Thanksgiving is the most anxious holiday for indie filmmakers, as the Sundance
Film Festival begins making its calls with (hopefully) good
news. The first round of programming announcements are expected
following the four-day holiday weekend, with over 100 features expected
over various sections of the January, 2015 festival.
Ahead of those announcements, Indiewire is offering 31 films as a
Sundance wish list (in honor of the festival’s 31st year). Basically, it’s a wholly unscientific collection of
films that might reasonably make the cut and/or we hope will make it to
Much more so than fellow festival powerhouses Cannes or Toronto,
Sundance is a hard lineup to predict. Small films from up-and-coming
directors often end up being the most talked-about films at the festival
(think “Whiplash,” “Obvious Child,” “The Skeleton Twins” last year). Of course, some of the lineup will be comprised of more
high-profile possibilities — and it’s all but certain that some of the
festival’s breakouts are not going to be on our list.
So with those caveats in mind, here are 31 titles to consider (in
alphabetical order). And if you have a title to add, tell us in the
“Ad Inexplorata: Toward The Unknown”
Director: Mark Elijah Rosenberg
Cast: Mark Strong, Sanaa Lathan, Charles Barker
We Hope It Heads To Park City: Many within the film industry know Mark
Elijah Rosenberg as the Founder and Artistic Director of Rooftop Films,
but he’s about to have a different claim to cinematic fame. Rosenberg’s
directorial debut “Ad Inexplorata” heads into the 2015 festival circuit
with backing from many Sundance labs over the years (including the
Sundance NHK Filmmaker Award last year), which certainly bodes well for a
welcoming debut there. And we’d certainly be curious to see what it has
in store. An indie take on space travel, “Inexplorata” stars Mark
Strong as a NASA pilot who has trouble — as most of us would — dealing
with the mental and physical pressure of being alone on a one way
“The Adderall Diaries”
Director: Pamela Romanowsky
Cast: James Franco, Amber Heard, Ed Harris, Christian Slater
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Sundance has felt a little like James Franco Fest for a few years, and 2015 should be no different, as this is the first of a couple films on this list featuring Franco in some capacity. Not that we’re complaining (or we wouldn’t be excited for the films). First off is his starring role in “The Adderall Diaries,” Pamela Romanowsky’s Robert Redford executive produced (hint, hint) directorial debut. Based on Stephen Elliott’s memoir, the film features Franco as Elliot — a writer dealing with a fallout from his estranged father (Harris) suggesting he made up the dark childhood stories in his work.
Director: Tim Blake Nelson
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Glenn Close, Corey Stoll, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jessica Hecht, Scott Cohen, Sam Waterson
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Though Tim Blake Nelson has been associated with James Franco a lot as of late (starring in his “Child of God” and “As I Lay Dying” last year, and another film we’ll list a bit later on), his latest directorial effort is not one of the Franconian films on this list. It’s Kristen Stewart-led “Anesthesia,” the story of a bunch of folks coping with the violent mugging of a professor (Sam Waterson). It’s got a great cast — beyond Stewart and Waterson, there’s Glenn Close, Corey Stoll, Michael Kenneth Williams and Gretchen Mol — and Nelson has always proven an interesting filmmaker (see “The Grey Zone” and “Leaves of Grass”).
“Beast of No Nation”
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Cast: Idris Elba, Abraham Attah, Opeyemi Fagbohungbe, Richard Pepple
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Cary Fukunaga was a huge breakout at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival with “Sin Nombre,” and has since gone on to make an acclaimed “Jane Eyre” adaptation and helm every single episode of HBO’s hugely popular first season of “True Detective.” Which collectively makes us incredibly interested in whatever he does next, and that would be “Beast of No Nation.” Based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala, the film tells the story of a young West African boy who is forced to join a unit of mercenary fighters when civil war tears his family apart and militants kill his father. Idris Elba stars alongside a mostly unknown cast, and shooting reportedly finished this summer. Whether that gives Fukunaga enough time to turn this around before Sundance or not, we are eagerly waiting to see this “Beast.”
Director: Dee Rees
Cast: Queen Latifah, Michael K. Williams, Oliver Platt, Charles S. Dutton, Khandi Alexander, Mike Epps, Mo’Nique
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: We’ve been eagerly anticipated what Dee Rees would do for her post-“Pariah” project since that film blew us away at Sundance in 2011. And that project is “Bessie,” a biopic of the legendary 1920s blues performer Bessie Smith starring Queen Latifah in the title role. It’s being made for HBO, but major film festivals have taken to screening TV projects on a regular basis as of late (“Behind The Candelabra,” “Top of the Lake”), and given Rees’ Sundance history, “Bessie” looks like a strong contender for another example. And with Rees involved, not to mention an epic cast including Michael K. Williams, Khandi Alexander and Mo’Nique alongside Latifah, we’d be all for it.
Director: James Franco
Cast: Josh Peck, Shannon Doherty, Alex Kingston, Tim Blake Nelson
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Franco Fest could continue with his directorial “Bukowski,” a take on writer Charles Bukowski’s challenged formative years. Franco himself steps off camera here, with Josh Peck playing Bukowski in a potentially career-changing role. Franco has been hit and miss as a director but his latest (essentially his umpteenth directorial effort in the past 5 years) has a lot of potential. The story of Bukowski’s youth is pretty juicy — from an abusive father to alcoholism to disfiguring acne — and here’s hoping practice continues to take Franco a little closer to perfect when it comes to directing.
Director: Matt Ross
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Missi Pyle, Geore MacKay, Frank Langella
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Known best as an actor (“American Horror Story,” “Big Love” and “Silicon Valley”), Matt Ross made his directorial debut back in 2012 with Sundance film “28 Hotel Rooms,” and seems very likely to be back with “Captain Fantastic.” Featuring a very promising cast in Viggo Mortensen, Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn, the film has a concept that has us pretty much sold on excitement. And no, it’s not an indie superhero flick. It tells the story of a father (Mortensen) living in the forests of the Pacific Northwest with his six young kids who tries to assimilate back into society.
“Day Out of Days”
Director: Zoe Cassavetes
Cast: Alexia Landeau, Melanie Griffith, Bellamy Young, Eddie Izzard, Vincent Kartheiser, Alessandro Nivola
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Zoe Cassavetes’ directorial debut “Broken English” is one of the better indie rom coms of the past decade (in our opinion at least), and it’s been 8 years since. But now Cassavetes is finally readying her follow-up, “Day Out of Days,” and it seems a safe bet for Sundance. And we’d be happy if that was the case. The film takes on aging actresses in Hollywood through the story of a woman approaching 40 who was once quite famous and now struggles to get back to where she once was. Alexia Landeau, Melanie Griffith, Bellamy Young, Eddie Izzard, Vincent Kartheiser and Alessandro Nivola make up the film’s very interesting ensemble.
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
Director: Marielle Heller
Cast: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Meloni
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Newcomer Bel Powley stars in this film as a teenage girl who begins an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Here’s the kicker, though: Kristen Wiig plays her mother and Alexander Skarsgård plays her mother’s boyfriend. Adapted from Pheobe Gloeckner’s graphic novel, the 1970s set film is the directorial debut of Marielle Heller and had the backing of the Sundance Institute. So it seems like a good bet, and with that casting we sure wouldn’t be complaining.
“The End of the Tour”
Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer, Ron Livingston
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: “Off The Black,” “Smashed” and “The Spectacular Now” now make James Ponsoldt three for three when it comes to screening at Sundance, which makes us hope that streak will continue with his latest film “The End of the Tour.” An adaptation of David Lipsky’s “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace,” the film is definitely Ponsoldt’s most ambitious yet. Jason Segel stars as writer David Foster Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as reporter David Lipsky in the true story of a Lipsky following Wallace (who committed suicide in 2008) on his book tour. The source material is incredibly compelling and Ponsoldt seems to just keep getting better and better as a filmmaker. If it ends up at Sundance, it would surely be one of the festival’s most anticipated films.
“Every Thing Will Be Fine”
Director: Wim Wenders
Cast: James Franco, Rachel McAdams, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marie-Josee Croze
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: It might be asking a bit much to expect Wim Wenders to debut his first 3D narrative film (and follow-up to his incredibly successful 3D documentary “Pina”) at Sundance. A Berlin debut a few weeks later seems more likely, but we can dream? The film — written by Bjørn Olaf Johannessen — stars, yes, James Franco as a writer who accidentally causes the death of a child while driving and spends the next decade examining the effect of the tragedy on both his own life and on the child’s mother (Rachel McAdams). How Wenders uses 3D to tell this kind of story is beyond us, but we’re pretty sure he’ll find a way.
“Far From The Madding Crowd”
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, and Juno Temple
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg is definitely much more of a Cannes man, with his most recent film “The Hunt” competing for the Palme d’Or there two years ago. But his follow-up — Thomas Hardy adaptation “Far From The Madding Crowd” — is already set for release May 1st, meaning Cannes is not in play. Will it skip the festival circuit all together? We hope not. Judging from this gorgeous trailer, the film has a lot of potential. Starring Mulligan as a woman being courted by three different men (Michael Sheen, Matthias Schoenaerts and Tom Sturridge, poor girl), it would definitely be a nice get for Sundance’s Premieres section.
Director: Peter Sollett
Cast: Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell, Michael Shannon, Luke Grimes
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: It might be tough given the film only finished shooting a month or so ago, but we’d sure love it if it somehow managed the feat. The Peter Sollett-directed film is based on the Oscar winning documentary short that details the domestic partnership battle fought by lesbian couple Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) and Stacie Ardeen (Ellen Page). Hester and Ardeen fought to amend the Domestic Partnership Act, which grants pension benefits to domestic partners of all New Jersey public employees, when Ardeen was denied the pension benefits of her Hester when the latter became terminally ill. The story and the cast (which also includes Steve Carell as the couple’s lawyer) are hard to argue with, but if Sollett and company need a few more months to get it edited, we’ll gladly wait for a later festival berth (though it would seemingly not be until Toronto).
“Get a Job”
Director: Dylan Kidd
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Miles Teller, Bryan Cranston, Allison Brie, Marcia Gay Harden, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Cho
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: We actually hoped this would come to Park City last year, but there’s been considerable delay in getting Dylan Kidd’s latest out into the world. It’s been 10 years since his last film (“P.S.”) and we’re very curious to see what Kidd has up his sleeve with this comedy centered around a recent
college graduate, his friends, and their attempts to secure employment.
It has an amazing cast of folks whose profiles have been raised considerably lately: Miles Teller as its central character, with Bryan Cranston,
Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Alison Brie and Marcia Gay
Harden among those joining him.
“The Grief of Others”
Director: Patrick Wang
Cast: Wendy Moniz, Trevor St. John, Rachel Dratch
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: When first-time filmmaker Patrick Wang’s “In The Family” was initially released in theaters way back in November 2011 (after premiering at the Hawaii Film Festival a month earlier), it had a tiny limited showing in New York that was met with little fanfare (though it did get a rave in The New York Times). It seemed poised to disappear into obscurity, as many micro-budgeted indies before it, but then slowly but surely supporters came to its rescue. First, it managed a Spirit Award nomination for best first feature, and then in April of 2012, the late, great Roger Ebert gave it a seriously glowing review. And now we get the follow-up: “The Grief of Others,” which is based on the novel by Leah Hager Cohen about a couple i the aftermath of their baby dying a few days after its born. If it’s anything close to how powerful “In The Family” was, we’ll be more than happy.
Director: John Krasinski
Cast: John Krasinski, Anna Kendrick, Sharlto Copley, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Charlie Day, Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Actor John Krasinski’s first film “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” — which debuted at Sundance — didn’t entirely win us over, but it’s hard to not be excited for a film with this kind of cast. Krasinski leads it, starring as a man who brings his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) home just before his mother (Margo Martindale) goes into brain surgery. Richard Jenkins, harlto Copley, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Charlie Day round out the cast, and the script comes via James C. Strouse, known best for directing “Grace is Gone” and “The Winning Season.” It definitely all adds up to enough to help us give Krasinski a second chance as a filmmaker.
Director: Reed Morano
Cast: Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, Juno Temple, Giovanni Ribisi, Elisabeth Moss, John Leguizamo
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Reed Morano has been blowing us away at Sundance as a cinematographer for over a decade now, from “Frozen River” to “Kill Your Darlings” to “The Skeleton Twins.” So it seems fitting the festival would host her much anticipated directorial debut, “Meadowland.” The film stars Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson as a couple struggling to deal with their son’s disappearance, with Juno Temple, Giovanni Ribisi, Elisabeth Moss and John Leguizamo rounding out a cast that it’s hard not to be excited by. Just as it’s hard not be excited by what Morano can do as a filmmaker.
Director: Justin Kelly
Cast: James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Emma Roberts, Daryl Hannah
We Hope It Heads To Park City: Based on Benoit Denizet-Lewis’s 2011 New York Times article “My Ex-Gay Friend,” James Franco takes on yet another queer character (though with an obvious twist this time) in “Michael.” Produced by Gus Van Sant and directed by Justin Kelly, the film follows the true story of Michael Glatze, a San Francisco gay activist who somehow evolved himself into an ex-gay Christian fundamentalist. Franco plays Glatze, while Zachary Quinto will star as one of his former boyfriends. Definitely a topic worth consideration and it seems like a good bet we’ll find out whether newcomer Kelly can pull it off come January.
Director: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Analeigh Tipton, Sienna Miller, Robin Weigert, Alfre Woodard
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: After being the toast of Sundance in 2008 with “Sugar,” Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck disappointed some with their follow up “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” Will the third time be the charm with “Mississippi Grind”? The film follows a down on his luck man and a young poker player who set off on a road trip to the South to win some money. Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds (who replaced Jake Gyllenhaal in the role) play that duo, while Analeigh Tipton, Sienna Miller, Robin Weigert and Alfre Woodard offer a mighty quartet of female cast members joining them.
Director: Sebastián Silva
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Sebastián Silva, Tunde Adebimpe, Alia Shawkat
We Hope It Heads To Park City: Two years after coming to Sundance with two films at once (“Crystal Fairy” and “Magic Magic”), Sebastián Silva seems pretty certain to be back again — though this time with just one. But it’s a doozy: Silva himself stars half of a Brooklyn gay couple (the other half being played by TV on the Radio singer Tunde Adebimpe, no less) who ask their best friend to help them have a baby. And who plays that best friend? Ms. Kristen Wiig, continuing to build up an impressively diverse resume of indie films as of late. Overall, we are beyond sold and can’t wait to see these folks bring some “Nasty” to Sundance.
“Out To Win”
Director: Malcolm Ingram
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Documentary filmmaker Ingram (“Small Town Gay Bar,” “Continental”) takes on the timely topic of LGBT athletes in his latest film “Out To Win.” Chronicling the history of out sports players, from Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova to Jason Collins and Michael Sam, it’s certainly a topic worthy of the documentary treatment, and we’re excited to see how Ingram handles it.
Director: Patrick Brice
Cast: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godreche
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Patrick Brice broke out earlier this year when his horror film “Creep” made waves at SXSW and it seems like he’s already ready for round two. But despite the title potentially sounding that was, “The Overnight” is not another horror film. Its a comedy about two couples (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling, and Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godreche) that share a very bizarre evening with each other. Brice started shooting it right after SXSW, suggesting it should be ready (though perhaps they’ll aim for SXSW again insread). And given the promise of “Creep,” we should be excited.
“Queen of Earth”
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Patrick Fugit, Katherine Waterston, Kate Lyn Sheil
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Like the above Patrick Brice, Alex Ross Perry is a filmmaker who clearly knows how to work very fast. His “Listen Up Philip” was a big hit at Sundance this year, and it seems quite possible his “Queen of Earth” (which shot this summer) will be the talk of Sundance 2015 — at least if its any bit as good as Perry’s previous films. Reuniting Perry with “Philip” actress Elisabeth Moss, the films follows two childhood friends (Moss and “Inherent Vice” breakout Katherine Waterson) that discover they have drifted apart when they retreat to a beach house together. And it’s probably not the genre you’re thinking: The film is said to have been inspired by the early work of Roman Polanski.
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Cast: Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi, Brooklyn Decker, Anthony Michael Hall
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Andrew Bujalski hit a career high at Sundance a few years ago with “Computer Chess” and we hope he’ll be back with what appears to be his highest profile project yet: “Results.” The film follows two personal trainers, Trevor (Pearce) and Kat (Smulders), whose lives are changed by a not-so-fit wealthy new client, Danny (Corrigan). The film finished production late in the summer, so we suspect it follow the paths of Bujalski’s recent films and premiere in Park City. And it’ll surely be one of the festivals most anticipated when it does.
Director: Hannah Fidell
Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Ben Rosenfield, Joshua Leonard, Lindsay Burdge
We Hope It Heads To Park City: In 2013, Hannah Fidell was one of
Sundance’s major breakouts thanks to NEXT section favorite “A Teacher”
and we’re excited to see what she does with her follow-up, “Six Years.”
Taking on the trials and tribulations a young couple (over the course
of, you guessed it, six years), the film stars Taissa Farmiga (“American
Horror Story”) and Ben Rosenfield (“Song One”) as the pair in question,
as well as Sundance regular Joshua Leonard and “A Teacher” breakout
Lindsay Burdge (who we profiled at Sundance two years ago).
Director: Yance Ford
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Considering it received the backing of Sundance Institute, Cinereach and
the IDFA Forum in its road to completion, Yance Ford’s “Strong Island”
seems like an extremely likely inclusion in the doc programming at
Sundance come January. The documentary follows William Ford, a black
24-year-old teacher who was killed in 1992 after arguing with a white
19-year-old mechanic over a repair job. The mechanic shot him, and even
though Ford was unarmed he claimed self-defense and charges were not
pursued. 23 years later, Ford’s sister Yance is returning to the
scene of the crime with this sure to be eye-raising film.
“Sleeping With Other People”
Director: Leslye Headland
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Allison Brie, Natasha Lyonne, Amanda Peet, Adam Scott
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Leslye Headland’s darkly comedic directorial debut “Bachelorette” is very underrated as far as were concerned, so we can’t wait to see how she follows it up with “Sleeping With Other People.” Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie lead a great cast as two folks with some major relationship issues (he’s a womanizer, she’s a cheater) who come together to try and help each other get better. Between the promise of “Bachelorette” and the fact that Natasha Lyonne, Amanda Peet and Adam Scott round out the cast, consider it high on our Sundance to-see list if it follows in the footsteps of Headland’s previous film and premieres in Park City.
“Untitled Davis Guggenheim Malala Yousafzai Film”
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Every Davis Guggenheim documentary should be treated with anticipation — see “An Inconvenient Truth,” “It Might Get Loud” and “Waiting For Superman,” all of which notably premiered at Sundance. So we’re definitely looking forward to his as-yet-untitled look at seventeen year old Nobel Peace prize winner and Pakistani women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai, a fascinating figure that Guggenheim has been working with since mid-2012. Yousafzai had a very eventful 2014 (she won the Nobel Peace Prize just last month), which definitely gives Guggenheim a lot of material at this point. If it’s ready in time, Sundance seems like safe bet.
“Untitled Kirby Dick Campus Assault Film”
Director: Kirby Dick
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Another untitled doc (though it was once going by the working title “Campus Assaults”) from a filmmaker who has consistently premiered his work at Sundance comes with Kirby Dick’s take on the personal struggles of victims of sexual assault on college campuses. Dick’s previous film “The Invisible War” was a remarkable look at sexual assault with respect to the military and we expect the same of the new film.
“Untitled Noah Baumbach Public School Project”
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Heather Lind, Michael Chernus
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Before his well-received Toronto premiere “While We’re Young” even hits theaters, we could be getting another dose of Noah Baumbach when Sundance rolls around (or even a double dose if “Young” plays in the Spotlight section). Reunited him with his “Frances Ha” muse Greta Gerwig (who also co-wrote the film), there haven’t been too many details given on the as-yet-untitled film, though it was described in The New Yorker as a potential mix of “The Great Gatsby” and “Something Wild.” Which sounds like a great mix to us.
Director: Bill & Turner Ross
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Brothers Bill and Turner Ross have given us some incredible documentaries in the last few years, from “45365” to “Tchoupitoulas.” Their upcoming “Western” is definitely one of 2015’s most anticipated docs and with good reason. In an interview with Rooftop Films, the brothers explained they spent 13 months on the border in South Texas to make “a document transcending the one dimensional portrayal of the border
region, but also embracing the mythology and imagery that has lead to
it.” They said they found what you’d expect – cowboys and bullfights and border issues – but also “an awful lot more.” We can’t wait to see what they mean.
“Z For Zachariah”
Director: Craig Zobel
Cast: Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Why We Hope It Heads To Park City: Destined to be at the very bottom of alphabetically listed film festival guides in 2015 is Craig Zobel’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2012’s “Compliance.” The film marks a major step up in production value for Zobel, with and A-list cast (Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor) and a sci-fi plot worthy of a summer tentpole. The film is set in the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization, with two men and a young woman finding themselves in a love triangle as the last known survivors. It almost sounds a bit too big for Sundance, but we’ll be the first in line if it makes the cut.