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Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women Leads Nicholas Bell’s 2016 Sundance Film Fest Top Ten

Sundance 2016 has come to a close, once more showcasing a lack of differentiation based on what constitutes the Audience and the Grand Jury. All in all, it was a favorable line-up of films, with some significant offerings in the US Dramatic line-up, many of which were overshadowed by Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation. Likewise, a bevy of wonderful films in the Premieres and Next sections added to this festival’s enjoyable experience.

10. Kiki – Dir. Sara Jordeno
9. Goat – Dir. Andrew Neel
8. Wiener Dog – Dir. Todd Solondz
7. Mammal – Dir. Rebecca Daly
6. Manchester by the Sea – Dir. Kenneth Lonergan
5. Love and Friendship – Dir. Whit Stillman
4. The Eyes of My Mother – Dir. Nicolas Pesce

3. The Birth of a Nation – Dir. Nate Parker
At number three Parker’s directorial debut (review) represents the ultimate success story, a seven year labor of love which seems to have pushed all the right buttons. With superb performances and troubling material, I’m sure I’ll be tired of deliberating this title come this time next year, but we can surely expect Parker’s film to ensure next year’s Oscar nominees to result in (at the very least) a return to normalcy with #OscarsMostlyWhite.

2. Christine – Dir. Antonio Campos
At number two, Antonio Campos’ Christine (review) seemed to be a bit more divisive and sadly went home empty handed at the fest, which is a pity considering how good Rebecca Hall’s performance is. A beautiful piece of filmmaking, it defines Campos as a provocative filmmaker even when directing material he’s not penned himself. The film is emotionally charged and incredibly haunting.

1. Certain Women – Dir. Kelly Reichardt
And my favorite offering this year was Kelly Reichardt’s latest, Certain Women (review), making a superb narrative with a design (interconnected triptych) I increasingly don’t care for. Expertly framed and featuring powerful moments from a cast of awesome women (including Laura Dern, Lily Gladstone, Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart), I can’t express enough how impressive Reichardt’s sixth feature film is as visual poetry of emotional subtexts.

Films viewed list: 31, Antibirth, Belgica, The Birth of a Nation, The Blackout Experiments Captain Fantastic, Certain Women, Christine, Complete Unknown, The Eyes of My Mother, The Fits, Frank & Lola, The Fundamentals of Caring, Goat, A Good Wife, The Greasy Strangler, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Indignation, Joshy, Kiki Little Men, Love and Friendship, Lovesong, The Lure, Mammal, Manchester by the Sea, Other People, Sand Storm, Southside With You, Spa Night, Under the Shadows, Wiener-Dog, Yoga Hosers

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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