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2015 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: Matthew Lessner’s Automatic at Sea

Best describe as an updated homage to 50’s French cinema, Matthew Lessner’s history with the festival dates back to the showing of his short film By Modern Measure (2008). His second trip came with the experimental, outdoorsy New Frontier programmed feature debut The Woods (2011), which comes with a built-in asterisk of sorts since it was the very first film at Sundance to have used Kickstarter for funding. His third visit Chapel Perilous (2014) claimed the Short Filmmaking Audience Award. Sprinkle some music video directing work with the likes The Dirty Projectors and The Raveonettes and we’ve got a burgeoning filmmaker who works with a biting tongue-in-cheek tonality and a visual range that appears limitless. Recently profiled at the US in Progress Paris fest, Automatic at Sea proposes a good dose of fantasy with subdued reality (see set pic above).

Gist: On a whim, Eve, a young Swedish traveler (Livia Hiselius), accepts an invitation from Peter (David Gerson – producer and previously starred in his 2014 Sundance short) to vacation on his family’s private island off the coast of New England. As a series of unexpected delays prevent other guests from arriving, Eve discovers that she has little in common with the increasingly erratic Peter. Gradually the idyllic natural beauty of the island gives way and Eve finds herself trapped in a state of surreality punctuated by bizarre visions, dimensional shifting and secret pizza.’

Production Co./Producers: David Gerson. Co-Producer: Vanessa Gazy

Prediction: Should be moving out of the New Frontier section and into the NEXT section.

U.S. Distributor: Rights Available. TBD (domestic). TBD (international)

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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