Thanks to the good folks at the Sundance Institute, The Ledger had the privilege of attending the Sundance Film Festival this past weekend — one of the most well known film festivals in the world. With the help of movie star Robert Redford, the Sundance Film Festival was established in the late seventies as an effort to bring attention to independent cinema.
The function of Sundance is primarily to provide a visible platform for unknown, independent filmmakers to receive exposure and have their movies seen, especially by Hollywood executives. Many filmmakers — from Quentin Tarantino to Paul Thomas Anderson — received their big break due to film premieres at the festival. With this being said, here’s a round up of what The Ledger managed to catch throughout the weekend there:
An experimental piece by “Blindspotting” Director Carlos Lopez Estrada, “Summertime” has a loose plot built around poetry monologues written by its cast of teenagers. If slam poetry doesn’t interest you then this one may not be for you, but it happened to be one of my favorites.
“The Painter and the Thief”
A documentary of unusual circumstances where Czech painter Barbora Kysilkova seeks out the thief of two of her paintings. When the thief is apprehended, he and Kysilkova strike up an unlikely friendship. Norwegian Director Benjamin Ree documented both Kysilkova and Karl-Bertil Nordland for three years, and the film covers a story that takes unanticipated twists. Expect it to be a sure contender for best documentary at next year’s Academy Awards.
A reimagining of the origin stories for Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, this film unsuccessfully blends drama and fantasy. Director Brenda Chapman preciously helmed successes like Pixar’s “Brave” and DreamWorks’ “The Prince of Egypt.” But you wouldn’t know it from this effort, which appears to struggle with balancing the contrasting tones of child-friendly whimsy and dark family tragedy.
Guatemalan Director Jayro Bustamante writes and directs this alternate take on the traditional Latin American folktale, but the new spin on the tale spawned dreadful results. Being a film that mostly relies on atmosphere, it was so dull that it bored me to sleep, literally.
“The Mole Agent”
We all need to respect our elders more — a proposition that this Chilean documentary drives home. A mysterious benefactor hires an 83 year-old man to infiltrate a nursing home in which their mother is staying to see if she’s being treated badly. It’s a slow, pensive look at how lonely residents get when their children stop visiting and well worth a watch if you can get over subtitles.
Paul Bettany and Sophia Lillis — the latter of the new “IT” fame — star in this period piece about a closeted gay college professor who must return to his South Carolina home when his homophobic father passes away. Covering complex themes like self identity, idol worship, and owning up to the person you really are, the movie is solid. But it feels uncannily similar to “Green Book,” and these parallels may prevent it from breaking out during award season.
Michael Keaton stars as lawyer Kenneth Feinberg in this script based on a true story. Freinberg takes the undesired job as head of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and thus has to tackle the tough question of how a human life can be reduced to a monetary figure. It’s another film with great acting, but the script doesn’t leap off the page to make the material interesting enough.
“The Night House”
Tense, atmospheric, and best of all, legitimately spine tingling. This horror film stars Rebecca Hall as the recently widowed Beth who is still in grief after her husband’s suicide. But when she suddenly begins seeing things around the house, it urges the audience to question: Is it her grief and alcoholism, or is there a spirit present?
A creepy, queasy thriller with sci-fi undertones, this film ended our festival experience in a memorable way. Brandon Cronenberg writes and directs a unique story concerning a corporation that has developed a way of gaining possession of other people’s bodies and utilizing them to commit assassinations to further their own business interests. Thematically rich and eye openingly violent, it may not gain mainstream approval, but I predict it will become a sure cult hit sometime soon.