Here's a quick take of what's been released thus far.
With Sundance 2018 in full swing, let's take a look at some of the trailers and exclusive clips from the films featured in this year's festival.
A Boy. A Girl. A Dream
Synopsis from Sundance: Cass (Omari Hardwick), a handsome USC grad stalled in his career, is getting lost in the alcohol-and drug-infused world of LA club promotion. On the night of the 2016 presidential election, he meets Frida (Meagan Good), a beautiful, spirited midwestern visitor dealing with a difficult breakup. Their chemistry is undeniable. Nothing will ever be the same again. With a sense of quiet enchantment and magnitude in the mundane, director Qasim Basir has created a visually sensuous, dreamlike film unspooling in real time, seemingly in one continuous take, that transports you to a singular moment in time—election night—when the texture of life seemed to indescribably yet drastically change. A Boy, A Girl, A Dream. effortlessly holds a full spectrum of emotion—feelings of panic, embarrassment, attraction, vulnerability, despair, anger, companionship, disorientation, and a creeping sense of a nation radically changing course—all inside a single slice-of-life film about two people meeting each other for the first time.
Synopsis from Sundance: Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm), a top U.S. diplomat, left Lebanon in the 1970s after a tragic incident. Ten years later, the CIA calls him back to a war-torn Beirut with a mission only he can accomplish. Meanwhile, a CIA field agent who is working undercover at the American embassy is tasked with keeping Skiles alive and ensuring that the mission is a success. Without knowing who is on his side and with lives on the line, Skiles must outmaneuver everyone to expose the truth.From acclaimed screenwriter Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, the Bourne series), Beirut is an intelligent and gripping political thriller exploring the question “whom can you trust in a time of war?” Director Brad Anderson (The Machinist), returning with his sixth feature at the Sundance Film Festival, tells a taut, strikingly entertaining story and gets thrilling performances from Hamm and Rosamund Pike. Though the plot has many layers, Anderson deftly weaves everything together with a controlled style that makes Beirut a riveting film packed with intrigue and suspense.
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot
Synopsis from Sundance: John Callahan has a lust for life, a knack for off-color jokes, and a drinking problem. When an all-night bender ends in a catastrophic car accident, John wakes up to the reality of being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. In his journey back from rock bottom, his honesty and wicked sense of humor turn out to be his saving grace, as he makes friends with an oddball AA group, finds that love is not beyond his reach, and develops a talent for drawing irreverent and sometimes shocking cartoons. The drawings of the real-life John Callahan delight in the macabre that he found in everyday life. Fellow Portlandian Gus Van Sant proves to be the perfect director to tell John’s story—with films like Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho, Van Sant has an adept skill for creating dynamic outsiders. Featuring a shape-shifting lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix and outstanding support by Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot finds beauty and comedy in the absurdity of human experience.
A Futile and Stupid Gesture
Synopsis from Sundance: The National Lampoon name became globally recognized after the monumental success of Animal House—but before the glory days, it was a scrappy yet divinely subversive magazine and radio show that introduced the world to comedic geniuses like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner. The driving force behind National Lampoon was Doug Kenney (Will Forte), and his truly wild and crazy story unfolds in A Futile and Stupid Gesture from Harvard to Hollywood to Caddyshack and beyond. Director David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer) has had three prior features at the Sundance Film Festival and is firmly established as one of the great comedy directors. Utilizing an outstanding ensemble cast, including Domhnall Gleeson, Joel McHale, and Emmy Rossum, Wain understands that to tell this story right you need to bypass accuracy and head straight for authenticity. In the spirit of National Lampoon, Wain takes a plethora of creative licenses to get at the even-truer story of perhaps the most influential comedy force of the last 50 years.
Synopsis from Sundance: Irene is raising four rambunctious sons in a home that is physically crumbling but warm and happy. As Irene simultaneously shelters her sister Sonia (who just left a volatile marriage), supports her own husband through a financial crisis, and plans her own long-awaited high school graduation, Irene’s eldest son, Fernando, suddenly announces he has been recruited by a professional handball team in Germany and will be leaving in just three weeks. Consummate caretaker Irene prickles at the idea of emancipating the 16-year-old so he can travel and live alone, and she becomes increasingly anxious about what her future holds. Writer/director Gustavo Pizzi exquisitely captures a family’s home and life in intimate, crisp, fully realized detail, while co-writer/actress Karine Teles embodies Irene with delicacy and passion, articulating in equal measure her fierce familial devotion, seemingly endless reserve of warmth and patience, and growing existential doubt. Loveling thoughtfully contemplates the complicated balance between the destructive and restorative elements of our bonds to the people we love and cherish most.
Synopsis from Sundance: A man is distraught, sorrowful. With his wife lying in a coma, each day begins in tears. But despite this sadness, he is happy. Showered with pity—from his secretary, his dry cleaner, and a neighbor who brings homemade Bundt cakes—the man realizes how much better his life is. He’s grown accustomed to pity—addicted even. What a vexing dilemma he’d face were his wife ever to recover.
A pitch-dark comedy that would be deeply disturbing if it weren’t so funny, Pity marks the second collaboration of director Babis Makridis (L) and co-writer Efthimis Filippou (Dogtooth, The Lobster). Its heavily stylized humor and restrained aesthetic enable a revelatory deadpan performance from comedian Yannis Drakopoulos, his nameless Everyman narcissistically obsessing over the depths of his sorrow (shouldn’t his son play less cheerful piano melodies?) and how it compares to others’ (is it deeper than the woman wailing in the hospital waiting room?). Pity meets these questions with a wry smirk, and an intertitle helpfully reminds us, “It’s your own fault if people stop pitying you.”
Synopsis from Sundance: Every year, over 1,700 students from 75 countries compete in the annual International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), a highly competitive showcase of the world’s top young scientific minds. Selected from millions of students who qualified through sanctioned events to reach the international competition, these finalists are competing for the coveted top prize that, as one previous winner explains, “will change your life in ways you won’t even comprehend.” Science Fair follows one mentor and nine students from around the world as they prepare their projects and team for the 2017 ISEF event in Los Angeles. Though all are participating for the love of science, we also learn that there are other underlying influences motivating them to pursue their dreams of participating in the competition. Featuring interviews with the charming young scientists, their parents and mentors, as well as past ISEF winners, this absorbing film illuminates a group of amazing young men and women who are on a path to change the world through science.
Synopsis from Sundance: To some, Gloria Allred is a money-grubbing, shrill feminist prone to tawdry theatrics; to others she’s the most effective and fearless women’s rights attorney in America. In this intimate, warts-and-all documentary, one thing is certain: Allred’s 40-year devotion to asserting, protecting, and expanding the rights of women is unwavering and her influence unassailable. Whether fighting gender discrimination in toy stores, spousal abuse in the O.J. trial, or sexual harassment by Donald Trump, every case is personal and an opportunity to amplify the cause. Her special brand of advocacy often calls for creative solutions. When the statute of limitations prevented her clients from pressing charges against Bill Cosby, she led them in a battle to eliminate the statute for the benefit of future victims. At 75, like an unstoppable superhero with a rolling suitcase and no time to lose, she crisscrosses the country arguing cases, marching for justice, and delivering impromptu speeches on the Lincoln Memorial steps. And as the #MeToo movement gathers steam and powerful men fall, Allred knowingly, stoically declares, “The fight has only just begun.”
Synopsis from Sundance: Embodying the creative spirit of the early ’90s, super-cinephile and VHS bootlegger Sandi Tan and her friends found inspiration in American independent film. Eventually, they knew it was time to make a film of their own. In her home country of Singapore, Sandi pens a thriller about a teenage assassin and enlisted her friends, Jasmine and Sophie—think the Coen sisters—and the mysterious mentor Georges to film it. Shirkers became one of the few films in the country to be shot guerilla style, coloring the newly independent nation with a playful, hyper-real aesthetic. Then one day, Georges disappeared with all the 16mm footage. Sandi embarks on a personal, singular journey into her creative life, unpacks the urban legend of Shirkers, and connects the clues embedded in the film to unravel the mystery of who her friend Georges Cardona really was. A retro-inspired, ardently analogue experiment in self-discovery and filmmaking, Shirkers becomes a portrait of what it means to be independent, defy patriarchy, and find your tribe—only to realize that they were with you all along.
Summer of '84
Synopsis from Sundance: Every serial killer is somebody’s neighbor. For 15-year-old Davey, the thought of having a serial killer in his suburban town is a scary yet exciting prospect at the start of a lazy summer. In hormonal overdrive, Davey and his friends dream of sexual conquests until the news reports of the Cape May killer. Davey convinces his friends that they must investigate, and they uncover that his next-door neighbor, an unassuming, single police officer, could be the prime suspect. Could Davey possibly be right, or is it his overactive imagination? Directing trio François Simar, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell (Turbo Kid, 2015 Sundance Film Festival) return to Midnight with this eerily resonant coming-of-age horror flick. The throwback synth score injects the tone with fun, thrills, and an escalating danger that ultimately tracks Davey’s loss of innocence. Indeed, the ’80s setting is less about the nostalgia hard-on than an essential parallel of that Reagan-era American fear that we are not as safe as we think.
A Woman Captured
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=Da9-_49p8dw
Synopsis from Sundance: While preparing a project on modern slavery, filmmaker Bernadett Tuza-Ritter uncovers a treacherous story. Inside an upscale Hungarian home run by a tyrannical matriarch resides a domestic slave. At 52 years old, Marish labors 20 hours a day without pay and endures a constant barrage of emotional and physical abuse. For those who see her on the street, it’s impossible to imagine the hell she returns to every day. Eating only scraps from dinners she prepares and receiving cigarettes instead of cash, Marish has forgotten what freedom feels like and lost all will to leave. Until Bernadett enters the scene. Stepping into an ethical minefield, Bernadett pays off the owners to gain entry and train her camera on Marish. Her presence awakens Marish’s trust and emboldens her to hatch an escape plan. But the stakes are high: Marish is financially indentured, and the authorities refuse to intervene. A Woman Captured drops us into a realm rife with chilling questions about human psychology and our own complicity as voyeurs—of Marish’s ordeal and the suffering we witness on screen daily.
For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival is sponsored by RODE Microphones and Blackmagic Design.