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2023 Sundance Film Festival

Film Festivals

2023 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: Peterson, Barthes, Poe, Parmet, Harari

2023 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: Peterson, Barthes, Poe, Parmet, Harari

And with less than 72 hours to go before the 2023 Sundance Film Festival line-up is dropped, here is our chunk of titles we feel have a better-than-average chance of heading to Park City.

Somebody I Used To Know / U.S.A. (Director: Dave Franco)
Dave Franco (The Rental) benefits from Amazon Studios and a huge cast to back his sophomore project which went into production in September of ’21. Featuring Alison Brie, Jay Ellis, Kiersey Clemons, Julie Hagerty, Haley Joel Osment, Amy Sedaris, Danny Pudi and Zoe Chao, on a trip to her hometown, workaholic Ally reminisces with her ex Sean and starts to question everything about the person she’s become. Things only get more confusing when she meets Cassidy, who reminds her of the person she used to be. Producers include Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen + Wyck Godfrey + Isaac Klausner, Black Bear’s Ben Stillman + Leigh Kittay + Michael Heimler.
PREDICTION: Premieres.

Somewhere Quiet / U.S.A. (Director: Olivia West Lloyd)
One of the directors on NEXT section selected Omniboat: A Fast Boat Fantasia (2020), Olivia West Lloyd broke out on her own for her feature debut with the likes of Micheál Richardson, Kentucker Audley, and Jennifer Kim among her cast. No deets are available but the producers that lined up the project include Eamon Downey, Emma Hannaway, Mollye Asher, and Taylor Shung.

Story Avenue / U.S.A. (Director: Aristotle Torres)
Working from a short film template of the same name, Sundance programmers like to see the leap from film to film. Mostly music video and commercial director, Aristotle Torres is now moving into his feature debut with Vermont’s finest in Luis Guzmán and Asante Blackk in tow. Workshopped at the 2019 Directing and Screenwriting Labs, this follows a teenage graffiti artist (Blackk) who, after running away from home, holds up an unsuspecting MTA worker (Guzmán) in a robbery gone right that changes their lives forever. Production took place this past summer in New York – so its probably going to be eleventh hour inclusion for the film which was produced by The Space Program’s Lizzie Shapiro, Jamie Foxx, Datari Turner.
PREDICTION: U.S. Dramatic Competition.

Stopmotion / U.S.A. (Director: Robert Morgan)
A long time short film director with a body of work dating back to the 90s, Robert Morgan enlisted Aisling Franciosi (The Nightingale) to weather the storm in this feature horror debut. This tells the story of stop-motion animator struggling to control her demons after the loss of her overbearing mother, who embarks upon the creation of a film that becomes the battleground for her sanity. As Ella’s mind starts to fracture, the characters in her project take on a life of their own. Morgan has been to Sundance on at least on occasion with Bobby Yeah. Producers include BlueLight’s Alain de la Mata + Christopher Granier-Deferre.

The Christmas Card / U.S.A. (Director: Lucy Kerr)
A recent FIDLab and U.S. in Progress participant, Lucy Kerr‘s feature debut features indie “it” personality Deragh Campbell in a tale that follows a sprawling Southern American oil family on a morning when they have planned to take a picture for their annual Christmas card. As the scheduled photo op approaches, the family begins to lose themselves. Producers include Fred Winkle and Megan Pickrell.

The Featherweight / U.S.A. (Director: Robert Kolodny)
Editor, cinematographer and filmmaker Robert Kolodny has worked with a who’s who on the American indie film scene and is now poised to present a biopic about the life of featherweight boxing icon named Willie Pep. Production took place began in Hartford in November of 2021 for a film that charts one of Pep’s comebacks, as he finds himself riddled with debt while supporting a wife half his age and a drug addict son in a single-family home. This is led by James Madio stars in the title role as Pep, Keir Gilchrist and Ron Livingston are also onboard. Docu filmmaker / Sundance regular Robert Greene is the film editor and producer, along with Bennett Elliott, Asger Hussain, Brian Liebman, Steve Loff, James Madio.
PREDICTION: U.S. Dramatic Competition.

The Graduates / U.S.A. (Director: Hannah Logan Peterson)
She was in the Sundance Shorts comp in ’22 with Champ and in all likelihood Hannah Logan Peterson could see her directorial debut break into the fest. This is a youth portrait with the likes of Mina Sundwall, Yasmeen Fletcher, Oscar Rudecindo and Alex R. Hibbert. Producers include Jessamine Burgum, Josh Peters, Taylor Shung, Saba Zerehi.

The Knocking / U.S.A. (Director: Max Seeck / Joonas Pajunen)
Nordic noir and filmmaker Max Seeck teams up with Joonas Pajunen for some Scandi-horror featuring Pekka Strang, Saana Koivisto, and Inka Kallen. Receiving its domestic release February there is a chance that programmers (who regularly include Nordic horror) might consider this tale around three adult siblings who return to their childhood home, where their parents were allegedly murdered many years ago. Their plan is to get the house and estate ready to be sold but an evil force tries to prevent them from doing so. The Finnish title is produced by Solar Films’ Markus Selin + Jukka Helle, Esko Rips, Hanna Virolainen, Pajunen and Seeck.

The Path of Silence / Mexico (Director: Isabel Cristina Fregoso)
Isabel Cristina Fregoso‘s feature debut might belong to the same narrative family as last edition’s big hit Dos Estaciones, but it’s set up as coming-of-age Western set after the Mexican Revolution. In it, the teen hero leaves the ranch where she’s grown up as an adopted daughter to search for her father, dressing as a man. Produced by Production Machete’ Edher Campos (I Carry You with Me) and Regina Vergara Perezcastro.
PREDICTION: World Cinema Dramatic Competition.


The Persian Version / U.S.A. (Director: Maryam Keshavarz)
Circumstance (Sundance ’11) filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz‘s third feature (shot earlier this year) is about a large Iranian-American that family gathers in NYC for the patriarch’s heart transplant, a family secret is uncovered and catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past. Producers on this dramedy include Anne Carey, Luca Borghese, Ben Howe.
PREDICTION: Premieres.

The Pod Generation / U.S.A. (Director: Sophie Barthes)
2023 marks the return of Sophie Barthes to cinema and possibly Sundance as the filmmaker behind Cold Souls (2009) and Madame Bovary (2014) went into production on her third feature in May of ’21. Set in a near future where AI is all the rage and nature is becoming a distant memory, the story revolves around Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a New York couple who are ready to take their relationship to the next level and start a family. Rachel’s work gives them a chance to use a new tool developed by a tech giant, Pegasus, which offers couples the opportunity to share pregnancy on a more equal footing via detachable artificial wombs, or pods. Alvy, a botanist and devoted purist, has doubts, but his love for Rachel prompts him to take a leap of faith. And so begins the wild ride to parenthood in this brave new world. Quad’s Yann Zenou and Scope’s Geneviève Lemal (Annette) are producing. Cinematographer-hubby Andrij Parekh is also in the creative mix.
PREDICTION: Premieres.

The Snack Shack / U.S.A. (Director: Adam Rehmeier)
Dinner in America (Sundance ’20) filmmaker Adam Rehmeier has had a busy ’22 with multiple projects including his next feature which shot in July. A coming-of-age comedy starring Gabriel LaBelle, David Costabile, Mika Abdalla and Steve Berg, this is about two best friends in 1991 Nebraska City who unexpectedly win the silent auction to run the swimming pool snack shack. The snack shack then becomes the long summer’s epi-center of misdemeanors, personal discovery and budding romance. T-Street’s Ben LeClair, Paperclip Ltd.’s Jordan Foley, Ben Cornwell and Nick Smith are producing.

The Starling Girl / U.S.A. (Director: Laurel Parmet)
Laura Parmet‘s directorial debut looks at 17-year-old Jem Starling who struggles with her place within her Christian fundamentalist community. But everything changes when her magnetic youth pastor Owen returns to their church. Eliza Scanlen toplines with supporting perfs from Lewis Pullman, Jimmi Simpson, Wrenn Schmidt. Parmet was a 2019 Screenwriters Intensive Fellow and producer Kara Durrett was was awarded the 2019 Sundance Producing Fellowship on the project.
PREDICTION: U.S. Dramatic Competition.

The Young Wife / U.S.A. (Director: Tayarisha Poe)
Production on Tayarisha Poe‘s sophomore film took place around March of this year in Atlanta with the likes of Kiersey Clemons, Judith Light, Leon Bridges and Michaela Watkins. This follows a woman grappling with the meaning of love and commitment in the face of an uncertain and tumultuous world. A sunny-day panic attack and a wholly new take on the wedding film, the movie follows her over the course of her “non-wedding” day. Her debut Selah and the Spades premiered at the fest in 2019. Archer Gray’s Anne Carey produces.
PREDICTION: U.S. Dramatic Competition.


Three Birthdays / U.S.A. (Director: Jane Weinstock)
A film per decade pace means that Jane Weinstock might have the opportunity to return almost after two decades from her Easy premiere. Filmed this past summer, Josh Radnor, Annie Parisse, Nuala Cleary set in 1970, Radnor and Parisse star as college professor parents to a rebellious 16-year-old played by Cleary. Against the backdrop of the sexual revolution and increasingly violent demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, each member of this nuclear family struggles to reconcile the political with the personal. Producers include Andrea Miller, Chris Collins and James Welling.
PREDICTION: Premieres.

Tooth Shop Fiasco – A James Lassen Story / U.S.A. (Director: David Harari)
With two decades worth of on the job training, David Harari moved behind the camera for his debut on a project which centers on James Lassen, who has a date with the dentist. And for this good-natured if somewhat clueless slacker/rocker misfit, it’s all downhill from there! Blaine Maye toplines. George M. Rush and Michael Tully produce.

Tuesday / United Kingdom (Director: Daina O. Pusic)
We actually had this on our list last year, but perhaps the A24 folks wanted to better play this had. Daina O. Pusic‘s debut features Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lola Petticrew, Arinzé Kene and Leah Harvey. Alexis Zabé is the cinematographer. This is about death, Death, suicide, murder, mother-daughter rapport. Stray Bear Productions’ Ivana MacKinnon, Gingerbread Pictures’ Helen Gladders, Record Player Films’ Oliver Roskill.
PREDICTION: World Cinema Dramatic Competition.

Unicorns / Spain (Director: Alex Lora)
Moving into his debut fiction feature, Alex Lora has actually premiered a pair of shorts in “Odysseus’ Gambit (2012) and “Godka Cirka” (2014) at Sundance. The perfect reflection of her generation: Young people who want it all, even if that means risking ending up with nothing. Isa is played by Greta Fernández. Inicia Films’ Valerie Delpierre produces.
PREDICTION: World Cinema Dramatic Competition.

Vanishings At Caddo Lake / U.S.A. (Director: Celine Held/Logan George)
A sophomore feature for the team of Celine Held and Logan George, production on the thriller took place in September of ’21 Shrevepor with the likes of Dylan O’Brien, Eliza Scanlen and Lauren Ambrose. After an 8-year-old girl mysteriously vanishes, connections begin to form between past deaths and disappearances at Caddo Lake. This is produced by M. Night Shyamalan, Ashwin Rajan, Kara Durrett, Josh Godfrey.
PREDICTION: Premieres.

War Pony / U.S.A. (Director: Gina Gammell, Riley Keough)
War Pony played extremely well during its Cannes Film Festival adventure landing the Un Certain Regard selection landed the Caméra d’Or award for Best First Feature. No small feat. The film has not held it North American premiere yet and is still without a distributor. Maybe that would change after an Eccles screening.
PREDICTION: Spotlight.

We Are Zombies / Caanda (Director: Anouk Whissel, Yoann-Karl Whissel, François Simard)
A Quebec-based filmmaker trio known as RKSS moved into their third feature We Are Zombies this past spring with Derek Johns, Alexandre Nachi, Megan Peta Hill toplining. So far they are two for two in Park City with Turbo Kid (2015) and Summer of 84 (2018). Based on Jerry Frissen and Guy Davis’ comic book series, the story plunges us into a town crawling with the living dead where three slackers in the market for easy money are forced to fight rednecks as well as an evil mega corporation in order to save their kidnapped grandmother.

What Doesn’t Float / U.S.A. (Director: Luca Balser)
An assistant editor on Uncut Gems, Luca Balser‘s feature debut was filmed in NYC with Sean Prince Williams among the cinematographers. This is an anthology of New Yorkers at their wit’s end. Producers include Pauline Chalamet and Rachel Walden.

You People / U.S.A. (Director: Kenya Barris)
Kenya Barris landed an army with his Netflix project starring Jonah Hill, Lauren London, David Duchovny, Nia Long, Sam Jay, Elliott Gould, Travis Bennett, Molly Gordon, Rhea Perlman, Deon Cole, Andrea Savage, Mike Epps, Emily Arlook, Alani La La Anthony, Bryan Greenberg with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Eddie Murphy. Written by Jonah Hill and Kenya Barris, A new couple and their families find themselves examining modern love and family dynamics amidst clashing cultures, societal expectations and generational differences in this comedy from Kenya Barris. Producers include by Kevin Misher, Jonah Hill, Kenya Barris. Netflix releases the film on January 27th.
PREDICTION: Premieres.

Cocaine Bear / U.S.A. (Director: Elizabeth Banks)
Could the Library or Egyptian theatre receive one of those secret screenings with this studio project? Due to be released on February 24th, Elizabeth Banks has been to the fest a gazillion times as an actress and Universal has actually shown their early year slate in this same context.
PREDICTION: Surprise Screening.

Flint Strong / U.S.A. (Director: Rachel Morrison)
Cinematographer Rachel Morrison moves behind the camera for her feature debut – a passion project that fought the pandemic and won. Written by Barry Jenkins, United Artists Releasing hasn’t dated the film yet, but it this becomes a first quarter release then we never know.
PREDICTION: Surprise Screening.

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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