After two years of virtual festivals, Sundance is overdue for a comeback. The Park City event is set to return to Park City on January 19 and continue through January 29. While films will still be available to online ticket holders starting January 24, the main emphasis will be the in-person experience that put Sundance on the map in the first place.
While the pandemic disrupted the film industry in 2020, Sundance managed to take place that year just before the shutdowns, launching future Best Picture winner “CODA” into an unpredictable landscape. Now, the market and culture of moviegoing remains in flux, and Sundance is poised to return to the scene just in time to launch a wide array of movies into that ever-changing climate.
And there are a lot of movies in contention. After countless productions were put on hold at the start of the pandemic, they’ve been revving back to action over the past year, and many filmmakers have been waiting for the prospects of a boisterous Sundance premiere for months. As usual, programmers are digging through thousands of submissions as they hustle to lock the lineup in time for Thanksgiving, with the lineup poised to be announced in late November.
In the meantime, IndieWire’s Sundance wish list is back to gather the buzz on many of the most promising movies angling for a slot at America’s highest-profile festival as it aims to reclaim its influence. We’ve asked around, and trust us: These movies are worth getting excited for. Now let’s see if they make the cut.
Sam Bergeson, Christian Blauvelt, Jude Dry, David Ehrlich, Kate Erbland, Alison Foreman, Marcus Jones, Ryan Lattanzio, Brian Welk, and Christian Zilko contributed to this article.
Director: Chiaki Yanagimoto and Ben Braun
This documentary is based on David E. Kaplan and Andrew Marshall’s acclaimed 1996 nonfiction book, with a title that says it all: “The Cult at the End of the World: The Terrifying Story of the Aum Doomsday Cult, from the Subways of Tokyo to the Nuclear Arsenals of Russia.” Centered on the eerie cult known as Aum Supreme Truth, it tells the story of New Age zealots intent on destroying the worlds — with the technological tools to do it.
Both terrifying and essential for the way it shows the fundamental vulnerability of society, the documentary promises a revealing look at the group responsible for the sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway in 1995 and the ensuing trial of cult leader Shoko Asahara, who was executed in 2018. A cautionary tale about the dangers of misinformation and religious convictions, “Aum” promises to reintroduce these shocking events with the historical context they deserve. —EK
“A Thousand and One”
Director: A.V. Rockwell
Cast: Teyana Taylor, Josiah Cross
A.V. Rockwell is a rising star who should be on everyone’s radar, but she’s been building up to that point for some time. Back in 2016, the then-student won the top prize of the Through Her Lens: Tribeca Chanel Women’s Filmmaker Program, a three-day intensive which ended with her pitching her short film concept, “Feathers,” to a starry jury. Two years later, the short premiered at TIFF, setting Rockwell on a course to making her feature debut, “A Thousand and One,” which also aims to tell a sensitively rendered story about a young Black family just trying to get by.
While “Feathers” focused primarily on a young Black boy trying to find his place in the world, “A Thousand and One” expands out that idea to follow both a striving mother (Teyana Taylor) and her own son (Josiah Cross) as they pursue a similar goal. The twist (if it can be called that) is that Taylor’s Inez must first break Terry (Cross) out of the foster care system. Will they succeed? Will they heal their family? Rockwell’s film promises to answer those questions and more, but anyone familiar with herearly work knows the results are going to be worth the wait. —KE
Director: James Adolphus
Mary Tyler Moore
Lena Waithe serves as an executive producer on this trenchant look at Mary Tyler Moore from director James Adolphus (“Soul of a Nation”), which was recently acquired by HBO. The first authorized look at Moore since her 2017 death, the documentary promises to encompass everything from her early days on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to her remarkable seven-season run on her own famed sitcom that changed the way women were portrayed on television.
She was later nominated for an Oscar in “Ordinary People,” and found another moment to reenter the zeitgeist with 1996’s “Flirting with Disaster,” all while overcoming alcoholism and diabetes. For the many generations impacted by that legacy — and others who deserve to know about it — “Being Mary” is a welcome return to Moore’s impact and should make some noise at Sundance, just as Amy Poehler’s “Lucy and Desi” documentary did well there last year. —EK
“A Bitter Pill”
Director: J. Clay Tweel
Tweel has a promising history at Sundance, where his documentaries “Finders Keepers” and “Gleason” were big hits that sold big. The latter was a powerful look at former American footballer Steve Gleason’s struggles with ALS. Now, Tweel has expanded his frame to look at a major lawsuit against a drug manufacturer. The movie follows the efforts of Paul T. Farrell Jr., an attorney who led a lawsuit against three major U.S. drug distributors for causing a health crisis in one West Virginia county.
While Laura Poitras’ Nan Goldin documentary “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” is already putting the opioid crisis under the microscope, “A Bitter Pill” promises to keep the conversation going to show how this particular epidemic is engineered to keep its victims from receiving the restitution they deserve. That conversation is poised to keep getting louder. —EK
Director: Kit Zauhar
Cast: Kit Zauhar, Zne Pais, Jesse Pinnick
After making a splash at BAMcinemaFest with her debut feature “Actual People,” Kit Zauhar could continue to build momentum with her second film, “This Closeness.” The drama looks to be a departure from the coming-of-age beats of her first film, telling the story of a war of attrition that takes place when a young couple stays at the home of a mysterious host. Zauhar also stars alongside Zane Pais and Jesse Pinnick. —CZ
Director: Hannah Pearl Utt
Cast: Megan Stalter, JoJo T. Gibbs, Heather Morris, Manny Jacinto, Thomas Mann
Director Hannah Pearl Utt has a serious knack for taking seemingly been-there, done-that ideas and turning them into uniquely revelatory dramedies. Her 2019 Sundance premiere “Before You Know It” followed a pair of sisters (Utt and co-writer Jen Tullock) shocked to discover that their mother — who they long thought was very dead — is actually very much alive as a wacky soap star who lives mere blocks from their rundown Greenwich Village brownstone (where they also host a well-respected but flailing black box theater). High jinks occur and quirkiness reigns, but Utt’s love for her nutty characters is apparent in every frame.
We can likely expect the same from her follow-up, which stars “Hacks” breakout Megan Stalter as the titular Cora Bora, who has recently opened up her relationship only to discover that her love life is not the only thing needing a change. Sounds like classic Sundance, right? But leave it to Utt to take that idea and run with it into entirely new spaces. —KE
“Confessions of a Good Samaritan”
Director: Penny Lane
Over the course of nearly two decades in the documentary space, director Penny Lane has made a wonderful career out of turning stories of the tension between altruism and notoriety into hilarious, moving, and insightful adventures. She did it for Kenny G. She did it for The Satanic Temple. She even did it for the guy who tried to use goat testicles as a cure for impotence. So when Lane has a new film out that’s already billed as being “funny and moving,” by golly, you can bet it’s going to be both of those things.
This time around, Lane turns the camera on herself, with her latest chronicling her attempts to give away a kidney to a stranger. It’s a nice fit for Lane, and one ripe with possibilities. No, don’t go looking for information on whether or not she “succeeded” in her quest. You’ll spoil the fun! —KE
“Glitter and Doom”
Director: Tom Gustafson
Cast: Alex Diaz, Alan Cammish, Tig Notaro, Ming-Na Wen, Missi Pyle, Lea Delaria
Elton John and Alanis Morrissette each have jukebox musicals, so it’s high time the Indigo Girls get their very own rendition. But instead of starting out on Broadway, this one is going straight to the big screen. Shot in Mexico City, the fantastical musical follows a romance between a charismatic musician and a carefree kid who wants to join the circus. The queer romance stars two dashing newcomers as the young lovers, based on the real-life romance between director Tom Gustafson and producer Cory Krueckeberg. With supporting turns from Tig Notaro and Lea Delaria, there will be plenty of familiar faces for Indigo Girls fans — including appearances from Indigo Girls themselves, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. —JD
Director: Maite Alberdi
Chilean director Alberdi’s “The Mole Agent” was one of the great surprises of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, a winsome and touching look at an elderly man who infiltrates an old-age home, and it went on to land an Oscar nomination. Alberdi was already one of the most exciting documentarians working today when she made “Mole Agent,” as she excels at depicting underrepresented emotional experiences by collaborating with her subjects.
Now comes another example of that with some promising buzz around it. “The Eternal Memory” follows the impact of Alzheimer’s on an aging couple over the course of a four-year period. When the description alone pulls on your heartstrings, you know to expect a real tearjerker, and Alberdi’s exactly the sort of director who doesn’t take that poignancy for granted. —EK
Director: Claire Ayoub
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Mia Kaplan, Jolene Purdy, Missi Pyle, Tabyana Ali
Here’s a new blueprint for first-time filmmakers looking to make a mark in comedy: cut your teeth at New York City comedy clubs, draw from your real-life experience for your first script, get it on The Black List, then take that script on the road for live readings. That’s what Ayoub, a Wellesley graduate and Upright Citizens Brigade alum, did for her first feature film. She tapped into her own teenage body image insecurities for this story of young people finding new confidence in themselves and their bodies via fashion.
Ayoub, a 2020 Sundance Independent Screenwriting Fellowship recipient, will hopefully appear with her finished film, which stars Rainn Wilson, Mia Kaplan, Jolene Purdy, and Missi Pyle in addition to its teen cast of newcomers, at the festival in January. She’s spent much of the past year editing it, following a 2021 shoot. With a Park City launch, Ayoub could have laid the foundation for an empire of her own. —CB
Director: Justin Chon
Southern California Korean-American director Justin Chon earned notices at Cannes last year for his gritty Louisiana-set immigration drama “Blue Bayou,” starring the director himself as a man wrongly facing deportation despite living in the U.S. for three decades. His previous films “Seoul Searching” and “Gook” both debuted at Sundance, with “Gook” winning the NEXT Audience ward. “Jamojaya” finds Chon continuing to expand his complicated explorations of America, with a film centered around a rapper, played by IRL Indonesian rapper Rich Brian. “Jamojaya” wrapped in Hawaii more than a year ago, which means it should be ready to make the festival rounds. —RL
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
Director: RJ Cutler
Getty Images for iHeartMedia
In a year where an experimental David Bowie documentary, “Moonage Daydream,” is making waves in the awards conversation, it’s a sobering reminder of another glam pop icon long overdue for the documentary treatment: Elton John. Director R.J. Cutler landed a mega deal with Disney+ earlier this year for “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: The Final Elton John Performances and the Years That Made His Legend.” The “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” and “Belushi” director showcases never-before-seen concert footage of Elton John over the past five decades. A festival run has already been promised by the studio followed by streaming on Disney+.
Cutler has long been a Park City mainstay for his work as a documentary producer and director, including for “The September Issue” and “The World According to Dick Cheney,” so don’t rule out a splashy premiere for the Elton documentary — perhaps with the pop star in tow. —RL
Director: Hanna Logan Peterson
Cast: Mina Sundwall, Yasmeen Fletcher, Alex R. Hibbert
Hanna Logan Peterson will have back-to-back teen-centric Sundance premieres if her feature debut “The Graduates” premieres at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival. Peterson’s short film “Champ” debuted at 2022 Sundance, funded in part by the Tribeca Film Institute Through Her Lens grant award. The short focused on a girls’ high school basketball team that grapples with retaliation against their leering coach.
Peterson’s “The Graduates” similarly deals with weighty emotional turmoil, centered on a school community that looks back on the one-year anniversary of a school shooting. Mina Sundwall, Yasmeen Fletcher, and Alex R. Hibbert play students who are tasked with navigating grief, uncertainty, and tenuous relationships with faith as they continue their education. Up next, writer-director Peterson is set to be adapting Daniel Hornsby’s novel “Via Negativa” about a retired priest who embarks on a road trip with an injured coyote. —SB
“Going to Mars”
Directors: Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson
From her days as a founding member of the Black Arts movement during the battle for Civil Rights to her involvement with Black Lives Matter, Nikki Giovanni’s life and career poetry have spanned some of the most pivotal times in American history. Any documentary about her life was bound to be an ambitious endeavor, but her story is in capable hands with “American Promise” director Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster. That 2013 Sundance hit earned rave reviews for following two African American boys growing up in New York over the course of 12 years, proving that the directing duo can tell a sprawling story. —CZ
“Going Varsity in Mariachi”
Directors: Alex Vasquez and Sam Osborn
Vasquez and Osborn’s promising documentary follows one year of experiences for a competitive high school mariachi in South Texas, not far from the Mexican border. The movie centers on Coach Abel Acuña as he guides the team through a tense rehearsal process and contends the usual teen jitters. Early buzz suggests echoes of Sundance doc hit “Spellbound” with a lively dose of Mexican culture and music. It sounds like a total blast, the kind of commercial documentary that tends to light up the audience and industry alike at Sundance. —EK
Director: Sierra Urich
Set dresser and editor Urich’s first feature is a timely look at her efforts to understand her Iranian family’s roots, stretching back to her grandmother’s experiences as a child bride and continuing through her mother’s experiences as a teenager during the Islamic Revolution. As Iran once again faces tremendous social unrest and upheaval, Urich’s person view of its modern history is poised to put these recent events in the broader context they deserve, while bridging the gap between American and Middle Eastern identity. It sounds like just the sort of bracing cultural investigation that belongs in the Sundance mix. —EK
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Mia Goth
For months, horror fans have been salivating over the next film from Brandon Cronenberg, especially after news that the film won an appeal over its NC-17 rating from the MPAA. But even with an R-rating, it still was labeled as having “graphic violence, disturbing material, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use, and some language.” It also doesn’t hurt that the film has a cast that includes “The Northman” viking Alexander Skarsgard and this year’s indie horror darling Mia Goth.
Cronenberg continues to follow in the footsteps of his body horror director-dad (David, in case you’re wondering). With “Infinity Pool,” the younger Cronenberg’s third feature, he follows a young, rich and in love couple on vacation at an all-inclusive resort, who find something far more dangerous and seductive just outside the edge of the resort’s walls. Cronenberg’s prior film “Possessor” premiered in competition at Sundance in 2020 and was later acquired by Neon. The distributor is now throwing its weight behind “Infinity Pool” from the get-go and could easily make a splash with a midnight premiere in Park City. —BW
Director: Jack Begert
Cast: David Schwimmer, Talia Ryder, Dominic Fike
Darren Aronofsky through his Protozoa Pictures banner is producing this film from first time director and writer Jack Begert. “Little Death” follows two narrative threads, one of a depressed screenwriter who ends a relationship with his fiancée after meeting the girl of his dreams, and another about two young drug addicts who break into the writer’s home and inadvertently cause his death.
The film is set to star David Schwimmer alongside Talia Ryder (“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”) and Dominic Fike (“Euphoria”). Begert co-wrote the script for “Little Death” with Dani Goffstein based on their short film “La Petite Mort,” and he’s making his narrative feature debut after cutting his teeth with music videos for stars like Jack Harlow, Doja Cat, and Lil Nas X. —BW
Untitled Martha Stewart Documentary
Director: RJ Cutler
Fresh from directing “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” for Apple TV+, Emmy winner Cutler has already found two fascinating big names to profile: Martha Stewart and Elton John. (See above for details on that one.) As for Stewart: Although the domestic goddess has lived a very public life, she remains an enigmatic figure who likes to poke holes in people’s perception of her. Best known in the film world for “The September Issue,” which made a star out of Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Cutler is primed to tell this kind of story of an ambitious woman whoknows how to adapt to the ever-changing media landscape. It should be exciting to see his take on her, and what more she has to share. —MJ
“The Miracle Club”
Director: Thaddeus O’Sullivan
Cast: Kathy Bates, Maggie Smith, Laura Linney, Stephen Rea
The UK and Ireland continue to be places where films featuring older adults can get financing. “The Miracle Club” is clearly aimed at the market that turned “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Philomena” into bona fide box-office hits and powered “Downton Abbey” to global dominance. Maggie Smith, Laura Linney, and Kathy Bates star as Dublin women who converge on the French town of Lourdes, famed for St. Bernadette’s visions of the Virgin Mary, and a place where miracles are said to happen. Each tells their own story of something miraculous that happened in their lives in a kind of triptych structure (could this be a faith-based film with crossover appeal as well?). Sundance has proven receptive to these kind of films, such as the delicate 2020 Irish gem “Herself,” of which “The Miracle Club” seems nearly like a companion. —CB
Director: Jacqueline Castel
Documentary filmmaker Castel has made documentaries on musicians (“A Message from the Temple,” “13 Torches For a Burn”), but has been building her horror movie bonafides for some time, going back to the 2016 short film “The Puppet Man” (which included a John Carpenter cameo). “My Animal” marks her feature debut, and it’s another intriguing genre effort, which is officially described as “a story about first love and how that can serve as a catalyst for radical change, revealing what we need most and what most needs healing within us.”
The specifics are even more exciting than that: It’s a werewolf romance starring the spunky Amandla Stenberg, who most recently showed her penchant for twisty genre stories in “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” With a script by Jae Matthews of Boy Harsher, the Ontario-based production promises an eerie coming-of-age story oozing with style and attitude to spare. Sundance excels at launching singular genre directors (“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” and “The Babadook,” to name just two) and Castel seems to fit the bill for that great tradition. –EK
“Run Rabbit Run”
Director: Daina Reid
Cast: Sarah Snook
After spending the last decade directing high profile television episodes, Daina Reid returns to feature filmmaking with this psychological thriller about a fertility nurse who becomes frightened by her daughter’s seeming ability to recall the details of a past life. The lead role originally went to Elisabeth Moss, who Reid earned an Emmy nod for directing in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but she was ultimately replaced by “Succession” star Sarah Snook. Last year’s Sundance was all about horror and thrillers, with Nikyatu Jusu’s “Nanny” becoming the first genre film to win the Grand Jury Prize and several other genre entries landing high profile buyers. If that trend continues in 2023, “Run Rabbit Run” could be a big reason why. —CZ
Director: Sofia Alaoui
Cast: Oumaïma Barid, Mehdi Dehib, Fouad Oughaou
Moroccan director Alaoui has been generating intrigue on the festival circuit for a few years with her mysterious short films, and that impulse is poised to continue with her promising feature debut. The movie follows a young rural woman who marries into an upper-middle-class family only to find herself alone — and possibly liberated — after a supernatural disaster throws the country into chaos. Sundance has been embracing more Middle Eastern cinema in recent years, including genre films like the Iranian “Under the Shadow” in 2017. “Oum” stands a good chance at following in its footsteps with a valuable look at feminist rage through an exciting disaster-movie hook. —EK
Director: Ira Sachs
Cast: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw
Any new Ira Sachs project is cause for celebration, even if the “Love Is Strange” director’s latest — 2019’s plaintive, Portugal-set Isabelle Huppert vehicle “Frankie” — went largely overlooked. Little is known about “Passages,” but the premise and cast alone combine to make it one of the most exciting movies that may be heading to Sundance next year. Dig this: Ben Whishaw (of the “Paddington” Whishaws) and “Great Freedom” star Franz Rogowski (perhaps the most exciting German actor of his generation) play a same-sex couple who’ve been together for many years, but the foundation of their relationship threatens to crumble when one of them has an affair with a woman (Adèle Exarchopoulos). You can expect a sensitive and searing drama in the vein of Sachs’ previous work, and, since the project finished shooting in late 2021, you can also expect it to premiere in Sundance next January, so long as it’s not being saved for Berlin the following month. —DE
Director: Celine Song
Cast: Greta Lee, John Magaro, Teo Yoo
Celine Song, an accomplished playwright and a staff writer for Amazon’s epic sci-fi show “The Wheel of Time,” has partnered with A24 and Killer Films for her debut feature, the story of a Korean girl (Greta Lee) who loses touch with her childhood sweetheart (“Leto” star Teo Yoo) when her family moves to Canada when she’s 10 years old. Years later, she reconnects with him online while attending college in New York, only to find that certain things have changed during their time apart, even if other things haven’t. Questions remain over whether A24 and other major distributors will continue to premiere their films at festivals that still require a virtual component, but it’s hard to imagine this particular film — which shot late last year and sounds like vintage Sundance fare — premiering anywhere else. —DE
“The Pod Generation”
Director: Sophie Barthes
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rosalie Craig, Vinette Robinson, Kathryn Hunter
Tim P. Whitby
The pregnancy-centric plot of “The Pod Generation” sounds more dystopian than MK2 Films’ “sharply comic love story” marketing might suggest. But if there is any filmmaker who can pull off — wait for it — a sci-fi romantic comedy set in a futuristic society in which expecting parents not only use, but share an artificially intelligent and detachable womb, then it’s Sophie Barthes.
The writer-director responsible for 2009’s existentially fraught “Cold Souls” starring Paul Giamatti (and a lesser “Madame Bovary” adaptation from 2014) boasts just the sort of surrealist flare that could make a post-Roe reproductive comedy work. Plus, hints from the project description related to climate change (namely, allusions to a declining natural environment and ominous-sounding mega-corporation known as Pegasus) make the setup especially timely. “The Pod Generation” marks the first collaboration between Ejiofor and Clarke. The “Game of Thrones” actress also executive produces. —AF
Director: Ryan White
While one of the toughest portions of her life became fodder for an Emmy-nominated limited series (and weirdly the inspiration for many a couples costume during Halloween 2022), the “Baywatch” star is getting the last laugh in the form of a biographical documentary directed by Ryan White (“Good Night Oppy”). Not only does the Netflix film include interviews with Anderson — it incorporates never-before-seen archival footage and entries from her personal journals. Audiences have become accustomed to revealing portraits of pop cultural icons, but the actress and model occupies a whole new lane of her own that could touch on early animal rights activism, the ups and downs of being Playboy’s most sought-after cover model, and whatever was going on with her and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. —MJ
Director: Potsy Ponciroli
Cast: Lily James, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Himesh Patel, Tim Blake Nelson, Simon Rex, Nina Arianda, Uzo Aduba, Jim Gaffigan, José María Yazpik, Joey Lauren Adams
Last year, writer-director Potsy Ponciroli’s “Old Henry” received critical praise for its subversive use of setting: It was an edge-of-your-seat Western anchored by a single location and the man protecting it. Ponciroli appears ready to do the same with “Providence,” teaming up once again with Tim Blake Nelson for a North Carolina-set, small-town crime saga that stars Lily James, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Himesh Patel among others. Written by Michael Vukadinovich, the film follows a group of island residents who, in the wake of a sensational murder, discover a large sum of money and are forced to navigate escalating tensions as they decide what to do with it. —AF
Director: Sandi Dubowski
Dubowski’s seminal “Trembling Before G-d” was a stunning exposé about the struggles of closeted Orthodox Jews. Dubowski hasn’t made another movie in the last 20 years, but the wait is over, and it seems to be a worthy followup: His latest effort follows Amichai Lau-Lavie, who created the drag character Rebbetzin Hadassah Gross as a Hasidic rabbi’s wife before becoming an actual rabbi himself on his own terms. The movie promises to an exciting look at progressive Judaism and the prospects of reconciling sexual and spiritual identities in a welcoming community far away from the one in “Trembling Before G-d,” although this enticing new project sounds like a worthy and uplifting quasi-sequel that could make serious waves at Sundance. —EK
“She Came to Me”
Director: Rebecca Miller
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei, Anne Hathaway
Rebecca Miller hasn’t directed a narrative feature since 2015’s romantic comedy “Maggie’s Plan,” starring Ethan Hawke and Greta Gerwig, but she did foray into documentary with 2017’s “Arthur Miller: Writer.” Finally, she’s returning to her roots as a keen chronicler of complex women — which is why she earned the Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 2002 for the scrappy triptych “Personal Velocity.” Her Park City pedigree should prime her for a slot at Sundance with the starry drama “She Came to Me,” centered on a composer suffering writer’s block whose one-night stand reinvigorates his joie de vivre. Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei, Anne Hathaway, Brian d’Arcy James, and Joanna Kulig round out the cast.
Hathaway told IndieWire that “She Came to Me” is “the sort of movie that made me fall in love with movies in the first place. I don’t want to put myself out in front of it, but I’m a big reason why it got made,” adding, “It’s bullshit that Rebecca Miller had to fight. She doesn’t need me. She shouldn’t need me. Those are messed-up metrics. That’s not OK.” Killer Films produces the movie, financed at Cannes by Protagonist. —RL
Director: Barnaby Clay
Cast: Scott Haze, Kate Lyn Sheil
Not to be confused with Mickey Rourke’s upcoming horror film of the same name, Barnaby Clay’s “The Seeding” has a distinct rock ‘n roll center (and no hayrides, per an AB Gibson novel adaptation). Filmed in Palm Springs and Salt Lake City, music video helmer Clay’s feature debut is a psychological thriller about a man lost in a seemingly unescapable desert canyon, where locals have built a primordial society with an emphasis on procreation. Scott Haze and Kate Lyn Sheil star, but much about the plot is still under wraps.
However, we do know the “Mad Max”-esque terrain will be paired with an incredible soundtrack. Clay’s background directing music videos for Gnarls Barkley, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and TV on the Radio led the artist to rework Mick Rock’s video for David Bowie’s “Life On Mars” as part of an international tour of Intel’s Creators Project series in 2011. Wed to Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O, Clay’s fantasy horror short “Finkle’s Odyssey” collected awards at the Brooklyn International Film Festival, Fantsporto Film Festival, and IFCT. The experimental filmmaker’s feature debut with “The Seeding” is poised to feature a slew of music legend cameos. —SB
“Somebody I Used to Know”
Director: Dave Franco
Cast: Alison Brie, Jay Ellis, Kiersey Clemons
Dave Franco made his first jump from acting to directing with the 2020 horror movie “The Rental” (co-written by Joe Swanberg). His latest effort sounds very different: It’s an Amazon-produced romantic comedy starring Alison Brie (who co-wrote with Franco), Jay Ellis, and Kiersey Clemons. The movie stars Brie as a workaholic who reconnects with her old boyfriend while visiting her old hometown and starts to question her life choices she’s made since moving away. Think “Young Adult” with a sweeter core, at least in theory, and exactly the sort of fizzy crowdpleaser that could bring some commercial heft to the festival. —EK
Director: Aristotle Torres
Cast: Asante Blackk, Luis Guzmán, Alex Hibbert, Melven Gregg, Cassandra Freeman, Coral Peña
From “Dear White People” to “The Forty-Year-Old Version,” the recent Sundance roster is consistently the place to discover the next great Black films and filmmakers. A graduate of 2019’s Sundance Directors Lab, Torres stands a pretty good chance of bringing his debut to Park City. Adapted from his 2018 short of the same name, “Story Avenue” is the kind of personal story from a rising talent that Sundance audiences go gaga for. A breakout talent from Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” Asante Blackk stars as a character based on Torres, “a young graffiti artist who, after running away from home, holds up an unsuspecting MTA worker (Guzmán).” A rising star going paired with a beloved old standby, “Story Avenue” could be just the hot ticket item to invigorate the American film slate. —JD
Director: Pete Nicks
No one has more consistently or perceptively documented Oakland institutions than “The Force” director Peter Nicks, so no one could be more qualified to make the definitive documentary about Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry (even if the Warriors left Oakland for San Francisco in 2019). A co-production between Apple Original Films, A24, Nicks’ and Ryan Coogler’s Proximity Media, (along with Curry’s own Unanimous Media), this fully authorized doc promises to do for Curry what “The Last Dance” did for Michael Jordan, as it cuts between Curry’s unexpected NCAA tournament run with the Davidson Wildcats in 2008, and his push to his fourth NBA championship with the Warriors in 2022. Nicks is a Sundance favorite, and assuming his latest film is ready in time, it’s a safe bet that “Underrated” will premiere in Park City next January. —DE
“Under the Sky of Damascus”
Director: Talal Derki
Syrian director Talal Derki’s Oscar-nominated 2017 documentary “Of Fathers and Sons” was a stunning closeup look at a member of the al-Nusra Front (aka al-Qaeda in Syria) that explains the persistence of a radical military mindset from the inside. That kind of the kind of risky, eye-opening achievement would be hard to top by even the most intrepid filmmakers, but Derki’s back in the game with a fresh look at modern life in Syria — specifically women’s rights, a subject that has rarely traveled internationally, though recent protests in Iran have elevated international awareness of women’s struggles in that part of the world.
The movie borrows its name from a silent 1931 film from the region, and like that film, it promises to present detailed look at Syrian society that goes well beyond the headlines. Sundance has a great track record for documentaries about the Middle East (including another major Syrian doc, “Return to Homs”), and this one would be a welcome addition to that trend. —EK
Untitled Michael J. Fox Documentary
Director: Davis Guggenheim
It’s been over seven years since “An Inconvenient Truth” director Davis Guggenheim’s last documentary feature. And after directing “He Named Me Malala,” Guggenheim is turning his attention to a very different kind of public figure with Michael J. Fox. Apple, which is releasing the film, has been mum about any other details on the project, even a title, since announcing it back in April. But the film will combine archival, documentary and even scripted elements in telling the “Back to the Future” star’s professional and personal journey after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Thus far, Apple has been more likely to make a splash to acquire a movie like “CODA” and “Cha Cha Real Smooth” out of Sundance than premiere one there themselves. But the prospect of Guggenheim and perhaps Fox himself making the festival rounds would make the film’s premiere a hot ticket in Park City. —BW
Untitled Sean Penn/Ukraine Documentary
Directors: Sean Penn and Aaron Kaufman
When Russia illegally invaded Ukraine earlier this year, one of the strangest news items to make the rounds was that Sean Penn surfaced at the center of the action, hanging out with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he hunkered down and prepared for war. With time, it became clear that Penn and Aaron Kaufman were co-directed a documentary project about the actor-turned-politician when the situation turned dire faster than they expected. Penn left Kyiv soon after but later returned to the country, continued to capture material for this feature-length documentary co-produced by Vice and Fifth Season. Given all the attention paid to Penn’s presence in Ukraine at the start of the war, here’s hoping it was worth the risk, as the documentary is poised to remind audiences at the start of 2023 that Ukraine’s struggles are far from over. —EK
Untitled Taylor Mac Documentary
Directors: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Doc veterans Epstein and Friedman have been Sundance regulars for almost back 40 years, going back to when 1984’s “The Times of Harvey Milk” scored a jury prize at the festival before going on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary. Their latest celebration of a powerful American personality tracks performance artist Taylor Mack, whose dizzying 2016 undertaking “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music” stuffed an eight-part history of U.S. pop music into a full day and night — from noon one on day until noon the next. The dazzling epic has been widely praised by those with the stamina to experience; now, this HBO-produced documentary promises an exciting (and mercifully shorter) opportunity to see what all the hype was about. —EK
Untitled Indigo Girls Documentary
Director: Alexandra Bombach
Hold onto your Subarus: Could we possibly be blessed with not one, but two Indigo Girls movies in one year? In addition to lending their songs to a queer musical romance, a documentary about the iconic folk duo is also in the works. The film promises to use never-before-seen archival footage to present an intimate vérité look at the storytelling and songwriting behind some of the most enduring folk songs of the last thirty years. The precious material will be handled by rising documentarian Alexandria Bombach, whose sensitive feature “On Her Shoulders” earned a directing award at Sundance in 2018 and two Indie Spirit nominations. It will be fascinating to see her approach to more lighthearted material. —JD
“Wilder Than Her”
Director: Jessica Kozak
Cast: Sunita Mani, Kate Easton, Kayla Foster, Danny Defarrari
Jessica Kozak’s script for “Wilder Than Her” made waves on The Black List earlier this year for its witchy psychological thriller premise set in a camping trip gone wrong. Three young women reconnect on their annual sleepover in the forest, but with their fourth friend Bea (Becca Q. Co) having died recently, things get a little…spooky. Friends unravel and heads no doubt will roll as the trip descends into accusations of gaslighting, fatal negligence, and unfair friendships out in the wilderness. “The Bold Type” scribe Kozak writes and directs her debut feature film, starring “Mr. Robot” alum Sunita Mani, “When They See Us” star Kate Easton, and “Call Jane” breakout Kayla Foster as the trio of friends. “Oppenheimer” and “Shiva Baby” actor Danny Deferrari also stars in an undisclosed role. —SB
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