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Sundance 2011 U.S. Dramatic Competition: Braden King, Sean Durkin and Jeff Nichols Among the 16 Selected

Let me toot my own horn a bit. Of the 16 selected films out of 1,102 submissions, I accurately predicted 12. Out of the four that didn’t fly on my radar we find American New Wave 25 selected Sean Durkin, who will make it back to back years in Park City. He featured the marvelous, creepy Mary Last Seen there, and would start lensing Martha Marcy May Marlene in the summer…but my thinking was he was Cannes-bound with this one…he may still be, but Sundance is world preem launching pad for the pic.

Let me toot my own horn a bit. Of the 16 selected films out of 1,102 submissions, I accurately predicted 12. Out of the four that didn’t fly on my radar we find American New Wave 25 selected Sean Durkin, who will make it back to back years in Park City. He featured the marvelous, creepy Mary Last Seen there, and would start lensing Martha Marcy May Marlene in the summer…but my thinking was he was Cannes-bound with this one…he may still be, but Sundance is world preem launching pad for the pic. 

Sam Levinson’s debut film, which formerly went by “The Reasonable Bunch” and now has a conflict of interest with the Aussie film by the same title (The Loved Ones) has plenty of star wattage — but I think the real reason to be buzzed about the film in young actor Ezra Miller who broke out in Afterschool and will also be shown in 2011’s We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Among the pair of titles that were absent from my predictions process was Amy Wendel’s feature debut titled Benavides Born which was shot in Texas and the shot in Connecticut sophomore film (Another Earth) by Mike Cahill, who was at Sundance a couple of years back with King of California. Here is an article on the production of the film.

Top Three Picks: Along with Durkin’s MMMM, I’m the most stoked about Braden King’s HERE (see artistically rendered still above from a HERE side-project above) and Jeff Nichols’ second feature after the brilliant Shotgun Stories, goes by the official title of Take Shelter.

Another Earth (Director: Mike Cahill; Screenwriters: Mike Cahill and Brit Marling)
On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, a horrible tragedy irrevocably alters the lives of two strangers, who begin an unlikely love affair. Cast: William Mapother, Brit Marling, Jordan Baker, Robin Lord Taylor, Flint Beverage.

Benavides Born (Director: Amy Wendel; Screenwriters: Daniel Meisel and Amy Wendel)
A high school senior in a forgotten town has earned admission to the University of Texas at Austin but can’t afford to go. Her one shot is a scholarship for winning the State Powerlifting Championship. Cast: Corina Calderon, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Joseph Julian Soria, Julia Vera, Julio César Cedillo.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction Circumstance U.S.A./Iran (Director and screenwriter: Maryam Keshavarz)
A wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teenager’s growing sexual rebellion and her brother’s dangerous obsession. Cast: Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazemy, Reza Sixo Safai, Soheil Parsa, Nasrin Pakkho.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction Gun Hill Road (Director and screenwriter: Rashaad Ernesto Green)
After three years in prison, Enrique is back in his beloved Bronx, back in the arms of an estranged wife and back in the life of his teenage son, who is stumbling towards a transformation that will put the bonds of their embattled family to the test. Cast: Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, Harmony Santana, Vanessa Aspillaga.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction HERE (Director: Braden King; Written By: Braden King and Dani Valent)
On assignment to create a new, more accurate satellite survey of Armenia, an American cartographer forms a powerful bond with an Armenian expatriate and art photographer. Cast: Ben Foster and Lubna Azabal with Narek Nersisyan, Yuri Kostanyan and Sofik Sarkisyan.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction Higher Ground (Director: Vera Farmiga; Screenwriters: Carolyn S. Briggs and Tim Metcalfe)
A frustrated young mother turns to a fundamentalist community for answers, but after years of dogma and loss, she must find the courage to ask the questions that will help her reclaim her life. Cast: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, John Hawkes, Dagmara Dominczyk, Norbert Leo Butz.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction Homework (Director and screenwriter: Gavin Wiesen)
Quirky, rebellious George has no ambitions other than to cut his next class. But one day, one girl gives him the perfect reason to figure out who he really is. Cast: Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Elizabeth Reaser with Rita Wilson and Blair Underwood.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction Like Crazy (Director: Drake Doremus; Screenwriters: Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones)
A young American guy and a young British girl meet in college and fall in love. Their love is tested when she is required to leave the country and they must face the challenges of a long-distance relationship. Cast: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction Little Birds (Director and screenwriter: Elgin James)
Amidst the stark landscape of the Salton Sea, two 15-year-old girls test the limits of their friendship when one follows the other to Los Angeles, only to discover that the boredom of home may be better than learning to survive in the big city. Cast: Juno Temple, Kay Panabaker, Leslie Mann, Kate Bosworth, Kyle Gallner.

The Loved Ones (Director and screenwriter: Sam Levinson)
A pair of reckless siblings are dragged into a chaotic family wedding by their overwrought mother. Cast: Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth, Jeffrey DeMunn, Ellen Barkin, Ellen Burstyn, Thomas Haden Church.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Director and screenwriter: Sean Durkin)
Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult. Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Brady Corbet, Hugh Dancy, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction The Music Never Stopped (Director: Jim Kohlberg; Screenwriters: Gwyn Lurie and Gary Marks, based on the story “The Last Hippie” by Oliver Sacks)
A father struggles to bond with his estranged son who suffers a brain tumor that prevents him from forming new memories. He learns to embrace his son’s choices and to try to connect with him through the power of music. Cast: J.K. Simmons, Julia Ormond, Cara Seymour, Lou Taylor Pucci, Mia Maestro. SALT LAKE CITY GALA FILM

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction On the Ice (Director and screenwriter: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean)
On the snow-covered Arctic tundra, two teenagers try to get away with murder. Cast: Josiah Patkotak, Frank Qutuq Irelan, Teddy Kyle Smith, Adamina Kerr, Sierra Jade Sampson.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction Pariah (Director and screenwriter: Dee Rees)
When forced to choose between losing her best friend or destroying her family, a Bronx teenager juggles conflicting identities and endures heartbreak in a desperate search for sexual expression. Cast: Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Kim Wayans, Charles Parnell, Aasha Davis.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction Take Shelter (Director and screenwriter: Jeff Nichols)
A working-class husband and father questions whether his terrifying dreams of an apocalyptic storm signal something real to come or the onset of an inherited mental illness he’s feared his whole life. Cast: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Kathy Baker.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction Terri (Director: Azazel Jacobs; Screenwriters: Patrick Dewitt and Azazel Jacobs)
Orphaned to an uncle who is fading away, mercilessly teased by his peers and roundly ignored by his teachers, Terri is alienated and alone. When the dreaded vice-principal sees something of himself in Terri, they establish a friendship which opens Terri up to the possibility that life is not something to be endured, but something to be shared, and even enjoyed. Cast: Jacob Wysocki, John C. Reilly, Creed Bratton, Olivia Crocicchia, Bridger Zadina.

IONCINEMA.com Sundance Prediction Denotes Predicted Title

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, 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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