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Sundance Wish List: 53 Films We Hope Will Head to Park City in 2017

As Sundance prepares to announce its first batch of programming titles, we unveil 53 titles we hope will make the cut and get their big bow in Park City come January.

For many filmmakers, this Thanksgiving is poised to be a very happy one indeed, as Sundance typically rolls out its first programming announcements late in November, just in time to make the holiday cut. Ahead of those announcements, we’re pleased to take part in our own annual tradition: Offering up 53 films as a Sundance wish list, a bustling collection of films that might reasonably make the cut and/or we hope will make it to Park City.

READ MORE: ‘White Girl’ Director Elizabeth Wood and Catherine Hardwicke Talk Life After Sundance Debuts

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 ones at the festival, but some of the lineup will be comprised of more high-profile possibilities (many of them likely filled with lots of familiar recurring Sundance faces). It’s all but certain that some of the festival’s big discoveries are not going to be on our list.

In compiling this list, we chose not to include films that already premiered at festivals in 2016, and others that we don’t expect to be ready in time to make the Sundance cut (sorry, Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project”).

So with those caveats in mind, here are 53 titles to consider (in alphabetical order). And if you have a title to add, tell us in the comments.

“Abundant Acreage Available”
Director: Angus MacLachlan
Cast: Amy Ryan, Terry Kinney
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: The second feature from writer-director Angus MacLachlan, this drama centers on a middle-aged brother and sister who, after the death of their father, wrestle over the ownership of their family tobacco farm in North Carolina with three brothers who return after 50 years. The film stars Amy Ryan (“Central Intelligence”) and Terry Kinney (TV’s “Billions”) and counts Martin Scorsese as an executive producer. -Graham Winfrey

“After Louie”
Director: Vincent William Gagliostro
Cast: Alan Cumming, Zachary Booth
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: New York artist and LGBT activist Gagliostro’s directorial debut is a deeply personal work about an AIDS activist whose frustrations with the world are changed by his encounter with a young man. The film, which stars Alan Cumming and Zachary Booth (“Keep the Lights On”), finds two gay men from radically different generations talking through their different mindsets. It’s an intriguing premise that suggests the kind of elegant two-hander that made “Weekend” such a discovery on the festival circuit. Produced by former IndieWire contributor Bryce Renninger. -Eric Kohn

“Alias Grace”
Director: Mary Harron
Cast: Sarah Gadon, Zachary Levi
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Despite giving plenty of the festival’s breakout stars a home for creating further work, Netflix hasn’t used Sundance as a place to premiere their original programming. That could change with their impending Margaret Atwood adaptation, based on the true story of Grace Marks, a servant imprisoned for the accused murders of her employers. Harron and writer Sarah Polley both have solid Sundance pedigrees, as do many of the cast members (Sarah Gadon has been providing a steady stream of behind-the-scenes Instagram shots from Kingston Penitentiary). The six-hour runtime wouldn’t preclude it from nabbing a festival spot (“O.J. Made in America” bowed at Park City last year), so our fingers are crossed for at least a glimpse. -Steve Greene

“Band Aid”
Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Cast: Zoe Lister-Jones, Colin Hanks, Jesse Williams
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Zoe Lister-Jones is currently front and center on the CBS family comedy “Life in Pieces,” but she’s made a directorial debut with this indie that co-stars Colin Hanks and Jesse Williams. That’s the kind of cast Sundance loves to go for, not to mention their love for showcasing an actor’s filmmaking debut. Lister-Jones earned acclaim on the indie festival circuit last year in “Consumed,” and she’ll elevate her stardom even more with this one. We’re betting on it. -Zack Sharf

“Beach Rats”
Director: Eliza Hittman
Cast: TBD
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Because Hittman’s “It Felt Like Love” was really, really good. Bringing visual lyricism and emotional realism, Hittman’s feature debut was a coming of age story that avoided Sundance coming-of-age-story cliches. Set in Sheepshead Bay, it would appear “Beach Rats” is a return for Hittman to a working class Brooklyn setting — apparently it’s not all mean streets and brownstones — as it tells the story of how “teenager’s misguided attempt to come out sparks an explosive hate crime.” The film went through the 2015 Sundance Writers Lab and Sundance Catalyst, and is being produced by Animal Kingdom (“Paterson,” “Short Term 12,” “It Follows”) and Cinereach (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”). -Chris O’Falt

“Before I Fall”
Director: Ry Russo-Young
Cast: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Jennifer Beals
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Writer-director Ry Russo-Young’s first feature since 2012’s “Nobody Walks” stars Zoey Deutch as Sam, a young woman reliving the last day of her life during one inexplicable week. By untangling the mystery surrounding her death, Sam could discover everything she’s in danger of losing. Based on the novel by Lauren Oliver, “Before I Fall” was produced by Matthew Kaplan (“Viral,” “The Darkness” and “The Lazarus Effect”). -GW

"The Book of Henry"

“The Book of Henry”

“The Book of Henry”
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Lee Pace, Naomi Watts, Jacob Tremblay
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Because it feels like we’ve been waiting for this movie for years. The script by Gregg Hurwitz, which has been around for a loooong time, is about a single mother raising two boys, one of whom is a genius. Trevorrow had planned on making it before he got sidetracked with “Jurassic World.” He then shot it last year and it was slated for a September release, before Focus Features decided a summer release made more sense. -CO

“Brighton Beach”
Director: David Gutnik
Cast: FKA Twigs, Barney Harris, Costa Ronin
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: The feature-length debut from Russian-American editor David Gutnik (“Four”) stars R&B singer FKA Twigs in a crime drama about the rivalry between a mob boss and a family-run medical practice. Shot by cinematographer Oleg Mutu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days”), the movie suggests a truly international collaboration featuring a number of rising talents. -EK

“The Clapper”
Director: Dito Montiel
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Leah Remini, Ed Helms, James Ransone, Adam Levine
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: The story of Dito Montiel’s latest sounds both bonkers and fun: a professional infomercial extra uses the talk show to find a girl after their first date. Ever since the director’s shocking autobiographical “A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints,” he has made a handful of features with big name cast, but nothing that’s broken through. Fingers crossed this is the one. -CO

“The Circle”
Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast: Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Karen Gillian, Bill Paxton, Patton Oswalt
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Ponsoldt is a Sundance regular, having taken three of his previous films (“Smashed,” “The Spectacular Now,” “The End of the Tour”) to the festival, where they’ve all been happily embraced. It only makes sense that his most high-powered offering yet – that starry cast! a Dave Eggers adaptation! – would get a debut at a place he’s had so much success at in the past. The film has yet to crop up at any other festival, but with an April release date already set, it’s surely ready to go. Make it a Sundance premiere and call it a day. -Kate Erbland

“Dara Ju” (“Better”)
Director: Anthony Onah
Cast: Lucy Griffiths, Aml Ameen, Michael Hyatt
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Nigerian director Anthony Onah’s first film reportedly focuses on a young, ambitious Nigerian-American businessman whose life falls apart after he develops a prescription drug addiction and gets drawn into an insider trading scandal. Dealing with Wall Street corruption and American dream through a decisively modern lens, the film seems likely to resonate on several levels. Based on a short film, “Dara Ju” was a 2014 Film Independent Producing Lab finalist. -EK

"The Diary of Anne Frank"

“The Diary of Anne Frank”

Passion Studios

“The Diary of Anne Frank”
Director: Ari Folman
Cast: TBD
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: The latest film from “Waltz with Bashir” director Ari Folman tells the story of Anne Frank by combining traditional animation with stop-motion animation. The film will focus on Kitty, an Amsterdam girl and the fictional figure to whom Frank’s diary entries were written, as she finds the diary and begins reading it. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” puppeteer Andy Gent created models for the movie, Folman’s first since his 2013 part live-action, part animation feature “The Congress,” starring Robin Wright. -GW

“Dayveon” (formerly “Loudmouth”)
Director: Amman Abbasi
Cast: TBD
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: The Pakistani-American writer, director, editor and composer is only 27 years old, but he’s been on many people radars for a while. Backed by James Schamus and David Gordon Green, “Dayveon” is about 12-year old who falls in with a gang in rural Arkansas. Gordon described the film as a “cinematic portrait,” where the character’s journey “within the film feels authentic — as if I were a fly on the wall watching him trying to discover how to get over heartbreak, understand violence and become a man.” -CO

“The Discovery”
Director: Charlie McDowell
Cast: Rooney Mara, Riley Keough, Jason Segel, Robert Redford, Jesse Plemons
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Robert Redford’s recent announcement of his impending retirement will surely grab its share of headlines out at the festival that he started. A starring role from Redford doesn’t necessarily guarantee a spot in Park City (“All is Lost” was a Cannes premiere, “Truth” opened at TIFF), but the festival was a solid launching point for director Charlie McDowell’s previous outing, the lo-fi trip “The One I Love.” With sci-fi shaping up to make a strong showing at Sundance, this seems like a logical addition to the lineup. -SG

“Dude”
Director: Olivia Milch
Cast: Lucy Hale, Alexandra Shipp, Brooke Smith, Austin Butler, Alex Wolff, Nora Dunn
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: First-time director Olivia Milch already has plenty on her plate – she’s co-written the upcoming female-led “Ocean’s Eight” film from Gary Ross – and it seems like her pro-girl power aims will be well-represented in what sounds like a charmer of comedy. Focused on a tightknit group of gal pals, “Dude” is all about what happens when real life – well, life after high school – comes knocking, forcing even the most laidback of ladies to get grown up. Sundance is often heavy on the drama, and “Dude” sounds like the kind of giddy winner – think “Sing Street” – that will win over chilled audiences in a big way. -KE

“Eagles Of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends)” (aka Untitled Colin Hanks Documentary)
Director: Colin Hanks
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Colin Hanks’ second documentary following 2015’s “All Things Must Pass: The Rise And Fall Of Tower Records” focuses on his friends in the rock band Eagles Of Death Metal and the Paris terror attack of November 13, 2015. The movie is scheduled to air on HBO in February before a theatrical release, and was financed by Live Nation as the first project from its Live Nation Productions film unit. -GW

“The Female Brain”
Director: Whitney Cummings
Cast: Sofía Vergara, Cecily Strong, Whitney Cummings
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: The multitalented Whitney Cummings hasn’t earned rave reviews with her sitcom work (she created “Whitney,” and co-created “2 Broke Girls”), but her career as a filmmaker will give her another opportunity to find her voice. A comedy about the neurology of modern relationships, “The Female Brain” is adapted from Louann Brizendine’s book of the same name, and features a zillion different faces you might recognize from network TV. The film shot in July and feels geared towards Sundance sensibilities. -David Ehrlich

“Gemini”
Director: Aaron Katz
Cast: Lola Kirke, Zoe Kravitz, John Cho, Ricki Lake, Michelle Forbes, James Ransone
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: His 2010 film “Cold Weather” wasn’t a typical detective story, so although what little we know about Aaron Katz’s latest points to a “thriller,” it might be the same kind of off-beat mystery that would play well to the Park City crowd. It’s a Hollywood-adjacent mystery, but with the trio of Cho, Kirke and Kravitz at the center, it’ll be interesting to see Katz continue to work against the grain. -SG

Get Out

“Get Out”

Universal Pictures

“Get Out”
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keith Stanfield, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Allison Williams
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: After the trailer for Jordan Peele’s satirical horror film dropped, we want eyes on it as soon as humanly possible. Inspired by “The Stepford Wives,” Peele’s feature directorial debut tracks an African-American man (Kaluuya, of “Sicario” fame) goes to visit his white girlfriend’s family in the suburbs and discovers a horrible secret behind all the khaki pants and cardigans. Funny, terrifying, and ever-so-relevant, “Get Out” sports a premise (and cast) worth getting excited about — the sooner the better. -Ben Travers

“The Glass Castle”
Director: Destin Cretton
Cast: Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, Woody Harrelson, Max Greenfield
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Destin Cretton’s breakout drama “Short Term 12” was notoriously rejected from Sundance 2013, allowing the Brie Larson-starring heartbreaker to debut at SXSW, where it instantly became a smash hit. Now that Cretton has more than proved his talent and his returning star has snagged a Best Actress Oscar, the festival might just be begging to take him in. The film, based on Jeannette Walls’ memoir of the same name, is also the kind of project that Sundance loves: a family-based drama with major star power and plenty of tears to be shed. -KE

“Golden Exits”
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Cast: Emily Browning, Lily Rabe, Chloë Sevigny
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Alex Ross Perry (“Listen Up Philip,” “Queen of Earth”) has quickly established himself as one of the most assured and uncompromising young voices in indie film. Shot in relative secret earlier this year  “Golden Exits” is a wry adultery drama about a foreign lass (“God Help the Girl” star Emily Browning) whose summer trip to the U.S. causes major waves in two different Brooklyn families. Boasting a cast that also includes Analeigh Tipton, Chloë Sevigny, Jason Schwartzman, and more, Perry’s latest is a Sundance shoo-in if it’s ready in time for the fest. -DE

Our wish list continues on the next page!

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Comments

Armak

New Orleans isn’t exactly part of the independent film world but there are occasionally ambitious, entertaining indie features made here. LAUNDRY DAY is one.

Daviskay

Sundance riddled with the elite “film class” — akin to the establishment political class. The same, recycled “indie” filmmakers — mostly, white (oh, but there’s Dee! There’s Andrew!). Only way to curb this drivel is to blow up the Sundance brand entirely.

Michael_R

All you could come up with was 2 documentaries? One of which is almost entirely void of a content description.

    Bobbi Jo Hart

    A new feature doc to add is Rebels on Pointe, the first cinema vérité, character-driven film about the notorious, all male, NY-based drag ballet company, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo? Founded on the heels of the Stonewall riots, they have survived and thrived for over 40 years, bringing a gay sensibility to audiences in dozens of countries through deft and hilarious parody and phenomenal technique.

Damsel

You missed the boat with Damsel, the Western romantic dramady starring Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska. The Zeller brothers shot the film in Utah, it’s likely that it will premiere at Sundance.

    GASP

    Given that Damsel was just wrapped @ the end of August its highly unlikely to be completed in time to be eligible for the festival. I’ve no doubt that the writers here at Indiewire are very aware of those pesky logistics.

      Damsel

      Sorry to burst that smug bubble you’ve got going for yourself, but some of us know more than the people at IndieWire. As IonCinema points out today, it’s quite likely that Damsel will premiere at Sundance. Not every director needs a year to edit a film, some are much more expert than others. Sundance has a long connection with the Zellners, going back to Goliath (2008) and Kid-Thing (2012), both appearing at the festival. Time will tell, but it’s more likely than not that Damsel will debut at Sundance. And when it’s announced, you can remember just how wrong and how snotty you were.

    PM

    PM

DZ

LANDLINE!

Jim

What about that Cold War drama, The Defector, Todd Brown at Screen Anarchy seems to be a fan? Looks good http://screenanarchy.com/2016/11/the-defector-check-the-first-stills-from-the-australian-thriller-gallery.html

Mark

Underground is previously known as Burning Sands, so there’s a lot of info on itt

WS

Warning Shot with Tammy Blanchard, Bruce Dern, James Earl Jones, Guillermo Díaz, Frank Whaley, and David Spade in his first dramatic role.

@nick_staxs

Tinker’ the movie starring Clayne Crawford and Christian kane.

HJM

Killer Bees – did you know about the African American community struggling to survive in the middle of The Hamptons?

PeterPan

CHIMERA, a thought-provoking sci-fi drama starring Henry Ian Cusick (Lost) and Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13) http://www.chimerathemovie.com

Todd

I’d Like to be Alone Now. Interesting kickstarter campaign. idliketobealonenow.com

Brian David Cange

These are all great films for 2017! I have total faith that a film like “Take My Nose… Please!” will get the recognition in documentary competition! This film is an extraordinary journey into the lives of female comedians speaking candidly about plastic surgery & female empowerment in the industry. Directed by first time filmmaker, Joan Kron at the tender age of 88 which is an achievement in of itself! Everyone who worked on this unique project has been endeared to this ageless Director/Producer. Hope to see it on the list for Documentary Competition!

Dustin

Bomb City – A 1997 true story about Brian Deneke who was murdered for being a punk rocker. His killer never spent a day behind bars. It’s destined to be a thought provoking piece about social injustice. No better time then now with the current state of our country. I’ve got high hopes for this one.

Tiffany

What about Craig Johnson’s Wilson? It wasn’t there last year due to production not being ready but it does come out in March…

John Oldman

These are hardly what I would call “independent films”. They are backed with big money and so many have big stars in them. It’s a shame because there are so few truly independent films that actually get a shot. How can you with Colin Trevorrow directing a movie that stars Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay and written by a New York Times best selling author who has written screenplays for Jerry Bruckheimer, Paramount Studios, MGM and more, in addition to having developed television series for Warner Bros. and Lakeshore. It’s the equivalent of LeBron James going back to playing for his high school basketball team. Such a shame that so many BIG name directors, writers and stars “slumming it” in indie films that are a lock for Sundance regardless whether or not they are any good and basically taking the slot of a promising up-and-coming filmmaker who is probably more deserving. A previous post said it best “Sundance riddled with the elite “film class” — akin to the establishment political class”

woody

What about Dee Rees’ MUDBOUND? With Cary Mulligan, Mary J Blige, garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan, etc… Do your homework please.

    Kate Erbland

    This film is on our list: “Mudbound”
    Director: Dee Rees
    Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige
    Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Following up her Emmy-winning and Golden Globe-nominated HBO film “Bessie,” Dee Rees is taking on another Southern period story about two World War II veterans who return home, move to a Mississippi farm and have to deal with racism while adjusting to life outside of combat. “Mudbound” is based on the acclaimed novel by Hillary Jordan and was adapted by one of Jason Clarke’s old “Chicago Code” writers, Virgil Williams. So even though this marks Rees’ first directorial feature she didn’t also write, there’s plenty of reasons to believe it could be just as good as her past efforts. -BT

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