Sundance Institute Teams with Federal Cultural Groups on International Film Initiative

Thanksgiving is the most anxious holiday for indie filmmakers, as the Sundance Film Festival begins making its 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 2014 festival.

Ahead of those announcements, Indiewire is offering 30 films as a Sundance wish list (in honor of the festival's 30th anniversary). 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 (few had heard of Ryan Coogler or David Lowery this time last year). Of course, some 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 30 titles to consider (in alphabetical order). And if you have a title to add, tell us in the comments.

"Animal Rescue"
Michael R. Roskam’s “Animal Rescue” is an obvious eyebrow raiser in relation to other entries on this list for the fact of a budget upwards of $10 million and a star-studded cast that includes the late James Gandolfini in his final film appearance. “Animal Rescue” tells the story of a Boston bartender played by Tom Hardy (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) who upon rescuing an abandoned pit bull finds himself face-to-face with the dog’s former owner and a lethal mafia conspiracy beyond anything he could have imagine. “Animal Rescue” will star Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini and Matthias Schoenaerts among others in a film that. for its cast and foundational material in crime novel veteran Dennis Lehane’s original story of the same name, is sure to catch a glimpse or two. 

"Animal Rescue"
"Animal Rescue"

"Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary"
2014 might be bringing us the action-packed, animated, eyeball-strainer that is "The Lego Movie," but we also want to catch this lower-key documentary about the beloved brick toy. Oscar-winner Daniel Junge ("Saving Face") and Oscar nominee Kief Davidson ("Open Heart") will make a huge shift form their more serious fare to bring us the history of the colorful little bricks. According to Deadline, the film will "unspool through the lens of culture, art, and education" and "will feature input from designers, fans, LEGO artists and kids who just like to play." 

"A Blind Eye"
As a cinematographer Kirsten Johnson has quickly made a name for herself with documentary hits from “The Invisible War” to “Darfur Now” to “The Oath.” "A Blind Eye" cannot but feel like that quintessentially perfect fulfillment of her journey in the form of a documentary on the nature and dynamics of cinematography and the things often missed from the behind the camera. Johnson’s film takes us through the daily toil of Kabul’s streets from the perspectives of Najeeb, a young one-eyed boy, and a teenage girl that struggles with measuring her desire to transcend boundaries from within a repressive society. While there has been no shortage of documentaries on Afghanistan, its wars as well as its civilians, a new film on cinematography in the context of urban war torn chaos certainly seems new and exciting.

Richard Linklater's "Before" trilogy has enthralled audiences for almost two decades, but it's not the only time-based narrative that the ambitious filmmaker has been guiding along. For years known only as "Linklater's 12 Year Project," the nearly completed "Boyhood" is said to have begun production in Houston in the summer of 2002 and completed shooting last month. The central drama involves a divorced couple (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) and their impact on their son (Ellar Salmon) as he grows from childhood to his teen years. The experimental production has largely been shrouded in secrecy as Linklater has returned to it each summer, but one can imagine based on the director's recent work that a thoughtful and tremulously innovative analysis of human development is in store.

"Cold In July"
With his post-apocalyptic vampire saga "Stake Land" and slick remake "We Are What We Are," Jim Mickle has steadily established himself as one of the most accomplished young horror directors working today, with a lyrical style that builds on the genre's more shocking ingredients. Mickle's latest adaptation, which draws from Joe Landshale's novel, co-stars Michael C. Hall and Sam Shepherd in a tense story involving a burglar shot dead by a homeowner in the process of the robbery, which spurs the late criminal's vengeful father to go after the offspring of his son's murderer. As usual for Mickle, the premise pits Biblical components with the prospects of a rough life-and-death showdown, suggesting the ideal material for a white-knuckle thriller.