The Oscars might be buzzing around your ears, but things have already moved on to the next level. The recently concluded Sundance film festival revealed a ton of great films for this year; below are ten of the most interesting.
Swiss Army Man
Dir: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
The most polarizing film of the festival, Swiss Army Man has a unique plot. A man (Paul Dano) gets stranded on a deserted island. After days of being alone, depressed and hungry he decides to hang himself. Just before he does the deed, the body of another man (Daniel Radcliffe) washes ashore. After being given CPR by the suicidal man the corpse begins farting uncontrollably. People at the screenings staged walkouts, other cheered at the irreverence of the plot. The film ended up winning a trophy at the fest and was sold to A24 as a ‘flatulent drama’.
Dir: Tim Sutton
In 2012 the opening of The Dark Knight Rises was marred by a grim tragedy. Gunmen burst into a movie theater in Colorado and opened fire at audiences watching the movie. Twelve people were killed in the incident. Memphis director Tim Sutton’s new film takes an impressionist approach to exploring the tragedy, with close ups of the faces of people in a movie theater. The film doesn’t really have any answers for why this has been happening in America lately but as per the reviews it’s impossible to look away from.
Manchester By The Sea
Dir: Kenneth Lonergan
For anyone who has dealt with a personal loss in life, Manchester by the Sea supposedly plays out like a catharsis. The film chronicles the story of a man (Casey Affleck) trying to deal with a variety of losses – the death of a brother, the passing of a father and the estrangement with a wife. Going by the buzz Affleck has delivered a performance that makes him a candidate for next year’s Oscars.
The Birth Of A Nation
Dir: Nate Parker
Character actor Nate Parker, who has appeared in bit parts in films, took a break from acting seven years ago to develop this film, and he ended up directing, writing and starring in the lead role. When it premiered at Sundance the film received giant applause and the very next day Fox Searchlight bought the film for $17.5 million, beating the previous Sundance record Little Miss Sunshine by $8 million.
Dir: John Carney
Writer director John Carney has had a amazing run with 2007’s Once and 2013’s Begin Again, and with his new film Sing Street he’s now scored three out of three critical darlings. Much like his previous films, Sing Street chronicles a story woven around people finding a new direction in life with the power of music. This time, Carney goes back to his Irish roots in which a teenager in 1980’s Dublin leaves his troubled life at home to start a band.
Under The Shadow
Dir: Babak Anvari
Under the Shadow, an Iranian film from debutant director Babak Anvari is purported to be an atmospheric horror movie set within a haunted Tehran house during the terrifying final days of the Iran-Iraq war. It definitely seems to be a good follow up to last year’s Iranian horror A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Right out of Sundance’s gate, the film was snapped up by Netflix, which means it would be available online globally sometime soon this year.
Dir: James Schamus
An adaptation of Philip Roth‘s novel of the same name, Indigantion has garnered critical praise for Logan Lerman, who plays a kid who decides to go to college to avoid enlisting in the Korean War in the 50s. An atheist, the conflict he faces is that he is forced to attend mass 10 times a year to graduate. Things become more complicated when he gets infatuated with a girl with a troubled past.
The Eyes Of My Mother
Dir: Nicolas Pesce
Borderline Films, the outfit run by hot in demand indie filmmakers Sean Durkin and Anthony Campos had not one but two films at this year’s Sundance. The first of which is the debutant filmmaker Nicolas Pesce’s supposedly beautifully photographed black and white horror film on the origins of a murderer.
Dir: Anthony Campos
The other Borderline film at Sundance, this one directed by Campos chronicles the disturbing undercurrent of sensationalizing news in America. The film, a period drama focuses on the very moment a small-town TV reporter (Rebecca Hall) who caved under pressure to render her report in a sensationalist fashion. Reviews have been favourable, and if Campos’ previous movie Simon Killer indicated the arrival of a big talent, this one seems to establish him as someone every film buff should look out for.
Dir: Matt Johnson
In 2013 director Johnson delivered a stunning comedy drama called The Dirties, which showcased a man who can’t differentiate between reel and real life. Johnson takes things one step further in his new film Operation Avalanche which resurrects a popular conspiracy theory - that the Apollo 11 moon landing was faked, and that the live-broadcast of event was manufactured by the CIA. As per the reviews Johnson even managed to trick NASA into the film without realizing they’re being made fun of.
(All images are Youtube screengrabs from Trailers)