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2008 Sundance Film Festival: 20 Early Predictions

A little less than a week left until the Sundance film festival reveals its entire line-up (Wednesday & Thursday of next week) we here at headquarters like to guestimate the films that have fabulous chances at preeming at the event. Keeping track on all U.S indie developments is the name of our game, so without much further ado – here is a potential list of 20 films comprised of long shots, low probabilities and a couple of no-brainer picks (including a clumping of docu projects) that should be clamoring for attention.

Days Left Before Sundance:

Yesterday, the Sundance Film Fest officially announced the first title selected for their 2008 edition (film opener is Martin McDonagh's In Bruges) and The Hollywood Reporter got the rumor mill started naming Phoebe in Wonderland, What Just Happened?, The Great Buck Howard, Incendiary and The Wackness as possible selections (for the record they’ve named 3 other titles that match with our previsionary list as well).

A little less than a week left until the Sundance film festival reveals its entire line-up (Wednesday & Thursday of next week) we here at headquarters like to guestimate the films that have fabulous chances at preeming at the event. Keeping track on all U.S indie developments is the name of our game, so without much further ado – here is a potential list of 20 films comprised of long shots, low probabilities and a couple of no-brainer picks (including a clumping of docu projects) that should be clamoring for attention.

Brothers Bloom

1. The Brothers Bloom
Summit Entertainment might be responsible for crushing the hopes of seeing Rian Johnson’s newest oeuvre. Pegged as the filmmaker-to-watch-for after his high school film noir flick Brick, Johnson has since worked on an ambitious con man project starring M. Ruffalo & A. Brody. The chances at seeing The Brothers Bloom in a couple of months were significantly dashed when the title was preemptively pulled from buyer shelves at the American Film Market in Los Angeles. If Summit wants to show themselves off as the “new player” in town, they could very well test the white grounds of Utah – but chances have been drastically reduced and they might prep the film as a big summer release instead.



Speaking of breaking new ground, the folks over at Overture Films might also look to the slopes for some positive word of mouth prior to its March opening of Sleepwalking.The indie drama scripted by Zac Stanford follows an 11-year-old girl's struggle to come to terms with her mother's abandonment. This is Bill Maher's directorial debut – he was the second unit direct on indie film The Chumscrubber in 05’. The film features many experienced Sundance faces Nick Stahl, Charlize Theon, Dennis Hopper, Woody Harrelson and AnnaSophia Robb.

3. Religulous

The festival might actually see two Bill Mahers. The more popular one of the two should be presenting the controversially funny, high-profile provocative doc called Religulous. They showed rough cut/portions at the Toronto Film Festival and Lionsgate Films are planning a Spring release for the Larry Charles directed laugher – expect heavy media coverage for title if it indeed makes it.

4. Tennessee

If you have the faith, then a road movie starring Mariah Carey should make the slate. Aaron Woodley’s claim to fame is being the nephew of master craftsman David Cronenberg, but if all goes well expect that to all change once he unveils the Lee Daniels’ (Monster’s Ball, The Woodsman) produced Tennessee.

5. Sunshine Cleaning

If you’ve got a dark comedy to sell – then throw it into the finding frenzy waters of Sundance for best results. Prod Co. Big Beach Films preemed Sherrybaby & Little Miss Sunshine in 06 and in 08’ they have pretty much a lock with the high profile selection of Sunshine Cleaning. Director Christine Jeffs (Sylvia) will show up with familiar Sundance faces in Amy Adams, Alan Arkin and Steve Zahn with a storyline that see two sisters pair up in a business venture of doing biohazard removal and crime scene clean up.

6. Black Water Transit

It’s been a very long wait for the next Tony Kaye film, the geographic-specific, urban, crime thriller Black Water Transit is a perfect fit for the fest. Capitol Films has stripped the film from the bigger names that were once attached and it doesn’t play out like the usual Sundance film but the New Orleans backdrop can contribute to knitting a diverse selection.

7. Smart People

Groundswell Productions' Michael London could bring as much as three(!) films to the festival. There is Smart Peoplea to be distributed by Miramax Films in April pic that would benefit from a strategic launching at the festival. Television commercials director Noam Murro makes his film debut with a noir tale featuring Dennis Quaid as a professor whose wife's death has turned him into a bitter eccentric and he learns to reconnect with people after falling for a former student.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

8. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Rawson Marshall Thurber’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh comes to the festival unsold, a hot property and with plenty of regular Sundance attendees (Sienna Miller) among the cast. It also happens to be an adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon’s debut novel which is set in industrial Pittsburgh in the mid-eighties and sees a mix of eccentric characters.

9. The Marc Pease Experience

Finally, Todd Louiso’s directorial debut Love Liza was showcased at Sundance back in 02’. Six years later, Paramount Vantage could be packing their bags with The Marc Pease Experience – a comedy featuring Jason Schwartzman, Ben Stiller and a storyline that will remind some viewers of Schwartzman’s never want to grow up Rushmore character.

10. Life in Flight

Plum Pictures could unveil two flicks – Tracey Hecht‘s directorial debut at Sundance – it certainly fits the fest protocol. Life in Flight is based on Hecht’s screenplay and centers on a talented builder-architect with a seemingly perfect life who's forced to reassess his existence after an unexpected meeting with an urban designer. Amy Smart & Patrick Wilson star. 

11. Trucker

This one has got Sundance angel dust all over it – plus it’s got Joey Lauren Adams who looks great in a tuque in Park City. Trucker is James Mottern’s directorial debut and sees Monaghan play a female truck driver who lives a careless life with no responsibility until she has to take in her estranged 11-year-old son after his father (Bratt) is hospitalized.

12. S.O.P.: Standard Operating Procedure

Sony Pictures Classics enjoyed the fresh air of Telluride to present something like 9 films on their 07/08 slate, and I could very well see them showing up with two pictures in their suitcases. I would be surprised to not see the SPC-backed politically-driven doc S.O.P.: Standard Operating Procedure. The highly-anticipated Errol Morris product has been receiving some test screenings as of late and while it still does not have a release date it should be good and ready to go.

13. The Children of Huang Shi

We could see Roger Spottiswoode directed
The Children of Huang Shi (a March release) that tells the story of George Hogg (Rhys Meyers), a young British journalist, who rescues 60 orphaned children. He leads them on a treacherous 1000-mile journey along the Silk Road. It looks more like a Berlin film since it was produced with German money.

14. Untitled Rufus Wainwright documentary

The documentary film section will probably reserve a spot for Christine Vachon’s Killer Films Untitled Rufus Wainwright documentary. Rufus Wainwright's re-creation of Judy Garland's 1961 Carnegie Hall performance will blend in with the parallel music scene that takes place in Park City. Figure a live performance among the activities and the Sam Mendes directed project might be a hot title for mid-level indie buyers if ThinkFilm doesn’t distribute.

15.  Gonzo: The Life and Times of Hunter Thompson

Alex Gibney will be busy promoting  Taxi to the Dark Side in early January, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the little know, already completed documentary film called Gonzo: The Life and Times of Hunter Thompson. No need to explain what this doc is about or the potential interest it can draw from both the festival and buyers.

16. Columbus Day

William Morris Independent and Trigger Street will be looking to add some leverage to Columbus Day a micro-budgeted indie film starring Val Kilmer. Directed by Charles Burmeister, Kilmer will play a thief who has just one morning to fix what has gone awry in the biggest heist of his life.

17. Rudo y Cursi

Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal make a habit of showing up at the indie film festival. Directed by Carlos Cuarón, Rudo y Cursi is a tale of love and hate between professional soccer-playing brothers played by Luna and Garcia Bernal.

18. Julia

Every Sundance film festival needs a little Tilda Swinton. While I’m not good at figuring out the targeted international titles – perhaps we might catch glimpse of a film that was inspired by John Cassavetes' 1980 film, Gloria.
Julia by French filmmaker Erick Zonca was filmed in Calif in 07’.

19. Five Dollars a Day

Nigel Cole premiered his debut film Saving Grace at Sundance in the year 2000, flash-forward eight years later and he has a comedy to be distributed by TH!NKFilm that might get plugged there as well. Five Dollars a Day is a road movie that pits a con artist against his more conservative son. Walken will play a conman proud of living like a king on $5 a day, and Nivola his offspring, who had been jailed for one of his father's crimes.  

Lastly, I've picked not one but two extreme long shots to close out our top 20 predictions. Michel Gondry premiered his The Science of Sleep in Park City in 06' and New Line Cinema might be seeking a little indie boost and extra attention for Be Kind Rewind – the picture gets a wide release during the festival on the 25th of January.

The chances of seeing a studio film from a company like Dreamworks is next to nil. But a Midnight in Park City slot could be alloted to a horror flick like The Ruins. It would champion the return of helmer Carter Smith who wowed audiences with his short Sundnace winner film BugCrush.

Quick Recap:

Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom

Bill Maher's Sleepwalking

Larry Charles’ Religulous

Aaron Woodley’s Tennessee

Christine Jeffs’ Sunshine Cleaning

Tony Kaye’s Black Water Transit

Noam Murro’s Smart People

Rawson Marshall Thurber’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Todd Louiso’s The Marc Pease Experience

Tracey Hecht's Life in Flight

James Mottern’s Trucker

Roger Spottiswoode’s The Children of Huang Shi

Errol Morris’ S.O.P.: Standard Operating Procedure

Sam Mendes’ Untitled Rufus Wainwright documentary

Alex Gibney’s Gonzo: The Life and Times of Hunter Thompson

Charles Burmeister’s Columbus Day

Carlos Cuarón’s Rudo y Cursi

Erick Zonca’s Julia

Nigel Cole’s Five Dollars a Day

Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind

Carter Smith’s The Ruins

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury 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 was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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