We've also decided to offer up this list of 20 of those films that are we anticipating in particular. Though the great thing about the fest is how the standouts often end up being films you'd never expect (how many folks had heard much about "Beasts of the Southern Wild" going into last year's festival?). So while we'll definitely be checking out the following, it might end up being a film that's totallly not on our radar that ends up being Sundance's big breakout.
Not flinching from the hot-button issue of abortion, filmmakers Martha Shane and Lana Wilson provide a firsthand glimpse of the four doctors still performing third-term abortions after the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-abortion ativist in 2009 in Wichita, Kansas. The film has unprecedented access in showing the ins-and-outs of these four doctors' lives. Sundance is known for showing excellent films that don't shy away from controversial topics. Perhaps "After Tiller" will be in that Sundance canon. [Bryce J. Renninger]
Signs are pointing to David Lowery's feature film debut "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" being a strong contender in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, thanks in huge part to the presence of in-demand Academy Award-nominee Rooney Mara. This is the actress, who after working with David Fincher on "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," has chosen to work under such revered authors as Spike Jonze, Steven Soderbergh and Terrence Malick. Lowery's in great company. "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" finds Mara playing one half of a young outlaw couple (her beau is played by Casey Affleck) who, at the outset of the drama, is apprehended by lawmen following a brutal shootout. The film then proceeds to track Affleck's journey to reunite with his love and newborn child. [Nigel M. Smith]
Arguably the most anticipated film of the festival, the second sequel to Richard Linklater's beloved 1995 "Before Sunrise" (and first to his perhaps even more beloved 2004 film "Before Sunset"), "Before Midnight" reunites us with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) almost two decades after they met on a train bound for Vienna. Now in their early forties, "Midnight" finds them reuniting in Greece and likely facing a time contraint related to 12am, though not much is officially known. Frankly, the less known the better as we enter the third chapter of one of the great love stories of American indie cinema. [Peter Knegt]
Several years ago, "The Cove" became a Sundance breakout story with its shocking revelations about the dolphin slaughter. This time around, documentarian Gabriela Cowperthwaite's "Blackfish" looks poised to boost a similar dialogue about the mistreatment of captive orcas. For decades, much of the world took killer whale theme parks for granted before facing a frightening wakeup call when at least one disgruntled animal killed several trainers. Cowperthwaite focuses on the life of that whale, Tilikum, with an exposé that promises a blend of haunting footage and testimonies that are likely ensure you'll never go to Seaworld again. [Eric Kohn]