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2020 Sundance Film Festival

Festival Predictions

2020 Sundance Film Festival: 100 Predictions From Kogonada’s “After Yang” to Janicza Bravo’s “Zola”

2020 Sundance Film Festival: 100 Predictions From Kogonada’s “After Yang” to Janicza Bravo’s “Zola”

It’s that time of year again: our pre-Thanksgiving Park City prognostications! If my intel serves me right, the Sundance Film Festival will ring in the new decade with a quality-filled slate of
original filmmaking and unique storytelling by veteran and rookie filmmakers. Running between January 23rd to February 2nd, the 2020 edition looks to be a vintage year and we don’t really get into the documentary features. About 110 feature films are selected for the fest each year. Here are 100 predictions.

After Yang
Prior to debuting Columbus at Sundance back in 2017, the South Korean-born American filmmaker was best known for video essays on techniques from filmmaker masters. We can kiss those days goodbye as A24 packaged his sophomore feature with lensing beginning this past March. kogonada reteamed with Haley Lu Richardson on a futuristic tale that follows a father (Colin Farrell) and daughter as they try to save the life of their robotic family member. Based on a short story by Alexander Weinstein, Mandy cinematographer Benjamin Loeb boarded the project which is also produced by the Cinereach folks.

All Day and a Night
One of several Netflix projects on our prognostications list, Joe Robert Cole is best known as the scribe for Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (he did make his little known directorial debut Amber Lake back in 2011). Lensed in Oakland this past July, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ashton Sanders, Jeffrey Wright and Kelly Jenrette topline the three parallel narrative drama structure which follows a young criminal (Sanders) after his arrival in prison as he looks back on the days preceding his arrest and the circumstances of his childhood to find clues to his way forward in life and his survival.

All the Bright Places
Currently shooting Sorta Like a Rock Star, Brett Haley has been a Sundance staple with his last three films (2015’s I’ll See You in My Dreams, 2017’s The Hero and 2018’s Hearts Beat Loud) all premiering at the fest. Production begin in November of 2018 with Elle Fanning toplining Jennifer Niven’s YA novel. This is the story of Violet (Fanning) and Theodore (Justice Smith), who meet and change each other’s lives forever. As they struggle with the emotional and physical scars of their past, they discover that even the smallest places and moments can mean something. Keegan-Michael Key, Virginia Gardner, Alexandra Shipp and Luke Wilson also star.
Prediction: PREMIERES

Park City was a true break out party for God’s Own Country helmer Francis Lee – the buzz essentially attracted some big wig producers who pitched tent with the British filmmaker on a period piece set around the 1820s. With the likes of Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Jones, production took place in March and is set in England. This focuses on the intense relationship that develops between Anning (Winslet) and a young woman (Ronan) sent to convalesce by the sea. Lee worked with cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine (Captain Fantastic, Elle, Jackie). This is a high value acquisitions title for the U.S.
Prediction: PREMIERES

With around two decades under her belt as an actress, Romola Garai hasn’t been a mainstay at the festival, but yet Park City might be a suitable lieu for the launch of her first outing behind the camera. Filming on her horror movie began in the fall of 2018 with the likes of Imelda Staunton and Sundance break out starlet Carla Juri. This tells of a young male refugee traumatized by war who is brought to a dilapidated house in order to care for a woman and her dying mother. Falling in love with the younger woman he begins to suspect she is enslaved to a demon and resolves to fight the creature and rescue the woman he loves…but all is not what it seems.
Prediction: MIDNIGHT

With his first professional credit being a second assistant director on Dogtooth, and not too much time later being an assistant director Before Midnight, Christos Nikou is just as likely to be headed to Rotterdam or Berlin with his directorial debut which explores memory and human consciousness. The Greek-Polish co-production tells the story of Aris, a solitary man in his late thirties, who becomes a victim of an unexplained surge of amnesia in his city and is forced to confront his condition through an experimental new treatment that creates new memories for patients. During treatment he meets a woman undergoing similar memory loss therapy, and their budding relationship makes Aris reconsider his actions and embark on a new direction in his life.

The Assistant
While Telluride impressively lassoed the world premiere to Kitty Green‘s fiction (well-researched) feature debut, Sundance nonetheless helped promote the filmmaker’s voice with the release of Casting JonBenet in 2017 and they could still be in support mode despite losing world premiere status. An indie offering that follows one day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer, who has recently landed her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul. Her day is much like any other assistant’s — making coffee, changing the paper in the copy machine and then turns into a thriller aimed at you can pretty much guess who. The Bleecker Street folks would likely love to set up shop at Sundance beforehand – as they have stamped a January 31st release date for the film.
Prediction: SPOTLIGHT

Bad Education
Corey Finley is another filmmaker who benefitted tremendously from Park City exposure with the launching of Thoroughbreds in 2017. His sophomore feature – a Blacklist screenplay favorite took up a huge premiere slot at TIFF back in September and hasn’t been shown elsewhere since with HBO Max grabbing the rights. With some potential award-worthy perfs and rave reviews (Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney pack a punch) the distrib have not dated the film yet, but if they do look place it as an early 2020 release they might want some wattage (and official U.S premiere) at Sundance.
Prediction: SPOTLIGHT

Bad Hair
Dear White People (the award-winning Sundance film that spawned a Netflix series) put Justin Simien in the drivers’ seat landing him a sophomore feature film gig end of summer 2018 in Los Angeles. Perhaps the project of all films listed here that has benefitted from the most time in post, this sees Laverne Cox, Vanessa Williams and Michelle Hurd in a tale that follows an ambitious young woman from Compton who gets a weave in order to survive the image obsessed world of music television. Her professional success comes at a higher cost than anticipated, however, when she discovers her new hair may have a mind of its own. Julia Lebedev, Eddie Vaisman, and Oren Moverman produced the project.
Prediction: MIDNIGHT

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member 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 served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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