Sundance Film Festival was held in Utah this year and saw a whooping 100 feature films premiered but were all of them worth our time? Not so much. People might never hear about 90 of them, give or take. They’ll be neglected as some unrated ‘B’ movie, some might be successful in their own league but will never be a part of a casual conversation. But the rest of them will and some might consider them to be the gems of 2016. So, which are those movies you’ll be hearing about this year. We take a look here.
1. The Birth of a Nation is Nate Parker’s take on 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. Undoubtedly the most celebrated and talked about film of this year at Sundance and after its first screening it triggered the bidding war between major production houses. Some critics labelled the movie as ‘Stirring, Soulful and Incendiary’, ‘An articulate howl of anguish and rage’. The bidding war saw Fox Searchlight breaking the bank and paying 17.5 million dollars for it and that is the highest price tag for any movie at Sundance, ever. Netflix were left hanging as the director of the film wanted a wider audience for the movie, and why not, although Netflix were ready to pay more than what Fox Searchlight offered. The movie premiered when #Oscarssowhite was trending and trending quite remarkably, resulting in shameful scramble of Hollywood at the time. Fox will definitely end up cashing on this gem and will try to hit the iron when it’s hot, look out this summer, we might get this movie in the theaters.
2. Under The Shadow is an Iranian Horror film, set in the 1980’s war with Iraq. This feature did not stir any water before arriving at the festival and was one of the nice movies in the Midnight section of Sundance, but when people saw the ‘Horror’, the appreciation came loud and clear. Some critics termed it as ‘terrifying, ghost story that singes the nerves as much as it coddles the mind’. A mother and her younger daughter are alone in an apartment with a possibility of an evil presence and that’s not all, the war is going on and the bombs are falling all around them. Foreign language movies find it difficult to earn a devoted audience and this one is capable of earning that with a strong script. The Babadook was a similar breakout at Sundance. Netflix have acquired the rights so after all the releasing in a handful of theaters by XYZ and Vertical Entertainment the movie will be available for streaming.
3. Manchester By The Sea is a typical festival standard. This year’s most universally praised movie is a drama by Kenneth Lonergan who gave us You Can Count On Me in 2000. Casey Affleck didn’t leave it to luck and put in visible efforts in its promotion. Affleck plays a wrecked young man who loses his brother and is left with his 16 year-old nephew to take care of. Critics called it a ‘pitch perfect film-making’ and ‘the finest possible incarnation of the sort of starry, delicate drama that is a festival standard.’ Amazon got the rights for the movie and will definitely promote the movie for the next Oscars and try to push its release till the end of the year. Yes, till the ‘award season’.
4. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is a sweetly-told-laugh-out-loud adventure. What We Do In The Shadows and the next Thor movie under his belt, Taika Waititi made his profile rise in recent time and has made a crowd pleaser, a story about a rebellious teen and his foster uncle, played by Sam Neill evading capture in the wilderness. To put it softly, critics have been calling it a ‘truly fantastic kids movie’. Although, people will have to keep their eyes and ears open for the hunt as the distributer of the movie is a newcomer and has only one release under their belt. A few theater releases and video on demand is the possible route for this one.
5. Swiss Army Man is probably the most talked about movie of this years festival and most of the people remember it not by its original title but by “the Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse movie”. Paul Dano finds an inflated corpse, for the lack of the right word, on an island. The corpse is seen as something having many uses and one of them is its erection, used as a compass. You read that right, yes. The movie got the most mixed reviews any movie can get. People walked out of the premier, hated the movie but those who liked it, liked it very much. Absurd, juvenile comedy was not for everyone. Probably some art theaters will see this one. Even with Harry Potter as a farting corpse, this one is a tough sell. But as the saying goes, ‘Any Publicity is a good Publicity’.
Special Mentions – Morris From America
Craig Robinson from The Office plays the dad in this father-son coming-of-age comedy about black Americans living in Germany, and Sundance audiences loved him. But there was even more praise for Markees Christmas, the newcomer who plays his 13-year-old son nursing a crush on a haughty German girl. Another big selling point: the old-school ‘90s hip-hop soundtrack, which Robinson and Christmas quote from frequently.