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by Nigel M Smith
May 30, 2012 8:37 AM
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A Mid-Year Look Back at 16 Talent Breakouts From 2012

Nine of this year's breakouts that Indiewire profiled in 2012.

With the mid-year mark looming, this seems like a good time to revisit the most buzzed-about up-and-comers Indiewire profiled during the first half of 2012. We spoke with the 16 breakout sensations below, all of whom you are likely to hear a lot more about in years to come. So now's the time to get ahead on what they've done, where they're going and why we chose them -- so you're ahead of the conversation later. You're welcome. [Click on name to access full interview.]

Aneurin Barnard
Profession: Actor
Breakout Film: "Citadel"
Why We Profiled Him: If there were an acting award for versatility at this year's SXSW Film Festival, Welsh performer Aneurin Barnard would be the one to beat. In the Narrative Spotlight selection "Hunky Dory," he sings and acts opposite Minnie Driver as a hunky high-school student with a voice to melt hearts. And in the Midnighters film "Citadel," Barnard plays a young father suffering from agoraphobia and fighting for survival after a pack of feral children attacks him and his family. "Citadel" was acquired by Cinedigm and New Video, so expect to see it open soon.
What He's Up To: He just wrapped shooting "Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes," directed by Francesca Gregorini ("Tanner Hall") and starring Jessica Biel and Alfred Molina. He also stars in the upcoming "Trap for Cinderella," co-starring Alexandra Roach (the young Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady") and directed by Iain Softley ("Hackers").

Zal Batmanglij
Profession: Writer, director, producer
Breakout Film: "Sound of My Voice"
Why We Profiled Him: The 2011 Sundance Film Festival served as a springboard for a remarkable number of writer-directors. Mike Cahill of "Another Earth," Dee Rees of "Pariah," Sean Durkin of "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and Evan Glodell of "Bellflower" all made strong impressions, garnering distribution deals and a wealth of buzz. Zal Batmanglij, whose "Sound of My Voice" (co-written by star Brit Marling, who was also in Park City with "Another Earth") screened in the NEXT section, saw his film sell to Fox Searchlight and top Indiewire's 2011 mid-year critic's poll. But unlike the writer-directors mentioned above, he had to wait well over a year to see his debut open theatrically, in April.
What He's Up To: Batmanglij and Marling re-teamed with Fox Searchlight for their upcoming thriller "The East." In the film, Marling stars as a contract worker tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group, only to find herself falling for its leader. Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Julia Ormond and Patricia Clarkson all star. Batmanglij told Indiewire that he hopes to do another movie with Marling once he's done editing "The East." "We spent so many years laying down the track, and we've got it down a little bit now," he said. "I actually want to now take the train for a test drive and really try it out. I want to write a big movie."

Malik Bendjelloul
Profession: Director
Breakout Film: "Searching For Sugar Man"
Why We Profiled Him: Only one day into the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, first-time director Malik Bendjelloul experienced a high most filmmakers only dream of. His World Cinema Documentary Competition contender “Searching for Sugar Man” drew rave notices after its opening-night premiere, and the next day Sony Pictures Classics, making the first buy out of the festival, snatched it up.

What He's Up To: What isn't he up to? Bendjelloul said he has over four years' worth of ideas. Which one he’ll tackle next, he doesn’t know. “Maybe I’ll do another documentary, or maybe I’ll do a narrative feature,” he said. “If I do another documentary, the story needs to be as good as this one.”


  • Mohammed | May 31, 2012 12:28 AMReply

    Reminds me of the thought process behind banks granting loans only to people wealthy enough not to need the money. It's sad when even the indie world feels it can only highlight Sundance sure things.
    Hey IndieWire, try spreading the wealth a little farther afield if you really want to break out from the same 'ol song and dance routines the mainstream players are stuck in!

  • Noelle | May 30, 2012 4:36 PMReply

    @jeanvigo, I agree with your comment. As I read through the list it felt like a Sundance alumni roll. This doesn't reflect badly on the talent, but on the limited options for emerging talent to get noticed via other venues. Something Indiewire should consider more carefully going forward.

  • jean vigo | May 31, 2012 1:42 AM

    @noelle - that's really what I'm saying. I have no issue with Sundance, and that's a nice group of talent on this list. Of course, like all fests and institutes, Sundance has had it's share of work that didn't go so well. I just hope the myopic perception of the industry - and the press that serves it - expands beyond those strict borders.

    SXSW is so exciting and gaining attention exponentially. Hopefully, Tribeca will get there, too. This is all good for everyone involved in the making, buying, selling and promoting of indie film.

    And several other great fests that premiere work of new American talent: Seattle, Santa Barbara, Hamptons, AFI, Hamptons, and many more. Is the work shown elsewhere "not up to snuff" or is it just that the industry hasn't payed enough attention?

  • jean vigo | May 30, 2012 3:59 PMReply

    This is not particularly a helpful list to aspiring filmmakers: it says: you must play Sundance (with a smattering of SXSW and Tribeca) or you will have no future. Then, an aspiring filmmaker continues to assume what the cognoscenti deny - that playing in this fest is the only way to be considered talented and that, really, only the selection committee of this fest is the only thing that matters in any aspiration to "break out."

    This isn't sour grapes. I have no "beef" with this, but this is simply an objective observation of the common thread of all the profiles I just read.