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Festival Predictions

2017 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: An Introduction

While we usually associate day one in Park City with thin air, this quickly dissipates and gets replaced in the overall film output with an air of rejuvenation and reinvention. With Donald Trump’s Presidential inauguration taking place on the first weekend of the 33rd edition of the Sundance Film Festival, I think we might also sense an artistic community’s revolt. Misogyny, crude behavior and vileness were present twenty years ago in Park City, when water-cooler talk was amplified to warlike heights in Neil LaBute’s directorial debut. To this day, In the Company of Men arguably remains the playwright’s best work to date and this happens to be the festival’s strong suit: discovering new voices.

As filmmakers await phone calls, we here at the site return to our old tradition of looking into the crystal ball and imagining how several programmers might have come together to provide their hodge podge sampling. Before we unleash the beast (80 prediction profiles where we attempt to introduce the filmmaker and the film project, the gist, the producers and where we could imagine the film being slotted) we provide a list of film items that we’re more on the fence with. Note: Last year we thought Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship and Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea were longshots — this only means some of the titles listed below might indeed crack the line-up. This year, our predictions list is presented by BRIGHT IDEAS, whose issue X, coming in January, refuses to normalize the Trump Presidency. Sign up at brightideasmag.com to pre-order. Make sure to tune in tomorrow as our countdown/up begins and we try to identify which films are the next Certain Women, Christine, Lovesong.

2016’s Premieres section had a rather impressive list of well established auteurs that would have generally bypassed Park City in favor of Cannes or Venice, which is where Terrence Malick’s Weightless and Noah Baumbach’s Yen Din Ka Kissa might end up, while docu items from Mike Ott (California Dreams), Josephine Decker and Zefrey Throwell (Flames), Cynthia Wade and Sasha Friedlander (Mudflow), Daniel Patrick Carbone and Annie P. Waldman (Phantom Cowboys), Vaughan Sivell (Pistorius) and Lana Wilson (The Departure) certainly look the part, they certainly have international film fest status in their immediate future.

The fest is always big into returning family members ( we hope to see Sundance alumni short films from Chris Ohlson, Hannah Fidell and Andre Hyland), but we could see Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris’ Battle of the Sexes, Ry Russo-Young’s Before I Fall, Dito Montiel’s The Clapper, James Ponsoldt’s The Circle, Sydney Freeland’s Deidra and Laney Rob a Train, Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime, Diane Bell’s Of Dust and Bones, Ben Lewin’s Please Stand Me and Marc Meyers’ My Friend Dahmer all being considered. Undeniably on pace for a record year for output, James Franco will surely hit the fest in some capacity — perhaps with Future World while other actors/filmmakers that are cooking up indie films set to preem next year include Judy Greer’s A Happening of Monumental Proportions, Trudie Styler’s Freak Show, William H. Macy’s Krystal and Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. In the genre items we were looking at for the forever unpredictable section of Park City at Midnight section, we thought of Marti Noxon’s To the Bone, Jeremiah Zagar’s We the Animals (we’d love a status update on this one), S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99, RZA’s Coco, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Let The Corpses Tan, Eli Craig’s Little Evil and Adam Wingard’s Death Note as noteworthy films to consider.

Other indie films that we believe to be ready for early 2017 unveilings, we have Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River (Weinsteins might wait until the fall), Jason Headley’s A Bad Idea Gone Wrong, Shaz Bennett’s Alaska is a Drag (a Venice Film Fest work in progress item), Per Fly’s Backstabbing for Beginners (starring Theo James and produced by Parts and Labor’s Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy), Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear (starring Kyle Mooney, Claire Danes), Filmmaker Mag’s Top 25 New Voices duet Pete Ohs, Andrea Sisson’s Everything Beautiful Is Far Away, Laura Terruso’s Fits and Starts (with Wyatt Cenac, Greta Lee, Maria Dizzia), Maggie Betts’ Novitiate (starring Dianna Agron, Julianne Nicholson, Margaret Qualley), Christian Papierniak’s Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town (starring Mackenzie Davis, Alia Shawkat, Keith Stanfield), Mark Raso’s Kodachrome (starring Elizabeth Olsen, Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis), Danny Strong’s Rebel in the Rye (with Zoey Deutch, Sarah Paulson, Nicholas Hoult), recent Slamdance filmmaker Pavan Moondi’s Sundowners (with Phil Hanley, Luke Lalonde, Tim Heidecker), Jamie M. Dagg’s Sweet Virginia (drama material for Jon Bernthal, Imogen Poots, Rosemarie DeWitt), Richard Levine’s Submission (Stanley Tucci, Addison Timlin, Kyra Sedgwick), Camille Thoman’s You Were Never Here (thriller thesps Mireille Enos, Sam Shepard, Goran Visnjic), Nathan Silver with a pair (co-directed with Jack Dunphy) The Pervert and Thirst Street and finally we expect Jeff Vespa to be in Park City, but perhaps he’ll bring his feature debut as well — Amre stars Sanjar Madi, Abbie Cornish and Ben Aldridge.

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, 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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