Geralyn Dreyfous, founder/board chair of the Utah Film Center, independent producer and co-founder of Impact Partners, provides her picks for the Sundance Film Festival. If you happen to miss the screening during the festival, you can usually catch festival titles at the Broadway Centre Cinemas, operated by Salt Lake Film Society, 111 East Broadway in Salt Lake.
The Italians and the Aussies have it this year. The journalists—citizens and Professionals, take on topics including election meddling, links to the Mob and sexual assault. Mike Wallace, Dr. Ruth and Molly Ivins are revisited and remembered! (Dr. Ruth will be in the House.)
For the 2019 Festival, 112 feature-length films have been selected, representing 33 countries, and 45 first-time filmmakers.
DIRECTORS OF THE U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION:
53% are women
41% are people of color
18% identify as LGBTQIA+
DIRECTORS OF THE U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION:
44% are women
22% are people of color
5% identify as LGBTQIA+
These films were selected from a record high of 14,259 submissions including 4,018 feature-length films.
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION WORLD PREMIERES
Before You Know It (Director: Hannah Pearl Utt, Screenwriters: Hannah Pearl Utt, Jen Tullock, Producers: Mallory Schwartz, Josh Hetzler, James Brown) — A long-kept family secret thrusts codependent, thirty-something sisters Rachel and Jackie Gurner into a literal soap opera. A journey that proves that you really can come of age, at any age. Cast: Hannah Pearl Utt, Jen Tullock, Judith Light, Mandy Patinkin, Mike Colter, Alec Baldwin. Comments: "This went through every Sundance Lab — Hannah Pearl Utt is a triple threat as she wrote, directed and stars in this film that teeters on the edge of both seriousness and absurdity - when they find out their deceased mother is actually alive and a soap opera star."
Clemency (Director and screenwriter: Chinonye Chukwu, Producers: Bronwyn Cornelius, Julian Cautherley, Peter Wong, Timur Bekbosunov) — Years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams. As she prepares to execute another inmate, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill. Cast: Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, Richard Schiff, Wendell Pierce, Richard Gunn, Danielle Brooks. Comments: "Ava DuVernay-esque talent, a muscular prison drama – warden played by Alfre Woodard"
The Farewell / U.S.A.,China (Director and screenwriter: Lulu Wang, Producers: Daniele Melia, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Chris Weitz, Andrew Miano, Anita Gou) — A headstrong Chinese-American woman returns to China when her beloved grandmother is given a terminal diagnosis. Billi struggles with her family’s decision to keep grandma in the dark about her own illness as they all stage an impromptu wedding to see grandma one last time. Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo. Comments: "FUNNY – think Crazy Rich Asians!"
Luce (Director: Julius Onah, Screenwriters: JC Lee, Julius Onah, Producers: John Baker, Julius Onah, Andrew Yang) — A married couple is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their son, adopted from war-torn Eritrea, after an alarming discovery by a devoted high school teacher threatens his status as an all-star student. Cast: Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Tim Roth, Norbert Leo Butz. Comments: "Gorgeous and elegant, explores our human need to categorize."
Native Son (Director: Rashid Johnson, Screenwriter: Suzan-Lori Parks, Producers: Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Sherman) — In this modern reimagining of Richard Wright’s seminal novel, a young African-American man named Bigger Thomas takes a job working for a highly influential Chicago family, a decision that will change the course of his life forever. Cast: Ashton Sanders, Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson, KiKi Layne, Bill Camp, Sanaa Lathan. Comments: "Day one. This adaptation of the 1930’s novel set in Chicago is Moonlight-esque."
U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Always in Season (Director: Jacqueline Olive) — When 17-year-old Lennon Lacy is found hanging from a swing set in rural North Carolina in 2014, his mother’s search for justice and reconciliation begins as the trauma of more than a century of lynching African Americans bleeds into the present. Comments: "Centered around the intergenerational trauma of lynching – a story of reconciliation and reckoning. Reverend Barber coming January 27-30th. Geralyn EP."
Knock Down the House (Director: Rachel Lears, Producers: Sarah Olson, Robin Blotnick, Rachel Lears) — A young bartender in the Bronx, a coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia, a grieving mother in Nevada and a registered nurse in Missouri build a movement of insurgent candidates challenging powerful incumbents in Congress. One of their races will become the most shocking political upset in recent American history. Cast: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Comments: "Axandria Ocasio-Cortez to be in attendance. Geralyn EP."
Midnight Family / Mexico, U.S.A. (Director: Luke Lorentzen, Producers: Kellen Quinn, Daniela Alatorre, Elena Fortes) — In Mexico City’s wealthiest neighborhoods, the Ochoa family runs a private ambulance, competing with other for-profit EMTs for patients in need of urgent help. As they try to make a living in this cutthroat industry, they struggle to keep their financial needs from compromising the people in their care. World Premiere.
Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements (Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky, Producers: Irene Taylor Brodsky, Tahria Sheather) — A deeply personal portrait of three lives, and the discoveries that lie beyond loss: a deaf boy growing up, his deaf grandfather growing old, and Beethoven the year he was blindsided by deafness and wrote his iconic sonata. World Premiere. Comments: "Mesmerizing and profound – from the director of HEAR AND NOW. Fiscally Sponsored by Utah Film Center."
TIGERLAND (Director: Ross Kauffman, Producers: Fisher Stevens, Xan Parker, Zara Duffy) — 50 years ago, a young forest officer in India rallied the world to save tigers from extinction. Today, the creed is carried on in Far East Russia by the 3 guardians of the last Siberian tigers, who risk everything to save the species. World Premiere. Comments: "Beyond beautiful –opening narration is Ross’s son and my godson!"
Where's My Roy Cohn? (Director: Matt Tyrnauer, Producers: Matt Tyrnauer , Corey Reeser, Marie Brenner, Andrea Lewis) — Roy Cohn personified the dark arts of American politics, turning empty vessels into dangerous demagogues – from Joseph McCarthy to his final project, Donald J. Trump. This thriller-like exposé connects the dots, revealing how a deeply troubled master manipulator shaped our current American nightmare. World Premiere. Comments: "STUNNING! Fiscally sponsored by Utah Film Center."
WORLD DRAMATIC COMPETITION WORLD PREMIERES
Dolce Fine Giornata / Poland (Director: Jacek Borcuch, Screenwriters: Jacek Borcuch, Szczepan Twardoch, Producer: Marta Habior) — In Tuscany, Maria's stable family life begins to erode as her relationship with a young immigrant develops against a backdrop of terrorism and eroding democracy. Cast: Krystyna Janda, Katarzyna Smutniak, Vincent Riotta, Antonio Catania, Lorenzo de Moor, Robin Renucci. Comments: "From a third time director at Sundance - a Nobel Prize winning author flirts with a younger Egyptian immigrant and a Tuscan village is turned upside down."
The Last Tree / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Shola Amoo, Producers: Lee Thomas, Myf Hopkins) — Femi is a British boy of Nigerian heritage who, after a happy childhood in rural Lincolnshire, moves to inner London to live with his mum. Struggling with the unfamiliar culture and values of his new environment, teenage Femi has to figure out which path to adulthood he wants to take. Cast: Sam Adewunmi, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Tai Golding. Comments: "From the director of DEAR MR SHAKESPEARE."
The Souvenir / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Joanna Hogg, Producers: Luke Schiller, Joanna Hogg) — A quiet film student begins finding her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man. She defies her protective mother and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship which comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams. Cast: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton. World Premiere. Comments: "Beautiful and harrowing, a portrayal of heroin addiction."
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION WORLD PREMIERES
The Disappearance of My Mother / Italy (Director and screenwriter: Beniamino Barrese,Producer: Filippo Macelloni) — An aging fashion model strives to escape the world of images and disappear for good, but her son's determination to make a final film about her sparks an unexpected collaboration and confrontation with the camera's gaze. Comments: "An examination of the male gaze by the son of a supermodel who can’t stand what the camera sees in her."
Sea of Shadows / Austria (Director: Richard Ladkani, Producers: Walter Koehler, Wolfgang Knoepfler) —The vaquita, the world’s smallest whale, is near extinction as its habitat is destroyed by Mexican cartels and Chinese mafia, who harvest the swim bladder of the totoaba fish, the “cocaine of the sea.” Environmental activists, Mexican navy and undercover investigators are fighting back against this illegal multimillion-dollar business. Comments: "Plays like a thriller – underwater camera shots."
Shooting the Mafia / Ireland (Director: Kim Longinotto, Producer: Niamh Fagan) — Sicilian Letizia Battaglia began a lifelong battle with the Mafia when she first pointed her camera at a brutally slain victim. Documenting the Cosa Nostra's barbaric rule, she bore unflinching witness to their crimes. Her photographs, art, and bravery helped to bring an end to a shocking reign of slaughter. Comments: "There will be an exhibit of Letzia's and she will be here at 88 with her 50-year-old lover! Impact Partners/ Utah Film Center/ Geralyn EP."
After The Wedding / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bart Freundlich, Producers: Joel B. Michaels, Harry Finkel) — Seeking funds for her orphanage in India, Isabelle travels to New York to meet Theresa, a wealthy benefactor. An invitation to attend a wedding ignites a series of events in which the past collides with the present while mysteries unravel. Based on the Academy Award-nominated film by Susanne Bier.Cast: Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn. Comments: “Foreign film remake—bring a box of kleenex. Opening night at Eccles!”
Blinded by the Light / United Kingdom (Director: Gurinder Chadha, Screenwriters: Sarfraz Manzoor, Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, Producers: Gurinder Chadha, Jane Barclay, Jamal Daniel) — In 1987 during the austere days of Thatcher's Britain, a teenager learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen. Cast: Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura. Comments: “Musical meets BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM when a pakistani teenager discovers Springsteen.”
Late Night / U.S.A. (Director: Nisha Ganatra, Screenwriter: Mindy Kaling, Producers: Ben Browning, Howard Klein, Jillian Apfelbaum, Mindy Kaling) — Legendary late night talk show host’s world is turned upside down when she hires her only female staff writer. Originally intended to smooth over diversity concerns, her decision has unexpectedly hilarious consequences as the two women separated by culture and generation are united by their love of a biting punchline. Cast: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow, Paul Walter Hauser, Reid Scott, Amy Ryan. Comments: “Hilarious and fun!”
The Mustang / U.S.A. (Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Screenwriters: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Mona Fastvold, Brock Norman Brock, Producer: Alain Goldman) — While participating in a rehabilitation program training wild mustang, a convict at first struggles to connect with the horses and his fellow inmates, but learns to confront his violent past as he soothes an especially feisty horse. Cast: Matthias Schoenaerts, Connie Britton, Bruce Dern, Jason Mitchell, Gideon Adlon, Josh Stewart. Comments: “Sundance lab project –prison rehabilitation of man and animal”
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Producers: Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan) — Against all the odds, a thirteen-year-old boy in Malawi invents an unconventional way to save his family and village from famine. Based on the true story of William Kamkwamba. Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maxwell Simba, Lily Banda, Noma Dumezweni, Aissa Maiga, Joseph Marcell. Comments: “Friday night SLC opening film.”
The Report / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Scott Z. Burns, Producers: Steven Soderbergh, Jennifer Fox, Scott Z. Burns, Danny Gabai, Eddy Moretti) — The story of Daniel Jones, lead investigator for the US Senate’s sweeping study into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which was found to be brutal, immoral and ineffective. With the truth at stake, Jones battled tirelessly to make public what many in power sought to keep hidden. Cast: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Ted Levine, Maura Tierney, Michael C. Hall.
The Tomorrow Man / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Noble Jones, Producers: Luke Rivett, Nicolaas Bertelsen, James Schamus, Tony Lipp) — Ed Hemsler spends his life preparing for a disaster that may never come. Ronnie Meisner spends her life shopping for things she may never use. In a small town somewhere in America, these two people will try to find love while trying not to get lost in each other’s stuff. Cast: John Lithgow, Blythe Danner, Derek Cecil, Katie Aselton, Sophie Thatcher, Eve Harlow. Comments: “First time director prepares for the end of the world – popular and smart.”
Top End Wedding / Australia (Director: Wayne Blair, Screenwriters: Joshua Tyler, Miranda Tapsell, Producers: Rosemary Blight, Kylie du Fresne, Kate Croser) — Lauren and Ned are engaged, they are in love, and they have just ten days to find Lauren's mother who has gone AWOL somewhere in the remote far north of Australia, reunite her parents and pull off their dream wedding. Cast: Miranda Tapsell, Gwilym Lee, Kerry Fox, Huw Higginson, Ursula Yovich, Shari Sebbens. Comments: “Fun comedy and road trip— emotional and easy.”
Troupe Zero / U.S.A. (Director: Bert & Bertie, Screenwriter: Lucy Alibar, Producers: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch, Alex Siskin, Viola Davis) — In rural 1977 Georgia, a misfit girl dreams of life in outer space. When a national competition offers her a chance at her dream, to be recorded on NASA’s Golden Record, she recruits a makeshift troupe of Birdie Scouts, forging friendships that last a lifetime and beyond. Cast: Viola Davis, McKenna Grace, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Epps, Charlie Shotwell, Allison Janney. Comments: “Outsider comedy with super sweet girl power and science.”
DOCUMENTARY WORLD PREMIERES
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Stanley Nelson, Producers: Nicole London, Stanley Nelson) — A visionary, innovator, and originator who defied categorization and embodied the word cool: a foray into the life and career of musical and cultural icon Miles Davis.
Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins / U.S.A. (Director: Janice Engel, Screenwriters: Janice Engel, Monique Zavistovski, Producers: James Egan, Janice Engel, Carlisle Vandervoort) — Molly Ivins was six feet of flame-haired Texas trouble, a prescient political journalist, best-selling author and Bill of Rights warrior. She took no prisoners, leaving both sides of the aisle laughing and craving more of her razor-sharp wit. Comments: “It's time to Raise Hell like Molly. We have to laugh!”
The Great Hack / U.S.A. (Directors: Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim, Screenwriters: Karim Amer, Erin Barnett, Pedro Kos, Producers: Karim Amer, Geralyn Dreyfous, Judy Korin) — Data, arguably the world’s most valuable asset, is being weaponized to wage cultural and political wars. The dark world of data exploitation is uncovered through the unpredictable personal journeys of players on different sides of the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data story. Comments: “Huge story, still unpacking and exploding. Fiscally sponsored by Utah Film Center.”
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley / U.S.A. (Director: Alex Gibney, Producers: Jessie Deeter, Erin Edeiken, Alex Gibney) — With a magical new invention that promised to revolutionize blood testing, Elizabeth Holmes became the world's youngest self-made billionaire, heralded as the next Steve Jobs. Then, overnight, her $10- billion-dollar company dissolved. The rise and fall of Theranos is a window into the psychology of fraud.
Untouchable / U.S.A. (Director: Ursula Macfarlane, Producers: Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn, Poppy Dixon) — The inside story of the rise and fall of Harvey Weinstein reveals how, over decades, he acquires and protects his power even as scandal threatens to engulf him. Former colleagues and accusers detail the method and consequences of his alleged abuse, hoping for justice and to inspire change. Comments: “The most anticipated DOC.”
Words from a Bear / U.S.A. (Director: Jeffrey Palmer, Producer: Jeffrey Palmer) — A visual journey into the mind and soul of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Navarro Scott Momaday, relating each written line to his unique Native American experience representing ancestry, place, and oral history.
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch / Canada (Directors: Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, Edward Burtynsky, Screenwriter: Jennifer Baichwal, Producer: Nicholas de Pencier) — From concrete seawalls in China that cover 60% of the mainland coast to the biggest terrestrial machines ever built in Germany, to psychedelic potash mines in Russia’s Ural Mountains, to conservation sanctuaries in Kenya, the filmmakers have traversed the globe to document the evidence and experience of human planetary domination. International Premiere.
Maiden / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Alex Holmes, Producers: Victoria Gregory, Alex Holmes) — The incredible, against-all-odds story of sailor Tracy Edwards, who skippered the first all-female international crew in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. U.S. Premiere.
The Biggest Little Farm / U.S.A. (Director: John Chester, Screenwriters: Mark Monroe, John Chester, Producers: Sandra Keats, John Chester) — Two dreamers and a dog embark on an odyssey to bring harmony to their lives and the land. As their plan to create perfect harmony takes a series of wild turns, they will have to reach a far greater understanding of the intricacies and wisdom of nature, and life itself. Utah Premiere. Comments:” Impact film/radio west through the lens – A B-12 Shot in the Bum!”
The Nightingale / Australia (Director and screenwriter: Jennifer Kent, Producers: Kristina Ceyton, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutenski, Jennifer Kent) — 1825. Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer through the Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of Aboriginal tracker Billy, who is marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past. Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Harry Greenwood, Ewen Leslie. North American Premiere.
Give Me Liberty / U.S.A. (Director: Kirill Mikhanovsky, Screenwriters: Alice Austen, Kirill Mikhanovsky, Producers: Alice Austen, George Rush, Walter S. Hall, Michael Manasseri, Sergey Shtern, Val Abel) — When a riot breaks out in Milwaukee, America's most segregated city, medical transport driver Vic is torn between his promise to get a group of elderly Russians to a funeral and his desire to help Tracy, a young black woman with ALS. Cast: Lauren "Lolo" Spencer, Chris Galust, Maksim Stoyanov, Darya Ekamasova. World Premiere. Comments: “Kindness and the need for community – totally charming.”
Sister Aimee / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Samantha Buck, Marie Schlingmann, Producers: Bettina Barrow, David Hartstein, Katherine Harper) — In 1926 America’s most famous evangelist is a woman. And she’s looking for a way out. Fed up with her own success, she gets swept up in her lover’s daydreams about Mexico and finds herself on a wild road trip towards the border. Cast: Anna Margaret Hollyman, Michael Mosley, Andrea Suarez Paz, Julie White, Macon Blair, Amy Hargreaves. World Premiere. Comments: “Based on true events. Mostly made up. Fun and funny!”
The Infiltrators / U.S.A. (Directors: Alex Rivera, Cristina Ibarra, Screenwriters: Alex Rivera, Aldo Velasco, Producers: Cristina Ibarra, Alex Rivera, Darren Dean) — A ragtag group of undocumented youth – Dreamers – deliberately get detained by Border Patrol in order to infiltrate a shadowy, for-profit detention center. Cast: Maynor Alvarado, Manuel Uriza, Chelsea Rendon, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Vik Sahay. World Premiere. Comments: “Undocumented and unafraid -The Dreamers.”
The Wolf Hour / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Alistair Banks Griffin, Producers: Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Bailey Conway Anglewicz, Bradley Pilz) — Once a known counterculture figure, June E. Leigh now lives in self-imposed exile in her South Bronx apartment during the incendiary '77 Summer of Sam. When an unseen tormentor begins exploiting June’s weaknesses, her insular universe begins to unravel. Cast: Naomi Watts, Emory Cohen, Jennifer Ehle, Kelvin Harrison Jr. World Premiere. Comments: “Classic Hitchcock thriller and completely terrifying.”
This section of the Festival is especially for our youngest independent film fans. Programmed in cooperation with Utah Film Center, which presents the annual Tumbleweeds Film Festival, Utah’s premiere film festival for children and youth. Films that have played in this category in recent years include Science Fair, My Life as a Zucchini, The Eagle Huntress and Shaun the Sheep.
Abe / Brazil (Director: Fernando Grostein Andrade, Screenwriters: Lameece Issaq, Jacob Kader, Producers: Carlos Eduardo Ciampolini, Noberto Pinheiro Jr., Caio Gullane, Fabiano Gullane) — The Israeli-Jewish side of his family calls him Avram. The Palestinian-Muslim side Ibrahim. His first-generation American agnostic lawyer parents call him Abraham. But the 12-year-old kid from Brooklyn who loves food and cooking, prefers, well, Abe. Just Abe. Cast: Noah Schnapp, Seu Jorge Mário da Silva, Mark Margolis, Dagmara Dominczyk, Arian Moayed, Tom Mardirosian. World Premiere.
The Elephant Queen / United Kingdom, Kenya (Directors: Victoria Stone, Mark Deeble, Screenwriter: Mark Deeble, Producers: Victoria Stone, Lucinda Englehart) — Athena is a mother who will do everything in her power to protect her herd when they are forced to leave their waterhole and embark on an epic journey across the African savannah in a tale of love, loss and coming home. U.S. Premiere.
THE WITCH HUNTERS / Serbia, Macedonia (Director: Rasko Miljkovic, Screenwriters: Marko Manojlovic, Milos Kreckovic, Producer: Jovana Karaulic) — 10- year-old Jovan is often escaping reality to immerse himself into a fantasy world. It all changes when he befriends his new classmate Milica and the adventure to hunt her 'witch' stepmother starts. U.S. Premiere.