November 28, 2012

Sundance 2013: The Announcements Begin


Sundance, like most major film festivals, makes an extended process out of the unveiling of its yearly offerings, and today the festival announced its 2013 competition entries (fiction and documentary, US and foreign), as well as the avant-garde NEXT category.  The really high-profile Premieres and the sometimes more commercial Midnight titles are among those still to come.

The full list of films can be found at the Sundance Festival website, but below are some of the more immediately intriguing titles:

AFTERNOON DELIGHT:  The directing debut of longtime writer Jill Soloway (6 Feet Under, Grey’s Anatomy, The United States of Tara) is a comedy about an LA housewife (Kathryn Hahn) who hires a stripper (Juno Temple) as her child’s nanny.

AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS:  Dragon Tattoo star Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck in David Lowery’s story of a prison escapee.

AUSTENLAND:  A romantic comedy about a woman (Keri Russell) obsessed with Jane Austen who travels to England, from the co-writer of Napoleon Dynamite, Jerusha Hess.

C.O.G.:  Kyle Patrick Alvarez becomes the first filmmaker to adapt David Sedaris’ writing for the screen, with a cast that includes Denis O’Hare, Casey Wilson and Jonathan Groff.

EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES:  In Francesca Gregorini’s film, Emanuel is a girl who babysits for a woman who resembles her dead mother, and enters a “fragile, fictional world,” whatever that means.

IN A WORLD… :  Apart from playing the leading role, Lake Bell makes her writing/directing debut as the daughter of a voiceover legend.

KILL YOUR DARLINGS:  Certainly one of the more interesting premises of the competing films.  Based on a true story about a 1940s murder that brought together Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs for the first time.  The cast includes Daniel Radcliffe, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston and Sundance darling Elizabeth Olsen.

THE SPECTACULAR NOW:  James Ponsoldt, the director of the underseen Smashed, is back at Sundance with a story about a high school student who attempts to “save” a shy fellow student.  The cast includes Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larson and Smashed‘s Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

TOUCHY FEELY:  Lynn Shelton has directed some of the more interesting micro-budgeted movies of recent years (Humpday, Your Sister’s Sister), and her new comedy is about a masseuse who develops an aversion to bodily contact, with Rosemarie DeWitt and Ellen Page.

UPSTREAM COLOR:  Shane Carruth’s Primer is one of the most famous (if not the most lucrative) Sundance award winners, and he’s back with what sounds like another geekfest, this time about a man and woman “entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism,” whatever that means.

NARCO CULTURA:  The festival documentaries appear to be mostly built around the familiar topics of economic disparity, covert wars, abortion, politics and disease.  Shaul Schwartz’s film sounds like it approaches the subject of the eternal drug war from a fresh perspective, tracking its effects on pop culture.

BLACKFISH:  Another unusual documentary, this one by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, about a killer whale who’s been responsible for 3 deaths while in captivity.

CRYSTAL FAIRY:  A Chilean film from Sebastian Silva, about a road trip to a “Mescaline-fueled psychadelic” experience.

HOUSTON:  An alcoholic German headhunter in Texas, from director Bastian Gunther.

WHAT THEY DON’T TALK ABOUT WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT LOVE:  An Indonesian film that seems, on the face of it, to define “film festival movie,” concerned as it is with “love and deception among the blind, the deaf and the unlucky sighted people at a high school for the visually impaired.”

GOOGLE AND THE WORLD BRAIN:  A Spanish/British documentary by Ben Lewis about Google’s project to scan all the world’s books onto the internet–including the copyrighted ones.

PUSSY RIOT–A PUNK PRAYER:  A Russian/British film by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin about the controversial Russian group and the government crackdown on it.

BLUE CAPRICE:  Isiah Washington in Alexandre Moors’ drama inspired by the Beltway sniper killings.

COMPUTER CHESS:  Director Andrew Bujalski was one of the original notables of the “mumblecore” movement, but while colleagues like the Duplass brothers and Lynn Shelton have gone more mainstream, Bujalski is still part of the “NEXT” category.  His new film is a period comedy about the computer programmers who taught their machines to play.

ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW:  Now this sounds like a Sundance movie:  Randy Moore’s “postmodern, surreal voyage into the bowels of ‘family’ entertainment.”

MILKSHAKE:  In the 1990s, a distant descendant of Al Jolson tries to be black, in David Andalman’s film.

SHOWBUZZDAILY will be at Sundance for the back half of the festival, starting January 22.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."