Ben Robins with the five best movies to look out for at Sundance London 2017…
Storming back to London’s Picturehouse Central off the back of an incredibly successful rebrand last year, Sundance’s London branch is fast becoming one of the city’s go-to film festivals. And while Netflix and Amazon have already sunk their claws into some of the biggest titles from the flagship Utah fest back in January (both The Discovery and Grand Jury Prize winner I don’t feel at home in this world anymore are already available to stream), there’s still plenty to get excited about, theatrically speaking.
Sundance London is all about showcasing the best and brightest from the bigger Sundance banner and this year’s selection has a helluva lot of originality.
The Big Sick
One of the buzziest titles that premiered back in Utah in January was Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani’s semi-autobiographical rom-com The Big Sick, that charts the real-life couple’s own struggles with cultural differences in 21st century America. Written by the pair, and starring Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan (playing Gordon’s role), it’s already been hailed as one of the best comedies of the year, and opened endless doors for everyone involved. Not to mention the fact that it raked in one of the biggest distribution deals of the festival, and will be streaming on Amazon Prime from July, so this might be your last shot at seeing it on the big screen.
Fans of real-world action, Birdman-style one-shots, and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista gather round, because boy do we have the film for you. Set in an alternate modern-day America, where Texas has started a second civil war and is in the process of invading Brooklyn, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, Bushwick finds the abbed-up softy teaming up with Brittany Snow to escape the ongoing battle. Directed by Cooties’ Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott, and co-written by Stake Land’s Nick Damici, it’s about as visually ambitious as indie action flicks get, and certainly earns a spot as one of the most anticipated of Sundance’s genre releases.
A Ghost Story
Swiftly acquired by distribution top-dogs A24 way back in January, David Lowery’s low-rent passion project, made with the money he earned from calling the shots on last year’s Disney adventure Pete’s Dragon, is about as Sundancey as this year’s releases get. Described as a “singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence”, it follows a classic white-sheeted ghost (Casey Affleck) trying to reconnect with his mourning wife (Rooney Mara). And while it may look a little silly/pretentious on first glimpse, it’s clear that Lowery’s created something exceedingly unique with this one, which simply deserves to be seen to be believed.
The winner of this year’s Grand Jury Prize for Documentary feature, Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles’ portrait of a real world romance between autistic pair Dina and Scott has been described as ‘unconventional’ too many times to count. In fact, it even describes itself as ‘unconventional’ in its IMDb plot synopsis. But where this verite-style love story hits a note we’re all very familiar with is in just how much respect it holds for the very ideal of romance itself, crafting an unexpected, but apparently also delightfully charming drama, out of a world we’re often far too separated from in cinema.
Dawn of the Deaf
Oddly enough though, the hottest ticket of this year’s festival for genre fans, actually comes from a short. Showing as part of the Sundance shorts showcase, Rob Savage’s total subversion of the outbreak genre is an absolute must, not just for horror fans, but for anyone with an eye for finding an original idea in a haystack of formulaic ones. Dawn of the Deaf follows the fallout of a mysterious sound that wipes out the entire world’s hearing population, cramming as much emotional weight and genuine ingenuity into its tiny 12 minute run time as possible. It’s not only beautifully written, shot, and acted, but also stands as a great introduction for Savage, who’s certainly one of the most exciting new homegrown talents around.
For the first time ever this year, Sundance London will be playing against trend and screening a mystery film, the title of which will only be revealed when the opening credits roll. And sure, there’s plenty of other incredible-sounding titles already listed in the SFFL program, but there’s just as many leftover from January that apparently didn’t quite make the cut, and who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned surprise? With possibilities ranging all the way from Directing award winner Beach Rats, to Aubrey Plaza’s cult hit in the making Ingrid Goes West, to any of the festival’s other hugely-acclaimed titles, this one night only event definitely shouldn’t be missed.
Ben Robins / @BMLRobins