December 5, 2016
Sundance 2017

Sundance 2017 Adds Premieres, Spotlights, and Midnights Starring Cate Blanchett, Peter Dinklage, More A-Listers

Get ready for some star turns at this year's Sundance.

Last week, the Sundance 2017 lineup was announced for the U.S. Dramatic Competition, U.S. Documentary Competition,  World Cinema Dramatic Competition, World Cinema Documentary Competition, and NEXT sections of the festival, which runs from January 19 to 29 in Park City, Utah. We created an infographic with some key statistics about this year's selections.

Today, Sundance has announced the Premieres, Spotlights, Midnights, and Kids programming for the 2017 festival. Notable filmmakers, such as Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education) and Michael Showalter (who wrote Wet Hot American Summer) and documentarians Barbara Kopple (Miss Sharon Jones!) and Lucy Walker (Waste Land) are represented. There are also new films from Sundance darlings such as Maya Forbes (Infinitely Polar Bear) and first-time film directors, including Danny Strong (Empire).

As is par for the course, the lineup is peppered with A-listers; most notably, Cate Blanchett, Kevin Spacey, Salma Hayek, Molly Shannon, Carey Mulligan, Jack Black, Peter Dinklage, Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, Elle Fanning, Kiefer Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, and more. 

Synopses below provided by Sundance.

"Before I Fall," dir. Ry Russo-Young

Premieres

A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated narrative films of the coming year.

“Beatriz at Dinner” / U.S.A. (Director: Miguel Arteta, Screenwriter: Mike White) — Beatriz, an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a health practitioner. Doug Strutt is a cutthroat, self-satisfied billionaire. When these two opposites meet at a dinner party, their worlds collide and neither will ever be the same. Cast: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow. World Premiere

“Before I Fall” / U.S.A. (Director: Ry Russo-Young, Screenwriter: Maria Maggenti) — Samantha Kingston has everything. Then, everything changes. After one fateful night, she wakes up with no future at all. Trapped into reliving the same day over and over, she begins to question just how perfect her life really was. Cast: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, Elena Kampouris, Diego Boneta. World Premiere

“The Big Sick” / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Showalter, Screenwriters: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani) — Based on the real-life courtship: Pakistan-born comedian Kumail and grad student Emily fall in love, but they struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail must navigate the crisis with her parents and the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart. Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher. World Premiere

“Call Me by Your Name” / Italy, France (Director: Luca Guadagnino, Screenwriters: James Ivory, Luca Guadagnino) — The sensitive and cultivated Elio, only child of the American-Italian-French Perlman family, is facing another lazy summer at his parents’ villa in the beautiful and languid Italian countryside when Oliver, an academic who has come to help with Elio’s father’s research, arrives. Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois. World Premiere

“The Discovery” / U.S.A. (Director: Charlie McDowell, Screenwriters: Charlie McDowell, Justin Lader) — In a world where the afterlife has just been scientifically proven—resulting in millions of people taking their own lives to “get there”—comes this love story. Cast: Jason Segel, Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, Jesse Plemons, Riley Keough, Ron Canada. World Premiere

“Fun Mom Dinner” / U.S.A. (Director: Alethea Jones, Screenwriter: Julie Rudd) — Four women, whose kids attend the same preschool class, get together for a “fun mom dinner.” When the night takes an unexpected turn, these unlikely new friends realize they have more in common than just marriage and motherhood. Together, they reclaim a piece of the women they used to be. Cast: Katie Aselton, Toni Collette, Bridget Everett, Molly Shannon, Adam Scott, Adam Levine. World Premiere

“The Incredible Jessica James” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jim Strouse) — Jessica James, an aspiring NYC playwright, is struggling to get over a recent breakup. She sees a light at the end of the tunnel when she meets the recently divorced Boone. Together, they discover how to make it through the tough times while realizing they like each other—a lot. Cast: Jessica Williams, Chris O’Dowd, Keith Stanfield, Noël Wells. World Premiere. CLOSING NIGHT FILM

“The Last Word” / U.S.A. (Director: Mark Pellington, Screenwriter: Stuart Ross Fink) — Harriett is a retired businesswoman who tries to control everything around her. When she decides to write her own obituary, a young journalist takes up the task of finding out the truth, resulting in a life-altering friendship. Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Heche, Thomas Sadoski, Philip Baker Hall. World Premiere

“Manifesto” / Germany (Director and screenwriter: Julian Rosefeldt) — Can history’s art manifestos apply to contemporary society? An homage to the twentieth century’s most impassioned artistic statements and innovators, from Futurists and Dadaists to Pop Art, Fluxus, Lars von Trier and Jim Jarmusch, this series of reenactments performed by Cate Blanchett explores these declarations’ performative components and political significance. Cast: Cate Blanchett. World Premiere

"Mudbound” / U.S.A. (Director: Dee Rees, Screenwriters: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees, Hillary Jordan) — In the post– World War II South, two families are pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape as they simultaneously fight the battle at home and the battle abroad. This epic pioneer story is about friendship, heritage and the unending struggle for and against the land. Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Jonathan Banks. World Premiere

“The Polka King” / U.S.A. (Director: Maya Forbes, Screenwriters: Maya Forbes, Wally Wolodarsky) — Based on the remarkable true story of the world’s only known Polka Ponzi scheme, this mix of comedy and tragedy is about Jan Lewan, a polish immigrant who believed in the American Dream. But with big dreams came big mistakes for the man who became the “King of Pennsylvania Polka.” Cast: Jack Black, Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman, Jacki Weaver, J.B. Smoove. World Premiere

“Rebel in the Rye” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Danny Strong) — This portrait of the life and mind of reclusive author J.D. Salinger goes from the bloody front lines of World War II to his early rejections and the PTSD-fueled writer’s block that led to his iconic novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Spacey, Sarah Paulson, Zoey Deutch, Hope Davis, Victor Garber. World Premiere

“Rememory” / U.S.A., Canada (Director: Mark Palansky, Screenwriters: Michael Vukadinovich, Mark Palansky) — A famed inventor found dead. A machine that can record people’s memories. A man haunted by the past. This noir mystery explores the ways in which memory defines the present. Cast: Peter Dinklage, Julia Ormond, Martin Donovan, Anton Yelchin, Henry Ian Cusick, Evelyne Brochu. World Premiere

“Sidney Hall” / U.S.A. (Director: Shawn Christensen, Screenwriters: Shawn Christensen, Jason Dolan) — Over the course of 12 years, and three stages of life, Sidney Hall falls in love, writes the book of a generation and then disappears without a trace. Cast: Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Monaghan, Nathan Lane, Margaret Qualley. World Premiere

“Where is Kyra?” / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Dosunmu, Screenwriters: Andrew Dosunmu, Darci Picoult) — Pushed to the brink after losing her job, a woman struggles to survive. As the months pass and her troubles deepen, she embarks on a perilous and mysterious journey that threatens to usurp her life. Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland. World Premiere

“Wilson” / U.S.A. (Director: Craig Johnson, Screenwriter: Daniel Clowes) — Wilson, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged misanthrope, reunites with his estranged wife and gets a shot at happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter he has never met. In his uniquely outrageous and slightly twisted way, he sets out to connect with her. Cast: Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer. World Premiere

“Wind River” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Taylor Sheridan) — An FBI agent teams with the town’s veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Jon Bernthal. World Premiere

"Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman," dirs. Susan Froemke, John Hoffman, Beth Aala
Documentary Premieres

Renowned filmmakers and films about far-reaching subjects comprise this section highlighting our ongoing commitment to documentaries.

“500 YEARS” / U.S.A. (Director: Pamela Yates) — From a historic genocide trial to the overthrow of a president, the sweeping story of mounting resistance played out in Guatemala’s recent history is told through the actions and perspectives of the majority indigenous Mayan population, who now stand poised to reimagine their society. World Premiere

“Cries from Syria” / U.S.A., Syria, Czech Republic (Director: Evgeny Afineevsky) — This documentary attempts to recontextualize the European migrant crisis and ongoing hostilities in Syria, through eyewitness and participant testimony. Children and parents recount the revolution, civil war, air strikes, atrocities and ongoing humanitarian aid crises, in a portrait of recent history and the consequences of violence. World Premiere

“Give Me Future: Major Lazer in Cuba” / U.S.A., Cuba (Director: Austin Peters) — In the spring of 2016, global music sensation Major Lazer performed a free concert in Havana, Cuba—an unprecedented show that drew an audience of almost half a million. This concert documentary evolves into an exploration of youth culture in a country on the precipice of change. World Premiere

“Legion of Brothers” / U.S.A. (Director: Greg Barker) — Afghanistan, immediately post-9/11: Small teams of Green Berets arrive on a series of secret missions to overthrow the Taliban. What happens next is equal parts war origin story and cautionary tale, illuminating the nature and impact of 15 years of constant combat, with unprecedented access to U.S. Special Forces. World Premiere

“Oklahoma City” / U.S.A. (Director: Barak Goodman) — The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 is the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history; this documentary explores how a series of deadly encounters between American citizens and federal law enforcement—including the standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco—led to it. World Premiere

“Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” / U.S.A. (Directors: Susan Froemke, John Hoffman, Beth Aala) — From the Montana Rockies to the wheat fields of Kansas and the Gulf of Mexico, families who work the land and sea are crossing political divides to find unexpected ways to protect the natural resources vital to their livelihoods. These are the new heroes of conservation, deep in America’s heartland. World Premiere. NEW CLIMATE

“TAKE EVERY WAVE: The Life of Laird Hamilton” / U.S.A. (Director: Rory Kennedy) — This is the remarkable story of an American icon who changed the sport of big wave surfing forever. Transcending the surf genre, this in- depth portrait of a hard-charging athlete explores the fear, courage and ambition that push a man to greatness— and the cost that comes with it. World Premiere

“Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities” / U.S.A. (Director: Stanley Nelson) — A haven for Black intellectuals, artists and revolutionaries—and path of promise toward the American dream— Black colleges and universities have educated the architects of freedom movements and cultivated leaders in every field. They have been unapologetically Black for 150 years. For the first time ever, their story is told. World Premiere

“This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous” / U.S.A. (Director: Barbara Kopple) — Are there limits to your love for your family? One family’s acceptance is tested when a champion diver, destined for the Olympics, announces he’s transitioning into a woman—and invites his YouTube followers along for every moment. It’s a story about unconditional love and finding the courage to be yourself. World Premiere

“Untitled Lucy Walker / Buena Vista Social Club Documentary” / U.S.A., United Kingdom, Cuba (Director: Lucy Walker) — As the sun sets on the careers of Cuba’s finest musicians, the Buena Vista Social Club, we get their side of the whole story, which stretches back to the beginning of the Cuban Republic, through the Grammy-winning 1998 album and Wim Wenders’ film, up to the new Cuba today. World Premiere

"Bitch," dir. Marianna Palka

Midnight

From horror and comedy to works that defy genre classification, these films will keep you wide awake, even at the most arduous hour.

“78/52” / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandre Philippe) — An unprecedented look at the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the “man behind the curtain,” and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema. World Premiere

“Bad Day for the Cut” / Northern Ireland (Director: Chris Baugh, Screenwriters: Chris Baugh, Brendan Mullin) — A middle-aged Irish farmer, who still lives at home with his mother, sets off on a mission of revenge when the old lady is murdered. Cast: Nigel O’Neill, Susan Lynch, Józef Pawłowski, Stuart Graham, Anna Próchniak, Ian McElhinney. World Premiere

“Bitch” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Marianna Palka) — A woman snaps under crushing life pressures and assumes the psyche of a vicious dog. Her philandering, absentee husband is forced to become reacquainted with his four children and sister-in-law as they attempt to keep the family together during this bizarre crisis. Cast: Jason Ritter, Jaime King, Marianna Palka, Brighton Sharbino, Rio Mangini, Kingston Foster. World Premiere

“Bushwick” / U.S.A. (Directors: Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott, Screenwriters: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick) — Lucy emerges from a Brooklyn subway to find that her neighborhood is under attack by black-clad military soldiers. An ex-Marine corpsman, Stupe, reluctantly helps her fight for survival through a civil war, as Texas attempts to secede from the United States of America. Cast: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow, Angelic Zambrana, Jeremie Harris, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Arturo Castro. World Premiere

“Killing Ground” / Australia (Director and screenwriter: Damien Power) — Ian and Samantha arrive at an isolated campsite to find an SUV and a tent—with no sign of the occupants. The discovery of a distressed child wandering in the woods unleashes a terrifying chain of events that will test the young couple’s breaking point. Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Ian Meadows, Harriet Dyer, Aaron Glenane. International Premiere

“Kuso” / U.S.A. (Director: Steven Ellison, Screenwriters: Steven Ellison, David Firth, Zach Fox) — Broadcasting through a makeshift network of discarded televisions, this story is tangled up in the aftermath of Los Angeles’s worst earthquake nightmare. Travel between screens and aftershocks into the twisted lives of the survived. Cast: Iesha Coston, Zack Fox, Hannibal Buress, The Buttress, Tim Heidecker, Mali Matsuda. World Premiere

“The Little Hours” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jeff Baena) — A young servant fleeing from his master takes refuge at a dysfunctional convent in medieval Tuscany. Cast: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon. World Premiere

“XX” / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vukovik) — This all-female horror anthology features four dark tales from four fiercely talented women. Cast: Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool, Christina Kirk. World Premiere

"Raw," dir. Julia DucournauCredit: Sundance 2017

Spotlight

The Spotlight program is a tribute to the cinema we love from throughout the past year.

“Colossal” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nacho Vigalondo) — An unapologetic party girl dreams of a fresh start only to discover a mysterious and fantastical connection between herself and a city-wrecking monster on the other side of the globe. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell.

“Frantz” / France, Germany (Director: François Ozon, Screenwriters: François Ozon, Philippe Piazzo) — In a small German town after World War I, Anna mourns daily at the grave of her fiancé, Frantz, killed in battle in France. One day a young Frenchman, Adrien, also lays flowers at the grave. His presence, so soon after the German defeat, ignites passions. Cast: Pierre Niney, Paula Beer, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Johann von Bülow, Anton von Lucke.

“Lady Macbeth” / United Kingdom (Director: William Oldroyd, Screenwriter: Alice Birch) — Rural England, 1865: Katherine is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man and his unforgiving family. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a stableman from the estate, the force unleashed inside her is so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Cast: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank. U.S. Premiere

“Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry”/ U.S.A. (Directors: Laura Dunn, Jef Sewell) — This cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture is seen through the mind’s eye of farmer and writer Wendell Berry. NEW CLIMATE

“Raw” / France (Director and screenwriter: Julia Ducournau) — When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, she develops an unbidden taste for meat, with unexpected consequences. Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss.

“Sami Blood” / Sweden (Director and screenwriter: Amanda Kernell) — Elle Marja, 14, is a reindeer-breeding Sámi girl. Exposed to race biology examinations at her boarding school and the racism of the 1930s, she starts dreaming of another life—one that demands she become someone else and break all ties with her family and culture. Cast: Lene Cecilia Sparrok, Mia Sparrok, Maj-Doris Rimpi, Olle Sarri, Hanna Alström, Malin Crépin. U.S. Premiere

“Their Finest” / United Kingdom (Director: Lone Scherfig, Screenwriter: Gaby Chiappe) — During the 1940 London Blitz, untried screenwriter Catrin struggles to find her voice amidst war, as she and a makeshift cast work under fire to create a film to lift the nation’s spirits—and inspire America to join the war. Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Jake Lacy, Jeremy Irons. U.S. Premiere

Kids

This section of the Festival is especially for the youngest independent film fans. Programmed in cooperation with Utah Film Center, which presents the annual Tumbleweeds Film Festival, Utah’s premiere film festival for children and youth.

“The Mars Generation” / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Barnett) — Aspiring teenage astronauts reveal that a journey to Mars is closer than you think.The science, politics and philosophy of mankind’s future journey to Mars are examined in this fascinating film. Told by teens who will be the first to walk on the Red Planet, as well as experts pushing boundaries of technology and innovation, Mars is revealed to be closer than you think. World Premiere. SALT LAKE CITY OPENING NIGHT FILM

“My Life as a Zucchini” / Switzerland, France (Director: Claude Barras, Screenwriter: Céline Sciamma) — After his mother’s death, Zucchini is befriended by a police officer, Raymond, who accompanies him to a foster home filled with other orphans his age. There, with the help of his newfound friends, Zucchini eventually learns to trust and love as he searches for a new family of his own. World Premiere (English Version)

“RED DOG: True Blue” / Australia (Director: Kriv Stenders, Screenwriter: Daniel Taplitz) — When 11-year-old Mick is shipped off to his grandfather’s cattle station in Australia’s remote Pilbara, he prepares himself for a life of dull hardship but instead finds myth, adventure and a friendship with a scrappy, one-of-a-kind pup that will change his life forever. Cast: Levi Miller, Bryan Brown, Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, Thomas Cocquerel, Jason Isaacs. North American Premiere      

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