Sundance Fest Programmers Talk US & World Competition & NEXT Section Trends

Sundance Fest Programmers Talk US & World Competition & NEXT Section Trends

On the eve of the Sundance Film Festival’s 30th anniversary, director John Cooper and chief programmer Trevor Groth got on the phone to discuss their 2014 lineup for the U.S. and
World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary Competitions, as well as the out-of-competition
NEXT section of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, which tends to include more avant-garde and experimental low-budget fare. The festival runs from January 16-26 in Park
City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

For the 2014 edition, the programmers picked 117 feature-length films representing 37 countries and 534 first-time filmmakers, including 34
in competition. These films were selected from 12,218 submissions (72 more than 2013), including 4,057 feature-length films and 8,161 short films. Of the
feature film submissions, 2,014 were from the U.S. and 2,043 were
international. An astonishing 96 feature films at the Festival will be world premieres, which is why critics and reporters run around Park City with their heads cut off. 

And there are 54 first-time feature filmmakers, some of whom started with shorts familiar to the programmers. Women are well-represented throughout the program, at about the same level as last year. And there are 23 projects that were supported by one of the Sundance labs. Cooper cited  visually beautiful Somali pirate movie “Fishing without Nets” as an example of a film that went from short to feature within the Sundance farm system, as well as NEXT film “Imperial Dreams.”   

The fest will also present feature-length films in the
Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, New Frontier, Premieres and Documentary
Premieres sections, but those announcements, as well as selections for the Short
Film section and new Sundance Kids section of films for younger audiences, are

Full U.S., World and NEXT section lineups are after the jump.

What are the trends this year? “One of the major trends is the use of genre in independent films across all programs,” says Cooper. “Classic story lines are being enhanced by genre to make stories” — like Jeff Baena’s dramatic competition zombie horror film “Life After Beth” and Carter Smith’s ghost story “Jamie Marx is Dead” — “more fresh and interesting.” 

Cooper adds that this year “comedies reign supreme, which is unusual coming from the indie film community, which has been changing a lot over the years.” (The western genre is also making a comeback in some of the sections.) Of course the Midnight section is packed with genre films, per usual. NEXT discovery title, Desiree Akhaven’s “Appropriate Behavior,” “is so crisp and funny,” says Groth, “the writer-director-actress is a real force, like Lake Bell last year, this actress has that breakout potential.”

In the NEXT program, says Groth, “haunting” dramatic competition film “A Girl Walks Home at Night”–one of the surprise discoveries in the selection that Groth had not been tracking– provides “an interesting take on a vampire story,” and Jim Mickle returns to Sundance with tough thriller “Cold in July.” “Throughout the sections, indie filmmakers are taking genre elements and sprinkling them throughout their stories in new and personal ways.”

Why now? Cooper suggests that technology and its advancements give filmmakers “more tools in their tool kit to play around with visual and special effects. Technology is an influencer, putting the tools in so many peoples’ hands. The quality and the originality in the films we’re seeing is mixed in with a high level aesthetic.” 

Another factor, say Cooper and Groth, is that just as actors have figured out that getting away from the studios and making indie films is a must, so have below-the-line craftspeople, from cinematographers and editors to composers, encouraged by a lower barrier to entry. They are taking the directing reins, with sophisticated art direction and attention to detail, even period pieces. “Coming in the bar is set every year,” says Cooper. “As American indie filmmakers are informed by the films that came before them, the bar gets placed every year for excellence. They’re being able to spread their wings a bit.” 

Among the more established filmmakers included in the dramatic competition are first-timer and SXSW favorite Joe Swanberg (“Happy Christmas”), which Groth describes as “exceptionally mature for him,” and the Zellner brothers, returning with “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter.”  Another higher-profile title is Jeff Preiss’s “Low Down,” starring a strong ensemble led by John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close and Peter Dinklage. 

And “Mad Men” star John Slattery makes his feature directing debut in competition with darkly comedic “God’s Pocket,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, “Mad Men” co-star Christina Hendricks and John Turturro.   

Among the competition docs, the programmers noticed that the films are more timely, with topical urgency, as news events unfold at a rapid rate, citing the work of human rights investigators in “The E-Team” and “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz,” about a hacker who committed suicide while he was being protected by the FBI. 

“Mr. leos caraX” explores the mystique of the French director (“Holy Motors”)  “It doesn’t dispel the mystique,” says Groth, “it enhances it, and plays him up as a character of cinema. It’s a great fun watch.” The programmers also singled out “Dinosaur 13” as an eye-opener about the science behind scavenging and dating old skeletons. “It’s an epic tale of discovering all the fallout and problems, it’s a fascinating story,” says Cooper. “It watches like a thriller,” adds Groth, “it incorporates elements that you never expected when you started.” 

With the World Cinema program, says Cooper, “the outreach Sundance has done over last couple years has paid off as we are discovering trends in international filmmaking that parallel the U.S. indie movement, styles and personal stories, social mores, telling stories of their countries especially in places like India, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Ethiopa.”

Groth declares that 2014 marks the year that the festival’s presentations will be almost fully digital–they won’t be 100%, more like 80-90% digital– “and some haven’t decided yet.” 

Presenting the world premieres of 16 narrative feature
Camp X-Ray / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Peter
Sattler) — A young woman is stationed as a guard in Guantanamo Bay, where she
forms an unlikely friendship with one of the detainees. Cast: Kristen Stewart,
Payman Maadi, Lane Garrison, J.J. Soria, John Carroll Lynch.
Cold in July / U.S.A. (Director: Jim Mickle, Screenwriters:
Jim Mickle, Nick Damici) — After killing a home intruder, a small town Texas
man’s life unravels into a dark underworld of corruption and violence. Cast:
Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt
Dear White People / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter:
Justin Simien) — Four black students attend an Ivy League college where a riot
breaks out over an “African American” themed party thrown by white students.
With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in
postracial America while weaving a story about forging one’s unique path in the
world. Cast: Tyler Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon Bell.
Fishing Without Nets / U.S.A., Somalia, Kenya (Director:
Cutter Hodierne, Screenwriters: Cutter Hodierne, John Hibey, David Burkman) — A
story of pirates in Somalia told from the perspective of a struggling, young
Somali fisherman. Cast: Abdikani Muktar, Abdi Siad, Abduwhali Faarah,
Abdikhadir Hassan, Reda Kateb, Idil Ibrahim.
God’s Pocket / U.S.A. (Director: John Slattery,
Screenwriters: John Slattery, Alex Metcalf) — When Mickey’s stepson Leon is
killed in a construction “accident,” Mickey tries to bury the bad
news with the body. But when the boy’s mother demands the truth, Mickey finds
himself stuck between a body he can’t bury, a wife he can’t please, and a debt
he can’t pay. Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina
Hendricks, John Turturro.
Happy Christmas / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Joe
Swanberg) — After a breakup with her boyfriend, a young woman moves in with her
older brother, his wife, and their 2-year-old son. Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie
Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg.
Hellion / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kat Candler) —
When motocross and heavy metal obsessed, 13-year-old Jacob’s delinquent
behavior forces CPS to place his little brother Wes with his aunt, Jacob and
his emotionally absent father must finally take responsibility for their
actions and each other in order to bring Wes home. Cast: Aaron Paul, Juliette
Lewis, Josh Wiggins, Deke Garner, Jonny Mars, Walt Roberts.
Infinitely Polar Bear / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter:
Maya Forbes) — A manic-depressive mess of a father tries to win back his wife
by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited
daughters, who don’t make the overwhelming task any easier. Cast: Mark Ruffalo,
Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide.
Jamie Marks is Dead / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Carter
Smith) — No one seemed to care about Jamie Marks until after his death. Hoping
to find the love and friendship he never had in life, Jamie’s ghost visits
former classmate Adam McCormick, drawing him into the bleak world between the
living and the dead. Cast: Cameron Monaghan, Noah Silver, Morgan Saylor, Judy
Greer, Madisen Beaty, Liv Tyler.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter / U.S.A. (Director: David
Zellner, Screenwriters: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner) — A lonely Japanese
woman becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried in a fictional film is,
in fact, real. Abandoning her structured life in Tokyo for the frozen Minnesota
wilderness, she embarks on an impulsive quest to search for her lost mythical
fortune. Cast: Rinko Kikuchi.
Life After Beth / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jeff
Baena) — Zach is devastated by the unexpected death of his girlfriend, Beth.
When she mysteriously returns, he gets a second chance at love. Soon his whole
world turns upside down… Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly,
Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser.
Low Down / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Preiss, Screenwriters: Amy
Albany, Topper Lilien) — Based on Amy Jo Albany’s memoir, Low Down explores her
heart-wrenching journey to adulthood while being raised by her father, bebop
pianist Joe Albany, as he teeters between incarceration and addiction in the
urban decay and waning bohemia of Hollywood in the 1970s. Cast: John Hawkes,
Elle Fanning, Glenn Close, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Flea.
The Skeleton Twins / U.S.A. (Director: Craig Johnson,
Screenwriters: Craig Johnson, Mark Heyman) — Estranged twins Maggie and Milo
coincidentally cheat death on the same day, prompting them to reunite and
confront the reasons their lives went so wrong. As the twins’ reunion reinvigorates
them, they realize the key to fixing their lives may just lie in repairing
their relationship. Cast: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell,
Boyd Holbrook, Joanna Gleason.
The Sleepwalker / U.S.A., Norway (Director: Mona Fastvold, Screenwriters:
Mona Fastvold, Brady Corbet) — A young couple, Kaia and Andrew, are renovating
Kaia´s secluded family estate. Their lives are violently interrupted when
unexpected guests arrive. The Sleepwalker chronicles the unraveling of the
lives of four disparate characters as it transcends genre conventions and
narrative contrivance to reveal something much more disturbing. Cast: Gitte
Witt, Christopher Abbott, Brady Corbet, Stephanie Ellis.
Song One / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kate
Barker-Froyland) — Estranged from her family, Franny returns home when an
accident leaves her brother comatose. Retracing his life as an aspiring
musician, she tracks down his favorite musician, James Forester. Against the
backdrop of Brooklyn’s music scene, Franny and James develop an unexpected
relationship and face the realities of their lives. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Johnny
Flynn, Mary Steenburgen, Ben Rosenfield.
Whiplash / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Damien
Chazelle) — Under the direction of a ruthless instructor, a talented young
drummer begins to pursue perfection at any cost, even his humanity. Cast: Miles
Teller, JK Simmons. DAY ONE FILM
Sixteen world-premiere American documentaries that
illuminate the ideas, people, and events that shape the present day.
Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory / U.S.A.
(Director: Michael Rossato-Bennett) — Five million Americans suffer from
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia—many of them alone in nursing homes. A man
with a simple idea discovers that songs embedded deep in memory can ease pain
and awaken these fading minds. Joy and life are resuscitated, and our cultural
fears over aging are confronted.
All the Beautiful Things / U.S.A. (Director: John Harkrider)
— John and Barron are lifelong friends whose friendship is tested when Barron’s
girlfriend says Barron put a knife to her throat and raped her. Not knowing she
has lied, John tells her to go to the police. Years later, John and Barron meet
in a bar to resolve the betrayal.
CAPTIVATED – The Trials of Pamela Smart  / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Jeremiah
Zagar) — In an extraordinary and tragic American story, a small town murder
becomes one of the highest profile cases of all time. From its historic role as
the first televised trial to the many books and movies made about it, the film
looks at the media’s enduring impact on the case.
The Case Against 8 / U.S.A. (Directors: Ben Cotner, Ryan White)
— A behind-the-scenes look inside the case to overturn California’s ban on
same-sex marriage. Shot over five years, the film follows the unlikely team
that took the first federal marriage equality lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme
Cesar’s Last Fast / U.S.A. (Directors: Richard Ray Perez,
Lorena Parlee) — Inspired by Catholic social teaching, Cesar Chavez risked his
life fighting for America’s poorest workers. The film illuminates the intensity
of one man’s devotion and personal sacrifice, the birth of an economic justice
movement, and tells an untold chapter in the story of civil rights in America.
Dinosaur 13 / U.S.A. (Director: Todd Miller) — The true tale
behind one of the greatest discoveries in history. DAY ONE FILM
E-TEAM / U.S.A. (Directors: Katy Chevigny, Ross Kauffman) —
E-TEAM is driven by the high-stakes investigative work of four intrepid human
rights workers, offering a rare look at their lives at home and their dramatic
work in the field.
Fed Up / U.S.A. (Director: Stephanie Soechtig) — Fed Up
blows the lid off everything we thought we knew about food and weight loss,
revealing a 30-year campaign by the food industry, aided by the U.S.
government, to mislead and confuse the American public, resulting in one of the
largest health epidemics in history.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz / U.S.A.
(Director: Brian Knappenberger) — Programming prodigy and information activist
Aaron Swartz achieved groundbreaking work in social justice and political
organizing. His passion for open access ensnared him in a legal nightmare that
ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26.
Ivory Tower / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Rossi) — As tuition
spirals upward and student debt passes a trillion dollars, students and parents
ask, “Is college worth it?” From the halls of Harvard to public and
private colleges in financial crisis to education startups in Silicon Valley,
an urgent portrait emerges of a great American institution at the breaking
Marmato / U.S.A. (Director: Mark Grieco) — Colombia is the
center of a new global gold rush, and Marmato, a historic mining town, is the
new frontier. Filmed over the course of nearly six years, Marmato chronicles
how townspeople confront a Canadian mining company that wants the $20 billion
in gold beneath their homes.
No No: A Dockumentary / U.S.A. (Director: Jeffrey Radice) —
Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD, then worked for decades counseling drug
abusers. Dock’s soulful style defined 1970s baseball as he kept hitters honest
and embarrassed the establishment. An ensemble cast of teammates, friends, and
family investigate his life on the field, in the media, and out of the
The Overnighters / U.S.A. (Director: Jesse Moss) —
Desperate, broken men chase their dreams and run from their demons in the North
Dakota oil fields. A local Pastor’s decision to help them has extraordinary and
unexpected consequences.
Private Violence / U.S.A. (Director: Cynthia Hill) — One in
four women experience violence in their homes. Have you ever asked, “Why
doesn’t she just leave?” Private Violence shatters the brutality of our logic
and intimately reveals the stories of two women: Deanna Walters, who transforms
from victim to survivor, and Kit Gruelle, who advocates for justice.
Rich Hill / U.S.A. (Directors: Andrew Droz Palermo, Tracy
Droz Tragos) — In a rural, American town, kids face heartbreaking choices, find
comfort in the most fragile of family bonds, and dream of a future of
Watchers of the Sky / U.S.A. (Director: Edet Belzberg) —
Five interwoven stories of remarkable courage from Nuremberg to Rwanda, from
Darfur to Syria, and from apathy to action.
Twelve films from emerging filmmaking talents around the
world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.
52 Tuesdays / Australia (Director: Sophie Hyde, Screenplay
and story by: Matthew Cormack, Story by: Sophie Hyde) — Sixteen-year-old
Billie’s reluctant path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals
plans for gender transition, and their time together becomes limited to
Tuesdays. This emotionally charged story of desire, responsibility, and
transformation was filmed over the course of a year—once a week, every week,
only on Tuesdays. Cast: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Del Herbert-Jane, Imogen Archer,
Mario Späte, Beau Williams, Sam Althuizen. International Premiere
Blind / Norway, Netherlands (Director and screenwriter:
Eskil Vogt) — Having recently lost her sight, Ingrid retreats to the safety of
her home—a place she can feel in control, alone with her husband and her
thoughts. But Ingrid’s real problems lie within, not beyond the walls of her
apartment, and her deepest fears and repressed fantasies soon take over. Cast:
Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Vera Vitali, Marius Kolbenstvedt.
World Premiere
Difret / Ethiopia (Director and screenwriter: Zeresenay
Berhane Mehari) — Meaza Ashenafi is a young lawyer who operates under the
government’s radar helping women and children until one young girl’s legal case
exposes everything, threatening not only her career but her survival. Cast:
Meron Getnet, Tizita Hagere. World Premiere
The Disobedient / Serbia (Director and screenwriter: Mina
Djukic) — Leni anxiously waits for her childhood friend Lazar, who is coming
back to their hometown after years of studying abroad. After they reunite, they
embark on a random bicycle trip around their childhood haunts, which will
either exhaust or reinvent their relationship. Cast: Hana Selimovic, Mladen
Sovilj, Minja Subota, Danijel Sike, Ivan Djordjevic. World Premiere
God Help the Girl / United Kingdom (Director and
screenwriter: Stuart Murdoch) — This musical from Stuart Murdoch of Belle &
Sebastian is about some messed up boys and girls and the music they made. Cast:
Emily Browning, Olly Alexander, Hannah Murray, Cora Bissett, Pierre Boulanger.
World Premiere
Liar’s Dice / India (Director and screenwriter: Geetu
Mohandas) — Kamala, a young woman from the village of Chitkul, leaves her
native land with her daughter to search for her missing husband. Along the
journey, they encounter Nawazudin, a free-spirited army deserter with his own
selfish motives who helps them reach their destination. Cast: Nawazuddin
Siddiqui, Geetanjali Thapa, Manya Gupta. International Premiere
Lilting / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Hong
Khaou) — The world of a Chinese mother mourning the untimely death of her son
is suddenly disrupted by the presence of a stranger who doesn’t speak her
language. Lilting is a touching and intimate film about finding the things that
bring us together. Cast: Ben Whishaw, Pei-Pei Cheng, Andrew Leung, Peter
Bowles, Naomi Christie, Morven Christie. World Premiere. DAY ONE FILM
Lock Charmer (El cerrajero) / Argentina (Director and
screenwriter: Natalia Smirnoff) — Upon learning that his girlfriend is
pregnant, 33-year-old locksmith Sebastian begins to have strange visions about
his clients. With the help of an unlikely assistant, he sets out to use his
newfound talent for his own good. Cast: Esteban Lamothe, Erica Rivas, Yosiria
Huaripata. World Premiere
To Kill a Man / Chile, France (Director and screenwriter:
Alejandro Fernandez Almendras) — When Jorge, a hardworking family man who’s
barely making ends meet, gets mugged by Kalule, a neighborhood delinquent,
Jorge’s son decides to confront the attacker, only to get himself shot. Even
though Jorge’s son nearly dies, Kalule’s sentence is minimal, heightening the
friction. Cast: Daniel Candia, Daniel Antivilo, Alejandra Yañez, Ariel
Mateluna. World Premiere
Viktoria / Bulgaria, Romania (Director and screenwriter:
Maya Vitkova) — Although determined not to have a child in Communist Bulgaria,
Boryana gives birth to Viktoria, who despite being born with no umbilical cord,
is proclaimed to be the baby of the decade. But political collapse and the
hardships of the new time bind mother and daughter together. Cast: Irmena
Chichikova, Daria Vitkova, Kalina Vitkova, Mariana Krumova, Dimo Dimov, Georgi
Spassov. World Premiere
Wetlands / Germany (Director: David Wnendt, Screenwriters:
Claus Falkenberg, David Wnendt, based on the novel by Charlotte Roche) — Meet
Helen Memel. She likes to experiment with vegetables while masturbating and
thinks that bodily hygiene is greatly overrated. She shocks those around her by
speaking her mind in a most unladylike manner on topics that many people would
not even dare consider. Cast: Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Meret Becker,
Axel Milberg, Marlen Kruse, Edgar Selge. North American Premiere
White Shadow / Italy, Germany, Tanzania (Director: Noaz
Deshe, Screenwriters: Noaz Deshe, James Masson) — Alias is a young albino boy
on the run. His mother has sent him away to find refuge in the city after
witnessing his father’s murder. Over time, the city becomes no different than
the bush: wherever Alias travels, the same rules of survival apply. Cast:
Hamisi Bazili, James Gayo, Glory Mbayuwayu, Salum Abdallah. International
Twelve documentaries by some of the most courageous and
extraordinary international filmmakers working today.
20,000 Days On Earth / United Kingdom (Directors: Iain
Forsyth & Jane Pollard) — Drama and reality combine in a fictitious 24
hours in the life of musician and international culture icon Nick Cave. With
startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process,
this film examines what makes us who we are and celebrates the transformative
power of the creative spirit. World Premiere
Concerning Violence / Sweden, U.S.A., Denmark, Finland
(Director: Göran Hugo Olsson) — Concerning Violence is based on newly
discovered, powerful archival material documenting the most daring moments in
the struggle for liberation in the Third World, accompanied by classic text from
The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon. World Premiere
The Green Prince / Germany, Israel, United Kingdom
(Director: Nadav Schirman ) — This real-life thriller tells the story of one of
Israel’s prized intelligence sources, recruited to spy on his own people for
more than a decade. Focusing on the complex relationship with his handler, The
Green Prince is a gripping account of terror, betrayal, and unthinkable
choices, along with a friendship that defies all boundaries. World Premiere.
Happiness / France, Finland (Director: Thomas Balmès) —
Peyangki is a dreamy and solitary eight-year-old monk living in Laya, a
Bhutanese village perched high in the Himalayas. Soon the world will come to
him: the village is about to be connected to electricity, and the first
television will flicker on before Peyangki’s eyes. North American Premiere
Love Child / South Korea, U.S.A. (Director: Valerie Veatch)
— In Seoul in the Republic of Korea, a young couple stands accused of neglect
when “Internet addiction” in an online fantasy game costs the life of
their infant daughter. Love Child documents the 2010 trial and subsequent
ruling that set a global precedent in a world where virtual is the new reality.
World Premiere
Mr leos caraX / France (Director: Tessa Louise-Salomé) — Mr
leos caraX plunges us into the poetic and visionary world of a mysterious,
solitary filmmaker who was already a cult figure from his very first film.
Punctuated by interviews and previously unseen footage, this documentary is most
of all a fine-tuned exploration of the poetic and visionary world of Leos
Carax, alias Mr. X. World Premiere
My Prairie Home / Canada (Director: Chelsea McMullan) — A
poetic journey through landscapes both real and emotional, Chelsea McMullan’s
documentary/musical offers an intimate portrait of transgender singer Rae
Spoon, framed by stunning images of the Canadian prairies. McMullan’s
imaginative visual interpretations of Spoon’s songs make this an unforgettable
look at a unique Canadian artist. International Premiere
The Notorious Mr. Bout / U.S.A., Russia (Directors: Tony
Gerber, Maxim Pozdorovkin ) — Viktor Bout was a war profiteer, an entrepreneur,
an aviation tycoon, an arms dealer, and—strangest of all—a documentary
filmmaker. The Notorious Mr. Bout is the ultimate rags-to-riches-to-prison
memoir, documented by the last man you’d expect to be holding the camera. World
The Return to Homs / Syria, Germany (Director: Talal Derki)
— Basset Sarout, the 19-year-old national football team goalkeeper, becomes a
demonstration leader and singer, and then a fighter. Ossama, a 24-year-old
renowned citizen cameraman, is critical, a pacifist, and ironic until he is
detained by the regime’s security forces. North American Premiere
SEPIDEH – Reaching for the Stars / Denmark (Director: Berit
Madsen) — Sepideh wants to become an astronaut. As a young Iranian woman, she
knows it’s dangerous to challenge traditions and expectations. Still, Sepideh
holds on to her dream. She knows a tough battle is ahead, a battle that only
seems possible to win once she seeks help from an unexpected someone. North
American Premiere
We Come as Friends / France, Austria (Director: Hubert
Sauper) — We Come as Friends views colonization as a human phenomenon through
both explicit and metaphoric lenses without oversimplified accusations or
political theorizing. Alarmingly, It is not a historical film since
colonization and the slave trade still exist. World Premiere
Web Junkie / Israel (Directors: Shosh Shlam, Hilla Medalia)
— China is the first country to label “Internet addiction” a clinical disorder.
Web Junkie investigates a Beijing rehab center where Chinese teenagers are
deprogrammed. World Premiere
NEXT <=>
Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative,
forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Digital
technology paired with unfettered creativity promises that the films in this
section will shape a “greater” next wave in American cinema.
Appropriate Behavior / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director and
screenwriter: Desiree Akhavan) — Shirin is struggling to become an ideal
Persian daughter, a politically correct bisexual, and a hip, young Brooklynite,
but fails miserably in her attempt at all identities. Being without a cliché to
hold on to can be a lonely experience. Cast: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca
Henderson, Halley Feiffer, Scott Adsit, Anh Duong, Arian Moayed. World Premiere
Drunktown’s Finest / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter:
Sydney Freeland) — Three young Native Americans—a rebellious father-to-be, a
devout Christian woman, and a promiscuous transsexual—come of age on an Indian
reservation. Cast: Jeremiah Bitsui, Carmen Moore, Morningstar Angeline, Kiowa
Gordon, Shauna Baker, Elizabeth Francis. World Premiere
The Foxy Merkins / U.S.A. (Director: Madeleine Olnek,
Screenwriters: Lisa Haas, Jackie Monahan, Madeleine Olnek) — Two lesbian
hookers work the streets of New York. One is a down-on-her-luck newbie; the
other is a beautiful—and straight—grifter who’s an expert on picking up women.
Together they face bargain-hunting housewives, double-dealing conservative
women, and each other in this prostitute buddy comedy. Cast: Lisa Haas, Jackie
Monahan, Alex Karpovsky, Susan Ziegler, Sally Sockwell, Deb Margolin.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night / U.S.A. (Director and
screenwriter: Ana Lily Amirpour) — In the Iranian ghost town Bad City, a place
that reeks of death and loneliness, depraved denizens are unaware they are
being stalked by a lonesome vampire. Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Dominic
Rains, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnó, Milad Eghbali. World Premiere
Imperial Dreams / U.S.A. (Director: Malik Vitthal,
Screenwriters: Malik Vitthal, Ismet Prcic) — A 21-year-old, reformed gangster’s
devotion to his family and his future are put to the test when he is released
from prison and returns to his old stomping grounds in Watts, Los Angeles.
Cast: John Boyega, Rotimi Akinosho, Glenn Plummer, Keke Palmer, De’aundre
Bonds. World Premiere
Land Ho! / U.S.A., Iceland (Directors and screenwriters:
Martha Stephens, Aaron Katz) — A pair of ex-brothers-in-law set off to Iceland
in an attempt to reclaim their youth through Reykjavik nightclubs, trendy spas,
and rugged campsites. This bawdy adventure is a throwback to 1980s road
comedies, as well as a candid exploration of aging, loneliness, and friendship.
Cast: Paul Eenhoorn, Earl Nelson, Alice Olivia Clarke, Karrie Krouse, Elizabeth
McKee, Emmsjé Gauti. World Premiere
Listen Up Philip / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Alex
Ross Perry) — A story about changing seasons and changing attitudes, a newly
accomplished writer faces mistakes and miseries affecting those around him,
including his girlfriend, her sister, his idol, his idol’s daughter, and all
the ex-girlfriends and enemies that lie in wait on the open streets of New
York. Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter,
Josephine de La Baume. World Premiere
Memphis / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Tim Sutton) — A
strange singer drifts through the mythic city of Memphis, surrounded by
beautiful women, legendary musicians, a stone-cold hustler, a righteous
preacher, and a wolf pack of kids. Under a canopy of ancient oak trees and
burning spirituality, his doomed journey breaks from conformity and reaches out
for glory. Cast: Willis Earl Beal, Lopaka Thomas, Constance Brantley, Devonte
Hull, John Gary Williams, Larry Dodson. World Premiere
Obvious Child / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Gillian
Robespierre) — An honest comedy about what happens when Brooklyn comedian Donna
Stern gets dumped, fired, and pregnant, just in time for the worst/best
Valentine’s Day of her life. Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, David
Cross, Gabe Liedman, Richard Kind. World Premiere
Ping Pong Summer / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter:
Michael Tully) — 1985. Ocean City, Maryland. Summer vacation. Rap music.
Parachute pants. Ping pong. First crushes. Best friends. Mean bullies. Weird
mentors. That awkward, momentous time in your life when you’re treated like an
alien by everyone around you, even though you know deep down you’re as funky
fresh as it gets. Cast: Susan Sarandon, John Hannah, Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris,
Robert Longstreet, Marcello Conte. World Premiere

War Story / U.S.A. (Director: Mark Jackson, Screenwriters:
Kristin Gore, Mark Jackson) — A war photographer retreats to a small town in
Sicily after being held captive during the conflict in Libya. Cast: Catherine
Keener, Hafsia Herzi, Vincenzo Amato, Donatella Finocchiaro, Ben Kingsley.
World Premiere

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