Sundance Film Festival movie line-up: From sex-starved housewives & gay Iranian refugees to would-be movie house robbers & veteran Marina Vlady
Sundance Film Festival topics range from the issues facing sex-starved housewives in Scandinavia and Iran’s violent 2009 elections to Mexican movie-house robbers and the imminent end of the world.
All that, plus veteran Marina Vlady (The Conjugal Bed, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her) in Amor Hakkar’s gay-themed French entry A Few Days of Respite.
Below is a partial list of the dozens of Sundance movies in competition in the festival’s four main categories.
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
All Your Dead Ones (Todos Tus Muertos) / Colombia (Dir.: Carlos Moreno; Scr.: Alonso Torres & Carlos Moreno) – One morning, a peasant wakes to find a pile of bodies in the middle of his crops. When he goes to the authorities, he quickly realizes that the dead ones are a problem nobody wants to deal with.
Cast: Alvaro Rodríguez, Jorge Herrera, Martha Marquez, Harold Devasten, John Alex Castillo.
The Cinema Hold Up (Asalto Al Cine) / Mexico (Dir.: Iría Gómez Concheiro; Scr.: Iria Gómez Concheiro & Juan Pablo Gómez) – Four childhood friends in Mexico’s Guerrero colony toy with the idea of robbing a cinema. Each hopes that the heist will hurtle them past life’s obstacles, only to realize that the caper risks the only thing they have: their friendship.
Cast: Gabino Rodríguez, Juan Pablo de Santiago, Ángel Sosa, Paulina Avalos.
A Few Days of Respite (Quelque Jours de Repit) / Algeria, France (Dir./Scr.: Amor Hakkar) – A pair of gay men who have escaped from Iran seek safe harbor in a small French village, where a lonely middle-aged woman offers aid.
Cast: Marina Vlady, Samir Guesmi, Amor Hakkar.
The Guard / Ireland (Dir./Scr.: John Michael McDonagh) – A small-town cop in Ireland has a confrontational personality, a subversive sense of humor, a fondness for prostitutes and absolutely no interest whatsoever in the international drug-smuggling ring that has brought a straight-laced FBI agent to his door. However, a surreal chain of events pulls him into the action.
Cast: Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Fionnula Flanagan.
Happy, Happy trailer: Agnes Kittelsen is the cinematic representation of all perfect, sex-starved housewives the world over.
Happy, Happy (Sykt Lykkelig) / Norway (Dir.: Anne Sewitsky; Scr.: Ragnhild Tronvoll) – A perfect housewife, who just happens to be sex-starved, struggles to keep her emotions in check when an attractive family moves in next door.
Cast: Agnes Kittelsen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Maibritt Saerens, Joachim Rafaelsen.
Kinyarwanda / Rwanda, USA (Dir./Scr.: Alrick Brown) – Based on accounts from survivors, Kinyarwanda tells the story of Rwandans who crossed the lines of hatred during the 1994 genocide, turning mosques into places of refuge for Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis.
Cast: Edouard Bamporiki, Cassandra Freeman, Cleophas Kabasiita, Hadidja Zaninka, Kennedy Mazimpaka, Hassan Kabera.
Lost Kisses (I baci mai dati) / Italy (Dir.: Roberta Torre; Scr.: Roberta Torre & Laura Nuccilli) – A 13-year-old girl in the deprived outskirts of a sprawling Sicilian city becomes a local celebrity to her needy community when word spreads that she just might be able to perform miracles.
Cast: Donatella Finocchiaro, Pino Micol, Giuseppe Fiorello, Carla Marchese, Martina Galletta, Tony Palazzo.
Restoration (Boker Tov Adon Fidelman) / Israel (Dir.: Yossi Madmoni; Scr.: Erez Kav-El) – Aided by a young and mysterious apprentice, an antique furniture restorer struggles to keep his workshop alive, while his relationship with his own estranged son, who is trying to close down the shop, begins to disintegrate.
Cast: Sasson Gabay, Henry David, Nevo Kimchi, Sarah Adler.
The Salesman (Le Vendeur) / Canada (Dir./Scr.: Sébastien Pilote) – Car salesman Marcel Lévesque operates by the rules of a bygone era, turning on the charm to make his quota. But the increasing decline of his fading industrial town threatens to plummet this peddler of dreams into an unfriendly reality.
Cast: Gilbert Sicotte, Nathalie Cavezzali.
Ticket to Paradise (Boleto al Paraiso) / Cuba (Dir.: Gerardo Chijona Valdes; Scr.: Gerardo Chijona Valdes, Francisco Garcia Gonzalez and Maykel Rodriguez Ponjuan) – A teenage girl running away from her father’s sexual harassment meets a young rocker who has escaped to Havana with his misfit group of friends. Set in 1993, during a period of acute shortages in Cuba, the local AIDS hospice begins to look like an unlikely refuge to the hopeless teens.
Cast: Miriel Cejas, Héctor Medina, Dunia Matos, Jorge Perugorria, Luis A. Garcia.
Tyrannosaur / U.K. (Dir./Scr.: Paddy Considine) – For Joseph, a man plagued by self-destructive violence and rage, a chance of redemption appears in the form of Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker with a devastating secret of her own.
Cast: Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan, Olivia Colman.
Vampire / Japan, Canada (Dir./Scr.: Iwai Shunji) – On the surface, Simon seems like a fairly normal, average young man, devoted to his teaching job and ailing mother. Secretly, he is compelled to hunt through online chat rooms and message boards, searching for the perfect girl who will ensure his own survival.
Cast: Kevin Zegers, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rachel Leigh Cook, Kristin Kreuk, Aoi Yu and Adelaide Clemens.
U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
BEING ELMO: A Puppeteer’s Journey (Dir.: Constance Marks) – The Muppet Elmo is one of the most beloved characters among children across the globe. Meet the unlikely man behind the puppet – the heart and soul of Elmo – Kevin Clash.
Buck (Dir.: Cindy Meehl) – In a story about the power of non-violence, master horse trainer Buck Brannaman uses principles of respect and trust to tame horses and inspire their human counterparts.
Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology (Dir.: Tiffany Shlain; Scr.: Tiffany Shlain, Ken Goldberg, Carlton Evans and Sawyer Steele) – Connected is an exhilarating stream-of-consciousness ride through the interconnectedness of humankind, nature, progress and morality at the dawn of the 21st century. For centuries we’ve been declaring independence. With insight, curiosity, and humor, the film explores whether it’s time to declare our interdependence.
Hot Coffee (Dir.: Susan Saladoff) – Following subjects whose lives have been devastated by an inability to access the courts, this film shows that many long-held beliefs about our civil justice system have been paid for by corporate America.
How to Die in Oregon (Dir.: Peter D. Richardson) – In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. How to Die in Oregon gently enters the lives of terminally ill Oregonians to illuminate the power of death with dignity.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (Dir.: Marshall Curry) – The Earth Liberation Front is a radical environmental group that the FBI calls America’s ‘number one domestic terrorist threat.’ Daniel McGowan, an ELF member, faces life in prison for two multi-million dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies. But who is really to blame?.
The Last Mountain (Dir.: Bill Haney; Scr.: Bill Haney & Peter Rhodes) – A coal mining corporation and a tiny community vie for the last great mountain in Appalachia in a battle for the future of energy that affects us all.
Miss Representation (Dir.: Jennifer Siebel Newsom; Scr.: Jennifer Siebel Newsom & Jessica Congdon) – Miss Representation uncovers how American mainstream media’s limited and disparaging portrayals of women contribute to the under-representation of women in power positions – creating another generation of women defined by youth, beauty and sexuality, and not by their capacity as leaders.
Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times (Dir.: Andrew Rossi; Scr.: Kate Novack & Andrew Rossi) – Unprecedented access to the New York Times newsroom yields a complex view of the transformation of a media landscape fraught with both peril and opportunity.
The Redemption of General Butt Naked (Dir.: Eric Strauss & Daniele Anastasion) – A brutal warlord who murdered thousands during Liberia’s horrific 14-year civil war renounces his violent past and reinvents himself as an Evangelist, facing those he once terrorized.
Sing Your Song (Dir.: Susanne Rostock) – Most people know the lasting legacy of Harry Belafonte, the entertainer; this film unearths his significant contribution to and his leadership in the civil rights movement in America and to social justice globally.
Troubadours (Dir.: Morgan Neville) – A musical journey tracing the lives and careers of James Taylor and Carole King, pillars of the California singer/songwriter scene, which converged in and around LA’s Troubadour Club in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
We Were Here (Dir.: David Weissman) – A deep and reflective look at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco and how individuals rose to the occasion during the first years of this unimaginable crisis.
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
An African Election / Switzerland, U.S.A. (Dir.: Jarreth Merz) – The 2008 presidential elections in Ghana, West Africa, serve as a backdrop for this feature documentary that looks behind the scenes at the complex, political machinery of a third-world democracy struggling to avoid civil war and establish stability for good.
Family Portrait in Black and White / Canada (Dir.: Julia Ivanova) – In a small Ukrainian town, Olga Nenya, raises 16 black orphans amidst a population of Slavic blue-eyed blondes. Their stories expose the harsh realities of growing up as a bi-racial child in Eastern Europe.
The Flaw / U.K. (Dir.: David Sington) – Within a few months in 2008, several American financial institutions failed, and before you knew it the U.S.A. was in the red. An imaginative blend of archive, animation and personal stories delivers a devastating indictment of the unfettered capitalism which has led to crippling, catastrophic income inequality in the land of the free.
The Green Wave (Irans grüner Sommer) / Germany (Dir.: Ali Samadi Ahadi) – Animated blogs and tweets tell the story of democracy under fire and hopes dashed as protesters are arrested, tortured and raped during Iran’s tumultuous elections of June 2009.
Hell and Back Again / U.S.A., U.K. (Dir.: Danfung Dennis) – Told through the eyes of one Marine from the start of his 2009 Aghanistan tour to his distressing return and rehabilitation in the U.S., we witness what modern “unconventional” warfare really means to the men who are fighting it.
Position Among the Stars (Stand van de Sterren) / Netherlands (Dir.: Leonard Retel Helmrich) – The effects of globalization in Indonesia’s rapidly changing society ripple into the life of a poor Christian woman living in the slums of Jakarta with her Muslim sons and teenage granddaughter.
Project Nim / U.K. (Dir.: James Marsh) – From the Oscar-winning team behind Man on Wire comes the story of Nim, the chimpanzee who was taught to communicate with language as he was raised and nurtured like a human child.
Senna / U.K. (Dir.: Asif Kapadia; Screenwriter: Manish Pandey) – The story of the legendary racing driver and Brazilian hero Ayrton Senna takes us on the ultimate journey of what it means to become the greatest when faced with the constant possibility of death.
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Another Earth (Dir.: Mike Cahill; Scr.: Mike Cahill & 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.
Benavides Born (Dir.: Amy Wendel; Scr.: Daniel Meisel & 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.
Circumstance/U.S.A., Iran (Dir./Scr.: 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.
Gun Hill Road (Dir./Scr.: 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.
HERE (Dir.: Braden King; Scr.: Braden King & 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, Lubna Azabal.
Higher Ground (Dir.: Vera Farmiga; Scr.: Carolyn S. Briggs & 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.
Homework (Dir./Scr.: 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, Rita Wilson, Blair Underwood.
The Ledge (Dir./Scr.: Matthew Chapman) – Perched on a ledge, a man says he must jump by noon, while a cop races against time to get to the bottom of it.
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, Terrence Howard.
Like Crazy (Dir.: Drake Doremus; Scr.: 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.
Little Birds (Dir./Scr.: 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 (Dir./Scr.: 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 (Dir./Scr.: 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.
Take Shelter (Dir./Scr.: 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.
Sundance Film Festival website.
Agnes Kittelsen Happy, Happy image: Maipo Film.
“Sex-Starved Housewives & Bloody Iranian Elections + Veteran Marina Vlady: Sundance Movie Line-Up” last updated in July 2018.