Sundance announces starry new additions to its 2017 program, including closing-night film 'The Incredible Jessica James.'
From a documentary about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to a thriller in which Texas tries to secede from the United States, the 2017 Sundance Film Festival gets more eclectic as director John Cooper and programming head Trevor Groth announce the lineups for the upcoming edition’s Premieres, Documentary Premieres, Spotlight, Midnight, and Kids sections on Monday. New films range from a look at the early days of novelist J.D. Salinger to a pair of future-set, sci-fi love stories, in a program that boasts many returning filmmakers.
For example, three years after debuting “The One I Love” in Premieres, director Charlie McDowell will unveil “The Discovery,” starring Jason Segel, Rooney Mara, and Sundance chief Robert Redford himself. Actual discoveries may seem fewer and farther between these days (many observed how few first-timers there were among the films selected for competition last week), though Cooper and Groth insist that quality is up overall in the 4,068 films they screened this year.
In fact, while there are more people making movies now than ever, it’s increasingly difficult for directors submitting blind to catch the Sundance programmers by surprise these days. “We’re seeing more and more of a trajectory of filmmakers coming of age through their short films, up through a small feature, even through webisodes,” explained Cooper, whose team proactively seeks sparks of talent and tracks them, as potential voices develop feature projects that could prove Sundance-worthy.
So, while Premieres predictably makes room for new films from the likes of Miguel Arteta (“Beatriz at Dinner”), Michael Almereyda (“Marjorie Prime”), and Ry Russo-Young (“Before I Fall”), the programmers also found spots for newcomer Alethea Jones’ feature debut, “Fun Mom Dinner,” starring Toni Collette and Molly Shannon; and Oscar-winning short helmer Shawn Christensen’s “Sidney Hall,” featuring Sundance darlings Logan Lerman and Elle Fanning.
The Premieres section boosts Sundance’s star factor considerably, including German artist Julian Rosefeldt’s “Manifesto,” a virtual one-woman show in which Cate Blanchett reads various artists’ statements (a multi-screen version of the project can be seen at Park Avenue Armory, beginning this week in New York).
Returning Sundance directors with glitzy new projects include Luca Guadagnino, whose gay-themed “Call Me by Your Name” pairs Armie Hammer with “Homeland’s” Timothée Chalamet; “Pariah” helmer Dee Rees, whose adaptation of “Mudbound” features Mary J. Blige; Maya Forbes (“Infinitely Polar Bear”), whose true-story con-man comedy “The Polka King” stars Jack Black; and “Mother of George’s” Andrew Dosunmu, directing Michelle Pfeiffer and Kiefer Sutherland in “Where Is Kyra?” For the second year in a row, the festival will close with a film by Jim Strouse — in this case, “The Incredible Jessica James,” featuring former “The Daily Show” correspondent Jessica Williams (who also appeared in Strouse’s Sundance-competing “People Places Things”).
Though behind-the-camera diversity is down somewhat in competition, five of the Premieres directors are women, while the Documentary Premieres lineup boasts an additional four, including fresh work from Barbara Kopple and Lucy Walker.
“We have a lot of women directors in the midnight lineup, including Marianna Palka’s film ‘Bitch,’ which is a really smart horror comedy, and [the omnibus project] ‘XX,’ in which four women directors made shorts that don’t just feel like any other genre film, which makes for a very different viewing experience,” said Groth. The same could be said for French director Julia Ducournau’s “Raw,” a cannibalism-themed shocker that premiered at Cannes and reportedly caused some viewers to pass out in midnight screenings at Toronto.
Of course, inclusivity matters not only on the creation side, but also in terms of to whom the films appeal, and Groth senses a wider range in the potential target demographic for this year’s program. “If you look back at our competition lineup historically, it skewed more toward younger protagonists. This year, we have that, but also middle-aged and older protagonists — so we’re kind of expanding the notion of who these stories are for, and who they’re about,” he said.
One such example is Mark Pellington’s “The Last Word” — the “Penelope” director’s first film in a decade, which features a cross-generational friendship between characters played by Amanda Seyfried and Shirley MacLaine.
The festival itself runs from Jan. 19 to Jan. 29.
The full lineup:
The 17 films in this section are all world premieres and from the U.S., unless otherwise indicated.
“Beatriz at Dinner” (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.
“Before I Fall” (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.
“The Big Sick” (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.
“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.
“The Discovery” (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.
“Fun Mom Dinner” (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.
“The Incredible Jessica James” (Director/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. CLOSING NIGHT FILM
“The Last Word” (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.
“Manifesto” (Germany / Director/screenwriter: Julian Rosefeldt) — Can history’s art manifestos apply to contemporary society? An homage to the 20th 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.
“Marjorie Prime” (Director/screenwriter: Michael Almereyda) — In the near future — a time of artificial intelligence — 86-year-old Marjorie has a handsome new companion who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance? Cast: Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Tim Robbins.
“Mudbound” (Director: Dee Rees, Screenwriters: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees) — 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.
“The Polka King” (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.
“Rebel in the Rye” (Director/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.
“Rememory” (U.S.-Canada / Director: Mark Palansky, Screenwriters: Michael Vukadinovich, Mark Palansky) — A visionary 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.
“Sidney Hall” (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.
“Where Is Kyra?” (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.
“Wilson” (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.
“Wind River” (Director/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.
The 10 films in this section are all world premieres and from the U.S., unless otherwise specified.
“500 Years” (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.
“Cries From Syria” (U.S.-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.
“Give Me Future: Major Lazer in Cuba” (U.S.-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.
“Legion of Brothers” (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.
“Oklahoma City” (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.
“Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” (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. (The New Climate)
“Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton” (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.
“Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities” (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.
“This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous” (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.
“Untitled Lucy Walker/Buena Vista Social Club Documentary (U.S.-U.K.-Cuba / Director: Lucy Walker) — The musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club exposed the world to Cuba’s vibrant culture with their landmark 1997 album. Now, against the backdrop of Cuba’s captivating musical history, hear the band’s story as they reflect on their remarkable careers and the extraordinary circumstances that brought them together.
The eight films in this section are all world premieres and from the U.S., unless otherwise specified.
“78/52” (Director: Alexandre Philippe) — This is 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.
“Bad Day for the Cut” (N. 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.
“Bitch” (Director/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.
“Bushwick” (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.
“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” (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’ 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.
“The Little Hours” (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.
“XX” (Directors and screenwriters: Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vuckovic) — This all-female horror anthology features four dark tales from four fiercely talented women. Cast: Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool, Christina Kirk.
The seven films in this section hail from all over the world, and have already premiered at other film festivals.
“Colossal” (U.S. / 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” (U.K. / 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. / 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. (The 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/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” (U.K. / 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
“The Mars Generation” (U.S. / Director: Michael Barnett) — Aspiring teenage astronauts reveal that a journey to Mars is closer than you think.
“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.
“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.
One-of-a-kind moments highlighting new independent works, this evolving section includes episodic projects, short films, and live post-screening discussions.
“Downward Dog” (Showrunners: Kat Likkel, John Hoberg, Creators: Michael Killen, Samm Hodges) — The story of a struggling millennial, Nan, as observed from the point of view of her lonely and philosophical dog, Martin. The Festival will premiere the first four episodes of the series, followed by an extended Q&A with the cast, creators, and showrunners. Cast: Allison Tolman, Samm Hodges, Lucas Neff, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Barry Rothbart.
“The History of Comedy” (Executive Producers: Mark Herzog, Christopher G. Cowen, Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner) — Utilizing archival footage punctuated by contemporary interviews with comedy legends and scholars, this is the history of not only what makes us laugh, but how comedy has affected the social and political landscape throughout history. The Festival will premiere two episodes of this docuseries, “Spark of Madness” and “Going Blue,” followed by an extended Q&A.
“I Love Dick” (Directors: Jill Soloway, Andrea Arnold, Kimberly Peirce, Executive Producers: Jill Soloway, Sarah Gubbins, Andrea Sperling, Victor Hsu) — Chris and Sylvere, a married couple in the intellectual community of Marfa, Texas, become obsessed with a charismatic artist named Dick. What follows is the unraveling of a marriage, the deification of a reluctant messiah, and the awakening of the female gaze. The Festival will present the first three episodes of this Amazon original series, followed by an extended Q&A. Cast: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Hahn, Griffin Dunne, Roberta Colindrez, India Menuez, Phoebe Robinson.
“Shots Fired” (Executive Producers: Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo) — After racially-charged shootings in a North Carolina town, an investigator digs into the cases alongside a special prosecutor. Together they seek justice while navigating the ensuing media attention and public unrest threatening the divided town. The Festival will premiere two episodes of this 10-hour series, followed by an extended Q&A. Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, Helen Hunt, Richard Dreyfuss, Stephen Moyer, Mack Wilds.
“Time: The Kalief Browder Story” (Director: Jenner Furst, Executive Producers: Jenner Furst, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, Harvey Weinstein, David C. Glasser, Nick Sandow, Julia Willoughby Nason, Michael Gasparro) — After his arrest at age 16, Kalief Browder fought the system and prevailed, despite unthinkable circumstances. He became an American hero. The Festival will debut the first two episodes of this in-depth, humanizing look at a broken justice system, followed by an extended Q&A.
“Docuseries Showcase — The Festival will debut individual episodes from two exciting new Netflix docuseries, featuring an extended Q&A with directors Morgan Neville and Rashida Jones.
- “Abstract: The Art of Design” (Director: Morgan Neville, Executive producers: Scott Dadich, Dave O’Connor, Jon Kamen, Justin Wilkes) — A look beyond blueprints and computers into the art and science of design, showcasing great designers from every discipline whose work shapes our world. The Festival will debut one episode of the series, followed by an extended Q&A with director and executive producer Morgan Neville. Cast: Christoph Niemann.
- “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On” (Director: Rashida Jones, “Women on Top,” Executive Producers: Rashida Jones, Ronna Gradus, Jill Bauer, Peter LoGreco) — An extension of the feature documentary “Hot Girls Wanted,” which premiered at Sundance in 2015, this Netflix series tells personal stories about people whose lives are affected by the explosion of the Internet where pornography, dating apps and virtual relationships are all just a click away. The Festival will debut one episode of the series, followed by an extended Q&A with director and executive producer Rashida Jones.
“Independent Pilot Showcase — World premieres of new episodic series work from the independent community.
- “Playdates” (Writers: Giles Andrew, Dan Marshall, Creators: Giles Andrew, Dan Marshall, Alex Bourne) — Uprooted from their Midwestern life, Bennett, a new stay-at-home dad, and Julie, a working mom, are forced to take their kids on playdates inside the elitist parenting culture of Silicon Beach. Cast: Paul Scheer, Carla Gallo, Miles Fisher, Craig Frank, Gemma Brooke Allen, Landon Gordon.
- “Shit Kids” (Director and creator: Kyle Dunnigan) — The daughter of an earth-shatteringly boring couple, along with the son of an equally humdrum set of parents, have decided to plot their parents’ murders. Cast: Kyle Dunnigan, Kevin Berntson, Candace Brown, Margee Magee, Grace van Dien, Doug Noble.
- “When The Street Lights Go On” (Director: Brett Morgen, Screenwriters: Eddie O’Keefe, Chris Hutton) — The residents of a small town grapple with the ruthless killing of a young girl and a teacher. Cast: Max Burkholder, Odessa Young, Adam Long, Ben Winchell, Kelli Mayo, Graham Beckel. World Premiere
“Made in Cuba — A series of three cinematic Cuban short documentaries, guided by the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program in collaboration with La Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV (EICTV) and the Guardian Multimedia Program.
- “Connection” (Conectifai) (Cuba / Director: Horizoe Garcia Miranda) — ETECSA (Cuba’s only telephone company) installed Wi-Fi routers in 18 public parks in 2016. For many Cubans, this meant being able to go online for the first time. This film shows us how Cubans of all ages initially explore social media, online dating, and more. U.S. Premiere
- “Great” (Muy Bien) (Cuba / Director: Sheyla Pool Pástor) — The United States restored diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015, making it no longer unrealistic for Cubans to dream of one day living and working abroad. Cubans of all ages and diverse aspirations enroll at the makeshift Big Ben English school in Havana. U.S. Premiere
- “House for Sale” (Casa en Venta) / Cuba” (Director: Emanuel Giraldo Betancur) — After more than 50 years, the ban on individuals in Cuba selling their houses was lifted in 2011. Three Cubans invite us into their homes — full of memories, souvenirs, and family members — to hear their “sales pitch.” U.S. Premiere
Midnight Episodic Showcase — World premieres of two episodic additions to the festival’s Midnight lineup, followed by an extended Q&A with the creators of both series.
- “Pineapple” (Director and writer: Arkasha Stevenson) — When a miner’s daughter is assaulted in the local coal mine, she utters only one word, leaving the town’s sheriff baffled. The event quickly spirals out of control, impacting the entire town. The Festival will premiere three short-form episodes of this uniquely cinematic drama series. Cast: Tyler Vickers, Kel Owens, Ron Gilbert, Gloria Vonn, Lucille Sharp, Brooklyn Robinson.
- “Snatchers” (Directors: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman, Screenwriters: Scott Yacyshyn, Benji Kleiman, Stephen Cedars) — After status-obsessed teen Sara has sex for the first time, she wakes up the next day nine months pregnant — with an alien. Turning to her nerdy ex-bestie, Hayley (the only person she can trust without ruining her reputation), they strive to put an end to all the carnage. The Festival will premiere eight short-form episodes of this otherworldly horror-comedy series. Cast: Mari Nepi, Gabrielle Elyse, Austin Fryberger, J.J. Nolan, Nick Gomez, Rich Fulcher.
“Short-Form Episodic Series — A celebration of the evolving landscape of content consumption, these world-premiere short-form episodic series defy broadcast boilerplates with a redefinition of traditional episodic conventions.
- “The Chances” (Director: Anna Kerrigan, Creators: Josh Feldman, Shoshannah Stern) — Best friends Kate and Michael, who are deaf, try their best to see their friendship through new changes in their lives, as Kate adjusts to being newly married and Michael attempts to get over his ex-boyfriend. The Festival will debut five episodes of this short-form episodic series. Cast: Josh Feldman, Shoshannah Stern, Aaron Costa Ganis, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Darryl Stephens, Wilson Cruz.
- “Gente-fied” (Creator: Marvin Lemus, Executive Producers: Charles D. King, Aaliyah Williams, America Ferrera) — Seven characters deal with the effects of change in L.A.’s Boyle Heights. Bicultural millennials and old-school business owners hustle to create spaces that celebrate their Latino identities — even while faced with rent hikes, a housing crisis, and a steady stream of outsiders threatening to gentrify their barrio. The Festival will debut three episodes of this short-form episodic series. Cast: Edsson Morales, Alicia Sixtos, Victoria Ortiz, Yareli Arizmendi, Salvador Velez Jr, Rafael Sigler.
- “Rise” (Canada / Director and screenwriter: Michelle Latimer) — This vibrant and immersive documentary series explores the front lines of indigenous resistance. Episodes “Apache Stronghold,” “Sacred Water,” and “Red Power” examine factors that threaten indigenous liberation in the 21st century. A series of contrasts, this series is both a condemnation of colonialism and a celebration of indigenous peoples. The aforementioned episodes will be followed by an extended Q&A. (The New Climate)
- “Strangers” (Directors: Mia Lidofsky, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Executive Producers: Michael B. Clark, Alex Turtletaub, Jesse Peretz, Mia Lidofsky) —
- Newly single and bisexual Isobel rents out her spare room in a last ditch effort to keep the home she loves. Along with her lesbian best friend, she navigates the most complicated time in her life — emotionally, sexually, and professionally — while sharing her home with a new stranger each episode. The Festival will debut the first three episodes of this short- form episodic series. Cast: Zoë Chao, Meredith Hagner, Jemaine Clement, Breeda Wool, Matthew Oberg, Shiri Appleby.
(Pictured: Jack Black in “The Polka King,” Salma Hayek in “Beatriz at Dinner,” and Garrett Hedlund in “Mudbound”)