I’m super excited for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. This will be my second year in attendance and last year I was amazed by the amazing works at the festival. This year I decided to plan in advance and get my tickets ahead of time (a must! I was kinda a kook last year). So I decided to list the films I’m most excited for, give it a read and feel free to comment your guys thoughts!
Sundance 2016 Picks
Reeling from a terrifying assault, a 19-year-old boy enrolls in the same college as his brother and pledges his fraternity. Swept up in a world of shotgunning beer, all-night ragers, and hooking-up with nameless coeds, a protective shell forms to mask his insecurities. But as the hazing escalates in the name of “brotherhood,” his loyalty to his brother is tested in brutal ways.
Director Andrew Neel’s documentary background is evident as Goat resounds with searing authenticity—rarely has such raw and terrifyingly truthful masculinity been captured on screen. The result exposes the brutal and violent aspects of male culture that lurk beneath the surface of our seemingly controlled society. The entire cast valiantly commits to the challenging roles and, combined with Neel’s assured direction, shine new light on male identity and how it’s formed. Part neorealism, part horror film, Goat is a riveting cinematic experience that is as important as it is brutal.
Just out of college, a young idealist filmmaker joined a secretive spiritualist community led by a charismatic guru. With camera in hand, this person documented 20 years of living inside a cult and the changing worldviews it elicited. Having recorded everything, this filmmaker offers us a juicy and unparalleled look into the extreme ideals and expectations that make up this community. From extreme devotion turned to paranoia, the cracks began to unfold as unexpected truths were revealed about the enlightened leader the community built every fiber of their lives around.
For the first time, the filmmaker opens up and asks fellow ex-cult members to come to terms with their past and the unbelievable deceit they experienced. Holy Hell leaves us with many burning questions, but ultimately this one: What are we willing to believe to sustain our greatest happiness?
Christine (Rebecca Hall) is an ambitious 29-year-old news reporter in Sarasota, Florida, circa 1974. Relentlessly motivated to succeed, she knows she has talent, but being a driven career woman in the 1970s comes with its own challenges, especially when competition for a promotion, unrequited love for a coworker, and a tumultuous home life lead to a dissolution of self. With ratings in the cellar, WZRB’s station manager issues a mandate to deliver juicier and more exploitative stories, a style firmly at odds with Christine’s serious brand of issue-based journalism. To accomplish her goals, she must overcome her self-doubt and give the people what they want.
As made evident in his previous features, Afterschool and Simon Killer, director Antonio Campos is well-versed in translating the damaged psyche to film. This latest effort elevates his style to the next level; bathed in dread and peppered with sharp humor, Christine is a hypnotic and arresting portrayal of a woman at a crossroads.
Many politicians have seen their careers careen off the tracks, but few instances have been captured so completely on film as the incisive and painfully funny Weiner. With unprecedented access to Anthony Weiner, his family, and his campaign team as they mount his New York City mayoral campaign, the film documents the impending political meltdown of epic proportions. What begins as an unexpected comeback from a disgraced ex-congressman takes a sharp turn once Weiner is forced to admit to new sexting allegations. As the media descends and rips apart his every move, Weiner tries desperately to forge ahead, but the increasing pressure and crippling 24-hour news coverage halts his political aspirations dead in their tracks.
Weiner deftly teeters the line between political farce and personal tragedy, exposing the ex-congressman’s hubris while highlighting the sheer ugliness of the media’s takedown of his family. With the city of New York as a loud and bustling backdrop, this documentary charges through an increasingly baffling political campaign with unflinching clarity, humor, and pathos.
Dark Night enigmatically unfolds over the course of a lazy summer day, as it traces the events leading up to a mass shooting in a suburban multiplex. Abandoning the narrative confines of the true crime genre, the story is told through fragmented moments from the lives of several characters, whose fates are tragically intertwined. As the sky grows darker, the placid surface of daily life becomes disturbed by a lurking and inevitable horror.
Tim Sutton, the writer/director of Memphis (2014 Sundance Film Festival), takes this ripped-from-the-headlines story of an all-too-common tragedy and immerses us in the emotional fabric of its young characters’ lives. Sutton deploys a keenly observant style and a recurring motif of guns to suggest the ever-present threat of violence in American life. With its lyrical images, evocative sound design, and mournful soundtrack, Dark Night is a quietly powerful elegy for the dead.
1967, the height of the cold war: the global race to put a man on the moon is afoot. Suspicions are brewing within the CIA that a Russian spy has infiltrated the inner-circle of NASA in an attempt to sabotage the Apollo Program. Two young agents from the CIA’s A/V department present a plan to expose the mole, and their supervisors reluctantly agree. They go undercover as filmmakers tasked with documenting the nation’s journey from the earth to the moon. To the chagrin of the powers that be, these crack agents uncover a conspiracy far more shocking than Soviet spies… The government is hiding a dark secret about Apollo, and the White House will stop at nothing to silence those who discover it.
Writer/director Matt Johnson’s debut film, The Dirties, premiered at Slamdance in 2013, where it won the top prize and garnered a cult following for its irreverent take on high school violence. We are thrilled to bring him back to Park City to unleash this throwback tale of government conspiracy.
You arrive at a secret location at a precise time, prompted by a mysterious email. You must follow the instructions closely. Once inside, disturbing visions begin. Unspeakable acts befall you—often frightening, sometimes sensual, possibly painful—each stimulating your deepest fears. And when it’s over, you are changed, abandoned, and left wondering what is real and what was merely a game.
In a culture that has embraced immersive theatre and interactive entertainment, the rise of extreme haunts such as the popular horror experience called Blackout has become essential to an obsessive audience that hungers to test the very limits of the dark unknown. Rich Fox’s otherworldly narrative-driven documentary shrewdly seeks out the survivors of some of Blackout’s most intense simulations, revealing an underbelly of private rituals and personal paranoia. Obliterating the line between the real and the imagined, this hybrid experiment dares its victims to stare into the hidden pleasures of a waking nightmare, and then it stares right back.
Colleen and Colleen are BFFs AF. Manitoba is where they go to school together, do yoga together, play in a band together, and work together at a boring convenience store. Life is whatevs, but also on fleek. That’s kinda what being 15 and a half is all about. #RealTalk
So when two older guys invite the Colleens to a senior party, the girls are determined to go no matter what—even if that “what” is a terrible, secret evil that threatens to destroy everything decent and polite about Canada. Can Colleen and Colleen save the day and go viral? Will those senior boys prove squad-worthy? And what was that about a convenience store? I swear it sounded familiar …
Writer and director Kevin Smith returns to the Sundance Film Festival with an intoxicatingly silly pulp tale for the Instagram age. Powered by the irrepressible energy of its young stars—and some impressive work from a hilarious supporting cast that includes Johnny Depp, Tony Hale, and Natasha Lyonne—the story charges ahead into gleeful nonsense. Get ready to rock oot!
UNDER THE SHADOW
In 1988 Tehran, Shideh’s attempts to rejoin medical school after getting married and having daughter Dorsa are thwarted as a consequence of her politically active history. Her husband is sent off to serve in the Iran-Iraq War while Iraqi air raids draw perilously close to their own apartment. As she is left alone with Dorsa after neighbors and friends flee from a city in chaos, her daughter becomes increasingly ill and seemingly disturbed. Shideh initially dismisses Dorsa’s tantrums over a missing doll, but she reluctantly comes to suspect that they’ve been targeted by djinn—malevolent spirits that steal from those they seek to possess.
Babak Anvari’s ambitious feature debut blends period detail and social critique with a good old-fashioned horror story, crafting a film that is as smart as it is scary. Anchored by Narges Rashidi’s stellar performance, Under the Shadow presents Shideh’s experience as a strong, defiant woman—frustrated by a society that has consistently admonished her for her independence—as she single-handedly battles a multitude of dangers from both the physical and supernatural worlds in order to save herself and her child.
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