You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Sundance Wish List: 60 Films We Hope Will Head to Park City in 2020

While the Sundance lineup is still a few weeks away, our educated guesswork paints a very exciting picture of the 2020 program.

Just when the year starts to wind down, the Sundance lineup arrives to remind us of all the new movies right around the corner. But wait! Before you shout “Already?!” and hide under your desk, we’re not quite there yet: The festival drops the program for its 2020 edition after Thanksgiving weekend, which means there are still a few weeks left to enjoy the current movie season before sifting through a whole new set of options.

At IndieWire, however, we simply can’t wait that long. Over the past several months, we’ve been tracking projects in various states of production and post-production as filmmakers rush to submit their rough cuts to the festival in the hopes of making a splash at Park City in January. Our Sundance wish list contains movies that we’re excited to see, but if our research tells us that an upcoming release simply won’t be ready in time, then you won’t find it here. (As much as we’re excited to see David Lowery’s “Green Knight” and Adam Leon’s untitled new project, sources tell us both projects didn’t even submit to the festival.)

Our crystal ball doesn’t have all the answers, and many of these projects might not wind up in the 2020 selection for several reasons. Regardless, these 60 titles indicate a new year loaded with cinematic potential, and there may even be a future Grand Jury Prize winner lurking among them. Until we get the official word from Sundance about its selections, please enjoy our educated guesses below.

“499 Years”
Director: Rodrigo Reyes
Mexican-American filmmaker Reyes has been gathering momentum as a major documentary talent to watch over the past few years with films like 2016’s “Purgatorio: A Journey Into the Heart of the Border,” which showed his penchant for combining timely stories — it followed migrant struggles on the U.S.-Mexico border — with a cinematic flair. “499 Years” promises to take that approach and kick things up a notch, by exploring 500 years of colonialism in the wake of Hernan Cortéz’s arrival in the Aztec Empire. The film reportedly combines documentary storytelling with reenactments, melding the fictional story of a Conquistador with contemporary non-fiction accounts of Mexicans struggling with daily violence. Produced almost exactly 500 years since Cortéz’s arrival, the movie promises to cast a wide net, exploring Mexican identity through a historical lens while applying a fresh new perspective. As Sundance continues to embrace unique documentary storytelling, “499 Years” could be just the sort of movie to generate acclaim among non-fiction audiences in Park City. —EK

“After Antarctica”
Director: Tasha Van Zandt
Rising filmmaker Tasha Van Zandt graduates from non-fiction shorts (“Stephen Curry: Make the Moment”) to documentary features with this feature-length profile on polar explorer Will Steger, who remains one of a select group of people who has walked Antarctica from coast to coast. What begins as a character study becomes a call to arms in an age of escalating climate change debates, as the three ice shelves Steger and his team crossed 30 years ago have since disintegrated. Should “After Antarctica” land a Sundance spot, it could be irresistible to the likes of National Geographic (think “Free Solo”). —ZS

Matt Yoka’s documentary “Whirlybird” focuses on the life of transgender helicopter pilot and reporter Zoe Tur. A pioneer of helicopter reporting, Tur has logged more than 10,000 flight hours covering news events in Los Angeles ranging from the riots of 1992 to the O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco chase of 1994. The film tells the story of Tur’s gender transition while simultaneously capturing the identity and evolution of Los Angeles, as seen from Tur’s unique vantage point in the sky. The film combines intimate interviews with Tur and people who know her with some of the most captivating aerial footage of Los Angeles every captured on video. —JD

“And She Could Be Next”
Director: Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia
The pitch for the documentary “And She Could Be Next” packs a timely punch: “In a polarized America, where the dual forces of white supremacy and patriarchy threaten to further erode our democracy, women of color are claiming power by running for political office. The film, made by a team of women filmmakers of color, asks whether democracy itself can be preserved—and made stronger—by those most marginalized.” In a riff on 2019 Sundance hit “Knock Down the House,” “And She Could Be Next” follows five female political candidates of color as they fight to win elections at different levels of the political spectrum. —ZS

“Badass Librarians of Timbuktu”
Director: Otto Bell
Joshua Hammer’s New York Times bestseller gets a documentary adaptation from Bell, who was named by Variety as a director to watch following the release of his 2017 BAFTA-nominated debut “The Eagle Huntress,” which was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics following its Sundance premiere. Bell’s second feature was shot secretly in Timbuktu, Mali, where a group of scholars smuggled thousands of books out of the city while it was occupied by Al Qaeda. Expanding beyond the nightly news dispatches from war-torn areas, Bell’s story film could help illuminate the complexity of civillians coping with jihadi occupation. —CL

Director: R.J. Cutler
Documentarian R.J. Cutler has excelled at portraying high-profile figures both living (“The September Project,” featuring Anna Wintour) and dead (“Listen to Me Marlon,” about Brando). He turns to the latter side of things for this long-in-the-works look at the late John Belushi, produced by Showtime. The project has been produced with input from Belushi’s widow, Judith Belushi, as well as the comic actor’s close collaborators. Nearly 40 years after Belushi’s death, his legacy remains a fixture of the comedic landscape, but it’s hard to convey just how big of a star he was in his day. From his “SNL” popularity to his box-office success, Belushi lived a fast-paced life and met a tragic end, but the time has come to remind the world why he was so celebrated in the first place. This is the sort of snazzy showbiz documentary that Sundance often slates in its Documentary Premieres section. —EK

Untitled Bing Liu Project
Director: Bing Liu
Documentary filmmaker Bing Liu became a sensation at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival when his coming-of-age skateboard doc “Minding the Gap” won a Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking. One year later, Liu found himself in the thick of the Oscar race as “Gap” competed for Best Documentary feature. Next up for Liu is an insider look at the Chicago prison system, a timely subject matter from a rising young talent who seems to be just getting started. —ZS

"Minding the Gap" director Bing Liu

“Minding the Gap” director Bing Liu

Emily Strong

Director: Catherine Gund
As a director and producer, Gund has been a festival favorite with works like “Chavela,” her 2017 documentary that offers a loving portrait of Latin singer Chavela Vargas. With “Aggie,” Gund turns her lens toward her own mother, philanthropist and arts patron Agnes Gund. Best known as president emertia of the MoMA, the elder Gund’s work in inspiring empathy and social change through art is the focus of this documentary, which is sure to have an extraordinary level of access to its main character given the familial connection. —CL

“After Yang”
Director: Kogonada
Elusive video-essayist-turned-filmmaker Kogonada wowed Sundance audiences with 2017’s gently crushing “Columbus,” which went on to become a small word-of-mouth sensation later that year even though the Sundance Institute had to help distribute the drama itself. By the time “Columbus” wrapped up its lengthy theatrical run, the film industry was finally ready to pay attention in a big way. Adapted from Alexander Weinstein’s short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” produced by indie mainstays A24 and Cinereach, and boasting an incredible cast that includes Colin Farrell, Golshifteh Farahani, “Queen & Slim” breakout Jodie Turner-Smith, and “Columbus” knockout Haley Lu Richardson, “After Yang” is a slice of contemplative science-fiction set in a future where a father and daughter attempt to save the life of a robot family member after it stops functioning. The “A.I.” vibes are strong with this one, but Kogonada has a rare knack for putting his own spin on familiar masterpieces. Production wrapped earlier this summer, so the odds are good that Kogonada will be returning to Park City, and this time it’s safe to assume that he won’t be going under the radar. —DE

“Bergman Island”
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Why We Hope It Heads to Park City: A semi-autobiographical drama about a filmmaking couple (Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie) who retreat to Ingmar Bergman’s resting place in order to write their next scripts and then slowly lose sight of the line between fiction and reality, Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Bergman Island” has been at the top of our “most anticipated” list since the project was first announced with Greta Gerwig in the lead role. The film, which Hansen-Løve described to IndieWire as a story about “how film tends to replace my memories of what really happened,” has the potential to be something of a crossover arthouse hit for one of modern cinema’s most consistently brilliant auteurs, whose previous work (such as “Eden,” “Things to Come,” and “Goodbye First Love”) has found deep American fanbases despite limited distribution. Shot in two parts and co-starring Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps, “Bergman Island” finally wrapped in the middle of this summer. At the time, Hansen-Løve was eying Berlin or Cannes as a potential launchpad, but there have recently been whispers that post-production was shorter than expected, and so a Sundance bow is no longer out of the question. —DE

“Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets”
Directors: Bill and Turner Ross
The Ross brothers have long been favorites of anyone who loves cinematic nonfiction, thanks to films like “45365,” “Tchoupitoulas,” “Western,” and “Contemporary Color.” Little is known about their latest, which they’ve been kicking around for at least three years (when it received an Art of Nonfiction grant from Sundance), except that it “is a portrait of the lives of a disparate group of patrons and employees at an American watering hole today…” The documentary (which surfaced on this list last year) should be a welcome contrast to more traditional documentary storytelling, as the Ross brothers always think outside the box when it comes to depicting underrepresented aspects of American culture. That’s enough to make it worthy of anticipation. —CO

Director: Mike Cahill
Cahill became a classic Sundance success story when his adventurous sci-fi debut “Another Earth” became a breakout at the 2011 festival and found a home with Fox Searchlight. He followed that up with the similarly innovative sci-fi romance “I Origins.” His latest project has found a home at Amazon Studios, and finds the filmmaker entering his own “Matrix” with the story of a recently divorced man (Owen Wilson) who meets a woman (Salma Hayek) in a dystopian world that may or may not be real. As the characters come to know each other, they work through their existential crisis as they attempt to sort out whether or not they’re living in an oppressive simulation. Cahill’s previous films have excelled at asking big questions through a hypnotic epistemological lens, and this high-profile project is poised to generate similar intrigue with actors who are always worth seeking out. —EK

“Body Cam”
Director: Malik Vitthal
“Body Cam” is Malik Vitthal’s follow-up to his 2014 debut “Imperial Dreams,” starring a pre-“Star Wars” John Boyega. (“Imperial Dreams” premiered in Sundance’s NEXT section and later found a home with Netflix.) Vitthal directs Nat Wolff, Theo Rossi, and Anika Noni Rose in this timely sophomore effort, produced by Paramount from a script penned by Nick McCarthy, and based on a spec originally written by Richmond Riedel. Described as “Get Out” meets “End of Watch,” the story follows two white LAPD officers who are haunted by a malevolent spirit that is tied to a young black man they murdered — all of which was caught by a body cam that was destroyed in a cover-up. This marks rising star Vitthal’s first big job at a major studio. —TO

Director: Keith Maitland
In the 1970s, Michael Brody, Jr. made headlines when the 21-year-old heir of the Jelke Good Luck Margarine fortune said he would give away $26 million of his inheritance. The troubled life of the “hippy millionaire,” including an arrest for threatening President Nixon, has long been a fascination for producers Edward R. Pressman and Shep Gordon, who for years tried to get a scripted narrative about Brody off the ground. Recently the producers reversed course and hired Keith Maitland, the talented filmmaker behind the remarkable animated documentary “Tower,” to make a documentary about the largely untold story of this fascinating figure. —CO

“Chasing Chaplin”
Directors: Peter Middleton, James Spinney
“Notes on Blindness” filmmakers Middleton and Spinney turn their attention to a different kind of drama with their latest doc, which aims to provide a personal and comprehensive look at the remarkable life of Charlie Chaplin. Done with the full support of the Chaplin family — who reportedly provided a wealth of archival material — the film is also built around a revelatory interview Chaplin gave to Life Magazine in 1966. That alone is alluring, but the filmmaking duo has also recreated parts of that interview, adding a dramatized twist to a story that’s already about the magic of the movies. —KE

“Cops and Robbers”
Director: Ilinca Calugareanu
Romanian documentary filmmaker Ilinca Calugareanu gained notice for her 2015 non-fiction feature “Chuck Norris vs. Communism,” and now she’s back with a look at Corey Pegues, one of the highest ranking black officers in the New York Police Department. “Cops and Robbers” digs into Pegues’ past as a gang member and crack cocaine dealer, opening up a debate over whether or not he was a criminal in disguise or a hero reborn, and would instigate new debates about the ethics of modern-day police units. —ZS

In the midst of the Jerry Sandusky trial, a young bisexual man enters into an interracial relationship while coming to terms with his own childhood trauma. “Cicada” is co-directed by Kieran Mulcare and Matthew Fifer, who also stars opposite an eclectic cast that includes Cobie Smulders, Scott Adsit, Bowen Yang, and Jo Firestone. The film received support from the Tribeca FIlm Institute and is the first feature from Fifer, whose experimental 2016 web series “Jay & Pluto” starred Billy Magnusson, Richard Kind, and Isiah Whitlock Jr., and dealt with similar themes. It has all the markings of a Sundance breakout. —JD

“Crip Camp”
Produced by Sundance regular Howard Gertler (“Adam,” “How to Survive a Plague”), “Crip Camp” was recently picked up by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company as part of their Netflix documentary package. Taking place in the 1970s, the film charts the beginning of the disability rights movement as told through the story of a summer camp for disabled teenagers in Woodstock, New York. The documentary is co-directed by Nicole Newnham and former camper Jim LeBrecht, and was supported by the Sundance Film Institute. —JD

David FranceSpring Gala of GMHC, New York, USA - 23 Mar 2017

David France
Spring Gala of GMHC, New York, USA – 23 Mar 2017


Untitled David France Film
The Oscar-nominated director of “How to Survive a Plague” is keeping details of his latest project tightly under wraps, but we do know the film will explore the former Soviet country of Chechyna and its stringent anti-gay laws. This will be France’s third feature film, following 2017’s “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson,” though he has recently leant his name as executive producer to the gay comedy “Cubby,” which played well on this year’s gay festival circuit. A former journalist, France is always a reliable non-fiction storyteller and his latest is likely to generate major discussion about LGBT persecution around the world. —JD

Director: Jason Kohn
Documentarian Kohn — no relation to this writer — first made a big splash at Sundance with his astonishing “Manda Bala,” in which he interviewed professional kidnappers in Brazil. Since then, he’s proved his versatility behind the camera with the tennis documentary “Love Means Zero,” but this long-in-the-works project may be his most ambitious yet. Originally titled “Diamond, Silver and Gold,” the movie reportedly focuses on the synthetic diamond business as well as attempts to create synthetic life forms in a laboratory setting. This surreal premise suggests a profound investigation not only into the diamond industry but the underlying nature of the economy and how real value is created under dubious circumstances. It sounds like just the sort of exciting cinematic gamble that could generate real buzz in Park City. —EK

“Disclosure “
In her growing role as executive producer, Laverne Cox has put her name behind a new documentary about the history of transgender narratives onscreen. The description positions the film as a trans version of “The Celluloid Closet,” offering a much-needed survey of 100 years of footage, from “A Florida Enchantment” (1914) to “Pose” (2018). The film is co-directed by LGBT scholar Amy Scholder and trans-masculine filmmaker Sam Feder, who rose to prominence with “Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger,” an entertaining and moving portrait of trans icon known affectionately in the community as Auntie Kate. Queer film scholar and archivist Jenni Olson also serves as a consulting producer. —JD

Director: Hubert Sauper
Through encounters with everyday people, Hubert Sauper — the Austrian director of the Academy Award-nominated “Darwin’s Nightmare” (2004) — takes viewers on a new journey into the thoughts and dreams of Cuban society during an era of transition and change. The documentary explores the idea of Cuba as a “time capsule,” a place where both the beauty and the decadence of the 1950s have been preserved thanks to economic embargoes and isolation. With “Epicentro,” Sauper aims to interrogate the paradox of time, imperialism and cinema. Known for his usually controversial fare with explicit socio-political messaging, as seen in his most widely-known work, “Darwin’s Nightmare” — a harrowing indictment of the global economic order — “Epicentro” will likely continue with that trend, furthering the filmmaker’s stated mission to give voice to those not heard. —TO

“The Fight”
Directors: Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg
Kriegman and Steinberg became Sundance breakouts with their 2016 grand jury prize winner “Weiner,” which documented the scandal-ridden downfall of would-be New York City mayor Anthony Weiner. The movie’s sensationalistic backdrop merged with the filmmakers’ ability to see the saga against the bigger backdrop of political campaigning in America. Later that year, with the election of Donald Trump, the “Weiner” saga looked downright prescient for the way it captured the media spectacles dominating politics today. Now, the filmmakers are looking beyond that chaotic surface to explore how real change can take place during trying times, by documenting the ACLU’s efforts to combat the Trump Administration. The project promises to follow ACLU lawyers and activists through numerous showdowns, from the Muslim ban to the persecution of transgender soldiers and the current refugee crisis. Like last year’s Sundance hit “Knock Down the House,” Kriegman and Steinberg’s timely effort is sure to galvanize audiences as they gear up for another hectic election year. —EK

“Farewell Amor”
Director: Ekwa Msangi
Based on her 2016 short film of the same name, starring Tony Award nominee Sahr Ngauja (“Fela!”), Tanzanian-American filmmaker Ekwa Msangi makes her feature debut with a New York City-set drama about a family of immigrants struggling to bridge the emotional distance that exists between them after spending 17 years apart. Reunited, they must find a way to connect. The project, also scripted by Msangi, is a recipient of the Jerome Foundation Grant, Tribeca All Access Fellowship, and Sundance Feature Film Development Fellowship, so it already has the Sundance pedigree in its favor. Also relevant: Its timely focus on the trials of immigrants in America. Msangi’s credits include writing and directing several drama series for mainstream broadcasters in Kenya and MNET South Africa, including “The Agency” (2009), MNET’s first-ever original hour-long Kenyan drama series. She has also been a recurring mentor in Mira Nair’s East Africa based Maisha Screenwriting Labs. —TO

“Feels Good Man”
Director: TBD
A secretive project from Wavelength, this new documentary will explore how the once-innocuous Pepe the Frog meme, created by cartoonist Matt Furie as a cute little doodle, was co-opted by the far right as a hate symbol with a reach beyond Furie’s wildest nightmares. As America enters another election year while still reeling from 2016, the documentary couldn’t be more timely, and would certainly instigate major debate in Park City. —KE

“Greta vs Climate”
Director: Nathan Grossman

Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks after a climate change march in Los Angeles, onGreta Thunberg-Youth Protest, Los Angeles, USA - 01 Nov 2019

Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks after a climate change march in Los Angeles

Ringo H W Chiu/AP/Shutterstock

After her impassioned speech earlier this year at the UN Climate Action Summit, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg captured global attention for her work speaking truth to power at the highest levels. The timing is perfect, then, for an in-depth look at the young activist’s urgent message and her life, which has involved the eco-friendly travel choice of sailing — rather than flying — to trans-atlantic appointments. Grossman’s credits include a Swedish TV documentary focused on comedian Henrik Schyffert’s raising of two pigs for slaughter, which served as an entry point into examining meat consumption. —CL

“Good Joe Bell”
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Scripted by Oscar-winning “Brokeback Mountain” writers Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry, Reinaldo Marcus Green directs this film, which tells the true story of Oregonian father Joe Bell (Mark Wahlberg), who planned a walk across America to raise awareness about bullying and suicide after his son Jadin (Reid Miller), a gay 15-year-old, died by suicide in 2013. The drama, which boasts an impressive roster of actors, writers, and producers, is Green’s follow-up to his 2018 Sundance award-winner “Monsters and Men,” which was released by NEON. Current James Bond director Cary Joji Fukunaga, who was initially attached to helm the project, is producing, along with Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker, and Wahlberg. Connie Britton, Maxwell Jenkins, and Gary Sinise round out the main cast. —TO

“The Half of It”
Director: Alice Wu
God bless Netlix. Sixteen years after her debut queer drama “Saving Face,” Wu is finally back in the director’s chair for her followup, a Netflix-backed coming-of-age film that happily cribs from both Cyrano and Pygmalion. Based on her 2018 Black List script, the smart-sounding teen romance follows a lonely Chinese-American teenager (Lewis) who is enlisted by a sporty fellow student (Diemer) to pen love letters to the girl they both love (Lemire). What could possibly go wrong? This is the sort of crowdpleaser that could easily stand out as a popular favorite at Sundance. —KE

“The Hunt”
Director: Stu Ross
Not to be confused with the Craig Zobel-directed thriller that Universal shelved earlier this year, Ross’ feature-length debut is a documentary about the search for the elusive black panther in Australia’s Mount Sugarloaf. The panther, which has been spotted by hikers over the years, has been a mystery in the region for years — but Ross partnered with the Australian Big Cat Research Group, to track the creature down using state-of-the-art technology. Whether or not they were successful is unclear, but “The Hunt” may turn out to be as focused on the people obsessed with the quest for the elusive feline as the cat itself. Sundance loves showcasing nature documentaries that go beyond the traditional formula to showcase the human element of their stories, and “The Hunt” sounds like it could fit right into that sweet spot. —EK

“The Last Shift”
Director: Andrew Cohn
Starring two-time Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins and three-time Emmy nominee Ed O’Neill, “The Last Shift” is the first narrative feature from prolific documentarian Andrew Cohn. The short logline, though it doesn’t reveal much, is nonetheless intriguing: “Stanley’s last shift at his fast food job takes an unexpected turn.” Cohn most recently directed “Warriors of Liberty City,” a six-part documentary series for Starz executive produced by Lebron James. —JD

“I Used to Go Here”
Director: Kris Rey
Five years after her witty third feature “Unexpected” premiered at Sundance, Rey is bellying up to yet another adult-skewing comedy. Packed with an all-star cast of some of indie film’s favorite names, “I Used to Go Here” follows Gillian Jacobs as a wayward author who has flunked out of her personal life (called off engagement) and her professional dreams (badly selling book). Unexpectedly asked by a former professor (Jemaine Clement) to return to her alma mater to chat with the youth, she finds a new lease on life, but one that might not be the best thing for a lady badly in need of some growing up. Rey’s previous film mined similar material, only to find some funny, sad, and very true observations about life, liberty, and the pursuit of actual maturity. —KE

“Untitled CNN John Lewis Documentary”
Director: Dawn Porter
CNN Films partnered with director Dawn Porter’s Trilogy Films to develop a documentary feature that will chronicle the remarkable and expansive life of civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Robert Lewis. Porter (“Bobby Kennedy for President,” “Trapped”) is directing the currently untitled vérité film which will illustrate the 79-year-old Lewis’ 60-plus years of legendary social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, healthcare reform, and immigration — all of which prepped him for the battles he fights today. The film will incorporate interviews with Lewis, his family, other political leaders, and colleagues — as well as a wealth of archival footage — to illuminate his past and continued influence on American culture and Congress. A film on this proven unifier (the first of its kind) couldn’t be more timely. —TO

Director: Miranda July

Miranda July'Madeline's Madeline' premiere, Sundance Film Festival, Park City, USA - 22 Jan 2018

Miranda July at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival

Arthur Mola/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Miranda July played a pivotal role in Josephine Decker’s 2018 Sundance breakout “Madeline’s Madeline,” and now she could be ready to return to Park City as a director with her latest feature “Kajillionaire.” The crime drama, which July also write, centers around a woman coming undone after her criminal parents invite an outsider to join them on a heist. The indie-powered cast is headed by Evan Rachel Wood and Richard Jenkins; throw in the producing team of Plan B (“Moonlight,” “12 Years a Slave”) and what you could have is one of the most anticipated films of Sundance 2020. —ZS

“The Last Thing He Wanted”
Director: Dee Rees
Dee Rees’ Netflix adaptation of author Joan Didion’s 1996 political thriller “The Last Thing He Wanted” stars Anne Hathaway as a journalist who stops her coverage of the 1984 U.S. Presidential election to care for her dying father. And in an unusual turn of events, she inherits his position as an arms dealer for the U.S. Government in Central America. Rees directs from a script she co-wrote with Marco Villalobos. Willem Dafoe, Toby Jones, Ben Affleck, Rosie Perez, and Edi Gathegi round out the main cast. Casian Elwes serves as producer on the project, marking the second time he and Rees have paired up. Rees is no stranger to Park City. Two of her four features to date —  “Pariah” (2011), “Mudbound” (2017) — premiered at Sundance. The latter earned four nominations at the 90th Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography, which made DP Rachel Morrison the first woman ever nominated in the category. —TO

“Lost Girls”
Director: Liz Garbus
Lauded documentarian Garbus makes her first foray into narrative filmmaking with a smart pivot: a fact-based drama about the kind of real-life tragedy that might have previously pricked up her doc antenna. “Lost Girls” spins off Robert Kolker’s nonfiction book about an apparent serial killer trawling Long Island for sex workers and turns it into an intimate, personal story. Featuring Amy Ryan as a justice-driven mother attempting to find her missing daughter in the face of uncaring cops and a disinterested public, it sounds like the kind of performance-driven drama that Sundance excels at sniffing out. “Jojo Rabbit” and “Leave No Trace” breakout Thomasin McKenzie and “Girls” gem Lola Kirke co-star, offering up a female-facing crime drama with no easy answers. —KE

Director: Ramona S. Diaz
While Lauren Greenfield’s “The Kingmaker” brought former Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos back into the spotlight this year, Diaz’s 2003 “Imelda” got there first, gaining access to the exuberant character as she continued to live in the vast shadow of her deceased dictator husband. The two movies cover much of the same ground, including Marcos’ denial of her crimes and fantasy of retaining power in a country that has been trying to move beyond her family’s rule, but “The Kingmaker” captured a more contemporary hook — as the newer generations of the Marcos family vie for power and, under the support of President Rodrigo Duterte, might actually get there. Now, Diaz is returning to that subject to offer her own spin on the subject with a new project, focused on the broader shifts of power and institutional control that dominate daily life in The Philippines today. It should be a welcome opportunity to keep the conversation about the country in focus around the world. —EK

Marina Zenovich Lance Armstrong Project
Veteran documentary filmmaker Zenovich excels at capturing complex men, from her seminal “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” to 2018’s “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind.” For her latest project, a two-part series produced for ESPN, Zenovich turns to a complex figure from the sports world — disgraced cyclist Armstrong — digging beyond the purview of the Alex Gibney-directed documentary “The Armstrong Lie” in 2013 to provide a broader overview of Armstrong’s career. With both episodes running feature length, the project could easily fit into Sundance’s recent trend of showcasing episodic documentary achievements, from “OJ: Made in America” to last year’s “Leaving Neverland.” —EK

“Minari” (Lee Isaac Chung)

Chung has been a talent to watch since his Rwandan drama “Munyurangabo” became a festival hit in 2007, and has followed it up with the involving dramas “Lucky Life” and “Abigail Harm.” His latest feature may end up as his biggest to date. One of the first major projects for Steven Yeun following his acclaimed “Burning” performance last year, “Minari” follows a family of Korean immigrants in 1980s-era rural Arkansas as they attempt to settle into farmland in search of the American dream. The cast also includes Yeri Han and Youn Yuh-Jung in their American debuts, as well as Will Patton and Scott Haze, and promises a tender and meaningful look at cross-cultural challenges. It also boasts production support from A24 and Plan B — who last teamed up on Sundance 2019 breakout “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” — as well as Yeun himself, which suggests a lot of faith in this project to deliver, and Park City sounds like the ideal place to start that journey. —EK

“Miss Juneteenth”
Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples
“A Ghost Story” maestro David Lowery produced this debut from first-time filmmaker Peoples, which takes place on the Juneteenth holiday, the celebration of the day slaves were freed in Texas. The story centers on a woman named Turquoise Jones, a former beauty queen whose big plans went awry after an unplanned pregnancy kept her stuck in her drab hometown. The movie unfolds in the present day, as the single mom contends with her daughter’s own lack of interest in the Miss Juneteenth pageant. It promises a sharp, emotional depiction of African American life rich with the cultural significance implied by the title, and it’s exactly the sort of breakthrough that tends to take flight at Sundance. —EK

“The Nest”
Director: Sean Durkin
Sean Durkin first became a Sundance sensation with his acclaimed 2011 debut “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” the haunting tale of one woman who escapes from a cult and struggles with the aftermath. Since then, Durkin has produced some of his Borderline Films’ cohorts projects (“Simon Killer,” “James White”) and directed the well-received “Southcliff” mini-series in 2013, but despite various announced projects he hasn’t released a completed feature. At long last, that’s about to change: “The Nest” features Jude Law and Carrie Coon in an 1980’s-set story of an entrepreneur whose family moves into an English country manor where the isolated setting and pricey lifestyle pull them apart. Durkin excels at this sort of slow-burn psychological thriller, having proven his ability to dig into his characters’ subjectivity to explore the process of a nervous breakdown from the inside out. Given that track record and these top-notch actors in play, “The Nest” is poised to be one of the more anticipated titles at this year’s festival, assuming it makes the cut. —EK

“Nine Days”
Director: Edson Oda
Celebrated commercial director Oda is making his feature debut with a script he wrote developed through the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program Labs. The film centers around a reclusive man (Winston Duke, “Black Panther”) who interviews human souls (Zazie Beetz, Bill Skarsgård, and Benedict Wong) looking for a chance to be born. The cast alone is a reason to anticipate this intriguing and surreal project, while the Sundance support suggests it’s already being primed for breakout status. —CL

“Naked Similarity”
Director: Chase Palmer
Chase Palmer’s career got a major boost when he landed a co-screenwriting gig on the horror blockbuster “It,” and now he makes his feature directorial debut on the crime drama “Naked Similarity.” Staring “It” breakout Bill Skarsgård opposite Ed Skrein and Sundance favorite Olivia Cooke, the movie centers around a New York public defender who loses his first case and unravels. Feature directorial debuts bolstered by a Sundance-ready cast is a classic staple of a Park City breakout, and “Naked Similarity” could fit the bill in 2020. —ZS

“Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always”
Director: Eliza Hittman
After premiering both “It Felt Like Love” and “Beach Rats,” Hittman has transformed into something of a Sundance regular, bringing her intimate, aching portraits of young adulthood and all its awful desire to an eager audience. The New York filmmaker’s third film promises more of that, with a dramatic twist on her thematic obsessions and a brand new pair of rising stars in the form of Talia Ryder and Sidney Flanigan. Cast as teenage cousins, the film follows the duo as they travel from Pennsylvania to New York in the hopes of obtaining an abortion not available in their hometown, a timely story that Hittman will inevitably approach with her characteristic care and honesty. —KE

Untitled Ryan White Documentary
Ryan White has been a Sundance favorite with the documentary crowdpleasers “Ask Dr. Ruth” and “The Case Against 8.” His latest effort is a secretive project with an extra-timely hook, and is rumored to deal with the events earlier this year in which two women convicted of assassinating Kim Jong-un’s older brother were released from prison. The women, who came from Vietnam and Indonesia, faced incarceration around a dramatic swirl of media scrutiny as theories developed about the origin of the murder — including the suspicion that the order to do it came from the North Korean dictator himself. However, the two women who dosed the dead man said they were tricked by North Korean agents into thinking they were participating in a reality show prank. That bizarre twist says much about the machinations of a government so rarely understood from the outside, and there’s reason to believe that White’s new documentary sheds some light on the strange saga while giving voice to the two women inextricably thrust into its center. —EK

“Rebuilding Paradise”
Director: Ron Howard
It was only year ago that a 153,336-acre camp fire devastated the town of Paradise. Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, marshalling the considerable resources of his Imagine Entertainment and National Geographic, has set out to examine how much the town could rebuild over the course of a year, with an eye on the larger global story of the “growing repercussions of climate change.” Howard’s star power and timely story — which much of Hollywood experienced up close — could resonate in a special Sundance slot. —CO

“Red Heaven”

“Red Heaven”

Directors: Lauren DeFilippo and Katherine Gorringe
Mars has been an object of fascination for centuries, but the idea of sending people there has remained within the realm of science fiction for too long. While NASA first landed on the red planet back in the late 1970s and continues to explore the surface with rovers to this day, questions remain about just how feasible it would be to send humans into an epic voyage in tight quarters and then survive on a presumably dead environment with limited resources. But NASA is once again plotting a Mars trip and digging deeper into the practical challenges therein. “Red Planet” chronicles a year-long experience in which six people spent a year living in a simulated Mars habitat, enduring a range of physical and psychological challenges as they became guinea pigs for humanity’s new frontier in exploration. The documentary is poised to capture cutting-edge science in tandem with profound observations about human behavior as it sets the stage for the next big attempt to plant feet on our distant neighbor. Following last year’s Sundance hit “Apollo 11,” “Red Heaven” is poised to entrance science geeks and laypeople alike, so it should find a welcome crowd at the festival. —EK

Director: Josephine Decker
The likes of “Bohemian Rhapsody” have left us feeling like biopics are wearing creativity goes to die, but Josephine Decker — the singular, ultra-gifted filmmaker who blew our minds with last year’s “Madeline’s Madeline” — is physically incapable of just going through the motions. Sure to be more than another womb-to-tomb Wikipedia summary, Decker’s hyper-subjective biopic about “The Lottery” author Shirley Jackson finds one great iconoclast colliding with another, and it sounds like a heavenly meeting of the minds. Starring Elisabeth Moss as Jackson, Michael Stuhlbarg as her husband, and spending much of its time delving inside the minds of Jackson’s characters, “Shirley” was shot in the fall of 2018, and feels like a shoo-in for a buzzy premiere in Park City next January. —DE

“Some Day”
Director: Megan Mylan
A decade after winning the Oscar for her documentary short “Smile Pinki” and more than 15 years after breaking out with her stunning debut “Lost Boys of Sudan,” Mylan returns to familiar, heartbreaking territory. Her latest follows four Syrian families searching for refuge around the world, following them through experiences in Turkey, Greece, Germany, and the U.S. Structured as a series of shorts following each family (often families led by only mothers), Mylan’s latest should only continue her tradition of intimate filmmaking, the kind that puts a human face on all of its subjects. —KE

“City So Real”
Director: Steve James
With “America to Me,” documentary legend Steve James (“The Interrupters,” “Hoop Dreams”) showed how well his mode of storytelling translated to the series format. Backed by Participant and his long-time producers Kartemquin, James is returning with a four part series (one hour episodes) that is being billed as a mosaic portrait of Chicago and its citizens, “captured at a crucial juncture in the city’s history: the 2019 mayoral election campaign.” —CO

“Street Gang”
Director: Marilyn Agrelo
One of the biggest Sundance documentaries in years was Morgan Neville’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” a crowd-pleasing look at Fred Rogers and his beloved children’s television series. Could a peek behind the scenes of “Sesame Street” be just as big of a hit at Sundance 2020? Marilyn Agrelo’s documentary “Street Gang” sounds on paper like it fits the bill. The doc takes a look at a period of experimental change behind the scenes of “Sesame Street” and includes interviews with co-creators Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett, original head writer Norman Stiles, and several original cast members and puppeteers. —ZS

Director: Michael Almereyda
Almereyda has been a Sundance fixture for years with science-specific narratives — the Stanley Migram biopic “The Experimenter” and near-future drama “Marjorie Prime” — and his latest falls right into that sweet spot: a biopic about the life of electricity genius Nikola Tesla. Ethan Hawke, who has been enjoying a particularly satisfying run of top-notch roles lately, stars as Tesla during his days as a young scientist in New York. The cast also features Kyle MacLachlan as Thomas Edison. Almereyda’s innovative narrative style is reason alone to anticipate his approach to this intriguing subject matter, but it’s especially exciting because Almereyda first envisioned a Tesla movie at the start of his career, so this one has been a long time coming. —EK

“Boys State”
Directors: Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss
There could be a lot to learn from Texas boys and their politics. Moss and McBaine, who produced the Moss-directed North Dakota oil fields documentary “The Overnighters” together, offers a look at a one session of a long-running youth leadership program centered around mock elections and subsequent governing. “The Overnighters” was a surprise Sundance hit, and Moss’ new Netflix mini-series “The Family” has been garnering raves, so there’s reason to believe this could be a significant non-fiction entry at this year’s festival. —CL

“Uncle Frank” 

Director: Alan Ball
“American Beauty” may not have aged as well as some of his other work, but Alan Ball revolutionized TV with HBO shows “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood,” both of which he created. Though he’s been out of the independent film game for awhile, so has his film’s star, Paul Bettany, who’s been stuck in the Marvel Universe for the last decade. Set in 1973, “Uncle Frank” follows a gay NYU professor and his 18-year-old neice as they road trip to their small, Southern hometown for a family funeral. Here’s hoping the “Six Feet Under” vibes jump off the page. —JD

“Us Kids”
Director: Kim Snyder
Documentary filmmaker Kim A. Snyder has spent the last several years of her career examining high profile school shootings and the effects they have had on victims, survivors, and the country at large. Snyder’s heartbreaking “Newton” was a buzzy title at Sundance in 2016, and now she’s back with a look at the Parkland school shooting in “Us Kids.” —ZS

“Untitled Lou Reed/Velvet Underground Project”

Director Todd Haynes'Wonderstruck' special screening, New York, USA - 15 Nov 2017

Todd Haynes

John Salangsang/January Images/Shutterstock

Director: Todd Haynes
Todd Haynes had a very busy 2019, as the “Carol” filmmaker lined up a wide array of different projects over the last 12 months, some more predictable than others. On the one hand, the Peggy Lee biopic he’s been developing seems perfectly within his wheelhouse. On the other, the Mark Ruffalo-starring legal thriller “Dark Waters” feels miles removed from the music-heavy melodramas for which Haynes is most famous (at least on the surface, anyway). But Haynes’ untitled documentary about the Velvet Underground — which he finished earlier this year, and screened for potential buyers at Cannes in May — appears to exist in the liminal space between his comfort zone and a new horizon. It goes without saying that the director of “Velvet Goldmine” knows his way around the world of avant-garde mid-century rock, but Haynes — for all the formal elasticity of his films — has never dived into the world of documentary before. If anything, his biographical work (“Superstar,” “I’m Not There”) has always been his most abstract. That only makes us more excited to see what he might do with Lou Reed and co, and we’ve got a foggy notion that we’ll get to find out in January. —DE

“Mucho, Mucho Amor”
Director: Christina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch
After directing one of the most wholesomely entertaining documentaries of 2018, “Science Fair” co-director Christina Costantini returns with a slightly edgier but just as fun premise for her second feature documentary. She collaborates with a force behind another underseen gem, “The Last Resort” director Kareem Tabsch. Together they’ll tell the story of astrologer and TV personality Walter Mercado, a gender non-conforming Latinx icon famous for wearing fabulous capes who mysteriously disappeared before his death this year. Both directors have shown a strong command of storytelling in documentary, and with such a fun subject, the film could end up a real crowd pleaser. —JD

Director: Benh Zeitlin
Fox Searchlight has given Benh Zeitlin’s “Wendy” a February 2020 release date, which means a Sundance Film Festival world premiere is more than likely for the director’s long-awaited follow-up to “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Should Zeitlin make the cut at Sundance 2020, then expect “Wendy” to be perhaps the most buzzed about film of the event. Zeitlin was the major sensation of Sundance 2012 with “Beasts,” winner of the Grand Jury Prize. The film went on to score four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, but then Zeitlin all but disappeared from the film circuit and has not returned with a new feature film until now. —ZS

“What Is Life Worth”
Director: Sara Colangelo
Colangelo started gathering momentum at Sundance with her low-key drama “Little Accidents,” and continued with her Netflix-acquired remake “The Kindergarten Teacher,” which starred Maggie Gyllenhaal. Her latest effort is her biggest to date: Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci star in this real-life chronicle of a Washington D.C. lawyer in search of justice for victims of 9/11. The cast, which also includes Amy Ryan and Tate Donovan, suggest the makings of a genuine actors’ showcase as well as a timely saga as the country approaches the 20-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Colagelo’s measured approach to deeply conflicted characters is overdue for a larger canvas, and this is exactly the sort of step up that Sundance loves to support from its alumni. —EK

“Wild Indian”
Director: Lyle Mitchell Corbine, Jr.
Corbine’s debut was a project at the Sundance Institute’s Directors Lab, which is always a good sign of its festival prospects, and the director has been gaining traction on the festival circuit with his short films “Shinaab” and “Shinaab, Part II.” His feature focuses on a pair of men from the Anishinaabe tribe who develop a connection in the aftermath of a classmate’s brutal murder. Years later, they contend with keeping the death a secret. Sundance is allegedly keen on showcasing this timely movie, with its emotional narrative about an indigenous experience hewing close to the festival’s roots. However, the shoot wrapped just a few weeks before the festival’s deadline, so it’ll be a real race to the finish line if “Wild Indian” makes the cut. But it wouldn’t be the first time in Sundance history. —EK

Untitled Jeff Orlowski Documentary
Orlowski’s eye-opening undersea 2017 documentary “Chasing Coral” was a major showcase for the existential threat facing coral reefs around the world; it scored distribution from Netflix as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. His latest effort is shrouded in secrecy, though it reportedly furthers his ecological focus in ways that could continue shaking up the conversation around environmental activism. That makes it an obvious fit for Sundance’s eco-friendly programming, whatever its focus turns out to be. —EK

“Shiva Baby”
Director: Emma Seligman
Director Emma Seligman was a fixture at 2018 festivals like SXSW, Woodstock, and Palm Springs with her comedy short film “Shiva Baby,” which has now been made into a feature length comedy-drama that has Sundance breakout written all over it. The story is set at a shiva and follows a young woman who is surprised to find out that her sugar daddy is also attending. Shorts turned features have long prospered at Sundance (see “Whiplash” as the crowning achievement), and “Shiva Baby” could continue the trend in 2020. —ZS

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox