With several of these projects landing on our 2018 Most Anticipated American indie films list, this year’s U.S. Narrative Comp appears to be a solid slate of ten comprised of four Sundance Institute labs projects among the mix. Eva Vives, Meredith Danluck, Nia DaCosta and Ondi Timoner are all showcasing their directorial debuts — Mapplethorpe is Timoner’s first foray into fiction, and are pitted against veteran helmer Miguel Arteta‘s Duck Butter, starring and written by Alia Shawkat and produced by Natalie Qasabian and Mel Eslyn. One film (filmmaker) to watch out for is Madeleine Sackler‘s with O.G., as it becomes a unique conversation point (read New Yorker article) that is being complimented by her documentary film – both filmed in the same location and also premiering at the fest. Here are the ten competing films:
All About Nina, directed and written by Eva Vives. Produced by Eric B. Fleischman, Sean Tabibian, Natalie Qasabian, Eva Vives. (USA) – World Premiere. Nina Geld’s passion and talent have made her a rising star in the comedy scene, but she’s an emotional mess offstage. When a new professional opportunity coincides with a romantic one, she is forced to reckon with the intersection of her life and her art. With Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Common, Chace Crawford, Clea DuVall, Kate del Castillo, Beau Bridges.
Diane, directed and written by Kent Jones. Produced by Luca Borghese, Ben Howe, Caroline Kaplan, Oren Moverman. (USA) – World Premiere. Diane is a devoted friend and caretaker, particularly to her drug-addicted son. But as those around her begin to drift away in the last quarter of her life, she is left to reckon with past choices and long-dormant memories in this haunting character study. With Mary Kay Place, Jake Lacy, Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, Deirdre O’Connell, Glynis O’Connor, Phyllis Somerville, Joyce Van Patten.
Duck Butter, directed by Miguel Arteta, written by Miguel Arteta, Alia Shawkat. Produced by Mel Eslyn, Natalie Qasabian. (USA) – World Premiere. Two women, jaded by dishonest and broken relationships, make a pact to spend 24 uninterrupted hours together, having sex on the hour. Their romantic experiment intends to create a new form of intimacy, but it doesn’t quite go as planned. With Alia Shawkat, Laia Costa, Hong Chau, Kate Berlant, Kumail Nanjiani, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Lindsay Burdge. A release from The Orchard.
Ghostbox Cowboy, directed and written by John Maringouin. Produced by Molly Lynch, John Maringouin, John Montague, George Rush, Sean Gillane. (USA, China) – World Premiere. In this darkly comedic morality tale, tech entrepreneur Jimmy Van Horn arrives in China armed with an invention and confidence, only to learn that being American is not enough to succeed. With David Zellner, Robert Longstreet, Johnny Robichaux, Vincent Xie, Carrie Gege Zhang.
Little Woods, directed and written by Nia DaCosta. Produced by Rachael Fung, Gabrielle Nadig. (USA) – World Premiere. In this dramatic thriller set in the fracking boomtown of Little Woods, North Dakota, two estranged sisters are driven to extremes when their mother dies, leaving them with one week to pay back her mortgage. With Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby, James Badge Dale, Lance Reddick.
Maine, directed and written by Matthew Brown. Produced by Summer Shelton, Michael B. Clark, Alex Turtletaub. (USA) – World Premiere. A married woman’s journey of self-discovery and introspection while solo-hiking the Appalachian Trail ends up sidetracked when she encounters a lone hiker. With Laia Costa, Thomas Mann.
Mapplethorpe, directed and written by Ondi Timoner. Produced by Eliza Dushku, Nathaniel Dushku, Richard J. Bosner, Ondi Timoner. (USA) – World Premiere. In the late 1960s, art-school dropout Robert Mapplethorpe moves into the Chelsea Hotel with dreams of stardom. He quickly becomes the enfant terrible of the photography world as the downtown counterculture of 1970s New York reaches its zenith. With Matt Smith, Marianne Rendón, John Benjamin Hickey, Brandon Sklenar, McKinley Belcher III, Mark Moses.
O.G., directed by Madeleine Sackler, written by Stephen Belber. Produced by Madeleine Sackler, Boyd Holbrook. (USA) – World Premiere. An inmate entering the final weeks of a twenty-plus-year sentence must navigate between old loyalties and a new protégé, while he also grapples with the looming uncertainty of his return to life outside bars. With Jeffrey Wright, William Fichtner, Theothus Carter, Mare Winningham, Boyd Holbrook, David Patrick Kelly.
Song of Back and Neck, directed and written by Paul Lieberstein. Produced by Paul Lieberstein, Jennifer Prediger, Kim Leadford. (USA) – World Premiere. A hapless man seeking treatment for his crippling back pain discovers a very unusual talent and unexpected love in this inventive romantic comedy from writer-director-star Paul Lieberstein (The Office). With Paul Lieberstein, Rosemarie DeWitt, Clark Duke, Brian d’Arcy James, Robert Pine, Paul Feig.
State Like Sleep, directed and written by Meredith Danluck. Produced by Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Angel Lopez. (USA) – World Premiere. Following the death of her husband, Katherine travels to Brussels, where a few loose ends become a whole web of secrets as she untangles her late spouse’s mysterious last days alive. With Katherine Waterston, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Michiel Huisman, Mary Kay Place.