The Sundance Film Festival is headed into its final weekend, and while there will be more reviews and coverage to come, the dust has settled, the biggest movies have all been unveiled and the first major event in the movie calendar for 2016 is beginning to wrap up. As is always the case, we leave Sundance with a long list of new names — actors and filmmakers alike — that we’ll be keeping an eye on moving forward.
Perhaps more than any other major festival, Sundance always proves to be a fertile ground for the arrival of new talent — Jennifer Lawrence, Carey Mulligan, Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Marielle Heller and the director of the upcoming ‘Spider-Man‘ reboot Jon Watts make up a fraction of those who went on to huge success after making a splash here in recent years.
2016’s festival certainly delivered on that front. As we’ve done in past years, we’ve picked out some of the actors, directors and cinematographers that people have been talking about in the queues, slopes and bars in Park City all week. Take a look at the 25 names below, and let us know who you’re predicting for success in the comments.
Babak Anvari – “Under The Shadow”
One more and we can call it a trend —after the breakthrough success of Iranian vampire love story “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night,” here comes Iranian horror “Under the Shadow.” Graded at an A- by Eric Kohn over at Indiewire, dubbiing it “the first great horror movie of the year,” this film has been widely compared to “The Babadook” in its story of a mother trying to protect her child from unnatural forces, while bombs rain down outside. Set in Tehran in 1988 during the Iran/Iraq war, the film, which is Anvari’s feature debut, was snapped up by Netflix prior to its bow at Sundance (Vertical Entertainment and XYZ Films have partnered for global distribution). If it follows the same pattern as previous hotly-buzzed horror titles from the festival (‘A Girl Walks Home,’ “The Babadook,” “The Witch”), we should expect to be hearing as much about Anvari over the coming months as we did about Ana Lily Amirpour, Jennifer Kent and Robert Eggers.
Morfydd Clark and Tom Bennett – “Love & Friendship”
Whit Stillman’s getting some of the best reviews of his career for the Jane Austen adaptation “Love & Friendship.” Much of the talk around the film is concerned with his reunion with his “Last Days Of Disco” stars Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, with a performance by the former in particular that might be her best work in decades and a far cry for the vampire-killing she’s best known for these days. But two younger names in the cast have picked up strong reviews and look likely to get a big boost: young Welsh actress Morfydd Clark plays Frederica, the daughter of Beckinsale’s character: we’ve had our eye on her since Carol Morley’s “The Falling,” and she’s apparently “perfect” in Stillman’s film, according to the Telegraph. Meanwhile, Tom Bennett, best-known as Chris O’Dowd’s sidekick in Christopher Guest’s underrated “Family Tree” series, gives what Noel Murray called a “scene-stealing comic performance as the impossibly witless Sir James.” Expect to see a lot more from both soon.
Chad Hartigan’s latest film is “Morris From America,” and while our review suggests it doesn’t quite hit the heights of his previous “This Is Martin Bonner” (Sam Fragoso’s review criticized its “lazy stereotypes”), it does excel thanks to its two central performances. As the titular American teen now living in Germany, newcomer Markees Christmas (whose only previous credit comes from a web series that came about through the “Big Brother” program) is charming, funny, and sure to go on to bigger things. And the more familiar Craig Robinson, star of “The Office” and his own recent short-lived series “Mr. Robinson,” is a revelation in a mostly dramatic role as a grieving father. We’ve always liked Robinson, but, as our review states, he gives “a knockout performance” here, and it’ll hopefully open all kinds of doors.
Few movies in Park City this year felt like a calling-card to the extent that “Sleight” did for J.D. Dillard. The music video helmer’s hugely impressive and assured feature debut about a street magician trying to protect his sister from drug dealers mixes “Iron Man,” “Attack The Block,” “The Prestige” and a coming-of-age picture with innate sweetness, genre chops and a distinct sense for an image. Dillard, whose work includes videos for Empire Of The Sun, was already on his way up —he has a development deal with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, where he used to work as a receptionist— but the reception accorded to his thrilling, authentic debut is sure to cement him as a rising star (and pleasingly, he says he’d rather make original movies than jump on a franchise). Expect to see a lot more of his lead, Jacob Latimore— he’s best known as a pop star and for “The Maze Runner,” but he proves to have an easy charisma here.
Berenice Eveno – “The Free World”
We didn’t unreservedly love “The Free World,” the directorial debut of “Restless” screenwriter Jason Lew, but it’s an ambitious and sincere film with a lot to like about it, including a performance from Boyd Holbrook that fulfills the considerable promise he’s been showing in the last few years. The particular standout, according to Katie Walsh’s review, is cinematographer Bérénice Eveno, who helps make the film “a gorgeous creation, lovingly [and] luminously photographed.” Born in France but now based in L.A, Eveno trained at the American Film Institute and then served as an apprentice to Wally Pfister on “The Dark Knight Rises.” She’s shot a number of low-budget features since, including “Free The Nipple,” but “The Free World” is certainly her most high profile project to date.