For newcomers to the indie film scene, there’s no better place in North America to make your big debut than the Sundance Film Festival. Among the artists that have the festival to thank for launching their careers: Quentin Tarantino, Elizabeth Olsen, Wes Anderson, Kevin Smith, Gabourey Sidibe, Bryan Singer, Jennifer Lawrence and Steven Soderbergh. Indiewire’s Futures section is always out to profile the newest and most talented actors and filmmakers and at Sundance 2012 we profiled 11 breakouts that we believe have staying-power potential. Below, find our picks for the 11 fresh faces of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Mati Diop, “Simon Killer”
Why She’s On Our Radar: In Antonio Campos’ “Simon Killer,” 29-year old Diop plays a prostitute opposite Brady Corbet’s titular character. The French actress – who also works extensively as a filmmaker – made her impressive on screen debut in Claire Denis’ “35 Shots of Rum.” With “Simon,” she takes her career a big step forward with a raw, affecting portrait of troubled young woman.
Zachary Booth and Thure Lindhardt, “Keep the Lights On”
Why They’re On Our Radar: Hands down one of the raciest titles to play in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance this year is Ira Sach’s semi-autobiographical gay relationship drama “Keep the Lights On.” In it, Danish actor Thure Lindhardt plays Erik, a hard-partying documentary filmmaker who has a highly charged hookup with the handsome Paul (Zachary Booth), a lawyer in the publishing field. As a relationship quickly develops, the two are forced to deal with each other’s compulsions and addictions.
Gina Rodriguez, “Filly Brown”
Why She’s On Our Radar: In the Sundance U.S. Dramatic contender “Filly Brown” from directors Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos, Gina Rodriguez gives a commanding turn as the titular young hip-hop artist. The drama centers on Brown, a Los Angeles based struggling rapper with a mother in prison and one big shot at stardom. Rodriguez, an NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate best known for her brassy performance in the teen dance comedy “Go for It!,” also raps in the film.
Christopher Abbott, “Hello I Must Be Going”
Why He’s On Our Radar: In the Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition opener “Hello I Must Be Going,” 25-year-old actor Christopher Abbott more than holds his own opposite Melanie Lynskey (“Win Win”) and Blythe Danner as an actor who takes up a steamy affair with a woman (Lynskey) over 10 years his senior. That he distinguishes himself among these two acclaimed actors shouldn’t come as a surprise. Last year saw the Stamford, Connecticut native give a standout Broadway debut performance in “The House of Blue Leaves,” opposite Ben Stiller, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Edie Falco. This also isn’t his first time at Sundance: Last year, he came to Park City in support of a role in “Martha Marcy May Marlene.”
Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Why she’s on our radar: At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, few films have been as universally admired as Benh Zeitlin’s New Orleans story, “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Speaking about its production in a pre-Sundance interview, Zeitlin said, “[We were] saved only by the miracle of our star, Quvenzhané Wallis, a native of Houma, Louisiana. When you see the movie, you’ll know what I mean.”
Malik Bendjelloul, “Searching for Sugar Man”
Why He’s On Our Radar: Only one day into the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, first-time director Malik Bendjelloul experienced a high most filmmakers only dream of. His World Cinema Documentary Competition contender “Searching for Sugar Man,” premiered to rave notices on opening night. The next day, Sony Pictures Classics, making the first buy out of the festival, snatched it up.
Sheldon Candis, “LUV”
Why He’s On Our Radar: First-time feature filmmaker Sheldon Candis is in Park City with his U.S. Dramatic contender “LUV,” a blistering semi-autobiographical tale that cuts close to the heart. The drama, written by Candis and Justin Wilson, centers on Woody (remarkable newcomer Michael Rainey, Jr.), an 11-year-old boy who is dealt a harsh dose of reality when his Uncle Vincent (Common) decides to show him what it takes to be a man in Baltimore. Candis, a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has several short films to his name, including “The Walk” and “The Dwelling,” a documentary that chronicles the lives of two homeless Tokyo residents. Additionally, he has created viral web content for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rock the Vote and world-infamous street artist Banksy.
Tusi Tamasese, “The Orator”
Why He’s On Our Radar: After a successful bow at the Venice Film Festival, first-time feature filmmaker Tusi Tamasese was in Park City with “The Orator,” which New Zealand submitted as its first-ever entry in the foreign-language film category for this year’s Academy Awards. Entirely shot in Samoa, the film boasts the feat of being the first Samoan feature film.
Leslye Headland, “Bachelorette”
Why She’s On Our Radar: Leslye Headland, 30, came to Sundance with some serious buzz about her debut feature “Bachelorette,” based on her hit Off-Broadway play. It’s a raucous, fast-paced and hilariously foul-mouthed dramedy about a gang of old girlfriends who come together and screw everything up at their friend Becky’s wedding. The cast is led by a terrifying Kirsten Dunst as Regan, the sadistic and insecure maid of honor from hell, Lizzy Caplan as Gena, a cokehead party girl who has to confront the ex-boyfriend who she says ruined her life, and a scene-stealing Isla Fisher as Katie, a ditzy and troubled perpetual retail slave. But the core of the film is Headland’s insightful and relentlessly side-splitting screenplay. She is a force to be reckoned with.
Jamie Travis, “For a Good Time Call…”
Why He’s On Our Radar: After directing a series of darkly comic shorts (including 2010’s “The Armoire,” which screened at Sundance), Jamie Travis is making his feature debut with “For a Good Time, Call…” Already picked up by Focus Features, the raunchy comedy has attracted much buzz since debuting this past weekend. Written by Katie Anne Naylon and Lauren Anne Miller (who also stars), the film follows two former frenemies who bond when they start doing business together via a phone sex line.