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Sundance Wish List: 70 Films We Hope Will Head to Park City in 2018

Another exciting Sundance lineup is right around the corner, and as filmmakers wait for the final word, we've assembled this list of strong possibilities for the 2018 program.

The Sundance Film Festival

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The fall is often perceived as the launch pad for awards season, as numerous prestige films compete for attention in the final weeks of the year. For much of the film community, however, it’s also the first major window into movies worth talking about next year. That’s because the Sundance Film Festival lineup typically drops in the middle of November, shaking up the holiday season with a mixture of familiar faces and newcomers who could make an impact in Park City this January. With programmers working in overdrive to complete the lineup in the coming weeks, and filmmakers praying to break through as the deadlines loom, we’ve cobbled together as much intel as we can for this extensive preview featuring dozens of promising titles that stand a good chance at making their way to Sundance this year. As usual, we’ve tried to avoid projects that are reportedly not far enough along yet (sorry, David Lowery’s Robert Redford vehicle “The Old Man and the Gun”). Place your bets now, and check to see how much we got right once the first round of Sundance announcements drop after the holiday weekend.

Note: This list has been updated with more films since its initial publication.

“About a Mountain”
Director: Lily Henderson
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: A Cinereach development grant helped this doc-narrative hybrid reach completion, with former Union Docs curator Lily Henderson at the helm. Shot with both actors and documentary subjects in conversational interviews, the film is said to blend traditional narrative structure with non-fiction techniques to form a deeper truth. Based on the environmental non-fiction book by John D’Agata, “About a Mountain” involves a government plan to store nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. Blending a documentarian’s eye with a love of story, Henderson’s unique approach would bring some excitement to the documentary lineup. —JD

“All About Nina”
Director: Eva Vives
Cast: Common, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Beau Bridges, Clea DuVall, Melonie Diaz
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: This one has Sundance hit written all over it. Vives is a writer-director many have been excited about for a long time, as illustrated by her high-profile cast, support from Sundance’s Screenwriters and Directors Labs, and backing of respected indie producers (Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Joshua Astrachan). The story of an edgy comedian whose career is starting to take off while her life falls apart could be the perfect role for Winstead to take the next big step in her career. –CO

“American Animals”
Director: Bart Layton
Cast: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Layton’s 2012 documentary “The Imposter” was a fascinating look at a man who impersonated a family’s missing son, with a canny mixture of interviews and reenactments. For his first narrative feature, Layton again draws from a weird-but-true premise, this one involving four men who attempted a crazy heist based on what they’d seen in movies. “The Imposter” showed the filmmaker had a terrific control over suspense and intrigue, so he’s overdue to develop that skill. —EK

“Beast of Burden”
Director: Jesper Ganslandt
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Pablo Schreiber, Grace Gummer
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Radcliffe has picked smart and unexpected roles from himself in his post-“Harry Potter” career, so his choice to play a drug-running pilot speaks well for Adam Hoelzel’s script, which is being filmed by Swedish director Jesper Ganslandt. Radcliffe’s character is a master of secrets – having deceived the feds, the cartel, and his wife in his years of drug running over the Mexican border – but after one last big haul of cocaine, he’s ready to start over. –CO

“Black Mother”
Director: Khalik Allah
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: The photographer-turned-director behind the striking “Field Niggas” and who supplied the New Orleans documentary imagery and audio for Beyonce’s “Lemonade” has been exploring and working out his own unique approach to nonfiction filmmaking for the last few years – with the help of backers like Cinereach and Sundance – and this project promises to be the one where he takes a big step forward. Described as “part film, part baptism,” Allah has been traveling back and forth to Jamaica to capture prostitutes and churches in a film that promises to be musical and spiritual as it captures the “vibrant, idiosyncratic souls” of the island. –CO

“Blaze”
Director: Ethan Hawke
Cast: Alia Shawkat, Steve Zahn, Sam Rockwell, Ben Dickey

Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke

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Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Directing his fourth feature film following the 2014 documentary “Seymour: An Introduction,” Hawke set his sights on a a biopic about country and western singer Blaze Foley. “Blaze” draws from a memoir by Foley’s longtime partner Sybil Rosen, who plays her own mother in the film and co-wrote the script with Hawke. Newcomer Ben Dickey stars as the musician opposite Shawkat as Rosen. Hawke’s longtime collaborator Richard Linklater rounds out the cast, along with legendary songwriter Kris Kristofferson. Though Hawke’s previous films have premiered at top-tier international festivals, with a story as American as country music itself, it would be a shame to let “Blaze” debut anywhere else. —JD

“Bisbee 17”
Director: Robert Greene
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Greene earned strong reviews at Sundance in 2016 for “Kate Plays Christine,” which strengthened his skill for making unique documentaries that blur the line between fact and fiction. The director’s latest, “Bisbee 17,” is set in a mining town on the Arizona-Mexico border and follows the locals as they stage a recreation of an event that occurred nearly 100 years ago when 1,200 immigrants were deported. Footage of the recreations was shown at the 2017 Hot Docs Pitch Forum, where IndieWire called it “slick” and “evocatively noir-ish.” —ZS

“Building the American Dream”
Director: Chelsea Hernandez
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: The incredibly popular project from the crowdfunding site Seed & Spark has found itself in the middle of an timely story. Hernandez has been capturing how the Texas economic boom has been built (literally) on the exploitation of undocumented labor force, but in response to tragedy a few brave individuals are standing up to fight for the most basic human rights, such as water breaks while they work in the Texas heat. In the midst of Trump-era policies, the endangerment of DACA and Houston needing to be rebuilt after Hurricane Harvey, Hernandez’s story only feels that much more urgent.  –CO

“The Catcher Was a Spy”
Director: Ben Lewin
Cast: Paul Rudd, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, Paul Giamatti
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: One of the most star-studded films that’s tipped to premiere at Sundance next year, Ben Lewin’s follow-up to “The Sessions” could be another acting showcase. A suspenseful historical biopic, “The Catcher Was a Spy” stars Paul Rudd as the brilliant Red Sox player Moe Berg, who became a spy for the U.S. government after retiring from Major League Baseball in 1939. Filmed in both Boston and Prague, the drama will likely focus on the time Berg spent abroad as he tried to assess the Nazis’ efforts to build an atom bomb and recruit Europe’s best scientists to the Allied cause. The film was slated to play at TIFF in 2017, only to be pulled from the official lineup because post-production couldn’t be completed in time for the festival. A Sundance bow seems all but inevitable. — DE

“Chained for Life”
Director: Aaron Schimberg
Cast: Jess Weixler, Adam Pearson, Stephen Plunkett, Charlie Korsmo
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Boasting a premise that sounds like “The Square” as directed by David Lynch (with a dash of Crispin Glover thrown in for good measure), Aaron Schimberg’s “Chained for Life” takes place on the set of a controversial art-house horror film starring actors with disabilities or disfigurements. And then things go off the rail and the boundary between what’s staged and what’s real begin to blur. Produced by The Eyeslicer’s Dan Schoenbrun and Vanessa McDonnell, and “Hide Your Smiling Faces” director Daniel Patrick Carbone, “Chained for Life” certainly has the right pedigree to provide the Sundance lineup with the challenging fare it needs to hold together. — DE

“Chef Flynn”
Director: Cameron Yates
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Flynn McGarry is a 19-year-old superstar chef who has been called the Justin Bieber of the food world, and now he gets the documentary treatment from Cameron Yates. The filmmaker gained access to 15 years worth of personal vérité footage, archival footage, and photographs to tell McGarry’s life story year by year. —ZS

“Come Sunday”
Director: Joshua Marston
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Martin Sheen, Jason Segel, Lakeith Stanfield, Condola Rashad
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Marston has yet to follow-up “Maria Full of Grace” with anything quite as good as his impactful feature debut, but he has assembled a stellar cast for his next drama. Produced by Marc Forster and Ira Glass with a screenplay by Marcus Hinchey (“All Good Things”), “Come Sunday” tells the story of an Evangelist who is ousted from his church for preaching that there is no Hell. With a cast full of Hollywood’s most impressive black actors, “Come Sunday” could be the perfect blend of talents, especially if Forster and Glass can bring some levity to some of Marston’s heavier instincts. —JD

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