Ten Films from Sundance 2018 We Really Want to See In Australian Cinemas
Here's hoping we get to see the new Yayoi Kusama doco, the terrifying Toni Collette-starring thriller and the smart social satire that's been compared to 'Get Out'.
February 04, 2018
In 1978 Robert Redford helped oversee the first Sundance Film Festival, an event originally designed to attract the cinema world to Utah. Four decades later, and that aim has well and truly been achieved. Come the end of January each year, the who's who of filmmaking rush to Park City for a feast of film surrounded by wintry snow.
And, with good reason. Over the decades, Sundance has helped launch everything from Reservoir Dogs, The Blair Witch Project and Donnie Darko to Boyhood, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Manchester by the Sea. In 2017, two movies that we were excited about after their Park City debuts — Call Me By Your Name and The Big Sick — ended up on Concrete Playground's best movies of the year list. So did Get Out, which premiered at Sundance as a secret screening, wowed viewers around the globe afterwards and recently picked up four Oscar nominations. In short, the fest's lineup usually offers a reliable roster of the flicks to look out for in the months afterwards.
With 110 feature-length films on Sundance's 2018 program, as selected from 29 countries, including 47 first-time filmmakers and culled from 3901 full-length submissions, there's plenty to tempt cinephiles on this year's bill. One of them, the amusing National Lampoon insider effort A Stupid and Futile Gesture, is already screening on Netflix if you're keen to jump right in. Another, Australia's own stellar Indigenous western Sweet Country, just opened in local cinemas. As for the rest, here's our picks of the flicks we're hoping to see on our shores soon.
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Earning more than a few comparisons to Get Out thanks to its smart social satire, Sorry to Bother You marks the directorial debut of The Coup frontman Boots Riley. A workplace comedy set in the world of telemarketing, it's the tale of a black salesman (Lakeith Stanfield) who suddenly discovers magical selling abilities. As his career takes a turn for the better, his artist girlfriend (Tessa Thompson) has some concerns. Acclaimed for its distinctive voice, its no-holds-barred humour and its provocative absurdity, it's one of the most talked-about flicks of the fest, and also features Call Me By Your Name's Armie Hammer in a memorable supporting role.
Also watch out for: Blindspotting, the hip hop-style comedy co-written by and starring Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, who play two Oakland pals trying to get their lives on the straight and narrow.
Two of cinema's best current trends combine in Damsel — everybody's making westerns, and Robert Pattinson is making, well, everything. Trust the folks behind Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter to bring them both together; if brothers David and Nathan Zellner can turn a Fargo-inspired urban legend into a thoughtful and intriguing film, then they can remake the Old West in their own comedic way, and take Pattinson along for the ride. The former Twilight star-turned-indie darling features opposite Aussie actress Mia Wasikowska, veteran Robert Forster, and the writing, directing and producing Zellners themselves.
Also watch out for: The latest effort from Aussie filmmaker Claire McCarthy, Ophelia takes on Hamlet in a fresh, female-focused way, with Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George MacKay and Tom Felton among the cast.
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
You have to admire Desiree Akhavan's Sundance record. The writer/director's second feature marked her second stint at the festival, and it picked up the US Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic for its troubles. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, American Honey's Sasha Lane and The Revenant's Forrest Goodluck, and adapted from the novel of the same name, The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows a high schooler sent to a gay conversion centre. She might be stuck in a place of oppression and repression, but a sense of community springs among her fellow attendees. Four years ago, Akhavan's Appropriate Behavior proved astute, insightful and amusing, so expect good things.
Also watch out for: Bisbee '17, the latest documentary from Kate Plays Christine's Robert Greene, this time exploring a different historical chapter: the Bisbee Deportation of 1917, where 1200 striking miners were taken from their home, banished from the town and left to die.
After completely hitting it out of the park on their first collaboration, Young Adult director Jason Reitman, writer Diablo Cody and star Charlize Theron join forces again with Tully. Where their last effort was steeped in arrested development — the state of not quite growing up, not the TV comedy Theron once appeared on — this time around they're wading into the womb of motherhood. When Theron's stressed mother-of-three Marlo welcomes the titular night nanny (Mackenzie Davis) into her life, a bond blooms, as does an empathetic dark comedy anchored by two of today's best actresses. Your usual mum-focused movie, this is not
Also watch out for: Laura Dern stars in The Tale, writer/director Jennifer Fox's handling of the tough topic of sexual abuse, following a journalist and professor forced to delve back into her childhood relationship with two adult coaches.
KUSAMA - INFINITY
Yayoi Kusama is everywhere. The Japanese artist's work is splashed across the walls of Australian galleries, she now has her own Tokyo museum, and she also features in a documentary at Sundance. Kusama - Infinity seems an apt title for many reasons, not only due to Kusama's famed mirrored 'infinity rooms', but also because the singular creative's adaptability, innovation and influence seems like it will go on forever. Understandably, writer, director and producer Heather Lenz spent years charting the course of Kusama's seven-decade career beyond the dots and pumpkins. Whether you're a fan or a newcomer, you're in for an informative ode to an artist like no other.
Also watch out for: U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking winner Mind the Gap, the personal documentary not only made by Bing Liu, but interweaving his return to Rockford, Illinois to reconnect with his childhood skateboarding buddies with archival footage of their younger heyday.
LEAVE NO TRACE
It's been eight years since filmmaker Debra Granik made one of the first great films of this decade, won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize and unearthed a star in the process. In Winter's Bone, the movie-watching world was gifted a tense family drama, as well as a career-making performance from Jennifer Lawrence — and Granik might've just done it again with Leave No Trace. Ben Foster features opposite acclaimed newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, playing a father and daughter living off the grid until their cover is blown. If you're thinking that it has been too long between fictional films for the exceptional writer/director, then you're right.
Also watch out for: In Shirkers, Sandi Tan hunts down her own film — one she penned in the '90s, was shot on 16mm, but disappeared along with her mentor, friend and director Georges Cardona.
Winner of the audience award in Sundance's World Cinema Dramatic section, The Guilty is the latest Nordic noir effort exciting cinema-goers. And, following in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock, recent films such as Buried, Locke and more, it's the latest single-setting flick as well. From first-time Swedish helmer Gustav Möller, the movie finds its story in the police emergency dispatch department, as a cop takes a call from a kidnapped women. Starring Jakob Cedergren (The Killing, Those Who Kill), it's a claustrophobic ticking-clock thriller that has already started buzz about an inevitable English-language remake.
Also watch out for: Idris Elba steps behind the camera with Yardie, a gangster effort that's also a tense coming-of-age film, as split between Kingston and London in the '80s.
Another favourite with the Sundance crowd, this time winning the audience award in the festival's Next section, Search gives viewers what we've always wanted: a decent online-focused thriller, and a showcase starring role for John Cho. Sure, other films have unfurled their content via on-screen computer screens, but this debut effort from 25-year-old writer/director Aneesh Chaganty has been pegged as a potentially huge hit — and it's likely a case of when, rather than if, it'll make it to Aussie cinemas. Cho plays a father worried about his teenage daughter when she doesn't come home one night, and doing what everyone would do in that situation these days, aka taking to his computer and phone to look for answers. With that in mind, Search also won Sundance's Alfred P. Sloan Prize, which is awarded each year to a film focusing on science or technology.
Also watch out for: Pity, directed by Greek filmmaker Babis Makridis, and co-written with Dogtooth and The Lobster's Efthimis Filippou, about a man who proves happy when his wife falls into a coma.
If it already sounds like this year's Sundance lineup has been doing what the festival always does best — that is, uncovering ace new talent — then Hereditary isn't going to change that perception. The first film from writer/director Ari Aster has been earning rave reviews for its take on haunting, grief-fuelled, despair-ridden horror, particularly in regards to its emotional depth and fleshed-out performances. Given the feature boasts an applauded turn by Australia's own Toni Collette, the latter is understandable. As for the story itself, it centres on a family's reaction after the death of their grandmother.
Also watch out for: Nicolas Cage is back in the vengeance-driven Mandy, which sees Beyond the Black Rainbow director Panos Cosmatos dive head first into the pulpy genre realm.
The story of Lizzie Borden has fascinated the masses for more than a century. Being accused and tried for the murder of your father and stepmother, but ultimately acquitted in a case that was never solved — well, that'll do it. Ballets, songs, operas, plays, novels, musicals, TV shows and films have all examined her story, with Lizzie the latest. Set in 1892 and starring Chloë Sevigny, it focuses on Borden's bond with her live-in maid, played by Kristen Stewart, while working towards the scandal that's now a matter of history. And if that doesn't intrigue you enough, it's billed as a psychological thriller, as well as a film that champions feminism and sexuality.
Also watch out for: Four-time Independent Spirit Award-nominee The Rider, about a rodeo star yearning for the ring after suffering a head injury, from Chinese writer, director and producer Chloé Zhao.
Images: courtesy Sundance Film Festival.
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