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Sundance 2012 Wish List: 40 Films that May Head to Park City

Indiewire By Brian Brooks, Austin Dale, Steve Greene, Eric Kohn, Peter Knegt and Nigel Smith | Indiewire November 17, 2011 at 1:29PM

Sundance 2012 Wish List: 40 Films that May Head to Park City
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Brian Brooks

Thanksgiving is an anxious holiday for indie filmmakers as the Sundance Film Festival begins making its round of 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 2012 festival.

Ahead of those announcements, Indiewire is offering 40 films as a Sundance wish list. Basically, it's a wholly unscientific collection of films that might reasonably make the cut and/or we hope will make it to Park City.

Much more so than fellow festival powerhouses Cannes or Toronto, Sundance is a hard lineup to predict. Tiny films from up-and-coming directors often end up being the most talked about films at the festival (who'd ever heard of Evan Glodell this time last year?). Of course, most 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 40 titles to consider (in alphabetical order). And if you have a title to add, tell us in the comments.

"0000," directed by Eddie Alcazar
"0000" wins the "Martha Marcy May Marlene" award for 2012's most confusing indie title, but Eddie Alcazar's low-budget philosophical sci-fi is no doubt an ambitious project for the first-time director, who was included in this year's "25 Faces of Independent Film" from Filmmaker Magazine. It's about a man, provocatively named Adam, attempting to create a new era of consciousness. [Austin Dale]

"2 Days In New York," directed by Julie Delpy
Julie Delpy's "2 Days in Paris" was a small success in 2007, but Delpy's art-house cred is no doubt enough to draw interest in its upcoming sequel, "2 Days in New York." Though Delpy calls it an "atypical sequel," the film finds her in the same role, searching for love over a weekend in the big city, which doesn't seem like a very big departure. [Austin Dale]

"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry," directed by Alison Klayman
This is reportedly the first feature-length documentary on renowned Chinese artist/activist and sometimes dissident Ai Weiwei, who has been deluged with international attention for both his provocative artwork and his political dissent. The film, which took part in the Sundance Institute's Producers Lab last summer, revolves around three years of upheaval in the life of Ai Weiwei in which he grabbed headlines, and became a first-time father as well as an online "god to tens of thousands of Chinese netizens," according to a Sundance Institute description. This is Klayman's directorial debut. [Brian Brooks]

"The Ambassador," directed by Mads Brügger
Mads Brügger's "The Ambassdor" is likely to be one of the most discussed docs on the next year's festival circuit. The film -- which opened the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam this week -- is Brügger's follow-up to his internationally acclaimed doc "The Red Chapel." The film follows Brügger (through hidden camera footage) as he poses as a Liberian Consul in the Central African Republic simply by purchasing a diplomatic passport. The film is already courting controversy as a Dutch businessman depicted in the film (who helped him get the passport) has since gone on to the Dutch media asking to have the film removed from IDFA. [Peter Knegt]

"Bel Ami," directed by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod
Nope, its not Eastern European gay pornography. It's an adaptation of the 1885 French novel by Guy de Maupassant. And it's recently been picked up for North American release by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acqusitions. Starring Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci, and Kirstin Scott Thomas, "Bel Ami" stars Pattinson as a 19th century womanizer trying to sleep his way into Paris' high society.  Period pieces don't usually scream "Park City," but having Pattinson around can't hurt publicity from the mainstream press. [Peter Knegt]

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," directed by John Madden
"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is set in a home for the elderly in India that a group of British retirees head to in hopes of something a little less expensive and a little more exotic. Starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel, it doesn't exactly sound like Sundance. But Fox Searchlight is releasing the film in early March and historically the distributor has used Sundance as a launching pad for their first -quarter releases (see "Cedar Rapids" and "Win Win" last year), so it wouldn't be a surprise if they do the same with John Madden's latest. [Peter Knegt]

"Big Sur," directed by Michael Polish
Having "Big Sur" would be the unofficial start to the Year of the Kerouac Resurgence, with a separate "On the Road" adaptation slated for a 2012 release as well. Michael Polish is directing his own script, adapted from the novel of the same name. Von Trier favorite Jean-Marc Barr will play Kerouac and one leg of the love triangle also involving Josh Lucas as Neal Cassady and Kate Bosworth as the enigmatic Billie. [Steve Greene]

"Black Rock," directed by Katie Aselton
"The Freebie" director Katie Aselton (and wife to Mark Duplass) is back with a new feature and there's a lot be excited about. For starters, it's written by Duplass, so you can bet it's going to be funny, smart and laced with his trademark wit. Next, it stars two lovely leading ladies, Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell. And what has us really riled up? On the film's Kickstarter page, Aselton labeled the film a "girl-based" thriller and counted "Deliverance" and "Cape Fear" as big influences. According to that same page, shooting wrapped this summer so a Sundance bow seems all but guaranteed. [Nigel M Smith]

"Breaking the Girl," directed by Jamie Babbit
Co-written by Guinevere Turner, who helped pen "American Psycho" and "The Notorious Bettie Page," this film follows two college kids who plot murderous revenge. There's not much indie pedigree in the cast of twentysomethings, but the allure of a modern version of "Strangers on a Train" might entice some festival-goers. [Steve Greene]

"Casa de Mi Padre," directed by Matt Piedmont
The idea of "Will Ferrell as you've never seen him before" might not sound like much to anyone aside from the actor's (shrinking?) crowd of diehard fans. Even so, "Casa de Mi Padre" sounds like something completely different, because in it Ferrell doesn't even speak English. The Spanish-produced western-telenova hybrid, co-starring Mexican superstars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, casts Ferrell as a valiant rancher facing down a threatening drug lord and chasing the girl of his dreams. The directorial debut of "Saturday Night Live" scribe Matt Piedmont promises to grab headlines, but whether it actually takes Ferrell into fresh comedic territory remains to be seen. Already set for distribution through Pantelion Films, the movie could wind up in Sundance's gala section. [Eric Kohn]

"Celeste and Jesse Forever," directed by Lee Told Krieger
Director Lee Told Krieger, whose previous "The Vicious Kind" played at Sundance in 2009, directs this curious-sounding romantic comedy from a screenplay co-written by "Parks & Recreation" actress Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. (Jones also stars alongside Elijah Wood, Andy Samberg and Emma Roberts.) The basic premise finds Jones' Celeste and Samburg's Jesse as a recently divorced couple attempting to keep their friendship intact. That familiar backdrop, along with Wood's rumored role as a "metrosexual" don't really provide enough information to get excited about, but the screenplay landed on Hollywood's Black List and the intriguing cast -- a combination of broad comic actors and indie stars -- means there might be more this scenario than implied by surface details. [Eric Kohn]

"Cherry" directed by Stephen Elliott

Image courtesy of IDFA "The Ambassador"

The porn drama "Cherry" has more going for it than its tongue-in-cheek title. It's got James Franco as a coke-addicted lawyer and a semi-autobiographical screenplay by porn star Lorelei Lee, as well as supporting turns from indie goddesses Lili Taylor and Heather Graham. Directed by novelist Stephen Elliott, "Cherry" has enough buzz behind it to go much further than Park City. [Austin Dale]

"Compliance," directed by Craig Zobel
Zobel first made Sundance waves with his directorial debut, a funny, moving story about con artists in the music business called "Great Wall of Sound." A former film school classmate of David Gordon Green, Zobel also co-founded the popular web series "Homestar Runner" in the late 1990's. The filmmaker has taken his time completing another project in the years following "Sound" (a bigger effort starring Paul Rudd fell through), but this small effort -- which received support from the Sundance Institute in 2011 -- sounds incredibly promising. The plot involves a prank caller responsible for workplace drama at a fast-food restaurant, hinting that it might be the ideal follow up to the delicate Americana on display in Zobel's top-notch debut. [Eric Kohn]

"Dead Man's Burden," directed by Jared Moshe
After producing three films that hit Sundance, Jared Moshe is directing his first film, a classic Western in which a homesteader is killed and his lawman son returns to find a sister who thinks him dead and an injustice waiting to be righted. In keeping with the genre, the feature is shot on 2-perf 35mm film "just like the original Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone," Moshe says. Also written by Moshe, the film is produced by Veronica Nickel ("Noreaster") and Jennifer Chikes ("The Foot Fist Way," "Convention"). "Burden" stars Barlow Jacobs ("Shotgun Stories") and David Call ("Tiny Furniture") and Australian actress Clare Bowen, who will make her American film debut. [Brian Brooks]

"Detroit Hustles Harder," (working title) directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
The documentary filmmaking duo were at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival with their controversial HBO doc "12th and Delaware," which provoked one of the best (and heated) post-screening Q&As after its debut last January. After the doc about an abortion clinic across the street from a clinic that tries to persuade women against abortion, Grady and Ewing saud they wanted to stay clear of the religious theme with their next project when they shared their latest project. Their new film looks at Detroit, once the paradigm of the American middle class and now a city that many have written off. "It's a city on its knees that everyone has left for dead," Ewing said. "But we're going to focus on the dreamers and hustlers -- people who think they can make the city great again." Both Grady and Ewing received an Oscar nomination back in 2007 for their doc, "Jesus Camp," which bowed at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. [Brian Brooks]

"The Do-Deca-Pentathlon," directed by Mark and Jay Duplass
The Duplass brothers have been Sundance darlings ever since their first feature, "The Puffy Chair," became a runaway hit at Sundance in 2007. "Do-Deca," however, marks a special moment in their careers: Made in between their last low-budget effort "Baghead" and their first studio movie "Cyrus," the micro-budget "Do-Deca" -- aptly centered on sibling rivalry -- should help remind people that the brothers didn't always have big budgets at their disposal. That's enough to put them in Sundance by default. [Eric Kohn]

"For Ellen," directed by So Yong Kim
Filmmaker So Yong Kim is no stranger to Park City. Back in 2006 she won a special jury prize for "In Between Days" (shared with Bradley Rust Gray), which screened that year in competition. Her latest film, "For Ellen," which she wrote and helped produce, stars Paul Dano, Jon Heder, Jena Malone and Dakota Johnson about a struggling musician who takes an overnight long-distance drive in order to fight his estranged wife for custody of their young daughter. [Brian Brooks]

"Fourplay," directed by Kyle Henry
The film's official site says it's coming Spring 2012, but it might make the Sundance cut. With the tagline, "Four true tales of sexual intimacy," the film may be just what the doctor ordered for the Utah fest. The stories involve a San Francisco transvestite sex worker; a couple who want to hook up but are interrupted by a sister and sick baby; a Tampa 20-something hoping for a quickie at the mall; and a closeted lesbian schoolteacher who has a thing for her minister's wife. Henry was nominated for a John Cassavetes Award in 2006 (shared with producers Jesse Scolaro, Allen Bain and Darren Goldberg) for "Room." [Brian Brooks]

"Gayby," directed by Jonathan Lisecki
Jonathan Lisecki's charming (and very funny) short film "Gayby," played at over 100 film festivals worldwide, garnering acclaim and awards on its route. The plot's a familiar one, but ripe for a lot of laughs. The comedy, like the short, centers on two best friends from college, now in the 30s, who decide to make good on a youthful promise and have a baby together. The catch? The guy's gay. "Gayby" began production this August, so it's not clear whether Lisecki completed it in time for Sundance. Here's hoping! [Nigel M Smith]

"The Great Invisible," directed by Margaret Brown
Shot in verité with select interviews, Brown's latest doc takes a look at the global oil economy through the lens of people who work in the oil and fishing industries on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. The film received a grant from Cinereach last winter and could be done in time to make Sundance's doc competition. In 2008 she screened her last feature doc, "The Order of the Myths," which screened in competition. She won the Truer Than Fiction Award in 2009 for "Myths" at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. [Brian Brooks]

"He Loves Me," directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Profiled on The Playlist in a July production column, "He Loves Me" is described as a "Charlie Kaufman-esque story of a writer (Paul Dano) who achieves success early in his career but begins to face struggles. As the young protagonist follows the advice of writing the woman he thinks will love him in a bid to overcome his writer’s block, he ends up willing her into existence." Cast includes Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan and Elliott Gould. [Brian Brooks]

Image courtesy of Universal "Wanderlust"

"House at the End of the Street," directed by Mark Tonderai
Relativity plans to release this horror movie in April, which might make it a good fit as one of the higher-profile midnight titles at Sundance. "House" stars Oscar-nominated "Winter's Bone" lead Jennifer Lawrence as a young girl whose family moves next door to a house where a brutal murder took place. Over time, she grows close with the only survivor of the massacre. With Lawrence in high demand post-"Winter's Bone" and the latest "X-Men" installment, her decision to star in this movie is reason alone to keep tabs on it. [Eric Kohn]

"Hungry in America," Directed by Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson
America's hunger crisis takes center stage in this feature-length documentary from filmmakers Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson and executively produced by chef-activists Tom Colicchio and Mario Batali. Powerful excerpts from the film have screened during IFP's Independent Film Week and 2009's Silverdocs festival, so the final project is likely ready for Sundance audiences. The documentary tries to find out why America, one of the world's wealthiest nations, remains the only country in the developed world where around 49 million people (17 million of which are children) go hungry despite sufficient food for all. Silverbush told the LA Times that the film will explore the food stamp program, school lunches and other issues regarding America's food system. [Nigel M Smith]

"I Want Your Love" directed by Travis Mathews
"I Want Your Love," Travis Mathews' explicit queer short film that played at a few festivals last year, has been expanded to feature length. The film comes with stamps of approval from no less than John Cameron Mitchell and Andrew Haigh, so "I Want Your Love" won't be overlooked if Sundance is looking for an uncensored glimpse at gay romance. [Austin Dale]

"Imogene," directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
Shari Springer-Berman and Robert Pulcini, the directing tandem behind "American Splendor" (which won the Dramatic Jury prize at Sundance back in 2003 and a subsequent Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay) and the HBO film "Cinema Verite" return with a dark comedy about a playwright (Kristen Wiig) whose fake suicide attempt accidentally lands her under the unwanted, constant attention of her mother. The ex-boyfriend that spawns the plan gone awry? "Glee's" Darren Criss, who'll be finishing up his first stint on Broadway right before the second half of the festival. [Steve Greene]

"Keep the Lights On," directed by Ira Sachs
"On the day this relationship ended, I knew immediately that it was a story," Ira Sachs told Indiewire back in May. Starring Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth, the film centers on a closeted handsome lawyer who meets a doc filmmaker in a tryst that turns into something much more. As the two pursue a relationship, they both battle their personal compulsions and addictions. Sachs has traveled the Sundance route before, with his film "The Delta" screening in the dramatic competition in 1997. Fast forward to 2005, he won the dramatic competition for "Forty Shades of Blue" that year. [Brian Brooks]

"Love Addict," directed by Pernille Rose Grønkjær
For her follow-up to 2006's hugely successful "The Monastery" (which won a major award at IDFA, screened in competition at Sundance and was nominated for an Indie Spirit Award), Pernille Rose Grønkjær chose to take on a little known epidemic: Love addiction. In "Love Addict," Grønkjær explores the all-consuming obsession to obtain and arrest the love of others. Set in America (where groups have started being set up to help love addicts), the doc follows seven personal stories of those hopelessly obsessed with ideas that are simply unattainable. Danes usually factor well into Sundance's world doc competition, so perhaps "Love Addict" will find its way there.  [Peter Knegt]

"Metalhead," directed by Derek Cianfrance
Derek Cianfrance blew audiences (and Indiewire) away back at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival with his "Blue Valentine," starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Now the talented writer/director has a new film on the docket, "Metalhead" (co-written with Kirt Gunn). The drama centers on a heavy metal drummer who must learn to deal with deafness after blowing out his eardrums. The film's description on IMDb notes that it is an "introspective journey into the vortex of our senses, tinkering with cinema's boundaries." Cast in "Metalhead" includes Amber Valentine and Edgar Livengood. [Brian Brooks]

"Nobody Walks," directed by Ry Russo-Young
Ry Russo-Young made quite the splash in 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival, where she premiered "You Won't Miss Me,"  an experimental indie that went on to win a Gotham for Best Feature Not Coming to a Theater Near You and net a distribution deal with Factory 25. Park City seems like the perfect fit for her next feature, "Nobody Walks," especially given that the film was born out of the 2010 Sundance Screenwriters Lab. The icing on the cake? The script's co-written by another indie darling, Lena Dunham ("Tiny Furniture"). With its starry cast (Dylan McDermott, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Krasinski and Olivia Thirlby), "Nobody Walks" marks a big leap for Russo-Young. The film concerns a young artist who gets close to a Hollywood sound designer she's staying with. Russo Young's latest is currently listed as in post production. [Nigel M Smith]

"Price Check," directed by Michael Walker
Indie queen of quirk Parkey Posey's been busy of late, appearing in a slew of TV series, including "The Big C," "The Good Wife" and "Parks and Recreation," so it will nice to see her returning to leading-lady status in the forthcoming comedy "Price Check." In the film, directed by Michael Walker ("Chasing Sleep"), Parker plays a supermarket boss in the suburbs who takes a liking to a new employee (Eric Mabius of "Ugly Betty") who just rolled into town. The film wrapped production early in the year in Larchmont, NY, so it's likely that it will be ready come Sundance time. [Nigel M Smith]

"Queen of Versailles," directed by Lauren Greenfield
Documentarian and photographer Lauren Greenfield's HBO documentary "Thin" played in competition at Sundance in 2006; she returned to Utah for the Sundance Creative Producing Summit in 2011 with this intriguing new project, which was also showcased at IDFA's 2010 FORUM. The movie examines the impact of the recent economic recession on an affluent family, the sort of timely American issue that tends to do well with Sundance audiences. [Eric Kohn]

"Red Lights," directed by Rodrigo Cortés
After 2010's "Buried" wowed some and frustrated others, Rodrigo Cortés is back with another thriller, this time with paranormal overtones. Cortés has had previous writer-director outings before, but this is the first time that he'll be pulling double duty with an English-language film. Sigourney Weaver will play Dr. Margaret Matheson in a cast also featuring Elizabeth Olsen, giving her a chance to fulfill her annual requirement of being in a mindbending film partially brought to you by the letter "M." The film also stars Robert DeNiro and Cillian Murphy. [Steve Greene]

"Revenge for Jolly!" directed by Chadd Harbold
In a screenplay written (and starring) Brian Petsos, the comedy/drama includes quite a cast. Elijah Wood, Ryan Phillippe, Adam Brody, Kevin Corrigan, Gillian Jacobs and more star in this feature about a man who recruits his cousin to investigate who is behind his dog's "suspicious death." This is the feature directorial debut for Harbold, who took second place at the recent 2011 Woodstock Film Festival for his short, "Block." [Brian Brooks]

"Robot and Frank," directed by Jake Schreier
With a cast including Frank Langella, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Susan Sarandon, Liev Schreiber and Jeremy Strong, Jake Schreier's crime comedy could be a nice fit for Sundance 2012. The film, written by Christopher D. Fordm revolves around a "curmudgeonly older dad whose grown-up kids install a robot as his caretaker." (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1990314/). Schreier produced "Natural Selection," which took the Narrative Feature Audience prize at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. [Brian Brooks]

"Safety Not Guaranteed," directed by Colin Trevorrow
Quite possibly the first movie adapted from an internet meme, "Safety Not Guaranteed" takes its title from a famously cryptic classic ad for a time-traveling companion that first appeared in a Danish newspaper in 2005. The screenplay by newcomer Derek Connolly was directed by Colin Trevorrow, whose only other credits are the documentary "Reality Show" and the TV movie "Gary: Under Crisis." It might be the amusing concept alone that has propelled the project to fruition with a promising cast of mainstream and indie stars. Among them: Kristen Bell, Jeff Garlin, Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. The official plot synopsis involves a pair of magazine employees seeking an interview with the advertising time traveler, which makes this sound like the rare case of a faithful adaptation. Then again, it wouldn't take much to take the material that far. The movie shot in Seattle in early 2011, so its completion in time for Sundance seems like a strong possibility. [Eric Kohn]

"Tchoupitoulas," directed by Bill and Turner Ross
Bill and Turner Ross, the siblings behind the documentary "45365," have returned with another boundary-pushing doc, "Tchoupitoulas." This one documents the experience of three teenage brothers as they travel to a pleasure island in New Orleans and encounter a sexual underworld. [Austin Dale]

"Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim
Probably a Sundance long-shot, the film from the team behind the nightmare inducing Cartoon Network program "Awesome Show, Great Job!" has already been acquired by Magnolia Pictures. It may show up for a screening or two, but this duo's particularly off-color brand of comedy probably won't go over so well with the audience. [Austin Dale]

"Wanderlust," directed by David Wain
Wain's "Wet Hot American Summer" and "The Ten" both debuted in Park City, though he's since gone on to more mainstream fare in films like "Role Models." Starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, his new film "Wanderlust" falls into the latter category as well (it's being released by Universal, after all), but a Sundance premiere would make a lot of sense given Wain and Rudd's indie roots and its late February release date. The film stars Aniston and Rudd as a New York couple who are forced to head to Georgia after Rudd's character loses his job. Along the way, they randomly end in a hippie commune that features a promising cast of characters played by Justin Theroux, Lauren Ambrose, Alan Alda and Ken Marino (among others). It could be a welcome dose of fun.  [Peter Knegt]

"The Wettest County in the World," directed by John Hillcoat
Being released in March by the Weinsteins, Sundance seems like a reasonable launching pad for Hillcoat's anticipated follow up to "The Road" if they opt for some festival exposure before release (though Berlin might make more sense). Based on the novel by Matt Bondurant, "Wettest County" is written by musician and frequent Hillcoat collaborator Nick Cave (who wrote the screenplay for "The Proposition" and the music for "The Road"). It stars Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke as three brothers who find their bootlegging business under threat in Prohibition-era Virginia. Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska round out the juicy cast, which could add some star power to Sundance's Premieres program. [Peter Knegt]

"The Will," directed by Christian Sønderby Jepsen
A deserved winner of the top prize in the Danish competition in Copenhagen's CPH:DOX festoval, Christian Sønderby Jepsen's hilarious, downright unbelievable "The Will" is currently screening at IDFA and is a likely bet to head to pretty much every documentary festival it wants from this point forward. The film follows three down-on-their-luck brothers who inherit a considerable amount of money from their grandmother. The aftermath of said even contains more twists and turns than that of the most outlandish mainstream narrative film. If Sundance programmers put it in the world doc lineup, it's sure to be one of the fest's most talked-about docs. [Peter Knegt]
 

This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Derek Cianfrance, Margaret Brown, Ira Sachs, So Yong Kim, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass