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Sundance Wish List: 70 Films We Hope Will Head to Park City in 2019

With new programming leadership, next year's Sundance lineup may be full of surprises, but these films all stand a good chance.

The Egyptian Theatre on Main Street during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah2018 Sundance Film Festival - Day 5, Park City, USA - 22 Jan 2018

The Egyptian Theatre on Main Street during the 2018 Sundance Film

Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”
Director: Joe Berlinger
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Prolific documentarian Berlinger (“Paradise Lost,” “Intent to Destroy”) turns his attention to a true-life story told through a fictionalized lens, an alluring combination that should pan out a bit better than Berlinger’s most notorious foray into narrative filmmaking (“Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2”). This time around, Berlinger is once again drilling down on the terrifying true story of a murderer, with no less than Zac Efron on board to play Ted Bundy in a feature that will reportedly be told from the perspective of a former girlfriend (Lily Collins). It’s a canny twist on an oft-told story, and early looks at Efron on set showed that the former teen superstar is aiming for something dark, gritty, and pretty damn wicked in his meatiest role yet. —KE

intent to destroy

Director Joe Berlinger

Tribeca

“Fireball”
Director: Werner Herzog
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Every new Herzog movie is a cause for celebration, especially when it involves the wonders of the natural world. With “Fireball,” the German filmmaking legend explores the phenomenon of meteorites around the world, digging into their spiritual and mythological impact over the course of human history. The director is reuniting with fellow filmmaker and scientist Clive Oppenheimer, following their successful collaboration on the volcano-focused Netflix documentary “Into the Inferno.” Expect plenty of delightful Herzogian musings on time, philosophy, and the chaos of all things. In other words, a total blast. —EK

“Hala”
Director: Minhal Baig
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Based on her beautiful short of the same name, Baig always intended for “Hala” to eventually become her second feature (her first was 2016’s highly enjoyable “1 Night”), and Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment has helped to make that dream a reality. A nuanced and grounded coming-of-age story about a Pakistani-American high school girl named Hala (Geraldine Viswanathan) who’s struggling to reconcile Western culture and Muslim heritage, the film was inspired by Baig’s own experience growing up in Chicago, and will surely be flush with all forms of lived-in detail. “Hala” co-stars Jack Kilmer and Anna Chlumsky, and seems tailor-made for a slot in Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Competition. —DE

“Halston”
Director: Frederic Tcheng
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Further exploring his obvious passion for fashion, “Dior & I” director Tcheng is back with another documentary about one of the hottest stars of haute couture. The mononymous Halston was a key figure of the Studio 54 scene (and a rival of “Phantom Thread” inspiration Charles James), and his minimalist designs helped to define the look of New York’s most famous disco. Tcheng’s film promises to return some attention to the semi-forgotten legend. The director has reportedly scored interviews with Halston’s close friend R. Couri Hay, in addition to some tell-all talks with the designer’s employees. After several years of production, “Halston” should be ready for the runway by January, making it a perfect fit for Sundance’s Documentary Competition. —DE

“He Dreams of Giants”
Directors: Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: The 2002 documentary, “Lost in La Mancha” – which started off as standard making-of documentary – captured how Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” literally washed away in an enthralling look at a completely doomed film shoot. Gilliam never gave up on his adaptation of “Don Quixote,” a project that continued to be reinvented with new stars and script, but for one reason or another always fell apart. Like Gilliam, documentarians Fulton and Pepe didn’t abandon their story in 2002 — and they’re back with a sequel to their behind-the-scenes look at Gilliam’s quixotic journey that continues to unfold in 2018 as Gilliam, having finally made the film, finds himself entrenched in a legal battle with a former producer over ownership. —CO

“High Flying Bird”
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Soderbergh is synonymous with the Utah festival and with independent filmmaking in general, and even his misfires are defined by his iconoclastic spirit. He shot “Unsane,” which was released earlier this year, entirely with an iPhone 7. And apparently now he’s done the same for this satire of rapacious capitalism in the sports world about an agent (Andre Holland, so electrifying in “Moonlight”) who comes up with a controversial way for a rookie pro-basketball player to make some money during an NBA lockout. Soderbergh, a huge proponent of digital production and editing tools, boasted that he assembled a first cut of the movie on his laptop less than three hours after he wrapped shooting. Presumably he’s spent some more time working on it since. —CB

“Holy Trinity”
Director: Molly Hewitt
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: First-time filmmaker Hewitt is a Chicago-based drag performer whose debut has a delightfully funky premise — a queer dominatrix huffs a magic aerosol can and develops the ability to commune with the dead. It’s exactly the sort of outré material — paired with a welcome non-traditional protagonist — that Sundance excels at launching, and could easily wind up in the midnight, competition, or NEXT section and feel at home. Plus, it’s produced by fellow Chicagoan and Sundance regular Joe Swanberg, which should give it a leg up at the festival. —EK

Alma Har'el

Alma Har’el

“Honey Boy”
Director: Alma Har’el
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Har’el’s lyrical 2011 documentary “Bombay Beach” was a stunning, original approach to the form, and her 2016 follow-up “LoveTrue” featured a similarly original approach. “LoveTrue,” a sprawling look at various relationships around the world, also found her a new supporter in executive producer Shia LaBeouf, with whom the director is now collaborating for her curious debut. The movie is reportedly based on the actor’s troubled childhood, with LaBeouf playing his father opposite Lucas Hedges as the pair work toward some form of reconciliation. Long before his performance art stunts, LaBeouf really was a major dramatic actor, and “Honey Boy” may be exactly the sort of personal project to remind us of that. —EK

“Honeyland”
Directors: Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Documentary filmmakers Stefanov and Kotevska started off exploring the Nature Conservation project in Macedonia, but discovered something far more intriguing: Atidze, the last female bee hunter in Europe, and her effort to save the bees from a family of nomadic beekeepers who have invaded her land and threaten her livelihood. —CO

“The Hottest August”
Director: Brett Story
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Documentarian Story proved her unique ability to show how a massive subject might be even more massive than we even realized with “The Prison in Twelve Landscapes.” That film showed the many ripple effects incarceration has across American society – even in ways we may never have guessed. Now she’s doing the same with climate change in “The Hottest August,” and she wins bonus points for her editor being Nels Bangarter, who previously cut Kirsten Johnson’s “Cameraperson.” —CB

“I’m No Longer Here”
Director: Fernando Frias
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Frias is one of Mexico’s most exciting young filmmakers (his vibrant and romantic 2012 debut “Rezeta” is well worth seeking out), and his long-awaited second feature is a safe bet for Sundance’s World Dramatic Competition. Not to be confused with “I’m Still Here,” “We Are Still Here,” or Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here” “I’m No Longer Here” follows a 17-year-old kid named Ulises who’s forced to embark upon an epic journey north of the border (and back again) after a misunderstanding gets him in trouble with members of the local cartel. A hyper-specific immigration narrative that eschews the handheld docudrama look in order to focus on the unique stylings of the dance-obsessed “Cholombiano” community, Frias’ chronologically fractured portrait of a displaced life leverages a personal story to explore the commodification of countercultures and the definition of belonging. —DE

“Impeachment”
Director: Petra Costa
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Costa has been generating attention in the documentary world for a few years now, starting with dreamlike “Elena” and continuing with the innovative “Olmo and Seagull” in 2016. For her third feature, the Brazilian director turns to her home country, exploring how Brazil ousted its first female president, Dilma Rousseff. The subject matter is timely for American audiences in more ways that one, with the sting of Hillary Clinton’s campaign still in the air, and cries for Donald Trump’s ousting resurfacing ever few weeks. Expect some heated conversations around this one. —EK

“The Infiltrators”
Directors: Cristina Ibarra, Alex Rivera
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Rivera left a big impact at Sundance 10 years ago with his dystopian immigration thriller “Sleep Dealer,” which only grown more timely over the past decade. At long last, he’s back, joining with forces with Ibarra for another compelling take on the same subject. This time around, the contemporary drama focuses on a pair of kids who intentionally get themselves apprehended at the border in order to infiltrate a detention center and free their peers. Considering the horrific tales of border control making the rounds these days, “The Infiltrators” is likely to hit the zeitgeist with a ripped-from-the-headlines narrative sure to get people talking. —EK

“Jawline”
Director: Liza Mandelup
Since “Eighth Grade,” which so expertly dramatized adolescence in the YouTube age, was the talk of the festival last year, a documentary around similar themes with support from the Sundance Documentary Fund is a perfect fit. The film follows Austyn Tester as he uses his robust online following and digital fame to escape life in rural Tennessee. The first feature from prolific commercial director and photographer Mandelup, “Jawline” also received support from Cinereach and the SF Film Fund. It’s produced by Caviar, the studio behind Marielle Heller’s 2015 Sundance hit, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.” —JD

“The Kill Team”
Director: Dan Krauss
After bringing instant hits like “Hereditary” and “Eighth Grade” to the festival last year, A24 has made it clear that Sundance is the perfect launching pad for the label’s edgy brand of high-quality indie fare, and there’s no chance that it will be going to Park City empty-handed in 2019. One of the company’s more probable world premieres: “The Kill Team,” an Afghanistan War drama that writer-director Krauss has adapted from his Emmy-nominated 2013 documentary of the same name. Nat Wolff stars as a young soldier who witnesses his fellow American troops murdering civilians, and wrestles with whether or not to report on his trigger-happy platoon (a unit led by Alexander Skarsgård). War films seldom pop in Sundance, but if Krauss’ narrative take on this material is half as harrowing as the documentary he made about it, “The Kill Team” could be the exception that proves the rule. —DE

“The Kindness of Strangers”
Director: Lone Scherfig
A sprawling ensemble piece about the intersecting lives’ of various people at a Russian restaurant in New York City, “The Kindness of Strangers” comes from Dogme 95 alum Scherfig, who debuted her most acclaimed film to date, “An Education,” at Sundance 10 years ago. She followed up that Oscar-nominated film with a misfire in her adaptation of David Nicholls’ “One Day,” then rebounded with “The Riot Club” and “Their Finest.” With a spectacular cast, “The Kindness of Strangers” could recapture Scherfig’s 2009 magic. —CB

“Knock Down the House”
Directors: Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Documentarians Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick launched a Kickstarter for their newest film, which chronicles four different women running for Congress, in March of this year. To say that the film comes with a bonafide superstar at its center is to greatly reduce the impact of newly-elected Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the film could shape up to be the biggest crowdpleaser of the festival, filled with David and Goliath stories, heartbreaking twists, and an on-the-ground look at politics as they change at a moment’s notice. —KE

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
Director: Joseph Talbot
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Shades of Barry Jenkins’ “Medicine for Melancholy,” Talbot’s similarly-set Bay area debut follows a young black man who dreams of buying back the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Now living in the city’s last, dwindling black neighborhood with his best friend, they search for belonging in the rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind. Expect similar topical conversations about gentrification and race, from a uniquely San Francisco Bay-area POV. Talbot must have something truly special to draw the interest of Oscar-winning “Moonlight” collaborators A24 and Plan B, who are backing the project. —TO

“Late Night”
Director: Nisha Ganatra
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: The Canadian multi-hyphenate of Indian descent — who’s also a Golden Globe winner — Ganatra (“Transparent”) directs Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling in this “Devil Wears Prada”-esque comedy centering on a late-night talk show host at risk of losing her long-running show. This happens just as she hires her first female writer, who revitalizes her show and her life. Kaling, who scripted the film also produces alongside with ever-reliable Scott Rudin (one of a handful of figures who can claim EGOT status). It’s certainly noteworthy that this higher-profile American film boasts a writer, director, star, and producer who are all women of Indian descent. —TO

Miguel Arteta works with writer/director Miranda July at the 2003 Filmmakers Lab

© 2016 Sundance Institute | Photo by Clayton Chase

“Limited Partners”
Director: Miguel Arteta
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: In the aftermath of “Girls Trip,” audience have been clamoring for Tiffany Haddish to expand her range. “Limited Partners” may be the first window into that potential, as it pairs the actress with Sundance regular Arteta (“Star Maps,” “Beatriz at Dinner”) for a Paramount-produced dramedy about two women whose friendship is threatened when their successful business reaches a big turning point. Arteta remains an unpredictable filmmaker whose careful balance of mood and attention to nuanced characters stands a good shot at deepening Haddish’s range. We can only hope. —EK

“Luce”
Director: Julius Onah
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Onah’s third feature boasts an impressive cast that includes Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, and Tim Roth, with relative newcomer Kelvin Harrison Jr. (“It Comes at Night”) starring as the title character – a talented athlete and top student whose idealized image is challenged by one of his teachers when his unsettling views on political violence come to light. After Netflix’s surprise release of his “Cloverfield Paradox” landed with a thud, Onah – who was also previously tapped by Universal and Legendary Pictures to direct Will Smith in an adaptation of the sci-fi novel “Brilliance” – looks to rebound with this seemingly heavyweight drama that could ignite intense debates on race and identity. —TO

“Markie in Milwaukee”
Director: Matt Kliegman
Filmed over a decade, this documentary follows a midwestern transgender woman named Markie Menzel as she struggles with the prospect of de-transitioning under pressure from her fundamentalist church, family and community. With legal protections for trans people constantly under attack by evangelical proselytizing, Markie’s internal battle stands at the epicenter of two of the country’s most polarized communities. The film is the recipient of a prestigious Sundance Documentary Fund grant, ensuring it’s on the festival’s radar. —JD

“Midnight Family”
Director: Luke Lorentzen
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Lorentzen is a twentysomething documentarian whose non-fiction work to date has focused on stories that many others might overlook: his “New York Cuts” (2015) examined the socio-cultural impact of various barbershops across the city. Now in “Midnight Family” he’s looking at something much of the Sundance audience might never have heard of before: the phenomenon of privately owned and operated ambulances that cater to the wealthy of Mexico City. The metropolis is so massive and government ambulances so underfunded that for-profit ambulances provide faster service, even if their drivers can use cutthroat tactics to compete against rival EMTs. Lorentzen’s film focuses on one family, the Ochoas — the risks they need to take and the compromises they’re forced to make to stay in business. —CB

“Midnight Traveler”
Director: Hassan Fazili
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Told from refugee and director Fazili’s first-person perspective, “Midnight Traveler” is a documentary that promises to cut through the inherit messiness of migrant dramas being told from outsiders’ perspectives. The documentary captures the story of the Afghan filmmaker’s family on the run from the Taliban, in what SFFILM described, when announcing the non-profit offered a grant to the film, as providing ”unprecedented access to the complex refugee experience as it encounters the West.” —CO

“Ms. Purple”
Director: Justin Chon
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Chon’s 1992 LA riots-set “Gook” was one of the standout titles in 2017’s NEXT section. This time, the director is back with a story of a sister and brother who both enter a period of intense self-reflection as the single father who raised them nears death. Even working outside the stylized monochrome and historical setting of his previous film, this follow-up’s themes of family and reconciliation should make this a solid contender for another lineup slot. —SG

“Monos”
Director: Alejandro Santos
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Colombian director Santos’ third feature (and first since 2011’s “Porfirio”) has been generating buzz for months, and some people expected to see it way back at Cannes in early 2017. Nevertheless, the movie has yet to premiere, and holds a lot of potential: The story of eight teenagers tasked with guarding a hostage in the mountainside, it’s likely to strike a chord with anyone who has been following the bumpy road to a peace accord in Colombia’s long-lasting civil war, and it’s exactly the sort of thing that could energize Sundance’s world cinema offerings. —EK

“Official Secrets”
Director: Gavin Hood
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Hood is fully back in the indie film world after the South African director’s disastrous foray into blockbuster filmmaking with “X-Men: Origins – Wolverine” and “Ender’s Game.” In 2015 he released “Eye in the Sky,” a thriller about the impact of drone warfare, starring Helen Mirren. And now he’s following that up with the true story of British whistleblower Katharine Gun, who leaked information to the press about illegal tactics the Bush Administration was using to convince the rest of the world to support the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Keira Knightley plays Gun, alongside Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes, and Matthew Goode. —CB

“Palimpsest”
Director: Michael Tyburski
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: A film with the same title won the Short Film Special Jury Prize for its actor Joel Nagle at Sundance in 2013. In 18 minutes, it told the story of a “house tuner” who provides psychological counseling to people by curating details of their living environments. Tyburski and co-writer Ben Nabors wanted to turn it into a feature – the original short was a cutdown of initial plans for a feature-length version – and they received a grant from the Screenwriting Lab at the Hamptons International Film Festival to do so. Sound is a critical part of the story they want to tell in their expansion of the original short, and luckily for them, in early November they won the inaugural Dolby Fellowship at SFFILM to help finish their film. The hope is that it’ll be ready in time for Sundance, where their journey began five years ago. —CB

“Picture Character”
Director: Martha Shane
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Want to know more about the history of emoji (such as the debate between its plural form being “emoji” as opposed to “emojis”) but can’t stand the idea of watching “The Emoji Movie”? Perhaps Shane can be of some assistance. The Spirit Award–winning “After Tiller” director, who also contributed to the omnibus “11/8/16,” is examining everything from 😎 to 🙌 in her latest project, whose presence at Sundance would be a credit to the festival’s ever-timely documentary lineup. —MN

“Premature”
Director: Rashaad Ernesto Green
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: Set against the backdrop of a changing Harlem landscape, this coming-of-age drama follows a 17-year-old girl’s path to self-discovery when she meets a handsome and mysterious outsider who turns her entire world upside down before she heads to college. “Premature” marks Green’s long-awaited return to feature filmmaking, following his 2011 debut “Gun Hill Road,” a beautifully sensitive portrait of a child exploring a gender transformation. —TO

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