As I've written before, I'm not crazy about Sundance as an experience, but I do like a number of the films that play there. Last year, my favorites included "Perfect Sense," "The Future," "Martha Mary Marcy Marlene," "Project Nim" and "Terri." What will be great this year? I've been inspecting the lineup closely over the last few days, planning my schedule and talking to a few people, and while I'm going in with low expectations — it's always best to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed — here are 4 films that I have high hopes for at this year's snowy morass. And anyone will tell you 4-5 terrific films at Sundance is about the best you can hope for.
Ira Sachs' "Keep the Lights On" — I think Sachs' previous three films "The Delta," "Forty Shades of Blue" and even "Married Life" are excellent examples of filmmaking, each bold and distinctive in different ways, and I see no reason why would majorly slip up with "Keep the Lights On," even though it's more low budget. In fact, Sach's return to a more intimate playing field, a la "The Delta," could produce even greater rewards.
Bart Layton's "The Imposter" — Ever since I read this fascinating New Yorker article "The Chameleon," I thought the story of a child imposter would make for a compelling story, and here we finally have it. I don't know Layton's work in nonfiction, but with the backing of producers Simon Chin ("Man on Wire") and John Battsek ("One Day in September"), he's got some shrewd supporters, which gives it further cache. Of all the docs in the festival, it's the one I'm most curious about.
Antonio Campos' "Simon Killer" — I was an early and ardent supporter of Campos' debut "Afterschool." And I like his fellow partners in Borderline Films ("Martha Marcy May Marlene"), I have little doubt about he and his crew's cinematic talents. I must admit I have some reservations about the plotline: a college grad escapes to Paris and hooks up with a prostitute (sounds like a bad Hustler story), but I'm looking forward to seeing how they pull it off.
James Marsh's "Shadow Dancer" — While Marsh may be known for his docs ("Man on Wire," "Project Nim") I also have confidence in him as a dramatic filmmaker. (I was a fan of "Red Riding," including his 1980 segment.) And with this highly politically charged thriller about the IRA, and excellent actors Clive Owen and Andrea Riseborough on board, his latest is high on my wish list.