Originally published on The National Student on 30/01/17.
It’s been another banner year for independent cinema in Park City, Utah, and we’ve tried to round up all the best and brightest looking soon-to-be releases.
And with Netflix and Amazon both spending record amounts at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, you can bet that 2017’s indie greats will likely be hitting more screens than ever before.
TV and computer screens that is, with the two streaming giants mopping up pretty much all of the biggest deals around, meaning that most of this next gen of festival faves may well be bypassing cinematic release altogether. It’s a move that really goes to show just how much the distribution model has shifted.
Either way, here are our picks, although it’s worth noting that it was difficult to whittle down, and you can see the full program of films that screened at this year’s festival here.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
We already raved quite a bit about how Macon Blair’s directorial debut is likely to be one of the ‘hidden hits’ of the year, although now it seems destined to be a little less ‘hidden’, picking up the 2017 U.S. Grand Jury Prize, an award that’s been won by everything from Primer to Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash.
The plot itself, concerned with a depressed Melanie Lynskey seeking help from her obnoxious neighbour Elijah Wood to investigate her own burglary, seems simple enough, but Blair is the real talent to watch here. Creative sparring partner of new genre favourite Jeremy Saulnier, there’s a lot of interesting ideas in the mix with this one, and having picked up the festival’s top prize, now we know it’s likely to be a cracker.
And what’s more, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore nailed a deal with Netflix for distribution before taking its first bow at the fest, meaning it should be coming to the streaming site in just a month’s time. Get excited.
Ingrid Goes West
Another oddball that picked up a top accolade – this time the coveted screenwriting award – this Aubrey Plaza-starring stalker comedy is another that deserves a look-in.
Directed and co-written by first-timer Matt Spicer, Ingrid Goes West casts Plaza as a mentally disturbed young woman who chases down her favourite social media star (Elizabeth Olsen), only for things to get increasingly violent. It’s a little too genius and current, and with a starring role for Parks and Rec’s infinitely talented Plaza, consider us firmly sold. With distribution already sorted with Tom Quinn and Tim League’s new outfit Neon, hopefully we’ll see it really quite soon too.
Much more of a head-scratcher, Charlie McDowell’s latest The Discovery boasts an incredible cast on top of an incredible premise. A love story set within a parallel world where the afterlife has been scientifically proven.
With McDowell’s previous Sundance-starring effort The One I Love (on Netflix now and definitely worthy of a watch) already setting the tone for the young director’s grounded realist sci-fi style, this looks set to be another home-run. And with Rooney Mara, Jason Segel, Riley Keough, Jesse Plemons and Sundance legend Robert Redford behind it, you know we’re in for a treat.
Another sure-fire genre fave in the making, Cooties’ Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott’s sophmore effort is a single-take extravaganza of home-front action, throwing Brittany Snow and Dave Bautista into a near-future American Civil War.
With Texan military forces battling to gain control of Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighbourhood, the two pair up in order to survive and well, things get a little bloody. Almost entirely filmed at ground-level in long sweeping, invisibly edited shots, it looks set to be a bold and hugely exciting new take on a genre that usually finds itself very much cut to ribbons. And y’know, any excuse to see Bautista running and gunning again.
A Ghost Story
One of the festival’s biggest hits surprisingly enough came from a super secret David Lowery project. Snuck into the festival after being shot quietly with his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints leads Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara on the money he earned for Disney’s family hit Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story is something thoroughly different from the director, but well worth a look out.
Almost completely dialogue-less, it tells oddly enough, a ghost story, about a man (Affleck) watching over his grief-stricken lover (Mara) from the spectral plain. Just about as indie as they come, and backed by American heavy-hitters A24 for distribution, this one might even see a jump into the awards-race. Time will tell.
Recent Oscar-nominee Taylor Sheridan, screenwriter behind the likes of Sicario and last year’s huge hit Hell or High Water, takes the leap to the director’s chair with this one, another thoroughly well-plotted thriller that sees Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner teaming up to investigate a murder on a Native American reservation.
Early word is that it’s another tightly-written mystery from Sheridan, and with the Weinstein Company picking up the distribution rights, expect a potential awards push for this one, especially if Sheridan takes home the screenwriting prize from this year’s Oscars.