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Sundance Programmers Talk Film Festival 2015 Competition Lineup

Sundance Programmers Talk Film Festival 2015 Competition Lineup

From January 22 to February 1, 2015, 120 feature-length films will screen in Park City, Utah, including 103 world premieres. Features selected represent 29 countries and 44 first-time filmmakers, including 26 in competition. And for those lucky enough to have made the cut, their careers hang in the balance. Will they land theatrical distribution? Or wind up having to go the DIY route or VOD? Getting into Sundance is one thing, emerging with a viable release is another. But Sundance is mainly about emerging talent, both behind and in front of the camera. 

On day one, January 22, Sundance will feature one of each type of film shown at the Festival: a U.S. documentary, U.S. dramatic (Bryan Buckley’s “The Bronze”), international documentary (Jerry Rothwelland’s “How to Change the World”) and world cinema dramatic (Lithuanian Alanté Kavaïté’s “The Summer of Sangaile”), as well as one shorts program. By definition, the U.S. and world narrative and documentary competition and NEXT titles tend to include more emerging, lesser-known filmmakers and innovative storytelling.

Some are acquisition titles but the beauty of these films is that many of these are world premieres that have to be checked out by hordes of festgoers, media and buyers descending on Park City. The narrative and documentary Premiere announcements still to come boast more name directors and stars.

Sundance festival director John Cooper and chief programmer Trevor Groth got on the phone with Indiewire to share some of their discoveries. Programming this “energetic powerful film festival” was “exhilarating for us,” says Cooper, “it’s fun, bolder and braver.” Also more personal, he says, “we felt an intensity this year, on all fronts.” 

About 30% of the program are women filmmakers, “hugely over the Hollywood standard,” says Cooper, “which feels good. I like the quality and diversity of the work. It feels natural.”

The programmers saw a rise in laugh-outloud comedies like hot acquisition title “The Bronze,” set in 2004, which follows what happens to an American bronze medal gymnastics winner (played by cowriter Melissa Rauch) who still lives in her backwater town, looking back on her past glories and not happy about a new rising star. Filmmaker Buckley cut his teeth on shorts and commercials. And filmmaker comedian Bobcat Goldthwait returns to standup in his personal comedy “Call Me Lucky.” 

There’s also more romantic content as well. Even many of the docs “will engage and will enrage people,” says Cooper. He sees many filmmakers digging deeper and going to the dark side, with “a real concentration on empathy,” he says, as filmmakers are “getting us to empathize with the darker side, with a wild rise of emotional extremes.”

“Documentaries continue to have equal footing,” adds Cooper, “with passion behind them.” He sees more innovative use of cinematic storytelling and digital animation. “Whether it’s a huge or smaller subject, we’re sitting down and being taken on a journey.”
He cited as one unusual doc competition discovery Crystal Moselle’s “The Wolfpack,” about seven kids trapped in an East Side apartment who hardly ever go outside and the life they create for themselves watching and reenacting films.
Another title that may break out is Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s coming-of-age story Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” whose young lead actor Thomas Mann may be a “real star in the making,” says Groth, who also praises the “Rawness” in NEXT section title “Tangerine.”   Kris Swanberg, Joe’s wife, is in the competition with “Unexpected,” a “fresh story with an honest approach looking at issues” says Groth “about women and a girl going through something.” 

Picking the right section is “about the films,” says Groth, “not what they’ve done prior to that. NEXT is established as the place to find bold innovative uncompromised films. This group fits that—they don’t have to be aggressively outrageous. Rick Alverson could have been in competition with a comedy, ‘Entertainment,’ which is such a unique beast, intentionally provocative. I’m dying to see what the audience reaction to that film is. We talked about it for both sections. In NEXT, we feel the attitude of these films, we have a pretty good sense what the audience engagement going to be.”

New to the festival this year is the Art in Film program on the second weekend, very much shepherded by Robert Redford, focusing on celebrating the filmmaking craft, following the Power of Story panel Thursday with Redford and George Lucas moderated by Leonard Maltin. The program will focus on how such crafts as editing, cinematography, art direction and costumes work. 

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Presenting
the world premieres of 16 narrative feature films, the Dramatic Competition
offers Festivalgoers a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American
independent film. 

Advantageous / U.S.A. (Director:
Jennifer Phang, Screenwriters: Jacqueline Kim, Jennifer Phang) — In a
near-future city where soaring opulence overshadows economic hardship, Gwen and
her daughter, Jules, do all they can to hold on to their joy, despite the
instability surfacing in their world. Cast: Jacqueline Kim, James Urbaniak,
Freya Adams, Ken Jeong, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Kim
.

The Bronze / U.S.A. (Director: Bryan
Buckley, Screenwriters: Melissa Rauch, Winston Rauch) — In 2004, Hope Ann
Greggory became an American hero after winning the bronze medal for the women’s
gymnastics team. Today, she’s still living in her small hometown, washed-up and
embittered. Stuck in the past, Hope must reassess her life when a promising
young gymnast threatens her local celebrity status. Cast: Melissa Rauch,
Gary Cole, Thomas Middleditch, Sebastian Stan, Haley Lu Richardson, Cecily
Strong
. DAY ONE FILM 

The D Train / U.S.A. (Directors
and screenwriters: Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel) — With his 20th reunion
looming, Dan can’t shake his high school insecurities. In a misguided mission
to prove he’s changed, Dan rekindles a friendship with the popular guy from his
class and is left scrambling to protect more than just his reputation when a
wild night takes an unexpected turn. Cast: Jack Black, James Marsden,
Kathryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike White, Kyle Bornheimer
. 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl / U.S.A. (Director
and screenwriter: Marielle Heller) — Minnie Goetze is a 15-year-old aspiring
comic-book artist, coming of age in the haze of the 1970s in San Francisco.
Insatiably curious about the world around her, Minnie is a pretty typical
teenage girl. Oh, except that she’s sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend. Cast:
Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni, Kristen Wiig

Dope / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter:
Rick Famuyiwa) — Malcolm is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in
Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the
SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure
that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately
being himself. Cast: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Blake
Anderson, Zoë Kravitz, A$AP Rocky
.

I Smile Back / U.S.A. (Director:
Adam Salky, Screenwriters: Amy Koppelman, Paige Dylan) — All is not right in
suburbia. Laney Brooks, a wife and mother on the edge, has stopped taking her
meds, substituting recreational drugs and the wrong men. With the destruction
of her family looming, Laney makes a last, desperate attempt at redemption. Cast:
Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles, Thomas Sadoski, Mia Barron, Terry Kinney, Chris
Sarandon
.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl / U.S.A. (Director: Alfonso
Gomez-Rejon, Screenwriter: Jesse Andrews) — Greg is coasting through senior
year of high school as anonymously as possible, avoiding social interactions
like the plague while secretly making spirited, bizarre films with Earl, his
only friend. But both his anonymity and friendship threaten to unravel when his
mother forces him to befriend a classmate with leukemia. Cast: Thomas Mann,
RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon
.

The Overnight / U.S.A. (Director
and screenwriter: Patrick Brice) — Alex, Emily, and their son, RJ, are new to
Los Angeles. A chance meeting at the park introduces them to the mysterious
Kurt, Charlotte, and Max. A family “playdate” becomes increasingly
interesting as the night goes on. Cast: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason
Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche
.

People, Places, Things / U.S.A. (Director
and screenwriter: James C. Strouse) — Will Henry is a newly single graphic
novelist balancing being a parent to his young twin daughters and teaching a
classroom full of college students, all the while trying to navigate the rich
complexities of new love and letting go of the woman who left him. Cast:
Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Stephanie Allynne, Jessica Williams, Gia Gadsby,
Aundrea Gadsby
.

Results / U.S.A. (Director and
screenwriter: Andrew Bujalski) — Two mismatched personal trainers’ lives are
upended by the actions of a new, wealthy client. Cast: Guy Pearce, Cobie
Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Michael Hall, Brooklyn
Decker
.

Songs My Brothers Taught Me / U.S.A. (Director
and screenwriter: Chloé Zhao) — This complex portrait of modern-day life on the
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation explores the bond between a brother and his
younger sister, who find themselves on separate paths to rediscovering the
meaning of home. Cast: John Reddy, Jashaun St. John, Irene Bedard, Taysha
Fuller, Travis Lone Hill, Eléonore Hendricks
.

The Stanford Prison Experiment / U.S.A. (Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Screenwriter: Tim
Talbott) — This film is based on the actual events that took place in 1971 when
Stanford professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo created what became one of the most
shocking and famous social experiments of all time. Cast: Billy Crudup, Ezra
Miller, Michael Angarano, Tye Sheridan, Johnny Simmons, Olivia Thirlby
.

Stockholm, Pennsylvania / U.S.A. (Director
and screenwriter: Nikole Beckwith) — A young woman is returned home to her
biological parents after living with her abductor for 17 years. Cast:
Saoirse Ronan, Cynthia Nixon, Jason Isaacs, David Warshofsky
.

Unexpected / U.S.A. (Director: Kris Swanberg,
Screenwriters: Kris Swanberg, Megan Mercier) — When Samantha Abbott begins her
final semester teaching science at a Chicago high school, she faces some
unexpected news: she’s pregnant. Soon after, Samantha learns that one of her
favorite students, Jasmine, has landed in a similar situation. Unexpected follows the two women as they
embark on an unlikely friendship. Cast: Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail
Bean, Elizabeth McGovern
. 

The Witch / U.S.A., Canada (Director and
screenwriter: Robert Eggers) — New England in the 1630s: William and Katherine
lead a devout Christian life with five children, homesteading on the edge of an
impassable wilderness. When their newborn son vanishes and crops fail, the
family turns on one another. Beyond their worst fears, a supernatural evil
lurks in the nearby wood. Cast: Anya Taylor Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie,
Harvey Scrimshaw, Lucas Dawson, Ellie Grainger

Z for Zachariah / U.S.A. (Director:
Craig Zobel, Screenwriter: Nissar Modi) — In a post-apocalyptic world, a
young woman who believes she is the last human on Earth meets a dying scientist
searching for survivors. Their relationship becomes tenuous when another
survivor appears. As the two men compete for the woman’s affection, their
primal urges begin to reveal their true nature. Cast: Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel
Ejiofor.

Documentary, World and NEXT <=> sections after the jump:

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Sixteen
world-premiere American documentaries that illuminate the ideas, people, and
events that shape the present day. 

3 and 1/2 Minutes / U.S.A. (Director:
Marc Silver) — On November 23, 2012, unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis
was shot at a Jacksonville gas station by Michael David Dunn. 3 1/2 minutes explores the aftermath of
Jordan’s tragic death, the latent and often unseen effects of racism, and the
contradictions of the American criminal justice system. 

Being Evel / U.S.A. (Director: Daniel Junge)
— An unprecedented, candid portrait of American icon Robert “Evel”
Knievel and his legacy. 

Best of Enemies / U.S.A. (Directors:
Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon) — Best of
Enemies
is a behind-the-scenes account of the explosive 1968 televised
debates between the liberal Gore Vidal and the conservative William F. Buckley
Jr., and their rancorous disagreements about politics, God, and sex. 

Call Me Lucky / U.S.A. (Director:
Bobcat Goldthwait) — Barry Crimmins was a volatile but brilliant bar comic who
became an honored peace activist and influential political satirist. Famous
comedians and others build a picture of a man who underwent an incredible
transformation.

Cartel Land / U.S.A., Mexico
(Director: Matthew Heineman) — In this classic Western set in the 21st
century, vigilantes on both sides of the border fight the vicious Mexican drug
cartels. With unprecedented access, this character-driven film provokes deep
questions about lawlessness, the breakdown of order, and whether citizens
should fight violence with violence. 

City of Gold / U.S.A. (Director:
Laura Gabbert) — Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jonathan Gold casts his light
upon a vibrant and growing cultural movement in which he plays the dual roles
of high-low priest and culinary geographer of his beloved Los Angeles. 

Finders Keepers / U.S.A. (Directors:
Bryan Carberry, Clay Tweel) — Recovering addict and amputee John Wood finds
himself in a stranger-than-fiction battle to reclaim his mummified leg from
Southern entrepreneur Shannon Whisnant, who found it in a grill he bought at an
auction and believes it to therefore be his rightful property.

Hot Girls Wanted / U.S.A. (Directors:
Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus) — Hot Girls Wanted is a first-ever
look at the realities inside the world of the amateur porn industry and the
steady stream of 18- and 19-year-old girls entering into it.

How to Dance in Ohio / U.S.A. (Director:
Alexandra Shiva) — In Columbus, Ohio, a group of teenagers and young adults on
the autism spectrum prepare for an iconic American rite of passage — a spring
formal. They spend 12 weeks practicing their social skills at a local nightclub
in preparation for the dance.

Larry Kramer in Love and Anger / U.S.A. (Director: Jean Carlomusto) — Author, activist,
and playwright Larry Kramer is one of the most important and controversial
figures in contemporary gay America, a political firebrand who gave voice to
the outrage and grief that inspired gay men and lesbians to fight for their
lives. At 78, this complicated man still commands our attention.

Meru / U.S.A. (Directors: Jimmy Chin, E.
Chai Vasarhelyi) — Three elite mountain climbers sacrifice everything but their
friendship as they struggle through heartbreaking loss and nature’s harshest
elements to attempt the never-before-completed Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru, the
most coveted first ascent in the dangerous game of Himalayan big wall climbing.

Racing Extinction / U.S.A. (Director: Louie Psihoyos) — Academy Award-winner
Louie Psihoyos (The Cove) assembles a
unique team to show the world never-before-seen images that expose issues
surrounding endangered species and mass extinction. Whether infiltrating
notorious black markets or exploring humans’ effect on the environment, Racing Extinction will change the way
you see the world.

(T)ERROR / U.S.A. (Directors: Lyric R.
Cabral, David Felix Sutcliffe) — (T)ERROR
is the first film to document on camera a covert counterterrorism sting as
it unfolds. Through the perspective of *******, a 63-year-old Black
revolutionary turned FBI informant, viewers are given an unprecedented glimpse
of the government’s counterterrorism tactics, and the murky justifications
behind them.

Welcome to Leith / U.S.A. (Directors:
Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker) — A white supremacist attempts to
take over a small town in North Dakota. 

Western / U.S.A., Mexico (Directors: Bill Ross, Turner Ross) —
For generations, all that distinguished Eagle Pass, Texas, from Piedras Negras,
Mexico, was the Rio Grande. But when darkness descends upon these harmonious
border towns, a cowboy and lawman face a new reality that threatens their way
of life. Western portrays timeless
American figures in the grip of unforgiving change.

The Wolfpack / U.S.A. (Director: Crystal Moselle) — Six bright teenage brothers have spent their
entire lives locked away from society in a Manhattan housing project. All they
know of the outside is gleaned from the movies they watch obsessively (and
recreate meticulously). Yet as adolescence looms, they dream of escape, ever
more urgently, into the beckoning world.

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Twelve films from emerging filmmaking talents around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.

Chlorine / Italy (Director: Lamberto Sanfelice, Screenwriters: Lamberto Sanfelice, Elisa Amoruso) — Jenny, 17, dreams of becoming a synchronized swimmer. Family events turn her life upside down and she is forced move to a remote area to look after her ill father and younger brother. It won’t be long before Jenny starts pursuing her dreams again. Cast: Sara Serraiocco, Ivan Franek, Giorgio Colangeli, Anatol Sassi, Piera Degli Esposti, Andrea Vergoni. World Premiere

Chorus / Canada (Director and screenwriter: François Delisle) — A separated couple meet again after 10 years when the body of their missing son is found. Amid the guilt of losing a loved one, they hesitantly move toward affirmation of life, acceptance of death, and even the possibility of reconciliation. Cast: Sébastien Ricard, Fanny Mallette, Pierre Curzi, Genevieve Bujold. World Premiere

Glassland / Ireland (Director and screenwriter: Gerard Barrett) — In a desperate attempt to reunite his broken family, a young taxi driver becomes entangled in the criminal underworld. Cast: Jack Reynor, Toni Collette, Will Poulter, Michael Smiley. International Premiere

Homesick / Norway (Director: Anne Sewitsky, Screenwriters: Ragnhild Tronvoll, Anne Sewitsky) — When Charlotte, 27, meets her brother Henrik, 35, for the first time, two people who don’t know what a normal family is begin an encounter without boundaries. How does sibling love manifest itself if you have never experienced it before? Cast: Ine Marie Wilmann, Simon J. Berger, Anneke von der Lippe, Silje Storstein, Oddgeir Thune, Kari Onstad. World Premiere

Ivy / Turkey (Director and screenwriter: Tolga Karaçelik) — Sarmasik is sailing to Egypt when the ship’s owner goes bankrupt. The crew learns there is a lien on the ship, and key crew members must stay on board. Ivy is the story of these six men trapped on the ship for days. Cast: Nadir Sarıbacak, Özgür Emre Yıldırım, Hakan Karsak, Kadir Çermik, Osman Alkaş, Seyithan Özdemiroğlu. World Premiere

Partisan / Australia (Director: Ariel Kleiman, Screenwriters: Ariel Kleiman, Sarah Cyngler) — Alexander is like any other kid: playful, curious and naive. He is also a trained assassin. Raised in a hidden paradise, Alexander has grown up seeing the world filtered through his father, Gregori. As Alexander begins to think for himself, creeping fears take shape, and Gregori’s idyllic world unravels. Cast: Vincent Cassel, Jeremy Chabriel, Florence Mezzara. World Premiere

PRINCESS / Israel (Director and screenwriter: Tali Shalom Ezer) — While her mother is away from home, 12-year-old Adar’s role-playing games with her stepfather move into dangerous territory. Seeking an escape, Adar finds Alan, an ethereal boy that accompanies her on a dark journey between reality and fantasy. Cast: Keren Mor, Shira Haas, Ori Pfeffer, Adar Zohar Hanetz. International Premiere

The Second Mother / Brazil (Director and screenwriter: Anna Muylaert) — Having left her daughter, Jessica, to be raised by relatives in the north of Brazil, Val works as a loving nanny in São Paulo. When Jessica arrives for a visit 13 years later, she confronts her mother’s slave-like attitude and everyone in the house is affected by her unexpected behavior. Cast: Regina Casé, Michel Joelsas, Camila Márdila, Karine Teles, Lourenço Mutarelli. World Premiere

Slow West / New Zealand (Director: John Maclean, Screenwriters: John Maclean, Michael Lesslie) — Set at the end of the nineteenth century, 16-year-old Jay Cavendish journeys across the American frontier in search of the woman he loves. He is joined by Silas, a mysterious traveller, and hotly pursued by an outlaw along the way. Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Rory McCann, Ben Mendelsohn, Brooke Williams, Caren Pistorius. World Premiere

Strangerland / Australia, Ireland (Director: Kim Farrant, Screenwriters: Fiona Seres, Michael Kinirons) — When Catherine and Matthew Parker’s two teenage kids disappear into the remote Australian desert, the couple’s relationship is pushed to the brink as they confront the mystery of their children’s fate. Cast: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Lisa Flanagan, Meyne Wyatt, Maddison Brown. World Premiere

The Summer of Sangaile / Lithuania, France, Holland (Director and screenwriter: Alanté Kavaïté) — Seventeen-year-old Sangaile is fascinated by stunt planes. She meets a girl her age at the summer aeronautical show, nearby her parents’ lakeside villa. Sangaile allows Auste to discover her most intimate secret and in the process finds in her teenage love, the only person that truly encourages her to fly. Cast: Julija Steponaitytė, Aistė Diržiūtė. World Premiere. DAY ONE FILM

Umrika / India (Director and screenwriter: Prashant Nair) — When a young village boy discovers that his brother, long believed to be in America, has actually gone missing, he begins to invent letters on his behalf to save their mother from heartbreak, all the while searching for him. Cast: Suraj Sharma, Tony Revolori, Smita Tambe, Adil Hussain, Rajesh Tailang, Prateik Babbar. World Premiere

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Twelve documentaries by some of the most courageous and extraordinary international filmmakers working today.

The Amina Profile / Canada (Director: Sophie Deraspe) — During the Arab revolution, a love story between two women — a Canadian and a Syrian American — turns into an international sociopolitical thriller spotlighting media excesses and the thin line between truth and falsehood on the Internet. World Premiere

Censored Voices / Israel, Germany (Director: Mor Loushy) — One week after the 1967 Six-Day War, renowned author Amos Oz and editor Avraham Shapira recorded intimate conversations with soldiers returning from the battlefield. The Israeli army censored the recordings, allowing only a fragment of the conversations to be published. Censored Voices reveals these recordings for the first time. World Premiere

The Chinese Mayor / China (Director: Hao Zhou) — Mayor Geng Yanbo is determined to transform the coal-mining center of Datong, in China’s Shanxi province, into a tourism haven showcasing clean energy. In order to achieve that, however, he has to relocate 500,000 residences to make way for the restoration of the ancient city. World Premiere

Chuck Norris vs Communism / United Kingdom, Romania, Germany (Director: Ilinca Calugareanu) — In 1980s Romania, thousands of Western films smashed through the Iron Curtain, opening a window to the free world for those who dared to look. A black market VHS racketeer and courageous female translator brought the magic of film to the masses and sowed the seeds of a revolution. World Premiere

Dark Horse / United Kingdom (Director: Louise Osmond) — Dark Horse is the inspirational true story of a group of friends from a workingman’s club who decide to take on the elite “sport of kings” and breed themselves a racehorse. World Premiere

Dreamcatcher / United Kingdom (Director: Kim Longinotto) — Dreamcatcher takes us into a hidden world seen through the eyes of one of its survivors, Brenda Myers-Powell. A former teenage prostitute, Brenda defied the odds to become a powerful advocate for change in her community. With warmth and humor, Brenda gives hope to those who have none. World Premiere

How to Change the World / United Kingdom, Canada (Director: Jerry Rothwell) — In 1971, a group of friends sails into a nuclear test zone, and their protest captures the world’s imagination. Using rare, archival footage that brings their extraordinary world to life, How to Change the World is the story of the pioneers who founded Greenpeace and defined the modern green movement. World Premiere. DAY ONE FILM

Listen to Me Marlon / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Stevan Riley, Co-writer: Peter Ettedgui) — With exclusive access to previously unheard audio archives, this is the definitive Marlon Brando cinema documentary. Charting his exceptional career and extraordinary life away from the stage and screen, the film fully explores the complexities of the man by telling the story uniquely in Marlon’s own voice. World Premiere

Pervert Park / Sweden, Denmark (Directors: Frida Barkfors, Lasse Barkfors) — Pervert Park follows the everyday lives of sex offenders in a Florida trailer park as they struggle to reintegrate into society, and try to understand who they are and how to break the cycle of sex crimes being committed. International Premiere

The Russian Woodpecker / United Kingdom (Director: Chad Gracia) — A Ukrainian victim of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster discovers a dark secret and must decide whether to risk his life by revealing it, amid growing clouds of revolution and war. World Premiere

Sembene! / U.S.A., Senegal (Directors: Samba Gadjigo, Jason Silverman) — In 1952, Ousmane Sembene, a Senegalese dockworker and fifth-grade dropout, began dreaming an impossible dream: to become the storyteller for a new Africa. This true story celebrates how the “father of African cinema,” against enormous odds, fought a monumental, 50-year-long battle to give Africans a voice. World Premiere

The Visit / Denmark, Austria, Ireland, Finland, Norway (Director: Michael Madsen) — “This film documents an event that has never taken place…” With unprecedented access to the United Nations’ Office for Outer Space Affairs, leading space scientists and space agencies, The Visit explores humans’ first encounter with alien intelligent life and thereby humanity itself. “Our scenario begins with the arrival. Your arrival.” 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. Presented by Adobe.

Bob and the Trees / U.S.A., France (Director: Diego Ongaro, Screenwriters: Diego Ongaro, Courtney Maum, Sasha Statman-Weil) — Bob, a 50-year-old logger in rural Massachusetts with a soft spot for golf and gangsta rap, is struggling to make ends meet in a changed economy. When his beloved cow is wounded and a job goes awry, Bob begins to heed the instincts of his ever-darkening self. Cast: Bob Tarasuk, Matt Gallagher, Polly MacIntyre, Winthrop Barrett, Nathaniel Gregory. World Premiere

Christmas, Again / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Charles Poekel) — A heartbroken Christmas tree salesman returns to New York, hoping to put the past year behind him. He spends the season living in a trailer and working the night shift, until a mysterious woman and some colorful customers rescue him from self-destruction. Cast: Kentucker Audley, Hannah Gross, Jason Shelton, Oona Roche. North American Premiere

Cronies / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Larnell) — Twenty-two-year-old Louis doesn’t know whether his childhood friendship with Jack will last beyond today. Cast: George Sample III, Zurich Buckner, Brian Kowalski. World Premiere

Entertainment / U.S.A. (Director: Rick Alverson, Screenwriters: Rick Alverson, Gregg Turkington, Tim Heidecker) — En route to meeting with his estranged daughter, in an attempt to revive his dwindling career, a broken, aging comedian plays a string of dead-end shows in the Mojave Desert. Cast: Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera, Amy Seimetz, Lotte Verbeek. World Premiere

H. / U.S.A., Argentina (Directors and screenwriters: Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia) — Two women, each named Helen, find their lives spinning out of control after a meteor allegedly explodes over their city of Troy, New York. Cast: Robin Bartlett, Rebecca Dayan, Will Janowitz, Julian Gamble, Roger Robinson. World Premiere

James White / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Josh Mond) — A young New Yorker struggles to take control of his reckless, self-destructive behavior in the face of momentous family challenges. Cast: Chris Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Scott Mescudi, Makenzie Leigh, David Call. World Premiere

Nasty Baby / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Sebastian Silva) — A gay couple try to have a baby with the help of their best friend, Polly. The trio navigates the idea of creating life while confronted by unexpected harassment from a neighborhood man called The Bishop. As their clashes grow increasingly aggressive, odds are someone is getting hurt. Cast: Sebastian Silva, Tunde Adebimpe, Kristin Wiig, Reg E. Cathey, Mark Margolis, Denis O’Hare. World Premiere

The Strongest Man / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kenny Riches) — An anxiety-ridden Cuban man who fancies himself the strongest man in the world attempts to recover his most prized possession, a stolen bicycle. On his quest, he finds and loses much more. Cast: Robert Lorie, Paul Chamberlain, Ashly Burch, Patrick Fugit, Lisa Banes. World Premiere

Take Me to the River / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Matt Sobel) — A naive California teen plans to remain above the fray at his Nebraskan family reunion, but a strange encounter places him at the center of a long-buried family secret. Cast: Logan Miller, Robin Weigert, Josh Hamilton, Richard Schiff, Ursula Parker, Azura Skye. World Premiere

Tangerine / U.S.A. (Director: Sean Baker, Screenwriters: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch) — A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart. Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, Alla Tumanyan, James Ransone. World Premiere

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