Top of My List… | Sundance Films on the Horizon

Posted by Valentina Valentini on November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Top of My List… | Sundance Films on the Horizon

The imminent approach of the most-awaited film festival of the year (Ok, ok, maybe I’m projecting my own personal tastes here a bit too much) has begun. This past week, Sundance 2013 announced their festival lineup in all categories. Below are my picks for ‘Most Anticipated Sundance Films.’ (These are my personal opinions and do not reflect or any of its affiliates.)


The NEXT category is oddly boasting only one film that I’m actually excited about, although I’m sure I’ll be blown away by at least a few when I sit down to watch them. The NEXT section (which is populated with films about sex and love this year) is comprised of films generally shot for under $500K (and sometimes much less), and are productions that “stretch a low budget to create big art,” says Sundance. “< = > (less than equals greater than) is our speak for the creativity that limited resources can inspire.”

It Felt Like Love comes from director and screenwriter Eliza Hittman – a Brooklyn native, Cal Arts-educated, 20-something who has a promising future if this film does well at Sundance. The story is about a 14-year-old girl on the outskirts of Brooklyn whose sexual quest takes a dangerous turn when she pursues an older guy and tests the boundaries between obsession and love.

The bulk of my excitement lies in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. The first – Afternoon Delight from writer-director Jill Soloway – sounds like it’ll be a fun hipster romp in a similar vein of last year’s I Am Not a Hipster. This sexy, dark comedy, tells the story of a lost L.A. housewife who puts her idyllic hipster life in jeopardy when she tries to rescue a stripper by taking her in as a live-in nanny. (On a personal note: having worked as a nanny, been around lost housewives, and befriending a stripper who is now a nanny, this film should be particularly poignant for me.)

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints got me riled up when I saw the cast list – Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker, Keith Carradine – but with Bradford Young (Pariah) behind the camera, I know it’s going to be beautiful. David Lowery writes and directs his second feature, a tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.

No need to explain why C.O.G. is at the top of my list, as long as you know that it is the first-ever adaptation of David Sedaris’s work. I’m putting a lot of pressure on writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez to make this film amazing – since Sedaris is nothing short of amazing himself, satirically speaking. Also, the fact that Jonathan Groff and Denis O’Hare lead the cast appeals to me greatly: Groff has wowed audiences as the nemesis lead glee boy on Glee, but even more so as the ruthless ladder climber Ian Todd from Boss. And O’Hare has managed to play the evil Russell Edgington on True Blood and yet totally convince viewers as the hippie Judge Abernathy on The Good Wife. Bring on the good actors!

Probably my favorite female filmmaker, Lynn Shelton comes back to Sundance with Touchy Feely and its stellar cast: Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston (yes, please!), Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, and Josh Pais. In it, we follow a massage therapist who is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother’s foundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his “healing touch.”

And now I have to correct myself – the bulk of my excitement is pretty heavily distributed in the Premieres section as well – I just try not to focus my attention there because it can be more about celebrity rather than ‘indie filmmaking’ at its core. However, these two films are from Sundance alum and there’s probably no way they won’t be good, considering the writers, directors and cast: The first is Breathe In from Drake Doremus (Remember Like Crazy? Yea, so do I) and co-written by Ben York Jones, Felicity Jones is back as a foreign exchange student who arrives in a small upstate New York town, challenging the dynamics of her host family’s relationships and altering their lives forever. Also starring Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan and Mackenzie Davis.

The second is The East. This team can do no wrong in my eyes – writer-director Zal Batmanglij and co-writer Brit Marling. This one’s a little different from their last two (Sound of My Voice and Another Earth), but still has the central theme exploring impersonation: An operative for an elite private intelligence firm goes into deep cover to infiltrate a mysterious anarchist collective attacking major corporations. Bent on apprehending these fugitives, she finds her loyalty tested as her feelings grow for the group’s charismatic leader. Starring two of the most gorgeous people in Hollywood: Marling and Alexander Skarsgård, with Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, and Patricia Clarkson.

For the U.S. Documentary Competition, which I admittedly get to see very little of while I’m there since my dance card gets filled up with so many features so early on, brings Wall Street to Park City. 99% – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film by directors Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read, and Nina Kristic is, of course, about The Occupy movement that erupted in September 2011. The doc will explore how the movement propelled economic inequality into the spotlight. And since, like many of the young professionals I know that couldn’t (or didn’t) take up arms to fight the good fight, I look forward to seeing the insides of a generational movement that I had nothing to do with. (There, I said it.)

Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington is in the Documentary Premieres section and I’m choking up already just thinking about it. Director Sebastian Junger (American journalist, author and documentarian) brings the story of the war photographer – his colleague and friend – to the big screen. Hetherington himself helped many a war-story make the news and big screen, along with the Oscar-nominated Restrepo (which won its category at Sundance 2010). Shortly after the release of the film, Hetherington was killed in Libya. Junger traces his work across the world’s battlefields to reveal how he transcended the boundaries of image making to become a luminary in his profession.

Last, but definitely not least (since James Franco co-directed it and acts in it) is Interior. Leather Bar. in the New Frontier category, which is a social and creative space that showcases media installations, multimedia performances, transmedia experiences, panel discussions, and more. Written and co-directed by Travis Mathews (whose films focus on gay men and intimacy), this is a film about the 1980 film Cruising. To avoid an X rating, it was rumored that 40 minutes of gay S&M footage was cut from the controversial film. Franco and Mathews re-imagine what was in the lost footage in what I believe was originally title 40 Minutes.

Very exciting, indeed.

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