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2016 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special


Sundance missed out on the opportunity to present Shotgun Stories (2007) to the world (Berlin landed the film instead) but made up for it for it with Jeff Nichols films number two Take Shelter (2011) and three Mud (2012). The filmmaker originally from Little Rock, Arkansas lined up a major studio gig for Midnight Special, re-teamed with Michael Shannon and added Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst, young protag Jaeden Lieberher and Sam Shepard on the January shoot. Worth noting, that’s January of 2014. Unlike Take Shelter, a film that needed its own good dose of special effects, Warner Bros. has tried to figure out the best course of action to unveil this original piece. Tied with a March 18th, this is likely headed to SXSW (Dunst let slip out of the bag) but we’re thinking a special screening (Sundance’s way to incorporate a major studio film from auteurs working for big studio films) not unlike how WB’s Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending could be in the cards. It’s a long shot, but a logical possibility.

Gist: What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Ultimately his father (Michael Shannon) risks everything to protect Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) and help fulfill a destiny that could change the world forever, in this genre–defying film as supernatural as it is intimately human.

Production Co./Producers: Sarah Green (Knight of Cups), Brian Kavanaugh-Jones. Executive producers: Glen Basner, Hans Graffunder, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos (Chevalier).

Prediction: A suitable “Secret Screening” slot at the Egyptian.

U.S. Distributor: Warner Bros.

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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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