take control of his reckless, self-destructive behavior in the face of momentous family challenges.
Because I love Josh Mond. There, I said it.

SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE (Sundance Premieres, Written and Directed by Leslye Headland)
Jake and Lainey impulsively lose their virginity to each other in college. When their paths cross 12 years later in New York, they realize they both have become serial cheaters. Bonding over their chronic infidelity, they form a platonic friendship to support each other in their quests for healthy romantic relationships.
Um….. No reason, really, just….. Um, sounds….. Interesting….. AS A FILM!!!

THE WOLFPACK (US Documentary Competition, Directed by Crystal Moselle)
Six bright teenage brothers have spent their entire lives locked away from society in a Manhattan housing project. All they know of the outside is gleaned from the movies they watch obsessively (and re-create meticulously). Yet as adolescence looms, they dream of escape, ever more urgently, into the beckoning world.
Just fascinating.

DIGGING FOR FIRE (Sundance Premieres, Directed by Joe Swanberg)
The discovery of a bone and a gun sends a husband and wife on separate adventures over the course of a weekend.
‘Cuz it sounds fun, and I NEED some fun while I’m freezing and tired and hungover working hard.


Eliza’s Picks:

TANGERINE (Sundance NEXT, Directed by Sean Baker)
A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.

WESTERN (US Documentary Competition, Directed by Bill Ross & Turner Ross)
For generations, all that distinguished Eagle Pass, Texas, from Piedras Negras, Mexico, was the Rio Grande. But when darkness descends upon these harmonious border towns, a cowboy and lawman face a new reality that threatens their way of life. WESTERN portrays timeless American figures in the grip of unforgiving change.

FINDERS KEEPERS (US Documentary Competition, Directed by Bryan Carberry & Clay Tweel)
Recovering addict and amputee John Wood finds himself in a stranger-than-fiction battle to reclaim his mummified leg from Southern entrepreneur Shannon Whisnant, who found it in a grill he bought at an auction and believes it therefore to be his rightful property.

CHUCK NORRIS VS. COMMUNISM (World Cinema Documentary Competition, Directed by Ilinca Calugareanu)
In 1980s Romania, thousands of Western films smashed through the Iron Curtain, opening a window to the free world for those who dared to look. A black market VHS racketeer and courageous female translator brought the magic of film to the masses and sowed the seeds of a revolution.

PERVERT PARK (World Cinema Documentary Competition, Directed by Frida Barkfors & Lasse Barkfors)
PERVERT PARK follows the everyday lives of sex offenders in a Florida trailer park as they struggle to reintegrate into society, and try to understand who they are and how to break the cycle of sex crimes being committed.


Colin’s Picks:

The D Train
THE D TRAIN (US Dramatic Competition, Written and Directed by Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel)
With his twentieth reunion looming, Dan can’t shake his high school insecurities. In a misguided mission to prove he’s changed, Dan rekindles a friendship with the popular guy from his class and is left scrambling to protect more than just his reputation when a wild night takes an unexpected turn.
If Bachelorette taught me anything, it’s that James Marsden plays a wonderful douchey party animal. I’m ready for an encore.

THE OVERNIGHT (US Dramatic Competition, Written and Directed by Patrick Brice)
In an attempt to acclimate to Los Angeles, a young couple spends an increasingly bizarre evening with the parents of their son’s new friend.
I’m not sure if I’ll be getting another God of Carnage with this one, or Sleepover. But I’m ready for anything.

THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT (US Dramatic Competition, Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez)
Based on actual events that took place in 1971, Stanford professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo created what became one of the most shocking and famous social experiments of all time.
I love prison movies, sociology, and terrible 1970s fashion so needless to say this movie was made for me.

EXPERIMENTER (Sundance Premieres, Written and Directed by Michael Almereyda)
EXPERIMENTER is based on the true story of famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who in 1961 conducted a series of radical behavior experiments that tested ordinary humans’ willingness to obey authority by using electric shock. We follow Milgram from meeting his wife through his controversial experiments that sparked public outcry.
Scientific proof that people will go to the dark side quicker than you’d expect? I’m in.

WELCOME TO LEITH (US Documentary Competition, Directed by Michael Beach Nichols & Christopher K. Walker)
A white supremacist attempts to take over a small town in North Dakota.
I can only assume that things do not go well.


Amanda’s Picks:

Z for Zachariah
For my first year at Sundance I’ve filled my slate with about as many movies as humanly possible, but here are some of the flicks I’m most excited for:

Z FOR ZACHARIAH (US Dramatic Competition, Directed by Craig Zobel)
In a post-apocalyptic world, a young woman who believes she is the last human on Earth meets a dying scientist searching for survivors. Their relationship becomes tenuous when another survivor appears. As the two men compete for the woman’s affection, their primal urges begin to reveal their true nature.
Hopefully an apocalyptic sci-fi that incorporates some things we haven’t seen before; looking forward to seeing how the last three humans even managed to survive, let alone find each other. How will two men and one woman live together? Sounds like the classic story of Adam and Adam and Eve.

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL (US Dramatic Competition, Written and Directed by Marielle Heller)
Minnie Goetze is a 15-year-old aspiring comic-book artist, coming of age in the haze of the 1970s in San Francisco. Insatiably curious about the world around her, Minnie is a pretty typical teenage girl. Oh, except that she’s sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend.
I’m a fan of most things based off graphic novels, and one that explores adolescence, especially a girl’s coming of age, I’m immediately on board for. Tie in the feelings she has for her mother’s boyfriend and things will really start to get awkward.

DOPE (US Dramatic Competition, Written and Directed by Rick Famuyiwa)
Malcolm is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.
Another teen drama, about a kid trying to make smart decisions in a rough neighborhood, looks to be more interesting than movies of a similar flair by tying in humor with the usual milieu of good and bad characters. Finally some new characters and new perspectives on screen.

THE WOLFPACK (US Documentary Competition, Directed by Crystal Moselle)
Six bright teenage brothers have spent their entire lives locked away from society in a Manhattan housing project. All they know of the outside is gleaned from the movies they watch obsessively (and re-create meticulously). Yet as adolescence looms, they dream of escape, ever more urgently, into the beckoning world.
So interested in this doc, and how film can influence and shape isolated creativity; the premise is almost unfathomable, and I can’t wait to see how the filmmaker found her way into these boys’ lives and told their story.

THE VISIT (World Cinema Documentary Competition, Directed by Michael Madsen)
“This film documents an event that has never taken place…” With unprecedented access to the United Nations’ Office for Outer Space Affairs, leading space scientists, and space agencies, THE VISIT explores humans’ first encounter with alien intelligent life and thereby humanity itself. “Our scenario begins with the arrival. Your arrival.”
Such and unique idea for a documentary focusing on what would happen if we were ever contacted by extraterrestrials; I’m not sure how you can really “document” an event that hasn’t happened yet but I’m excited to see them try. As a sci-fi lover I’m not sure how I can not appreciate this.

GIRLHOOD (Sundance Spotlight, Written and Directed by Céline Sciamma)
Oppressed by her family, dead-end school prospects, and the boys law in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of free-spirited girls. She changes her name and dress, and quits school to be accepted in the gang, hoping to find a way to freedom.
I’m not sure I’m going to be able to swing seeing this and it’s probably the thing I’m most sad about. Seeing characters on screen that aren’t usually represented is the best thing for any storytelling and the girls of Girlhood look to shine a new light on youthful independence — hopefully similar to the ladies of We Are the Best! Girls that aren’t afraid of showing their own identities and reveling in their own interests.



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