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Sundance 2011 Wishlist: 30 Films That May Head to Park City

Sundance 2011 Wishlist: 30 Films That May Head to Park City

The announcement of the lineup for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival is only one week away. Over 100 features in a variety of programs are expected to screen at the festival, and collectively that will significantly aid in setting the tone for another year of indie film – from narratives to documentaries both American and international. This year alone, the likes of “The Kids Are All Right,” “Winter’s Bone,” “Cyrus,” “Blue Valentine,” “Exit Through The Gift Shop,” “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” “Restrepo,” “Animal Kingdom” and “Four Lions” marked only a few of the films that premiered in Park City and went on to become some of the most talked about films on the specialty market.

Much more so than fellow festival powerhouses Cannes or Toronto, Sundance isn’t an easy lineup to predict. Much smaller films from up-and-coming directors often end up being the most talked about films at the festival, and it’s essentially impossible to gauge what those films might be. Last year, very few would have looked at the synopses offered by Sundance’s 2010 lineup announcement and made bets that “Winter’s Bone” would go on to be an Oscar contender and that its star Jennifer Lawrence would be one of the year’s big breakouts, which really is part of the fun of a festival of discovery. But that said, it is also fun to attempt to forecast a film festival that is so difficult to see coming. So in anticipation of the 2011 lineup, indieWIRE is offering a “wish-list” of 30 films that could very well end up factoring in, as well as a bonus five that are currently screening at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), currently underway.

Expectedly, the vast majority of the films are some of the more high-profile possibilities, and it is still all-but-certain that some of the festival’s eventual big breakouts are not going to be on the list. With that in mind, check out indieWIRE‘s suggestions of 30 films that might make the cut, and do offer any of your own predictions in the seven-days-and-counting before Sundance makes its big announcements.

The Beaver, directed by Jodie Foster
Perhaps a dark horse for inclusion here, but the fact “The Beaver” was being sold in the American Film Market recently, and that it has official European release dates in January and February, suggests it’s now or never for Summit Entertainment to get the film out and into the world. And if it as good as some have suggested, Sundance would be the place to start. The reason why the film has been so delayed, of course, is that it stars PR nightmare Mel Gibson as a clinically depressed toy company CEO who finds solace through a beaver hand puppet. Gibson’s character uses said beaver to communicate to his wife (Jodie Foster). A bizarre but intriguing choice for Foster’s long-awaited directorial follow-up to 1995’s “Home For The Holidays,” its script – by Kyle Killen – topped the 2008 “Blacklist,” which ranks the best unproduced screenplays. Filming was completed in November 2009, and while mass public hatred for Gibson will be no small obstacle to overcome, there’s more than a few people curious to see what this “Beaver” has to offer. [Peter Knegt]

Butter, directed by Jim Field Smith
A massive ensemble cast that includes the likes of Jennifer Garner, Olivia Wilde, Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone, Ashley Green and Ty Burrel rounds out Jim Field Smith’s “Butter.” A Weinstein Company picture, the Louisiana shot film follows a number of competitive characters who become entwined in an annual butter-carving contest. Garner, who also serves as a producer on the film, plays the wife of a former butter sculpting champion who tries to her hand at the craft, only to be thwarted by an adopted girl who has a natural knack for it. [Nigel M. Smith]

Detachment, directed by Tony Kaye
Director Tony Kaye hasn’t successfully reached a big audience since back in 1998 with “American History X.” For his latest, Kaye has assembled an impressive cast headed by Adrien Brody, that might make this one to look out for. Brody plays a New York substitute teacher who spends three weeks drifting between several schools, in what is being billed as an expose of the American public school system. Rounding out the cast is Christina Hendricks, James Caan, Lucy Liu, Marcia Gay Harden, Bryan Cranston, Blythe Danner and TIm Blake Nelson. [Nigel M. Smith]

A promotional image from Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver.”

The Details, directed by Jacob Aaron Estes
Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks star in this film about a couple pit against a pack of raccoons who are ravaging their beautiful new garden. Matters are further complicated when the couple begin to realize that they might not be even able to stand each other, let alone the pesky critters. The dark comedy is directed by Jacob Aaron Estes, whose “Mean Creek” saw success in the festival circuit back in 2004. Laura Linney, Ray Liotta and Kerry Washington complete the film’s cast. [Daniel Loria]

For Ellen, directed by So Yong Kim Kim is a Sundance vet, winning a Special Jury Prize for “In Between Days” in 2006, shared with Bradley Rust Gray who is also producing their latest project. “For Ellen” focuses on a struggling musician who sets out on an overnight journey to battle is estranged wife for custody of their young daughter. The film stars Paul Dano, Jon Heder and Jena Malone. [Brian Brooks]

The Future, directed by Miranda July
July made a splash at Sundance back in 2005, picking up a Special Jury Prize as well as an NHK Award for “Me and You and Everyone We Know.” The film went on to pick up a number of prizes at festivals around the world, including in Cannes where July was presented with the Camera d’Or and the feature was released in theaters via IFC Films. She once again stars in her latest, along with David Warshofsky and Isabella Acres about a young couple whose relationship is put to the test when one of them goes on an ecological mission. [Brian Brooks]

The Good Doctor, directed by Lance Daly
Irish “Kisses” director Lance Daly heads for the mainstream with Orlando Bloom vehicle, “The Good Doctor.” Bloom plays Dr. Martin Ploeck, a man who has spent most of life trying to earn respect. When he meets 18-year-old patient Diane, suffering from a kidney infection, he gets a boost of confidence. But when her health shows signs of improvement, Ploeck begins tampering with her treatment to keep her sick and next to him. Along with Orlando, Daly has cast a slew of Sundance alumni that include Taraji P. Henson, Michael Pena and Riley Keough. [Nigel M. Smith]

Higher Ground, directed by Vera Farmiga
Oscar-nominee and Sundance vet Vera Farmiga makes her directorial debut with “Higher Ground,” based on Carolyn S. Brigg’s memoir “This Dark World.” The film chronicles one woman’s immersion into Fundamentalist faith, and her decision, 20 years later, to leave it behind. Farmiga stars in her own film, alongside Donna Murphy, John Hawkes and Bill Irwin. Shot just this past summer, it’s unsure whether the film will be ready in time to premiere at Sundance. [Nigel M. Smith]

A scene from Miranda July’s “The Future.”

I Melt With You, directed by Mark Pellington Known in the early ’90s for his video documentary on U2 during their Achtung Baby album, Pellington went to Sundance in 1997 with “Going All the Way” in 1997, which screened in competition that year. He is now in post-production with the thriller, “I Melt with You.” Starring Carla Gugino, Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe and Sasha Grey. The film centers on four men facing middle age as their lives intersect. [Brian Brooks]

Jane Eyre, directed by Cary Fukunaga
Two years ago, Cary Fukunaga took Sundance by storm with his very well-received feature debut “Sin Nombre.” Given his anticipated follow-up – an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte “Jane Eyre” – already had an April release date, a return to Sundance seems like an inevitable place to launch it. Featuring an impressively drool-worthy cast including Mia Wasikowska (as Jane Eyre), Michael Fassbender (as Edward Rochester), Sally Hawkins (as Mrs. Reed), Jamie Bell (as St. John) and Judi Dench (as Mrs. Fairfax), “Eyre” is a far cry from the entirely unknown cast that filled “Sin Nombre.” But one can hope that the films will have in common their use of Fukunaga’s clear talent and further suggest he’s a filmmaker to pay attention to. [Peter Knegt]

Jeff Who Lives at Home, directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
The Duplass Brothers have been mainstays at the Sundance Film Festival ever since their film “The Puffy Chair” debuted in Park City in 2005. They’ve returned many times including with their debuts for “Baghead” in 2008 and “Cyrus” last year. Mark Duplass also starred in Lynn Shelton’s “Humpday,” which debuted at the festival in 2009. Now the duo are likely to return with their latest comedy, “Jeff Who Lives at Home.” Starring Jason Segel, Judy Greer, Ed Helms and Susan Sarandon. The film revolves around Jeff (Segel) who sets out on a routine errand for his disgruntled mother, but finds that the universe is sending him signs about his future. [Brian Brooks]

The Lie, directed by Joshua Leonard
“Blair Witch” star Joshua Leonard steps behind the camera for the first time with “The Lie,” a movie based on a short story by T.C. Boyle, that appeared in The New Yorker, which tells the story of man’s life turned upside down after telling a lie to get out of work. Leonard, who appeared in Sundance darling “Humpday,” also stars in the movie alongside Mark Webber, Jess Weixler, Kelli Garner and James Ransone. [Nigel M. Smith]

Like Crazy, directed by Drake Doremus
Drake Doremus’s film tells the story of two young students, one British and one American, whose relationship becomes complicated when they have to part ways. The couple is played by two rising young actors, Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”) and Anton Yelchin (“Star Trek”). Doremus and Lawrence were both presenting films at last year’s festival, and this new romantic film is already showing strong potential. [Daniel Loria]

Live With It, directed by Jonathan Levine
Formerly titled “I’m With Cancer,” this film is Sundance alum Jonathan Levine’s follow up to the well received 2008 entry “The Wackness.” Based on an autobiographical script by Will Reiser (son of Paul), and featuring a extremely promising cast that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston and Philip Baker Hall, “Live With It” is a comic take on a 25 year-old guy’s cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to deal with the disease. Like many other films on this list (“The Beaver,” “Take This Waltz”), the script once made the Black List (which highlights the best unproduced screenplays), and if it makes Sundance’s lineup would definitely be one of its most high-profile additions. [Peter Knegt]

Margaret, directed by Kenneth Lonergan
If indieWIRE had published this list regularly for the past decade, this might be “Margaret”‘s fifth annual time making the cut. Kenneth Lonergan’s intensely delayed follow-up to “You Can Count On Me,” the film apparently has been completed, but history is against hedging any bets on it popping up at this year’s festival. Starring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Kieran Culkin and Rosemarie DeWitt, the film follows a 17 year old (Paquin, 23 at the time of shooting, 28 now) upset with the potential role she played in a traffic accident. If it were to premiere at this year’s fest, it would appropriately be the ten year anniversary of when “You Can Count On Me” won the Grand Jury Prize. [Peter Knegt]

-This story continues on the next page-

A scene from Cary Fukunaga’s “Jane Eyre.”

The Moth Diaries, directed by Mary Harron
Vampires and teenagers have proved to be a winning combination at the multiplex, but how would they fare at Sundance? Mary Harron (“American Psycho”) directs this film about an elite girls’ boarding school where the newest pupil might (or might not!) be a vampire. English model Lily Cole (“The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus) and Scott Speedman (“Barney’s Version”) headline the cast. [Daniel Loria]

My Idiot Brother, directed by Jesse Peretz
Paul Rudd stars as Ned in Jesse Peretz’s new film about an idealist who leaves his mother’s overbearing house for brief stays with his three successful sisters, played by Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer. Adventures ensue as Ned comes into Miranda’s life (Banks) on the verge of a big break in the world of journalism. His stay with Natalie (Deschanel) coincides with a stressful time she is having with her girlfriend (Rashida Jones). Finally, his visit to Liz (Mortimer) gives us a glimpse to that ever-dangerous of beings, a Park Slope mom with a failing marriage. [Daniel Loria]

The Oranges, directed by Julian Farino
Director Julian Farino has a number of high-profile television credits to his name, so it is hardly a surprise that he’s been able to cast actors with a successful past in the small screen for his feature film, “The Oranges.” Hugh Laurie (“House M.D.”), Leighton Meester (“Gossip Girl”) and Adam Brody (“The O.C.”) all star in this romantic comedy about an uncomfortable attraction between a young girl (Meester) and the father of the family friends who live across the street (Laurie). [Daniel Loria]

Paul, directed by Greg Mottola
Greg Mottola, the director of “Superbad” and “Adventureland,” helms this science-fiction comedy starring “Shaun of the Dead” duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The Brits play a pair of sci-fi geeks who run into a rogue alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) at Area 51 during a cross-country road trip in the United States. Details on the film’s plot are still under wraps, but the cast is rounded out by Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver and Kristen Wiig. [Daniel Loria]

Perfect Sense, directed by David MacKenzie
Eva Green and Ewan McGregor team up in David MacKenzie’s “Perfect Sense,” a romantic story set in a city where people are beginning to lose their sensory perception. This film would mark Mackenzie’s return to the festival, after presenting the sex comedy “Spread,” starring Ashton Kutcher, in last year’s edition. This newest film, originally titled “The Last Word,” is in post-production and has begun building speculation around its enigmatic storyline. [Daniel Loria]

A scene from Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need To Talk About Kevin.”

Red State, directed by Kevin Smith
Smith tied for a Filmmakers Trophy back in 1994 when he hit the filmmaking scene with his seminal “Clerks,” which screened in competition that year. He returned to Park City with “Chasing Amy” in 1997 and very well could be on tap for the festival once again with his latest feature. Starring Kyle Gallner, John Goodman and Michael Angarano, the film is a thriller in which a group of misfits encounter fundamentalism gone haywire in Middle America. [Brian Brooks]

Salvation Boulevard, directed by George Ratliff
Ratliff’s “Joshua” screened in competition at Sundance in 2007 and the director has shown a diversity of work despite less than a half dozen titles under his belt. In 2001 he directed the doc “Hell House,” which created a stir on the festival circuit, though it actually had its debut in Toronto and later went on to win a prize at the San Francisco International Film Festival. He is now turning his focus onto a comedy/thriller starring Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Pierce Brosnan and Marisa Tomei. “Salvation Boulevard is set amidst the world of mega-churches. A former Deadhead and now born again Christian flees fundamentalist fellow church goers who will do anything to protect their larger-than-life pastor. [Brian Brooks]

Source Code, directed by Duncan Jones
Duncan Jones’ follow-up to his 2009 Sundance hit “Moon,” “Source Code” is not what you’d think of as a Sundance Film. That said, neither was “Moon.” Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan and Jeffrey Wright, “Source Code” is a science fiction thriller that deals with a complex and experimental government program that can transfer people into the bodies of others that are about to die. Budgeted at $35 million (which if one watches the film’s trailer, feels cheap), it would definitely be one of the more glossy films at the fest, but distributor Summit Entertainment could use the opportunity to create word of mouth leading up to the film’s April release. [Peter Knegt]

Take This Waltz, directed by Sarah Polley
Sarah Polley’s directorial follow-up to “Away From Her,” “Take This Waltz,” recently finished shooting and was selling at AFM last month. Whether that means it will be done in time for Sundance is unclear, but it seems like it would be the perfect fit for this film, which diverts considerably from “Away From Her”‘s rather serious subject matter. Apparently a James L. Brooks/Judd Apatow-esque romantic comedy, the film stars Michelle Williams as a woman torn between her loving husband (Seth Rogen) and a sexy new dude she meets during a “steamy Toronto summer” (Luke Kirby). The script (also written by Polley) made the Blacklist a few years back and is truly fantastic, so winning over critics (and buyers, as the film does not have a U.S. distributor) could be an easy feat if it premieres in Park City. [Peter Knegt]

Tyrannosaur, directed by Paddy Considine
Actor Paddy Considine (“Hot Fuzz”) gained many accolades for his directorial debut, the BAFTA award-winning short “Dog Altogether,” and after a few years, he’s finally ready to debut his first feature. “Tyrannosaur” follows a woman (Olivia Colman) as she leaves a relationship with an abuser (Peter Mullan) after she reveals a secret she’s been hiding. [Bryce Renninger]

An image from the set of Victoria Mahoney’s “Yelling to the Sky.”

Untitled Branson Missouri Project, directed by AJ Schnack and David Wilson
Schnack and Wilson have not had work screen at Sundance, but they are certainly not unfamiliar with the festival. Schnack screened his doc “Kurt Cobain About a Son” in Toronto in 2006, but has regularly made it to Park City, while Wilson is the co-head of the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, MO and hits up Sundance for programming. In beween, the duo have had other projects going including their look at entertainment mecca, Branson, Missouri, which has been in the works since 2007. “Tourists travel hundreds, even thousands, of miles to this tiny town, most in search of a brand of entertainment that they sense has been lost – wholesome, patriotic, Christian values-based good times,” the pair told indieWIRE about the doc last July. “Branson is one of those rare situations where it’s renowned. People know of the city…but people in places like L.A. and in New York City don’t seem to know much about it. [Brian Brooks]

The Wait, directed by M. Blash
With “The Wait,” M. Blash reunites with stars Jena Malone and Chloe Sevigny, for another go at an off-kilter film, after they worked together for Cannes ’06 alum “Lying.” In the new film, Malone and Sevigny play sisters who keep the body of their deceased mother at home, after they are led to believe she will be coming back to life. Coming through on a premise like that could make a Sundance (or Cannes) entry very likely. [Bryce Renninger]

We Need To Talk About Kevin, directed by Lynne Ramsay
Lynne Ramsay’s first film since 2002’s “Morvern Callar,” “We Need To Talk About Kevin” – based on the Orange Prize-winning 2003 novel by Lionel Shriver – stars Tilda Swinton as Eva Khatchadourian, a mother who recounts the events leading up to and following her son’s massacre of students and teachers at his high school. Described by producers as a “psychological thriller,” it should come as quite the anticipatory project for fans of Ramsay or Swinton’s work, or of the book itself. “Hold onto your hat,” Tilda Swinton told indieWIRE about the film earlier this year. “I think it’s going to be what the Americans might call a ‘doozy.’” Whether it ends up at Sundance is a different story. Ramsay premiered both 1999’s “Ratcatcher” and 2002’s “Callar” at Cannes, which might be a good fit for “Kevin” as well. But it has completed production (and needs a U.S. distributor), so maybe Ramsay will mix things up this time around. [Peter Knegt]

Yelling To The Sky, directed by Victoria Mahoney
Victoria Mahoney’s “Yelling to the Sky” marks the arrival of a potential star: Zoe Kravitz, who after being prominently featured in will.i.am’s Barack Obama YouTube sensation “We are the Ones” and with a supporting role in “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” “Beware the Gonzo,” “The Brave One,” and more, she finally takes a leading role as Sweetness O’Hara. Sweetness’s family is falling apart, and she must find her own way in the rough neighborhood she calls home. The film may also allow for the much-anticipated return of Gabourey Sidibe to Sundance, who launched her acting career with Sundance ’09 multiple-award winner “Precious.” Mahoney, who has played bit parts in various films, has served as an Annenberg and Cinereach Film Fellow. “Yelling to the Sky” also stars Tim Blake Nelson. [Bryce Renninger]

Your Highness, directed by David Gordon Green
David Gordon Green was a staple at Sundance with films like “All The Real Girls” and “Snow Angels,” but “Your Highness” – like “Pineapple Express” before it – is not those movies. Starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel, “Highness” is a dirty, pot-fueled fantasy-comedy about a lazy prince who must go on an epic quest with his brother to save their father’s kingdom. It could make a very fun addition to Sundance’s premieres lineup, as its hilarious trailer makes clear. [Peter Knegt]

-For five “bonus” picks currently screening at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, check out the next page-

A scene from Eva Mulvad’s “The Good Life.”

These docs are currently playing at IDFA and could very well make their way to Park City. Last year’s IDFA winner, “Last Train Home” found a spot on the Sundance roster, while fellow IDFA alum “Afghan Star” won directing and audience prizes at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Burma Soldier, directed by Nic Dunlop, Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern
Though directing duo Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern are American and having their latest effort screen at IDFA would likely disqualify them from screening in the main competition, their other co-director on “Burma Soldier” is from Ireland and the production has joint Irish and American credentials, so perhaps look out for it to join the international doc competition or in Spotlight. “Burma Soldier” is a spotlight on Burmese dissident My Myint who served in the Burmese army but became an outspoken critic of the country’s military and government. Sundberg and Stern are no strangers at Sundance, having screened “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” at the 2010 edition as well as “The Trials of Darryl Hunt” in 2006 – both in competition. [Brian Brooks]

Donor Unknown, directed by Jerry Rothwell
British director Jerry Rothwell’s “Donor Unknown” has attendees buzzing at IDFA this year. The film follows the story of JoEllen Marsh, 20, as she goes in search of the sperm donor father she only knows as Donor 150. When JoEllen discovers a unique online registry that connects donor-conceived children, she manages to track down a half-sister in New York. The New York Times picks up the story, and, over time, 12 more half-siblings emerge across the USA. Rothwell won Best Documentary for “Deep Water” (shared with Louise Osmond) back in 2006. Though the subject matter is American, look for “Donor Unknown” to perhaps take up a place in the international doc competition or the fest’s Spotlight section. [Brian Brooks]

The Foxhounds, directed by Jeff Prosserman
Some at IDFA have complained a bit about the film’s use of dramatic images such as burning $100 bills and re-enactments, but the story is nevertheless engrossing and unfortunately still relevant. Canadian director Jeff Prosserman’s doc spotlights fraud expert Harry Markopolos who blew the lid off the biggest Ponzi scammer in history, Bernard Madoff. Unfortunately, he warned the U.S. agency responsible for regulating the financial markets, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) though they ignored him for nearly a decade while billions were plundered. [Brian Brooks]

The Good Life, directed by Eva Mulvad
The Danish have been making a significant mark in the world of international documentaries these past few years, and Sundance has been a huge champion of this, with Anders Østergaard’s “Burma VJ,” Mads Brügger’s “The Red Chapel,” and Eva Mulvad’s “Enemies of Happiness” all winning awards at the festival. Which suggests the Danes are likely to pop up again in 2011, and aforementioned Mulvad is a good bet to fulfill that with her follow-up to “Happiness,” “The Good Life.” Profiled as part of indieWIRE’s coverage of CPH DOX, the film explores the lives of a once wealthy Danish mother and daughter now living in relative squalor in Portgual due to some considerable mismanaging of their finances. Affectionately and unabashedly inspired by “Grey Gardens,” “The Good Life” is two parts comedy, one part tragedy, and altogether an entertaining ode to two characters soon to be beloved by many. [Peter Knegt]

Holy Wars, directed by Stephen Marshall
Canadian director Stephen Marshall has traveled to Sundance both physically and virtually. He screened his 2005 effort, “This Revolution” at the event and he won the fest’s Online Film Festival Viewers Award for his 2002 project, “Guerilla News Network: Crack the CIA.” His latest film, “Holy Wars,” follows a fanatical Christian from Missouri and a radical Muslim from the U.K. over a number of years as the war on terror kicked into high gear. The journey takes Marshall to some of the world’s hotbeds of fundamentalism including Pakistan, Lebanon, UK, and heartland America. The film goes behind the scenes of the 1400 year old conflict between Islam and Christianity. [Brian Brooks]

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