Rewinding back to its conception, the world-famous Sundance Film Festival was the brainchild of the Utah Film Commission – all from an idea to promote independent films and bring their state to the attention of filmmakers. The festival first started in Salt Lake City back in 1978, but made it’s seemingly popular move to Park City in 1980. As festival chairman, actor and director Robert Redford initially helped raise awareness for the festival – and from there it has made a true name for itself as a cinematic goldmine. The small ski town is used to seeing thousands of people flock there every January to be first in line for some amazing films. And while the festival will look vastly different this year, two elements remain the same – talent and originality.
Running from January 28th to February 3rd, the most obvious change for this year’s festivities is a largely virtual program! This has allowed Sundance to team up with a list of theatrical venues around the country, who will sell tickets and screen the films for their locals. But with over 70 features on the lineup and no trailers available, how will you choose?! Here are some top recommendations of films to look out for in the U.S. fiction and non-fiction categories.
U.S. Fiction Features:
Together Together – Directed by Nikole Beckwith
40-year-old Matt hires a young woman as a surrogate, and they soon realize that their untimely relationship will challenge all their perceptions of love.
Familiar faces: Ed Helms from The Hangover, Anna Konkle from Pen15
Wild Indian – Directed by Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.
Two men are bound together by the secret of covering up a schoolmate’s murder. After years of separation, they must finally reconnect and confront their demons.
Familiar faces: Jesse Eisenberg from The Social Network and Zombieland, Kate Bosworth from The I-Land and Blue Crush
John and the Hole – Directed by Pascual Sisto
As if the years as an adolescent aren’t psychologically thrilling enough, this coming-of-age film details a young kid holding his own family captive.
Familiar faces: Michael C. Hall from Dexter, Taissa Farmiga from American Horror Story
How It Ends – Directed by Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein
A woman spends her last day on Earth traveling through L.A. and keeping the party going, while meeting some interesting characters along the way.
Familiar faces: Olivia Wilde from Tron and Drinking Buddies, Fred Armisen from Portlandia and SNL
Strawberry Mansion – Directed by Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney
“In a world where the government records and taxes dreams, an unassuming dream auditor gets swept up in a cosmic journey through the life and dreams of an aging eccentric.”
Familiar faces: Constance Shulman from Orange Is the New Black, Reed Birney from House of Cards
Prisoners of the Ghostland – Directed by Sion Sono
When Nicole Cage isn’t busy stealing the Declaration of Independence, he’s rescuing a woman from a supernatural universe made of violence and beauty.
Familiar faces: Nicolas Cage from National Treasure, Sofia Boutella from Atomic Blonde
Marvelous and the Black Hole – Directed by Kate Tsang
A teenage misfit partners with a children’s party magician, helping her navigate through dysfunctional family matters and the questions of life.
Familiar faces: Rhea Perlman from Matilda and Cheers, Leonardo Nam from Westworld
Passing – Directed by Rebecca Hall
Set in New York 1929, two African American women who can “pass” as white choose to explore life on the other side of the color line.
Familiar Faces: Alexander Skarsgard from True Blood and Big Little Lies, Tessa Thompson from Thor: Ragnarok and Westworld
Cryptozoo – Directed by Dash Shaw
Animated cryptozookeepers struggle to capture a legendary dream-eating creature and wonder if they should keep their collection of rare beasts hidden from the public.
Familiar voices: Michael Cera from Superbad and Arrested Development, Lake Bell from No Escape and Bless This Mess
On the Count of Three – Directed by Jerrod Carmichael
“Two guns. Two best friends. And a pact to end their lives when the day is done.”
Familiar faces: Chris Abbott from Girls and The Sinner, Tiffany Haddish from Girls Trip
I Was A Simple Man – Directed by Christopher Makoto Yogi
“As a family in Hawaii faces the imminent death of their eldest, the ghosts of the past haunt the countryside.”
Familiar faces: Constance Wu form Crazy Rich Asians and Hustlers
U.S. Non-fiction Features:
At the Ready – Directed by Maisie Crow
Peak into the lives of Horizon High School seniors as they train to become police officers and Border Patrol agents in the U.S./Mexico border town of El Paso.
Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) – Directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
During the summer of ’69, over 300,000 people attended the Harlem Cultural Festival to celebrate African American music, culture, pride, and unity. The tantalizing festival footage has been collecting dust in a basement, until now.
Homeroom – Directed by Peter Nicks
As their city struggles with the changing times, follow Oakland High School’s class of 2020 as they navigate their way through an emotional and transformative year.
Users – Directed by Natalia Almada
“A mother wonders, will my children love their perfect machines more than they love me, their imperfect mother?” This documentary explores how society expresses itself through technology and the consequences we face in our tech-dominated world.
Cusp – Directed by Isabel Bethencourt and Parker Hill
Set against a southern military town, three adolescent girls confront the dark corners of teenage years at the end of a hot, Texas summer.
Bring Your Own Brigade – Directed by Lucy Walker
An in-depth look at the turmoil of firefighters and residents as their land battles deadly fires.