Competition will be fierce indeed at January’s Sundance Film Festival, thanks to today’s just-revealed look at the titles rounding out the four categories that vie for the annual festival’s juried awards. Competition categories include U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic, and World Cinema Documentary, and often plays home to the festival’s biggest breakouts and buzziest titles. This year’s offerings already include a number of strong titles to watch, including new films from Paul Dano, Reed Morano, Idris Elba, Desiree Akhavan, Ethan Hawke, Bo Burnham, Sebastian Silva, Robert Greene, and many more.
It’s a predictably wide-ranging gathering of titles, offering up intimate dramas alongside timely documentaries, character studies beside true-life tales. As is the festival’s tradition, it will open not with a single premiere, but a four-film selection from various sections under its “Day One” banner. This year’s Day One picks include: Carlos Lopez Estrada’s “Blindspotting,” Derek Doneen’s “Kailash,” Gustavo Pizzi’s “Loveling,” and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s “Our New President.” The Day One selections are also set to include a NEXT pick, Elan Bogarin and Jonathan Bogarin’s “306 Hollywood,” and one from the Documentary Premieres group, Lauren Greenfield’s “Generation Wealth.”
For the 2018 Festival, 110 feature-length films were selected, representing 29 countries and 47 first-time filmmakers, including 30 in competition.These films were selected from 13,468 submissions including 3,901 feature-length films and 8,740 short films. Of the feature film submissions, 1,799 were from the U.S. and 2,102 were international. One-hundred feature films at the Festival will be world premieres.
Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, said in an official statement, “The work of independent storytellers can challenge and possibly change culture, illuminating our world‘s imperfections and possibilities. This year‘s Festival is full of artfully-told stories that provoke thought, drive empathy and allow the audience to connect, in deeply personal ways, to the universal human experience.”
Other sections announced today including Premieres, Spotlight, Midnight, NEXT, and Kids, which you can read up on right here. More lineup announcements, including Shorts, new-this-year Indie Episodic, and New Frontier, will arrive next week.
This year’s festival runs from January 18 – 28 in Park City, Utah. Check out the full list of just-announced competition titles, with all synopses provided by Sundance, below.
U.S. Dramatic Competition
Presenting the world premieres of 16 narrative feature films, the Dramatic Competition offers Festivalgoers a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American independent film.
“American Animals” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bart Layton, Producers: Derrin Schlesinger, Katherine Butler, Dimitri Doganis, Mary Jane Skalski) — The unbelievable but mostly true story of four young men who mistake their lives for a movie and attempt one of the most audacious art heists in U.S. history. Cast: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd, Udo Kier. World Premiere
“BLAZE” / U.S.A. (Director: Ethan Hawke, Screenwriters: Ethan Hawke, Sybil Rosen, Producers: Jake Seal, John Sloss, Ryan Hawke, Ethan Hawke) — A reimagining of the life and times of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas Outlaw Music movement; he gave up paradise for the sake of a song. Cast: Benjamin Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, Charlie Sexton. World Premiere
“Blindspotting” / U.S.A. (Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada, Screenwriters: Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs, Producers: Keith Calder, Jess Calder, Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs) — A buddy comedy in a world that won’t let it be one. Cast: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones. World Premiere. DAY ONE
“Burden” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Andrew Heckler, Producers: Robbie Brenner, Jincheng, Bill Kenwright) — After opening a KKK shop, Klansman Michael Burden falls in love with a single mom who forces him to confront his senseless hatred. After leaving the Klan and with nowhere to turn, Burden is taken in by an African-American reverend, and learns tolerance through their combined love and faith. Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wilkinson, Usher Raymond. World Premiere
“Eighth Grade” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bo Burnham, Producers: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, Christopher Storer, Lila Yacoub) — Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school — the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year — before she begins high school. Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton. World Premiere.
“I Think We’re Alone Now” / U.S.A. (Director: Reed Morano, Screenwriter: Mike Makowsky, Producers: Fred Berger, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Fernando Loureiro, Roberto Vasconcellos, Peter Dinklage, Mike Makowsky) — The apocalypse proves a blessing in disguise for one lucky recluse – until a second survivor arrives with the threat of companionship. Cast: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning. World Premiere
“The Kindergarten Teacher” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Sara Colangelo, Producers: Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Osnat Handelsman-Keren, Talia Kleinhendler) — Lisa Spinelli is a Staten Island teacher who is unusually devoted to her students. When she discovers one of her five-year-olds is a prodigy, she becomes fascinated with the boy, ultimately risking her family and freedom to nurture his talent. Based on the acclaimed Israeli film. Cast: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Rosa Salazar, Anna Barynishikov, Michael Chernus, Gael Garcia Bernal. World Premiere
“Lizzie” / U.S.A. (Director: Craig William Macneill, Screenwriter: Bryce Kass, Producers: Naomi Despres, Liz Destro) — Based on the 1892 murder of Lizzie Borden‘s family in Fall River, MA, this tense psychological thriller lays bare the legend of Lizzie Borden to reveal the much more complex, poignant and truly terrifying woman within — and her intimate bond with the family‘s young Irish housemaid, Bridget Sullivan. Cast: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, Kim Dickens, Denis O’Hare. World Premiere
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” / U.S.A. (Director: Desiree Akhavan, Screenwriters: Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele, Producers: Cecilia Frugiuele, Jonathan Montepare, Michael B. Clark, Alex Turtletaub) — 1993: after being caught having sex with the prom queen, a girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center. Based on Emily Danforth’s acclaimed and controversial coming-of-age novel. Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, John Gallagher Jr., Jennifer Ehle. World Premiere
“Monster” / U.S.A. (Director: Anthony Mandler, Screenwriters: Radha Blank, Cole Wiley, Janece Shaffer, Producers: Tonya Lewis Lee, Nikki Silver, Aaron L. Gilbert, Mike Jackson, Edward Tyler Nahem) — Monster is what the prosecutor calls 17 year old honors student and aspiring filmmaker Steve Harmon. Charged with felony murder for a crime he says he did not commit, the film follows his dramatic journey through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison. Cast: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson, Rakim Mayers, Jennifer Ehle, Tim Blake Nelson. World Premiere
“Monsters and Men” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Reinaldo Marcus Green, Producers: Elizabeth Lodge Stepp, Josh Penn, Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Luca Borghese) — This interwoven narrative explores the aftermath of a police killing of a black man. The film is told through the eyes of the bystander who filmed the act, an African-American police officer and a high-school baseball phenom inspired to take a stand. Cast: John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chanté Adams, Nicole Beharie, Rob Morgan. World Premiere
“NANCY” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Christina Choe, Producers: Amy Lo, Michelle Cameron, Andrea Riseborough) — Blurring lines between fact and fiction, Nancy becomes increasingly convinced she was kidnapped as a child. When she meets a couple whose daughter went missing thirty years ago, reasonable doubts give way to willful belief – and the power of emotion threatens to overcome all rationality. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, J. Smith-Cameron, Steve Buscemi, Ann Dowd, John Leguizamo. World Premiere
“Sorry to Bother You” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Boots Riley, Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker, Charles King, George Rush, Jonathan Duffy, Kelly Williams) — In a speculative and dystopian not-too- distant future, black telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success – which propels him into a macabre universe. Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Jermaine Fowler, Armie Hammer, Omari Hardwicke. World Premiere
“The Tale” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jennifer Fox, Producers: Oren Moverman, Lawrence Inglee, Laura Rister, Mynette Louie, Sol Bondy, Simone Pero) — An investigation into one woman’s memory as she‘s forced to re-examine her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive; based on the filmmaker’s own story. Cast: Laura Dern, Isabel Nelisse, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki, Ellen Burstyn, Common. World Premiere
“TYREL” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Sebastian Silva, Producers: Jacob Wasserman, Max Born) — Tyler spirals out of control when he realizes he‘s the only black person attending a weekend birthday party in a secluded cabin. Cast: Jason Mitchell, Christopher Abbott, Michael Cera, Caleb Landry Jones, Ann Dowd. World Premiere
“Wildlife” / U.S.A. (Director: Paul Dano, Screenwriters: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Producers: Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Oren Moverman, Ann Ruark, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker) — Montana, 1960: A portrait of a family in crisis. Based on the novel by Richard Ford. Cast: Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp, Jake Gyllenhaal. World Premiere
U.S. Documentary Competition
Sixteen world-premiere American documentaries that illuminate the ideas, people and events that shape the present day.
“Bisbee ’17” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Robert Greene, Producers: Douglas Tirola, Susan Bedusa, Bennett Elliott) — An old mining town on the Arizona-Mexico border finally reckons with its darkest day: the deportation of 1200 immigrant miners exactly 100 years ago. Locals collaborate to stage recreations of their controversial past. Cast: Fernando Serrano, Laurie McKenna, Ray Family, Mike Anderson, Graeme Family, Richard Hodges. World Premiere
“Crime + Punishment” / U.S.A. (Director: Stephen Maing) — Over four years of unprecedented access, the story of a brave group of black and Latino whistleblower cops and one unrelenting private investigator who, amidst a landmark lawsuit, risk everything to expose illegal quota practices and their impact on young minorities. World Premiere
“Dark Money” / U.S.A.” (Director and screenwriter: Kimberly Reed, Producer: Katy Chevigny) — “Dark money” contributions, made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, flood modern American elections – but Montana is showing Washington D.C. how to solve the problem of unlimited anonymous money in politics. World Premiere
“The Devil We Know” / U.S.A. (Director: Stephanie Soechtig, Producers: Kristin Lazure, Stephanie Soechtig, Joshua Kunau, Carly Palmour) — Unraveling one of the biggest environmental scandals of our time, a group of citizens in West Virginia take on a powerful corporation after they discover it has knowingly been dumping a toxic chemical — now found in the blood of 99.7% of Americans — into the local drinking water supply. World Premiere. THE NEW CLIMATE
“Hal” / U.S.A. (Director: Amy Scott, Producers: Christine Beebe, Jonathan Lynch, Brian Morrow) — Hal Ashby’s obsessive genius led to an unprecedented string of Oscar®-winning classics, including Harold and Maude, Shampoo and Being There. But as contemporaries Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg rose to blockbuster stardom in the 1980s, Ashby’s uncompromising nature played out as a cautionary tale of art versus commerce. World Premiere
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening” / U.S.A. (Director: RaMell Ross, Screenwriter: Maya Krinsky, Producers: Joslyn Barnes, RaMell Ross, Su Kim) — An exploration of coming-of-age in the Black Belt of the American South, using stereotypical imagery to fill in the landscape between iconic representations of black men and encouraging a new way of looking, while resistance to narrative suspends conclusive imagining – allowing the viewer to complete the film. World Premiere
“Inventing Tomorrow” / U.S.A. (Director: Laura Nix, Producers: Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, Laura Nix) — Take a journey with young minds from around the globe as they prepare their projects for the largest convening of high school scientists in the world, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Watch these passionate innovators find the courage to face the planet‘s environmental threats while navigating adolescence. World Premiere. THE NEW CLIMATE
“Kailash” / U.S.A. (Director: Derek Doneen, Producers: Davis Guggenheim, Sarah Anthony) — As a young man, Kailash Satyarthi promised himself that he would end child slavery in his lifetime. In the decades since, he has rescued more than eighty thousand children and built a global movement. This intimate and suspenseful film follows one man‘s journey to do what many believed was impossible. World Premiere. DAY ONE
“Kusama – Infinity” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Heather Lenz, Producers: Karen Johnson, Heather Lenz, Dan Braun, David Koh) — Now one of the world‘s most celebrated artists, Yayoi Kusama broke free of the rigid society in which she was raised, and overcame sexism, racism, and mental illness to bring her artistic vision to the world stage. At 88 she lives in a mental hospital and continues to create art. World Premiere
“The Last Race” / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Dweck, Producers: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw) — A cinematic portrait of a small town stock car track and the tribe of drivers that call it home as they struggle to hold onto an American racing tradition. The avant-garde narrative explores the community and its conflicts through an intimate story that reveals the beauty, mystery and emotion of grassroots auto racing. World Premiere
“Minding the Gap” / U.S.A. (Director: Bing Liu, Producer: Diane Quon) — Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship. World Premiere
“On Her Shoulders” / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandria Bombach, Producers: Hayley Pappas, Brock Williams) — Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old Yazidi, survived genocide and sexual slavery committed by ISIS. Repeating her story to politicians and media, this ordinary girl finds herself thrust onto the world stage as the voice of her people. Away from the podium, she must navigate bureacracy, fame and people’s good intentions. World Premiere
“The Price of Everything” / U.S.A. (Director: Nathaniel Kahn, Producers: Jennifer Blei Stockman, Debi Wisch, Carla Solomon) — With unprecedented access to pivotal artists and the white-hot market surrounding them, this film dives deep into the contemporary art world, holding a funhouse mirror up to our values and our times – where everything can be bought and sold. World Premiere
“Seeing Allred” / U.S.A. (Directors: Sophie Sartain, Roberta Grossman, Producers: Roberta Grossman, Sophie Sartain, Marta Kauffman, Robbie Rowe Tollin, Hannah KS Canter) — Gloria Allred overcame trauma and personal setbacks to become one of the nation‘s most famous women‘s rights attorneys. Now the feminist firebrand takes on two of the biggest adversaries of her career, Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, as sexual violence allegations grip the nation and keep her in the spotlight. World Premiere
“The Sentence” / U.S.A. (Director: Rudy Valdez, Producers: Sam Bisbee, Jackie Kelman Bisbee) — Cindy Shank, mother of three, is serving a 15-year sentence in federal prison for her tangential involvement with a Michigan drug ring years earlier. This intimate portrait of mandatory minimum drug sentencing’s devastating consequences, captured by Cindy’s brother, follows her and her family over the course of ten years. World Premiere
“Three Identical Strangers” / U.S.A. (Director: Tim Wardle, Producer: Becky Read) — New York,1980: three complete strangers accidentally discover that they’re identical triplets, separated at birth. The 19-year-olds‘ joyous reunion catapults them to international fame, but also unlocks an extraordinary and disturbing secret that goes beyond their own lives – and could transform our understanding of human nature forever. World Premiere
Check out Sundance’s World Cinema offerings on the next page.