"Discover what's next in independent film." Hey film fans in London - this is your chance to see some of the best films of the year! The Sundance Film Festival is returning to London this year to host their spin-off festival bringing some of the best films from Park City over to the UK. The line-up hasn't been announced yet (arriving Wednesday, April 20th via Time Out) but they have released a poster and a short trailer thanks to Time Out, one of their primary media partners. The mini fest lasts for 4 days in early June and will take place entirely at the Picturehouse Central cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue. I'm a huge fan of Sundance, I truly adore the fest, and it's cool to see this brief look back at some of the big breakout films. Watch below.
"With comedy, the rules are always changing. I don't even know any of the rules. It's probably better to not even know the rules." I love Taika Waititi's movies. At my very first Sundance in 2007, I flipped for a little New Zealand comedy called Eagle vs Shark. It was my first introduction to Taika Waititi and actor Jemaine Clement, and I've been a fan of both ever since. Ten years later and Taika is back at Sundance with his latest film, titled Hunt for the Wilderpeople, an adventure in the New Zealand bush starring Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. The film was one of my favorites of the festival, it's hilarious and so much fun to watch. I'm looking forward to the film opening in theaters so everyone else can see it and enjoy it, too.
"Why don't we have more of a riotous disposition toward injustice?" I had a good feeling about this before the festival even started. At the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, The Birth of a Nation won both the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize, and was picked up by Fox Searchlight in a record-breaking sale. This powerful film is the directorial debut of actor Nate Parker, who not only stars in and directs the film, but he also wrote the screenplay and produced it as well. I had the honor of meeting Nate after his premiere and talking with him for 10 minutes about making the film and returning to Sundance as a filmmaker, not just an actor. It's one of the best interviews I've had at Sundance - he's so intelligent and delightful to talk with.
The 2016 Sundance Film Festival has finally come to an end and to put a wrap on things and finalize our nearly two weeks of coverage, it's time to present our Best of the Fest list. This year it was only me (Alex) covering Sundance for FirstShowing, so I decided to simply reveal my own 5 favorite feature films and 5 favorite documentaries. There are always a couple of films that I didn't have time to see (The Intervention, Eyes of My Mother) that seem to be getting great buzz, just can't make it to everything. But I am very happy to say that I ended up seeing amazing films at Sundance this year that will be on my mind for a while. At least one (or maybe two) of these will end up on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. Let's get right into it.
Here we are at the bitter end once again. I don't know how I did it, but I hit 34 films for my 10th year the Sundance Film Festival. Have I mentioned how much I love Sundance? Yes, I definitely have. The more films I get to see at Sundance, the better, as the festival sets the pace for the rest of the year, introducing the world to a selection of movies that will likely earn even more acclaim as 2016 continues on. I've heard some of my colleagues say this wasn't a great year, but they're wrong. Sundance 2016 was a great year, and I saw some amazing films. Maybe they didn't see enough good films? Maybe they're too picky? I don't know. The Birth of a Nation and Manchester by the Sea will end up being two of the best films of the year, most critics will agree on that. But there are plenty other films I loved, and many more that I certainly enjoyed watching.
It's not exactly easy to make light of and laugh at disabilities without coming across as insensitive, which is why this film is so unique. The Fundamentals of Caring (original Sundance title, as it has apparently been changed to The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving) stars Craig Roberts as a boy named Trevor with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who is confined to an electric wheelchair. He requires a caregiver who helps him do many basic tasks, though he always tends to scare them away because he's blunt and loves playing sick jokes on them. The humor in this film is what makes it so entertaining to watch, since the script is otherwise full of too many easy cliches that prevent it from being much more than another good laugh.
The official awards for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival were announced tonight at a ceremony in Park City. We've been anxiously awaiting the results of the awards at Sundance, and now we know who won big - The Birth of a Nation, the powerful directional debut of actor Nate Parker (read my review). The film won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize, which has been the case at Sundance for the last four years (last year Me & Earl & the Dying Girl won both). In addition, the other Audience Awards were the docs Jim: The James Foley Story and Sonita, and the film First Girl I Loved. Read on for the full list.
We all know that movies can change lives, in small ways and in big ways. But that change is often internal, and it's hard to track exactly how we are affected. The documentary Life, Animated (which premiered at Sundance) is an absolutely wonderful documentary that perfectly captures how one autistic boy learned to communicate and engage with the world through Disney animated movies. It's a triumphant and inspiring story, but it's also a beautiful documentary that features many clips from Disney movies as well as original animation (by Mac Guff). The film is about Owen Suskind, following him as he moves into his own place for the first time in his life. His entire VHS collection of Disney movies is the very first thing he unpacks.
Sundance loves to find and premiere the next generation of horror films, and this is one of them. It's very likely most people have never seen a ghost movie like this before, which is refreshing for the genre. Under the Shadow is a horror-thriller set in Tehran, Iran, about a mother and her daughter encountering eerie supernatural forces in their bombed out building. The only worthwhile comparison to make is that this film reminded me of The Babadook, another Sundance film (from 2014), with a plot involving tensions between a mother and her child, not to mention some very creepy things going on. Under the Shadow is frightening and captivating, and while it doesn't have the most extensive mythology, it is a satisfying horror experience.
When you really think about it - film festivals are a bit crazy. They gather up 100+ films, show them all 3 or 4 times over the course of 10 days, invite thousands and thousands of movie fans to town, and most of us (at least many of my colleagues) watch as many of them as we can. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we all get to tweet and discuss these films instantly, spreading the word about what's good (or bad) to fellow film fans who are not in attendance. While everyone else around the world is going about their normal day jobs, thousands of us (various members of the press, industry, cinephiles and beyond) are packing in 3, 4, or 5, sometimes even 6 films every day. We're desperate to see something that leaves us in awe. I adore festivals.
This documentary is freakier than most horror movies. Tickled is not really a documentary about tickling, even though it is a documentary about tickling. Produced out of New Zealand, this entertaining and egaging documentary (co-directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve) follows Kiwi pop culture journalist David Farrier as he investigates a company that films professional tickling events. It all starts when he discovers a wacky video online of "competitive endurance tickling", and attempts to contact the people behind it. Suddenly, David is tumbling down a rabbit hole of legal threats and insane discoveries as he attempts to get to the bottom of this. It becomes a doc about the abuse of money, and how power hungry some people are.
There's no doubt about it - this is a film you're going to either love or hate. Swiss Army Man is one of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival's most divisive films, with some of my fellow critics walking out before they could even finish it. The film is unquestionably unique, I've never seen anything like it, and while it starts out totally wacky everything clicked for me about 30 minutes in. The film opens with Paul Dano playing a man stuck on a deserted island trying to hang himself. But before he can do so, a dead body in a suit (played by Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore. Attempting to ignore it, the body begins to fart, then before you know it he's riding this farting body like a jet ski back to land. I told you it's wacky, but actually quite fun.