From marches on Main Street on the day after his inauguration to films and TV shows on the big screens and more, Donald Trump was all over the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. As today’s unveiling of the U.S. Competition and World Cinema Competition Dramatic and Documentary categories plus the Midnight, Kids, NEXT, and Spotlight slates for the 2018 SFF reveals the now 45th POTUS is still a strong presence at the Robert Redford founded fest but other topics torn out of the headlines and a bevy of icons are flexing a lot of inclusive muscles too.
With Idris Elba’s directorial debut of the 1973 Jamaica set Yardie, the Sundance return of Oscar winner Morgan Neville and his Won’t You Be My Neighbor? documentary about Mr. Rogers, a look at how the 2016 election was covered through Russian eyes and the Lakeith Standfield, Omari Hardwicke and Steven Yeunstarring future based Sorry To Bother You among the offerings, SFF 2018 displays a revitalized variety.
A scope that is a clear intention, says the Executive Director of the Sundance Institute.
“We’re proud of the diversity of this year’s lineup; emboldening broader, more inclusive independent voices is a crucial part of our work at the Festival and throughout the year,” asserts Keri Putnam. “These stories might inspire or move us, even occasionally make us uncomfortable – but they can shift our perspectives, spark conversation and create change,” she adds of the January 18-28 running SFF.
In all, 110 features were picked for the 34th Sundance, with 47 first-time filmmakers among them, including 30 who are in the competition categories. The overall films are down three from 2017 with 13,468 submissions for the 2018 SFF, including 3,901 feature-length films and 8,740 short films. The overall submissions were 314 for 2018 from the 2017 festival.
The snowbound venues in and around Park City will see two films with Power‘s Hardwick, SFF directorial debuts from indie vet Ethan Hawke, Paul Dano and Rupert Everett’s Oscar Wilde biopic The Happy Prince, and Gus Vant Sant will have a new flick screening too. Among the over 100 features playing in just a few weeks in Utah, there’s also a docu about fashion designer and Sex Pistols patron Vivienne Westwood, a look at the power and influence of the now Time magazine owning Koch Brothers and Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage is back for another year in Reed Mornano’s I Think We Are Alone Now with Elle Fanning.
Though participants in the new TV centric Indie Episodic section have yet to be announced, today’s voluminous slates certainly put Grace and Frankie in the spotlight. The doc Jane Fonda In Five Acts, looking at the career and life of the Oscar winner and co-star of the Emmy nominated Netflix comedy, is among the premieres divulged this afternoon.
Though the much accused and much investigated Harvey Weinstein will obviously not be at Sundance in January, a docu about one of his primary adversaries will be. From Grace & Frankie showrunner Marta Kaufman and her Okay Goodnight producing team, the U.S. Documentary competing Seeing Allred spotlights the work of attorney Gloria Allred and her efforts for women against the likes of the disgraced producer, Trump and Bill Cosby. In fact, during the opening day of Cosby’s Norristown, PA trial for an alleged 2004 rape, I watched a camera crew follow the lawyer around for this Sophie Sartain and Roberta Grossman directed film, which will debut on Netflix next year also.
From the six Day One films, dozens of World Premieres and more, the upcoming Sundance will see screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City and at the Sundance Mountain Resort.
A Boy, A Girl, A Dream. / U.S.A.
(Director: Qasim Basir, Screenwriters: Qasim Basir, Samantha Tanner, Producer: Datari Turner) — On the night of the 2016 Presidential election, Cass, an L.A. club promoter, takes a thrilling and emotional journey with Frida, a Midwestern visitor. She challenges him to revisit his broken dreams – while he pushes her to discover hers. Cast: Omari Hardwick, Meagan Good, Jay Ellis, Kenya Barris, Dijon Talton, Wesley Jonathan. World Premiere
The 'Next' category features pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises that the films in this section will shape a “greater” next wave in American cinema. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include A Ghost Story, Tangerine and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. Presented by Adobe.