Sundance 2016 | Ten Movies We Can’t Freaking Wait For
We are just days away from The Sundance Film Festival, an annual celebration of cinema that takes place in Park City, UT, which forces Los Angeles natives to buy cold weather clothing once a year. And what makes all of us sun-drenched Hollywood types trek all the way to the mountains and freeze our toes off at high altitudes? The promise of great new movies, of course. What else?
It’s impossible to predict which film will become the next big Sundance sensation. Or at least, it’s really, really hard. The whole point of this festival is to find the next wave of brilliant filmmakers, many of whom have only just made their very first movie, and who will take us completely by surprise. Quentin Tarantino came to Sundance with Reservoir Dogs. The Coen Bros. came with Blood Simple. Kevin Smith came with Clerks. Nobody knew what was coming, and nobody was quite the same afterwards.
But we can look at the schedule of upcoming films and get excited about all the impressive filmmakers who are returning to Sundance, and a few of the new motion pictures from new artists that sound particularly intriguing on paper. These are the films that you can bet we’re going to see once we get to Sundance this year, and we plan to bring you reviews and interviews galore.
So take a look at the films that sound fascinating enough to get us on an uncomfortable airplane and brave weather conditions utterly alien to us. These are the ten movies we can’t freaking wait for at Sundance 2016.
The Birth of a Nation
The title alone is a declaration. Bearing the same name as one of the most important – and most racist – motion pictures in history, The Birth of a Nation is the directorial debut of Nate Parker, who also stars as Nathaniel “Nat” Turner, who led a slave rebellion in 1831. The ambition of the project should put The Birth of a Nation on everybody’s radar.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
What We Do in the Shadows co-director Taika Waititi’s next film was always going to be on our radar, even if he had skipped directly to his first big budget gig, Thor: Ragnarok. Fortunately, he took the time between projects to direct Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a coming of age story about a child who goes on the run with his foster uncle when tragedy strikes. A manhunt ensues, apparently, but we’re less interested in the plot than we are in seeing where Waititi’s charming and utterly personable sense of humor takes him – and us – next.
LO AND BEHOLD Reveries of a Connected World
Werner Herzog is one of the great documentarians, period, and his latest project may be amongst his most ambitious. LO AND BEHOLD Reveries of a Connected World is the story of the internet, told by its pioneers and its victims, and knowing Herzog he will probably consider whether the internet itself is a living, breathing entity that is aware of its own existence. What has our world become in this fascinating, frightening Age of Information? If any filmmaker can tell us, it is probably Werner Herzog.
Love & Friendship
Whit Stillman directs Jane Austen? It sounds too perfect to be true, but here we are, with the modern master of sly wit adapting Lady Susan, an unpublished novel from the 19th century master of sly wit. Kate Beckinsale stars as a widow, hiding out after a public indiscretion, who amuses herself by playing matchmaker. Stillman’s sense of humor has always been a wonderful delivery system for thoughtful stories about characters who are rarely as smart as they think they are, and Austen could probably be described the same way. Will Love & Friendship live up to its pedigree? We can’t wait to find out.
Manchester By The Sea
Kenneth Lonergan’s directorial debut, You Can Count On Me, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2000, and he’s only directed one film since, the vastly underrated and utterly brilliant character study Margaret. He’s returning to Sundance this year with a film that stars Casey Affleck as a man whose brother unexpectedly dies, forcing him to take care of his teenaged nephew. Lonergan’s subtle and insightful approach to drama, and the impossibly realistic characters who live out his stories, makes us impossibly eager to see what he’s got for us now with Manchester By The Sea.
As a filmmaker, Rob Zombie is probably best known for his controversial Halloween movies, but he’s far more interesting when he comes up with his own original material. After the rich and creepy Lords of Salem, we’d be excited to see just about anything he could come up with, and we get to find out at Sundance. 31 is the story of a group of friends who are kidnapped and forced to play a violent game in which they fight homicidal clowns, a plot which doesn’t promise a lot of meaningful insight into the human condition but does – at least – promise a ton of badass nightmare fuel. Sundance isn’t just a place for thoughtful dramas. Sometimes it also kicks butt.
Under the Shadow
Raising a child in Tehran in 1988 is probably difficult enough without having a djinn in your home, but that’s exactly what the protagonist of Babak Anvari’s intriguing horror movie Under the Shadow has to deal with. The concept sounds a lot like recent Sundance sensation The Babadook but with an infusion of political commentary, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The horror genre can be an exceptional medium through which filmmakers express social and political commentary, and as such we have very high hopes for Under the Shadow.
Todd Solondz has broken our hearts time and time again, and we love him for it. But maybe this time he’s got something different in store. Wiener-Dog supposedly tells the story of the various lives touched by an adorable dachshund, including Dawn Wiener, the protagonist of Solondz’s original breakout Sundance sensation Welcome to the Dollhouse. Could Wiener-Dog possibly be as cuddly as it sounds, or does Solondz plan to pull the rug out from under us and do something terrible to this poor little dog? It will probably give us all the feels either way, for better or worse.
German filmmaker Nicolette Krebitz comes to Sundance with a bold concept: Wild is about a woman who falls in love, and lust, with a wolf. How far this story goes is anyone’s guess (for now), but the promise of a film that dares to push the boundaries, and possibly make powerful statements about social conventions and sexuality (female or otherwise), is incredibly enticing. Wild is driving us wild with curiosity.
Kevin Smith’s previous horror comedy Tusk may not have been our cup of tea (to put it mildly), but even though Yoga Hosers is a spin-off of that ill-conceived piece of Canucksploitation, it looks like an entirely separate entity. Starring the daughters of Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp, this film is about a pair of convenience store clerks (sound familiar?) who discover an ancient evil buried underneath their store (okay, maybe it’s not so familiar). A renewed focus on young and aimless youth, which was formerly Smith’s greatest asset as a filmmaker, makes us wonder if maybe Yoga Hosers might be the long-awaited return to form for the once-and-former Sundance prodigy.
Top Photo Courtesy of Sundance Institute
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.