Thank you Sundance for giving us a much-needed distraction from this week’s horrible news cycle. The Institute today unveiled the entire feature film lineup for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival as well as teased some of the “new stuff” the fest has in store. The lineup, which is fairly star-studded, consists of 110 indie features from 29 countries. Rather that take it all on here (you can find the full list up on the Sundance website), we’re going to help you unpack what’s new and what’s NEXT.
In the what’s new category, fest goers will find that Park City’s shuttered Sports Authority has been converted into a 400-seat theater called The Rey. The downstairs of this largish venue will also be home to the VR component of the fest’s New Frontier program. Also new for 2018 edition is a section devoted to episodic projects called Indie Episodic. The programming in this category will be spotlighted on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 23 and 24, so plan your trip accordingly. Sundance also announced that it will host free, first-come, first-served screenings in both Park City and Salt Lake City of some of the fest’s more popular titles.
As far as what’s NEXT, this section has some exciting developments. Home to the fest’s most innovative projects, the category is becoming competitive for 2018. A jury will be awarding one filmmaker with the newly minted Innovator Award. The films in this category will also be eligible for the new Festival Favorite Award, as, for the first time, audience members will vote for their favorite from among all the features screening at the festival.
The NEXT section has been assigned 10 features, with several projects coming from Sundance alumni. Crystal Moselle, who was at the festival in 2015 with The Wolfpack, presents her new fiction feature Skate Kitchen. The film, which stars Jaden Smith, among others, appears to expand on a short Moselle did for Miu Miu’s “Women’s Tales” series and is about an all-female skate crew. The Greasy Strangler director, Jim Hosting, resurfaces with his latest, An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn. A comedy, the film stars Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jermaine Clement, Matt Berry, and Craig Robinson. Also returning is Jeremiah Zagar. He brought Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart to Sundance in 2014 and is back with We the Animals. Based on Justin Torres’s novel of the same name, the film is a coming-of-age tale about three brothers and features Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night).
Other films to have on your radar in this section include the latest feature from Josephine Decker (Flames, Butter on the Latch, Thou Wast Mild and Lovely), Madeline’s Madeline, which stars Miranda July and Molly Parker (Deadwood), and Ozark actress Jordana Spiro’s debut feature Night Comes On. Bridey Elliott, who you may recognize from Fort Tilden, Silicon Valley or Battle of the Sexes, premieres her first feature, Clara’s Ghost. Very much a family affair, along with Bridey, the supernatural comedy stars her parents, Chris Elliott and Paula Niedert Elliott, and her sister Abby Elliott, as well as Haley Joel Osment.
The section is rounded out by Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize winner Aneesh Chaganty’s Search, Qasim Basir’s A Boy, A Girl, A Dream; sister-brother duo Elan and Jonathan Bogarin’s magical-realist 306 Hollywood; and Daryl Wein‘s dramatic comedy White Rabbit. Wein may be familiar because he moonlights as an actor and is married to Zoe Lister-Jones. His other films include Lola Versus and Breaking Upwards.
You can find the complete list of what’s in the NEXT section below. The 2018 Sundance Film Festival runs January 18-28 in Park City, Utah. Passes and ticket packages are on sale now at the festival’s website.
306 Hollywood / U.S.A., Hungary (Directors: Elan Bogarín, Jonathan Bogarín, Screenwriters: Jonathan Bogarín, Elan Bogarín, Nyneve Laura Minnear, Producers: Elan Bogarín, Jonathan Bogarín, Judit Stalter) — When two siblings undertake an archaeological excavation of their late grandmother’s house, they embark on a magical-realist journey from her home in New Jersey to ancient Rome, from fashion to physics, in search of what life remains in the objects we leave behind. World Premiere. DAY ONE
A Boy, A Girl, A Dream. / U.S.A. (Director: Qasim Basir, Screenwriters: Qasim Basir, Samantha Tanner, Producer: Datari Turner) — On the night of the 2016 Presidential election, Cass, an L.A. club promoter, takes a thrilling and emotional journey with Frida, a Midwestern visitor. She challenges him to revisit his broken dreams – while he pushes her to discover hers. Cast: Omari Hardwick, Meagan Good, Jay Ellis, Kenya Barris, Dijon Talton, Wesley Jonathan. World Premiere
An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn / United Kingdom, U.S.A. (Director: Jim Hosking, Screenwriters: Jim Hosking, David Wike, Producers: Sam Bisbee, Theodora Dunlap, Oliver Roskill, Emily Leo, Lucan Toh, Andy Starke) — Lulu Danger’s unsatisfying marriage takes a fortunate turn for the worse when a mysterious man from her past comes to town to perform an event called ‘An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn For One Magical Night Only.’ Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry, Craig Robinson. World Premiere
Clara’s Ghost / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bridey Elliott, Producer: Sarah Winshall) — Set over the course of a single evening at the Reynolds’ family home in Connecticut, Clara, fed up with the constant ribbing from her self-absorbed showbiz family, finds solace in and guidance from the supernatural force she believes is haunting her. Cast: Paula Niedert Elliott, Chris Elliott, Abby Elliott, Bridey Elliott, Haley Joel Osment, Isidora Goreshter. World Premiere
Madeline’s Madeline / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Josephine Decker, Producers: Krista Parris, Elizabeth Rao) — Madeline got the part! She’s going to play the lead in a theater piece! Except the lead wears sweatpants like Madeline’s. And has a cat like Madeline’s. And is holding a steaming hot iron next to her mother’s face – like Madeline is. Cast: Helena Howard, Molly Parker, Miranda July, Okwui Okpokwasili, Felipe Bonilla, Lisa Tharps. World Premiere
Night Comes On / U.S.A. (Director: Jordana Spiro, Screenwriters: Jordana Spiro, Angelica Nwandu, Producers: Jonathan Montepare, Alvaro R. Valente, Danielle Renfrew Behrens) — Angel LaMere is released from juvenile detention on the eve of her 18th birthday. Haunted by her past, she embarks on a journey with her 10 year-old sister that could destroy their future. Cast: Dominique Fishback, Tatum Hall, John Earl Jelks, Max Casella, James McDaniel. World Premiere
Search / U.S.A. (Director: Aneesh Chaganty, Screenwriters: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian, Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Sev Ohanian, Adam Sidman, Natalie Qasabian) — After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her. A thriller that unfolds entirely on computer screens. Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing. World Premiere. WINNER: 2018 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize.
Skate Kitchen / U.S.A. (Director: Crystal Moselle, Screenwriters: Crystal Moselle, Ashlihan Unaldi, Producers: Lizzie Nastro, Izabella Tzenkova, Julia Nottingham, Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Sherman, Rodrigo Teixeira) — Camille’s life as a lonely suburban teenager changes dramatically when she befriends a group of girl skateboarders. As she journeys deeper into this raw New York City subculture, she begins to understand the true meaning of friendship as well as her inner self. Cast: Rachelle Vinberg, Dede Lovelace, Jaden Smith, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, Kabrina Adams. World Premiere
We The Animals / U.S.A. (Director: Jeremiah Zagar, Screenwriters: Daniel Kitrosser, Jeremiah Zagar, Producers: Jeremy Yaches, Christina D. King, Andrew Goldman, Paul Mezey) — Us three, us brothers, us kings. Manny, Joel and Jonah tear their way through childhood and push against the volatile love of their parents. As Manny and Joel grow into versions of their father and Ma dreams of escape, Jonah, the youngest, embraces an imagined world all his own. Cast: Raul Castillo, Sheila Vand, Evan Rosado, Isaiah Kristian, Josiah Santiago. World Premiere
White Rabbit / U.S.A. (Director: Daryl Wein, Screenwriters: Daryl Wein, Vivian Bang, Producers: Daryl Wein, Vivian Bang) —A dramatic comedy following a Korean American performance artist who struggles to be authentically heard and seen through her multiple identities in modern Los Angeles. Cast: Vivian Bang, Nana Ghana, Nico Evers-Swindel, Tracy Hazas, Elizabeth Sung, Michelle Sui. World Premiere
Photo credit: Elan + Jonathan Bogarin, 306 Hollywood