Sundance 2017: Preview

For so many films, the journey begins here. The preparation has been done, the music tweaked, that shot of a neanderthal reality star being inaugurated as President removed because it’s too damn unrealistic. The film is ready for Sundance. But are you ready for the Sundance films? You will be, once you’ve read this preview, featuring picks to look out for from each category. The next Usual SuspectsLittle Miss Sunshine or Whiplash could be in the list below – and there’s only one way to find out…

U.S. Dramatic Competition:

Roxanne Roxanne (dir. Michael Larnell) – First on the list, & with good reason. Michael Larnell showed his NYU thesis film, Cronies, at the 2015 festival, & not only is he a talented fellow, he’s also a bloody lovely chap. Expect to see evidence of the former in this New York-set story of the early days of Roxanne Shanté, an MC & hip-hop star whilst still a young teenager in the 1980s. I’ll bet this is a case of right director, right place, right time.

Novitiate (dir. Maggie Betts) – Cinema has played host to some fascinating depictions of the religious experience in recent years, including Scorsese’s recent Silence & 2015 Sundance hit The Witch. The narrative debut from writer/director Maggie Betts should join that list, with its combination of coming-of-age, Catholic traditions and some harsh truths about religion. With a strong cast including Melissa Leo & Julianne Nicholson, pray you can get a ticket to this one.

U.S. Documentaries:

The New Radical (dir. Adam Bhala Lough) – Sometimes a good documentary is about something we don’t want to discuss. The growing number of disaffected young people with anarchistic tendencies may be one of those things. Adam Bhala Lough’s investigation of this world is as important as it is timely. Is there anything we should price higher than human freedoms?

Dina (dir. Dan Sickles & Antonio Santini) – What does love mean for people who think differently? This is the topic of a heartfelt doc that takes in Dina & Scott, non-neurotypical Philadelphians for whom moving in together is a great step for their relationship, but not without its challenges. We have so much to discover about how the brain works, and how to show empathy for different people; stories like this should be part of our journey.

World Dramatic:

Berlin Syndrome (dir. Cate Shortland) – Berlin is a city of ideas, of tales and happenings. As such it should be the perfect tableau for Cate Shortland’s claustrophobic thriller about an Australian tourist whose photography trip is disrupted by a romance…and then a kidnapping. Adapted from Melanie Joosten’s novel by Shaun Grant, the captor/captive relationship has never been so astutely displayed.

The Nile Hilton Incident (dir. Tarik Saleh) – Evil triumphs when good people do nothing. But what happens when people who do not seem to be good are faced with nefarious circumstances? Tarik Saleh intertwines the story of a corrupt cop with a study of power, as the threat of revolution in 2011 Egypt begins to rumble.

World Documentaries:

The Good Postman (dir. Tonislav Hristov) – Immigration is Europe’s great controversy. This one issue splits communities down the middle, as it does in the Eastern Bulgarian town at the centre of Tonislav Hristov’s sensitive, beautiful documentary. But one postman is convinced of the humanity of those looking for a new life. Contrasting viewpoints are given the floor in this important look at how borders are changing, cultures are changing – and lives are changing.

Winnie (dir. Pascale Lamche) – It is said (by perhaps unwitting chauvinists) that behind every great man there is a great woman. But why do we never look at those women? The controversial Winnie Mandela finally gets the film treatment her status merits, in an honest portrayal of a complex icon. Hunted by many, Winnie fought on the front lines of the same movement as her lauded husband for years. Why is she seen so differently from him?

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