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Best of Fest: Sundance 2013’s Top 20 New Voices

Yesterday, Jordan M. Smith, Nicholas Bell and I highlighted our Top 10 New Faces (strictly in the acting domain) of 2013’s Sundance Film Festival and while that list was pretty much a consensus, our Top 20 New Voices (fiction/non-fiction/short scribes, directors and full-out filmmakers/producers) was an amicably, yet hard fought deliberation process and then ranking of who we think the future will shine most bright…in other words, if these people were Wall Street stock options — we’d put our money behind them. Enjoy the mini profiles and adjoined praise.

#20. Sophie Goyette

Sophie Goyette Top 20 Voices Sundance 2013

Part of the pair of Canadian-based, female auteurs to make a pit stop in Park City (the other being Sarah Polley) French-Canadian filmmaker Sophie Goyette and her 2012 TIFF showcased short film Le Futur Proche  demonstrates that there is plenty more raw talent and a pulse from Quebec. Here we find a pilot dealing with loss, suppressing his hackneyed existence by spending as much time in the clouds, and we find much of the emotional poise, strong aesthetic visual and aural choices as in her previous short, La Ronde (2011 Locarno/TIFF selection) — both temporal shorts sit/dwell with the viewer way past the short run time. (EL)

#19. Mahalia Belo

Mahalia Belo Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013

We don’t want to come across as overzealous when we mention that Mahalia Belo might be joining the ranks of other already legend U.K female auteurs (Andrea Arnold and/or Lynne Ramsay), but she is off to a great start — rare are the number of straight out of film school short “graduate” films that announce a major talent is among us. Her  BAFTA winning Best British Short Film Award short film Volume, an engrossing, tragi-fantasy family drama could have very well been turned into a feature film. A dreadful, pathos-filled, summer haze/daze film not only features the best usage of an outdoor swimming pool since Sexy Beast, but this missing persons’ account is cold, stylish, and is a ballsy study of communal isolation. (EL)

#18. Andrew F. Renzi

Andrew F. Renzi Sundance 2013 Top 20 New Voices

No stranger to us folk on the site, we’ve been tracking Andrew Renzi since he co-produced Sympathy for Delicious and produced Two Gates of Sleep, and now we take stock of his ascension into directing/writing terrain with shorts The Fort (Sundance ’12) and this year’s Karaoke!, which boosts a solid sing-a-long friendly soundtrack and features a Brady Corbet in the role of someone who willing and unconsciously drifts towards escapism of the moment. There is much to admire in Renzi’s lush, muted palette choices but embedded in his broad strokes we sense a distinct knack for his composition of the frame, an expertise knowing how and what to include, not include and what to disclose within the its borders as we question the motives of his characters well beyond what is presented on screen, as in many ways it mirrors our own concerns. We should see much of this visual fluidity and depth in his feature film project entitled Franny, which was at the Sundance Screenwriting Lab this year. In the mean time, feast your eyes on the just released video for Blondire’s “Where the Kids Are”. (EL)

#17. Jordana Spiro

Jordana Spiro Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013

If there is a lesson to be learned from this year’s fest is that actress-turned-director-scribes are not to be overlooked. Off the top of my head I think of Sarah Polley, Julie Delpy, Lynn Shelton and the person we’ll be mentioning in our number 8 spot below are part of the wealth of damn fine examples of folk turning in quality film items that are both layered and resonate. I’m including Jordana Spiro on this list. With her third short film entitled Skin, the mostly television actress with a handful of film parts in her more than a decade long filmography turned in one of Park City’s best items – that I would describe as a Gummo-esque, Winter’s Bone type of tale of rejection, longing, first loves thematically worked in with the practice of taxidermy. Spiro’s shot selections, editing and tone makes for a calling card item were industry vets will stand up and take notice. The short travels to SXSW next. (EL)

#16. Chris Galletta

Chris Galletta Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013

I’m no expert….but comedy is tough to write and get right. Sans previous baggage, Chris Galletta broke into the fest as a no-name (no previous writing creds to mention) and leaves Park City a scribe that should be at the top of the industry’s radar. Toy’s House secured a deal with CBS Films right out of the gate and it rocked both critics and audiences alike for its innate charm, tasty dialogue, three-layered situational, knee-slapper and absurdity type comedy writing injected with a wholesome, softness found in the most cherished of  coming-of-ager type of films. This flexed more comedic muscles in one sitting than the other 30 films I manage to have caught at the fest this year. Next up for Galletta is an untitled action comedy set up at New Line. (EL)

#15. Richard Rowley

Rick Rowley Top 20 New Faces Sundance 2013

Stuck between a rock and a hard place just about describes the filmmaking working conditions for a handful of docu helmers that make the annual trip out to the festival, but digging into Richard Rowley’s filmography one quickly notices that Dirty Wars might be just another day (make that a couple of years) at the office. Requiring brass balls, Rowley’s high marks also come from chosen subject and subject matter down to the technical details, smart plotting and editing – simply put, this is top notch craftsmanship — it won the Best cinematography award for “elevating the art of observational cinema through sophisticated lensing and an electric-color palette.” (EL)

#14. Shaul Schwarz

Shaul Schwarz Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013

Forget about the title of docu filmmaker, Narco Cultura makes Shaul Schwarz probably the bravest human being on this list. Having worked as an investigative photographer for Time magazine and found his work published in countless major publications around the globe, with his first feature he takes us into Juarez, a Mexican city bordering El Paso being absolutely devastated by rivalling drug cartels that pervade the streets. His vision is unflinching. He brings an honest and brutal depiction of the drug war while contrasting it with the bizarre musical culture of narco-corridos that celebrate and compound the heart of the issue. (JS)

#13. Tinatin Gurchiani

Tinatin Guchiani Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013

What makes this female director stand apart from others on this list is her ability to center her work around cold questioning and her willingness to completely abide by visual and narrative simplicity. Docu filmmaker and producer Tinatin Gurchianai’s The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear employs such tactics to subconsciously tackle much large subject matter to brilliantly penetrating effect. (JS)

#12. Ben Lewis

Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013 Ben Lewis

While comfortable in front of the camera in his uproarious art world expoundation, The Great Contemporary Art Bubble, here with Google and the World Brain, Lewis does his best Gibney impression with exemplary wit and visual style all his own. He’s wrangled a vast cast of futurists and spokesmen, teasing out poignant and worrisome prophecies, all the while narratively globe-trotting with seemingly effortless exertion. (JS)

#11. Zachary Heinzerling

Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013 Zachary Heinzerling

With masterly visual flair and a sense for personal, balanced storytelling, this fledgling docu director looks to expand the form by getting intimate with his eccentric subjects and bringing to life their past through their work. Through docu director and cinematographer Zachary Heinzerling, Cutie and the Boxer becomes an interpretation of their cathartic works of art, truth starts to make its way to the surface, in levity and lamentation. (JS)

#10. Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013 Kyle Patrick Alvarez

After bringing home the Someone to Watch Award at the Independent Spirit Awards for his debut film, Easier with Practice, filmmaker and producer Kyle Patrick Alvarez has taken a funny and despairing David Sedaris short story and made it his own, making C.O.G., the tortured tale of a young homosexual man unable to admit his sexual orientation even darker than its original form. He’s brilliant with awkward tension, continuously smashing diverging cultures together for both blackly painted laughs and plenty of disgusted faces. (JS)

#9. Shaka King

Shaka King Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013

Director/producer Shaka King’s Brooklyn set debut has to be one of the most atypical stoner movies to come along in a while. Newlyweeds may indeed be a romance, but the significant other for both lead characters seems to be their drug of choice. Writer-director King seems to know his subject well, and excels at injecting subtle, off-the-wall humor in what could have easily been a scenario for cheap laughs. Of course, his film would be nowhere without engaging performances from his lead couple, Amari Cheatom (from Django Unchained and Night Catches Us) and newcomer Trae Harris. (NB)

#8. Lake Bell

Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013 Lake Bell

Lena Dunham, Lynn Shelton and Diablo Cody should make some room for the latest member of the funny girl club. It’s official, I now have a crush on Lake Bell… and it has everything to do with her writing and directing skill-set. Very deserving winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic, Bell created a set of palpable, flawed and surprisingly layered characters with quirks and what is most impressive is the loads of zippy one-liners, visual comedy and comedic timing. Oh…and she plays the lead and produced In A World… as well. (EL)

#7. Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013 Jordan Vogt Roberts

Stylish, substance-filled and spot-on, Toy’s House (also mentioned above in the #16 spot) might feel familiar but comes across as a unique, brand spanking new type of experience and one that undeniably demonstrates the bright future for the first-time feature director. He debuted his short Successful Alcoholics in Park City and is the creator and director of the Comedy Central series Mash Up, I think that Jordan Vogt-Roberts is carving out a nice place for himself in even more funky areas than that of the rugged wooded domain featured in the comedy. (EL)

#6. Eliza Hittman

Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013 Eliza Hittman

I’m predicting that we’ll collectively look back on It Felt Like Love around the time that Eliza Hittman’s third feature is released and not so quickly realize that those first steps in 2013 underlined a filmmaking force to reckon with. Author behind a foursome of shorts including her Sundance selected Forever’s Gonna Start Tonite (2011), this thought-provoking, disturbing and yet comforting drama is so visually and conceptually rich, that you’ll have trouble accepting this is from a first-time filmmaker and working from a microscopic budget. Rotterdam Film Festival invited the film as well – I imagine other fest heads will be overwhelmed by the same raw talent. (EL)

#5. John Krokidas

Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013 John Krokidas

After nearly a decade in the making due to funding issues concerning a whole gaggle of gay (or maybe bi-curious) characters, John Krokidas finally got Kill Your Darlings, his debut made, which he co-wrote with screenwriter Austin Bunn. The result is a noirish historical re-telling of a 1944 murder involving some of the great poets of the beat generation that effectively utilizes anachronistic music. Oh, and he lands some surprising performances from some surprising outlets, especially noteworthy being Dane DeHaan, and Michael C. Hall. (NB)

#4. Stacie Passon

Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013 Stacie Passon

She cut her teeth behind the camera producing and directing commercials, but with her reverently written feature debut, Passon proves to be aptly equipped for long form. Writing acutely conflicted characters with deep, dark depths, she employs her practiced visual panache with restrained precision, making for exquisitely balanced filmmaking making Concussion a shiny contribution to the truly indie sphere. (JS)

#3. Ryan Coogler

Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013 Ryan Coogler

The 26 year-old Coogler’s debut took home both the Grand Jury & Audience Award prizes this year, and rightly so, for he captures the most emotionally engaging lead performance (Michael B. Jordan) from any film that screened this year. Coogler snagged cinematographer Rachel Morrison to give his film an expertly unique culmination of events leading to tragedy and proves himself to be quite an effective screenwriter as well. His direction of indie pros like Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer is worthy of mention as well. Fruitvale should be huge theatrically. (NB)

#2. Alexandre Moors

Top 20 New Voices Sundance 2013 Alexandre Moors

Moors brings a quietly effective insight to the infamous Beltway sniper murders with his directorial debut. Featuring fantastic editing and superb sound design, Moors also co-writes, and expertly utilizes cinematographer Brian O’Carroll’s to show us a hellish descent into madness instead of relying on violence and brutality. Simply put, for a commercials and music vid director used to working with healthy budgets, Blue Caprice is an epic film that offers high production value with limited means. (NB)

#1. David Lowery

David Lowery Best of Fest: Sundance 2013′s Top 20 New Voices

David Lowery’s sophomore pic, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is the 7th art at its very best – I felt that it was the one film at Sundance this year that came across like a Cannes competition title. With a list of credits that would put the hardest working filmmakers to shame, it was easy to immerse myself in such a film; I’d wager that Lowery bleeds cinema — filmmaking in his pores and film knowledge is tattooed in his memory. What gushes out is a constellation that is recognizable, but vast and triumphantly low-key. I gush more here about the film and the filmmaker’s talents. (EL)


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