Sundance Film Festival 2017's most interesting films: The Discovery, Icarus, The Big Sick

Mihir Fadnavis

Feb,02 2017 11:57:08 IST

January is generally regarded as the dumping ground for Hollywood, where the least interesting films are released, but on the flip side it’s also the month when the festival circuit kick starts, birthing some of the most talked about films of the year.

As is the case every year, the 2017 Sundance Film Festival garnered a whole barrage of fascinating films with high concepts and low budgets. It was a record breaking year as Netflix and Amazon went on an acquiring spree. This year there were 30% more sales - providing a much needed boost for the indie film industry which over the last few years has seemed like an orphan.

With digital streaming sites going mainstream worldwide, and more and more people resorting to firing up movies right at home the Netflix, Amazon and other Sundance acquisitions could not have come at a better time.

If you didn’t manage to make it to the festival this year, here’s a roundup of ten of the most interesting films:


From L to R: Screen shots from Chasing Coral, The Discovery, The Big Sick and A Ghost Story. Images from Facebook.


Dir: Michael Showalter

Director Michael Showalter, who made the underrated The Baxter a few years ago is back with The Big Sick, a film most Indians can relate to. The story follows a stand up comedian (Kumail Nanjiani) in Chicago who falls hard for a white woman (Zoe Kazan) but is unable to tell his parents who want him hitched in an arrange marriage. Things get complicated when the woman falls sick and he’s forced to reevaluate his feelings for her. The film is co-written by Nanjiani and his real life partner Emily Gordon, and if Silicon Valley is anything to go by, it would be a tragicomedy peppered with a ton of dark humor. Amazon has picked up the film for a humongous $12 million.


Dir: David Lowery

Director David Lowery has established himself with the promising indie breakthrough Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and the well made mainstream crowd pleaser Pete’s Dragon – his latest is an experimental film that also has generated some very good reviews. The film follows a woman (Rooney Mara) who loses her husband (Casey Affleck) but is haunted by his spirit. Going by the buzz Affleck spends most of the screen time clad in a white sheet, and the film is a dramatic, emotional, thought provoking exploration of a haunting, with plenty of vacant stares out the window, than a spooky horror thriller. A24, currently the very best distributor of films in Hollywood has acquired the film which is sure to find some awards buzz as the year progresses.


Dir: Matthew Henieman

Matthew Heineman blew us away a couple of years ago with Cartel Land, a brutal and critically acclaimed documentary on drug cartels – he’s back with a documentary on ISIS that is supposedly even more immersive, violent and shocking as his previous film. The terrorist organization has made headlines over the past few years so it would be interesting to see Heineman peel away the layers and showcase how the organization actually works, what makes it tick, how the world is preparing to fight it and what lies in store for the unfortunate battleground of the modern world - Syria. Amazon has acquired the film for a large amount and is slated to be a major awards season contender this year.


Dir: Luca Guadagnino

A Bigger Splash director Luca Guadagnino returns with a film based on the vastly popular book of the same name by Andre Aciman. The story, set in 1983 Italy chronicles Oliver (Armie Hammer) an American scholar who falls for his professor’s 17-year-old son (Timothee Chalamet) who is beginning to question his own sexuality. The reviews of the film are through the roof, and it seems to be this year’s Moonlight complete with a bittersweet takeaway. It’s also nice to see Hammer in an awards worthy role after a promising debut in The Social Network and a string of forgettable turns in box office duds.


Dir: Charlie McDowell

A mash between Eternal Sunshine.. and Flatliners, The Discovery got some good reviews and carries a fascinating plot. The Afterlife is scientifically proved and people begin to kill themselves in an effort to experience the life beyond. The film which stars Jason Segal, Rooney Mara and Jesse Plemons won’t make you wait for long – it has been picked up by Netflix and it will be available to watch as soon as 31 March.


Dir: Dave McCary

If you’ve been keeping up with Saturday Night Live you’d be aware of comedian Kyle Mooney whose sketches are either darkly inappropriate or incredibly hilarious – and at times both. Mooney writes and stars in this film which has been described by reviews as ‘the feel good kidnapping movie of the year’. The story follows a boy who is kidnapped and is raised in a home where he’s forced by his kidnappers to watch a cute children’s show called Brigsby Bear so that he doesn’t escape. The film garnered some wildly polarizing reviews – which automatically makes it a must watch.


Dir: Macon Blair

Those who’ve watched the terrific Jeremy Saulnier movies Blue Ruin and Green Room would be familiar with Macon Blair who was a main character in both films. The actor makes his directing debut here in a pitch dark comedy starring Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood as two people who go on a rampage after they’re brought together by a burglary. The film won the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the fest.


Dir: Bryan Fogel

What starts off as a regular innocuous sports documentary, Bryan Fogel’s film goes deep within the biggest post modern shockers in history – the Russian doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Netflix has snapped up the film for a cool $5 million and we should hope to see it soon on the streaming site.


Dir: Jeff Orlowski

Jeff Orlowski shook us up in 2012 with the tremendous climate change documentary Chasing Ice – his follow up seems to be a spiritual sequel enveloping a similar theme of man destroying the Earth. The film follows an advertising honcho who along with marine biologists develops a time lapse camera to capture corals and is shocked by what he discovers. The film, which was shot over three years, has been described as a ‘stunning cinematic achievement’ and has been picked up by Netflix.


Dir: Mariana Palka

In an era where the topic of feminism is thankfully gaining more and more traction foreign cinema has been belting out some bold films. After last year’s Elle comes Bitch – Mariana Palka’s strange darkly comedic horror film about a woman dealing with unpleasant circumstances in the most audacious possible manner. The woman in this case is played by Palka herself, who after bearing the brunt of being married to a man (Jason Ritter) who flirts with someone at work and having kids who create a new crisis every single day, undergoes a slow and maniacal Kafkaesque transformation into a dog. The film received good reviews at the fest and should hopefully pop up in theaters soon.

Updated Date: Feb 02, 2017 11:57 AM