January 23, 2019
Sundance 2019

The Films We're Most Excited to See at Sundance 2019

Here's what we can't wait to catch in Park City.

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival kicks off tomorrow in Park City, Utah, and along with it comes hundreds of films being screened for an audience of filmmakers, industry employees, and select press.

As the line-up of films can prove quite daunting, No Film School is breaking down the top nine films that should be on your radar (as they are on our's). Horror films, coming-of-age dramas, documentaries, and more are represented below, and while the list is by no means the be-all-end-all of titles we're anticipating, it provides a nice place to start on mapping out your Sundance journey (or what to look forward to when these films come to your town in the months ahead). 

To check out our list, scroll down below. 

Todd Douglas Miller's 'Apollo 11.'

Apollo 11

Director: Todd Douglas Miller
Section: U.S. Documentary Competition 

The Apollo 11 mission is coming up on its 50th anniversary, and director Todd Douglas Miller (along with CNN Films) is bringing us never before seen large format film footage of the mission that first landed human beings on the moon. It's a feature-length doc and I'm a space program enthusiast, so I look forward to seeing what is being called the "moon landing mission like it's never been seen before."—George Edelman

The Brink

Director: Alison Klayman
Section: Documentary Premieres

Regardless of which party line you fall on, the ultra-right-wing thought leader Steve Bannon is a fascinating figure that should be studied and feared. Leave it to documentarian Alison Klayman, a skilled filmmaker who was granted fly-on-the-wall access to the conservative "talking head," to do the job for us.

Bannon is icky and slimy to most, and perhaps Klayman will present her audience with what makes the man tick. The scary thing is that we might not actually be prepared to find out.—Erik Luers

The Death of Dick Long

Director: Daniel Schienhardt 
Section: NEXT

The last time Daniel Schienhardt had a film at Sundance, he walked away with half an award for best director.  The film, of course, was Swiss Army Man, and the other half went to his partner Daniel Kwan. Together, they make up the DANIELS, a team responsible for some of the most cutting edge media on the planet.

This time Scheinhardt is going at it alone, though no less absurd, with the preposterously titled The Death of Dick Long. The film follows a pair of redneck musicians who attempt to cover up the death of their bandmate in a small town in Alabama. According to the press release, Scheinhardt also plays the titular character because screenwriter Billy Chew “dared him to.”—Jon Fusco

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Director: Joe Berlinger
Section: Premieres

A narrative biopic by a nonfiction filmmaker is enough reason to get excited about any project, but when the subject matter is notorious serial killer Ted Bundy and the man is played by Disney pop icon Zac Efron, attention most certainly must be paid. And when the director is the critically-lauded documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger, all attention must be placed squarely on this film.

Will the film be graphic and hard to sit through? We're still unsure, but given the subject matter, it certainly won't be for the weak of heart. Releasing the film in the year of the 30th anniversary of Bundy's execution (1989) feels like uncomfortable icing on the cake.—Erik Luers

Penny Lane's 'Hail Satan?'

Hala 

Director: Minhal Baig
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Minhal Baig crowdfunded her short Hala as a proof of concept, not just for others, but for herself. It was a personal kind of filmmaking. It's the story of a Muslim-American teen struggling to balance her life and her family's ideals.

Minhal is a Blacklist alum, and the film is premiering in the Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition. I'm excited to see a unique young filmmaker's perspective that tells a personal story. These are the kinds of voices and movies I get most enthusiastic for.—George Edelman

Hail Satan?

Director: Penny Lane
Section: U.S. Documentary Competition

A documentary in which the title's concluding question mark will raise numerous eyebrows (as well provide some Christians with petty reassurance), Hail Satan? sets its sights on the Satanic Temple, a group that has become more popular as the years have passed.

Why is that the case? Leave it up to documentarian Penny Lane (Our Nixon, Nuts!) to figure it out, encompassing her signature brand of comedy and intrigue in crafting an experience that will truly be one "hell" of a time. Can you think of a more appropriate film to have its world premiere in Mormon-centric Utah? 

Honey Boy

Director: Alma Har'el
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition 

It’s hard not to be interested in this film. Shia LaBeouf’s career trajectory has been, well, almost schizophrenic. He started off as a child star in Even Stevens, moving quickly onto blockbusters like Transformers and Indiana Jones, to finding artistic fulfillment in Indies with the likes of Andrea Arnold and Lars Von Trier. There was even a time when he was heralded as the next Marlon Brando. And who can forget his stunts in the performance art world, holding a three-day marathon screening of all his films at the Angelika in New York City, appearing on the red carpet at the Berlinale with a paper bag over his head that read “I Am Not Famous Anymore," etc. He’s also punched a lot of people in the face.

Well, it seems as if everything in his life has been leading to this film. A biopic, written by LaBeouf, about himself, in which he stars as his own abusive father, Honey Boy follows Otis, a child television star, over two threads of time, watching a father and son's contentious relationship and their attempts to mend it. It’s directed by Alma Har’el, who previously collaborated with Labeouf on a Sigur Ros music video, and stars Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe as Otis at two different ages.—Jon Fusco
Babak Anvari's 'Wounds.'

Wounds

Director: Babak Anvari
Section: Midnight

Babak Anvari's Under the Shadow is one of the scariest movies I've ever seen. For a while, it had the unfair responsibility of living under the shadow, so to speak, of Jennifer Kent's The Babadook since it deals with a mother-daughter relationship and is a horror film. The truth is, of course, it's a lot more than just a Babadook knock-off. It's a deftly crafter horror period piece that is equal parts terrifying and educational.
 
Both Jennifer Kent and Babak Anvari will be at Sundance this year with their own respective horror follow-ups, Kent with The Nightingale and Anvari with Wounds. It's his first English language film and has some big names attached: Dakota Johnson, Armie Hammer, and Zazie Beetz all play a role in this story concerning a bartender who picks up a phone left behind at his bar and must deal with the disturbing consequences. This holds a special spot as it's my most anticipated film in my favorite section: Midnight. Let's do this.—Jon Fusco

Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men

Director: Sacha Jenkins
Section: Indie Episodic 

This Docu-series follows the early lives of the Wu-Tang Clan's founding members, from their early lives as friends growing up in Staten Island and Brooklyn to their legendary status in the music industry. I can't wait for the vintage footage, the insight into their early lives, and most of all, another opportunity to hear their music.—George Edelman

For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival is sponsored by Blackmagic Design. 

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1 Comment

The lineup is sooooo good this year! I’m stoked for everything on this list plus Ms. Purple, Knowk Down the House, Paradise Hills, Last Black Man in SF, and The Farewell too!

January 23, 2019 at 10:19AM

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Liz Nord
Documentary Filmmaker/Multi-platform Producer