The Sundance Institute unveiled its competitive slates for the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, a diverse collection of features and documentaries packed with movie stars, litigious pro wrestlers and some promising newcomers.
The U.S. Dramatic Competition has some familiar faces, like Jennifer Aniston dialing back from her modern rom-com niche and stepping into “The Yellow Birds,” about a young soldier in the Gulf War grappling with tragedy. She costars with Han Solo himself, Alden Ehrenreich, and Jack Huston.
Following their celebrated “Obvious Child,” actress Jenny Slate and director Gillian Robespierre re-team for the nostalgic “Landline,” a ’90s tale of a morally questionable Manhattan family that co-stars Edie Falco, John Turturro, Jay Duplass and “American Horror Story” alum Finn Wittrock.
Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen will take their “Ingrid Goes West” to Park City, Utah, a Matt Spicer spec about a young woman obsessed with a social media star she ogles on her smartphone from afar. “SNL” alum Kyle Mooney also makes a star turn in “Brigsby Bear Adventures” with Claire Danes, “Star Wars” vet Mark Hamill and Greg Kinnear.
Making her directorial debut is Marti Noxon, a longtime TV vet who was a prominent writer on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and eventual creator of Lifetime’s “UnREAL.” She’ll hit the slopes with the anorexia drama “To the Bone” starring Lily Collins.
“Life in Pieces” actress Zoe Lister-Jones also makes her directorial debut with “Band Aid,” about a bickering couple who channel their issues into an indie band. She’ll star with Adam Pally, Fred Armisen and “New Girl” star Hannah Simone.
On the documentary side, the Hulk Hogan-Gawker saga is front and center with “Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press.” The Brian Knappenberger film examines the media circus that pit privacy rights against freedom of the press.
Pete Nicks also turns his lens on “The Force,” specifically the Oakland Police Department as it contends with community uprisings in the months following the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
In addition to the Dramatic and Documentary competition, Sundance also released a slate from its Next program. Read the full list of competition titles:
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Director and screenwriter: Zoe Lister-Jones)
A couple who can’t stop fighting embark on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage: turning their fights into songs and starting a band.
Cast: Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen, Susie Essman, Hannah Simone, Ravi Patel. World Premiere
Director and screenwriter: Eliza Hittman
An aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn struggles to escape his bleak home life and navigate questions of self-identity, as he balances his time between his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend, and older men he meets online.
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge, Neal Huff. World Premiere
Director: Dave McCary, Screenwriters: Kevin Costello, Kyle Mooney
Brigsby Bear Adventures is a children’s TV show produced for an audience of one: James. When the show abruptly ends, James’s life changes forever, and he sets out to finish the story himself. Cast: Kyle Mooney, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins. World Premiere
Director: Gerard McMurray, Screenwriters: Christine Berg, Gerard McMurray
Deep into a fraternity’s Hell Week, a favored pledge is torn between honoring a code of silence or standing up against the intensifying violence of underground hazing.
Cast: Trevor Jackson, Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Tosin Cole, DeRon Horton, Trevante Rhodes. World Premiere
Director and screenwriter: Matt Ruskin
When Colin Warner is wrongfully convicted of murder, his best friend, Carl King, devotes his life to proving Colin’s innocence. Adapted from This American Life, this is the incredible true story of their harrowing quest for justice.
Cast: Keith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, Natalie Paul, Bill Camp, Nestor Carbonell, Amari Cheatom. World Premiere
Director and screenwriter: Alex Ross Perry
The arrival of a young foreign girl disrupts the lives and emotional balances of two Brooklyn families.
Cast: Emily Browning, Adam Horovitz, Mary-Louise Parker, Lily Rabe, Jason Schwartzman, Chloë Sevigny. World Premiere
Director: Brett Haley, Screenwriters: Brett Haley, Marc Basch
Lee, a former Western film icon, is living a comfortable existence lending his golden voice to advertisements and smoking weed. After receiving a lifetime achievement award and unexpected news, Lee reexamines his past, while a chance meeting with a sardonic comic has him looking to the future.
Cast: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman, Katherine Ross. World Premiere
“I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore”
Director and screenwriter: Macon Blair
When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves, alongside her obnoxious neighbor. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals.
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye. World Premiere. DAY ONE
“Ingrid Goes West”
Director: Matt Spicer, Screenwriters: Matt Spicer, David Branson Smith
A young woman becomes obsessed with an Instagram lifestyle blogger and moves to Los Angeles to try and befriend her in real life.
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen. World Premiere
Director: Gillian Robespierre, Screenwriters: Elisabeth Holm, Gillian Robespierre
Two sisters come of age in ’90s New York when they discover their dad’s affair–and it turns out he’s not the only cheater in the family. Everyone still smokes inside, no one has a cell phone and the Jacobs finally connect through lying, cheating and hibachi.
Cast: Jenny Slate, John Turturro, Edie Falco, Abby Quinn, Jay Duplass, Finn Wittrock. World Premiere
Director and screenwriter: Maggie Betts
In the early 1960s, during the Vatican II era, a young woman training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, sexuality and the changing church.
Cast: Margaret Qualley, Melissa Leo, Julianne Nicholson, Dianna Agron, Morgan Saylor. World Premiere
Director and screenwriter: Geremy Jasper
Straight out of Jersey comes Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, an aspiring rapper fighting through a world of strip malls and strip clubs on an unlikely quest for glory.
Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty. World Premiere
Director and screenwriter: Michael Larnell
The most feared battle emcee in early-’80s NYC was a fierce teenager from the Queensbridge projects with the weight of the world on her shoulders. At age 14, hustling the streets to provide for her family, Roxanne Shanté was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend.
Cast: Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco, Kevin Phillips, Shenell Edmonds. World Premiere
“To the Bone”
Director and screenwriter: Marti Noxon
In a last-ditch effort to battle her severe anorexia, 20-year-old Ellen enters a group recovery home. With the help of an unconventional doctor, Ellen and the other residents go on a sometimes-funny, sometimes-harrowing journey that leads to the ultimate question– is life worth living?
Cast: Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, Alex Sharp, Liana Liberato. World Premiere
Directors and screenwriters: Alex Smith, Andrew Smith
A father and son struggle to connect on any level until a brutal encounter with a predator in the heart of the wilderness leaves them both seriously injured. If they are to survive, the boy must carry his father to safety.
Cast: Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins, Bill Pullman, Alex Neustaedter, Lily Gladstone. World Premiere
“The Yellow Birds”
Director: Alexandre Moors, Screenwriter: David Lowery
Two young men enlist in the army and are deployed to fight in the Gulf War. After an unthinkable tragedy, the surviving soldier struggles to balance his promise of silence with the truth and a mourning mother’s search for peace.
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Jack Huston, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Patric, Toni Collette, Jennifer Aniston. World Premiere
U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Director: Kitty Green
The unsolved death of six-year-old American beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey remains the world’s most sensational child murder case. Over 15 months, responses, reflections and performances were elicited from the Ramsey’s Colorado hometown community, creating a bold work of art from the collective memories and mythologies the crime inspired. World Premiere
Director: Jeff Orlowski
Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world. World Premiere.
“City of Ghosts”
Director: Matthew Heineman
With unprecedented access, this documentary follows the extraordinary journey of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently”–a group of anonymous citizen journalists who banded together after their homeland was overtaken by ISIS–as they risk their lives to stand up against one of the greatest evils in the world today. World Premiere
Directors: Dan Sickles, Antonio Santini
An eccentric suburban woman and a Walmart door- greeter navigate their evolving relationship in this unconventional love story. World Premiere
Dolores Huerta bucks 1950s gender conventions by co-founding the country’s first farmworkers’ union. Wrestling with raising 11 children, gender bias, union defeat and victory, and nearly dying after a San Francisco Police beating, Dolores emerges with a vision that connects her newfound feminism with racial and class justice. World Premiere
Director: Pete Nicks
This cinema verité look at the long-troubled Oakland Police Department goes deep inside their struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson and an explosive scandal. World Premiere
Director: Bryan Fogel
When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death and Olympic Gold–exposing the biggest scandal in sports history. World Premiere
“The New Radical”
Director: Adam Bhala Lough
Uncompromising millennial radicals from the United States and the United Kingdom attack the system through dangerous technological means, which evolves into a high-stakes game with world authorities in the midst of a dramatically changing political landscape. World Premiere
“NOBODY SPEAK: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press”
Director: Brian Knappenberger
The trial between Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media pitted privacy rights against freedom of the press, and raised important questions about how big money can silence media. This film is an examination of the perils and duties of the free press in an age of inequality. World Premiere
Director: Jonathan Olshefski
For over a decade, this portrait of a North Philadelphia family and the creative sanctuary offered by their home music studio was filmed with vérité intimacy. The family’s 10- year journey is an illumination of race and class in America, and it’s a testament to love, healing and hope. World Premiere
Director: Amanda Lipitz
The senior year of a girls’ high school step team in inner-city Baltimore is documented, as they try to become the first in their families to attend college. The girls strive to make their dancing a success against the backdrop of social unrest in their troubled city. World Premiere
Director: Yance Ford
Examining the violent death of the filmmaker’s brother and the judicial system that allowed his killer to go free, this documentary interrogates murderous fear and racialized perception, and re-imagines the wreckage in catastrophe’s wake, challenging us to change. World Premiere
Director: Shaul Schwarz, Co-Director: Christina Clusiau) — This in-depth look into the powerhouse industries of big-game hunting, breeding and wildlife conservation in the U.S. and Africa unravels the complex consequences of treating animals as commodities. World Premiere.
Director: Jennifer Brea
When Harvard PhD student Jennifer Brea is struck down at 28 by a fever that leaves her bedridden, doctors tell her it’s “all in her head.” Determined to live, she sets out on a virtual journey to document her story–and four other families’ stories–fighting a disease medicine forgot. World Premiere
“Water & Power: A California Heist”
Director: Marina Zenovich
In California’s convoluted water system, notorious water barons find ways to structure a state-engineered system to their own advantage. This examination into their centers of power shows small farmers and everyday citizens facing drought and a new, debilitating groundwater crisis. World Premiere.
Whose Streets? / U.S.A. (Director: Sabaah Folayan, Co-Director: Damon Davis) — A nonfiction account of the Ferguson uprising told by the people who lived it, this is an unflinching look at how the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown inspired a community to fight back–and sparked a global movement. World Premiere.
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
“Axolotl Overkill,” Germany
Director and screenwriter: Helene Hegemann
Mifti, age 16, lives in Berlin with a cast of characters including her half-siblings; their rich, self-involved father; and her junkie friend Ophelia. As she mourns her recently deceased mother, she begins to develop an obsession with Alice, an enigmatic, and much older, white-collar criminal.
Cast: Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Arly Jover, Mavie Hörbiger, Laura Tonke, Hans Löw, Bernhard Schütz. World Premiere
“Berlin Syndrome” Australia
Director: Cate Shortland, Screenwriter: Shaun Grant
A passionate holiday romance takes an unexpected and sinister turn when an Australian photographer wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt. World Premiere
“Carpinteros (Woodpeckers),” Dominican Republic
Director and screenwriter: José María Cabral
Julián finds love and a reason for living in the last place imaginable: the Dominican Republic’s Najayo Prison. His romance with fellow prisoner Yanelly must develop through sign language and without the knowledge of dozens of guards.
Cast: Jean Jean, Judith Rodriguez Perez, Ramón Emilio Candelario. World Premiere
“Don’t Swallow My Heart, Alligator Girl!” Brazil, Netherlands, France, Paraguay
Director and screenwriter: Felipe Bragança
In this fable about love and memories, Joca is a 13-year-old Brazilian boy in love with an indigenous Paraguayan girl. To conquer her love, he must face the violent region’s war-torn past and the secrets of his elder brother, Fernando, a motorcycle cowboy.
Cast: Cauã Reymond, Eduardo Macedo, Adeli Gonzales, Zahy Guajajara, Claudia Assunção, Ney Matogrosso. World Premiere
Directors: Alicia Scherson, Cristián Jiménez, Screenwriter: Alejandro Zambra) — While house-sitting for a distant cousin, a lonely man fabricates the existence of a vindictive ex-wife withholding his daughter, in order to gain the sympathy of the single mother he has just met. Cast: Jorge Becker, Gabriela Arancibia, Blanca Lewin, Cristián Carvajal. World Premiere
“Free and Easy,” Hong Kong
Director: Jun Geng, Screenwriters: Jun Geng, Yuhua Feng, Bing Liu) — When a traveling soap salesman arrives in a desolate Chinese town, a crime occurs, and sets the strange residents against each other with tragicomic results.
Cast: Gang Xu, Zhiyong Zhang, Baohe Xue, Benshan Gu, Xun Zhang. World Premiere
“God’s Own Country,” United Kingdom
Director and screenwriter: Francis Lee
Springtime in Yorkshire: isolated young sheep farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker, employed for the lambing season, ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.
Cast: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones. World Premiere
“My Happy Family,” Georgia
Directors: Nana & Simon, Screenwriter: Nana Ekvtimishvili
Tbilisi, Georgia, 2016: In a patriarchal society, an ordinary Georgian family lives with three generations under one roof. All are shocked when 52-year-old Manana decides to move out from her parents’ home and live alone. Without her family and her husband, a journey into the unknown begins.
Cast: Ia Shugliashvili, Merab Ninidze, Berta Khapava, Tsisia Qumsishvili, Giorgi Tabidze, Dimitri Oragvelidze. World Premiere
“The Nile Hilton Incident,” Sweden
Director and screenwriter: Tarik Saleh
In Cairo, weeks before the 2011 revolution, Police Detective Noredin is working in the infamous Kasr el-Nil Police Station when he is handed the case of a murdered singer. He soon realizes that the investigation concerns the power elite, close to the President’s inner circle.
Cast: Fares Fares, Mari Malek, Mohamed Yousry, Yasser Ali Maher, Ahmed Selim, Hania Amar. World Premiere
“Pop Aye,” Singapore, Thailand
Director and screenwriter: Kirsten Tan
On a chance encounter, a disenchanted architect bumps into his long-lost elephant on the streets of Bangkok. Excited, he takes his elephant on a journey across Thailand in search of the farm where they grew up together. Cast: Thaneth Warakulnukroh, Penpak Sirikul, Bong. World Premiere. DAY ONE
“Sueño en otro idioma (I Dream in Another Language),” Mexico
Director: Ernesto Contreras, Screenwriter: Carlos Contreras) — The last two speakers of a millennia-old language haven’t spoken in 50 years, when a young linguist tries to bring them together. Yet hidden in the past, in the heart of the jungle, lies a secret concerning the fate of the Zikril language.
Cast: Fernando Álvarez Rebeil, Eligio Meléndez, Manuel Poncelis, Fátima Molina, Juan Pablo de Santiago, Hoze Meléndez. World Premiere
“The Wound,” South Africa
Director: John Trengove, Screenwriters: John Trengove, Thando Mgqolozana, Malusi Bengu
Xolani, a lonely factory worker, travels to the rural mountains with the men of his community to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers his best-kept secret, a forbidden love, Xolani’s entire existence begins to unravel.
Cast: Nakhane Touré, Bongile Mantsai, Niza Jay Ncoyini. World Premiere
Columbus / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kogonada) — Casey lives with her mother in a little-known Midwestern town haunted by the promise of modernism. Jin, a visitor from the other side of the world, attends to his dying father. Burdened by the future, they find respite in one another and the architecture that surrounds them. Cast: John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey, Rory Culkin, Michelle Forbes. World Premiere
Dayveon / U.S.A. (Director: Amman Abbasi, Screenwriters: Amman Abbasi, Steven Reneau) — In the wake of his older brother’s death, 13-year-old Dayveon spends the sweltering summer days roaming his rural Arkansas town. When he falls in with a local gang, he becomes drawn to the camaraderie and violence of their world. Cast: Devin Blackmon, Kordell “KD” Johnson, Dontrell Bright, Chasity Moore, Lachion Buckingham, Marquell Manning. World Premiere. DAY ONE
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train / U.S.A. (Director: Sydney Freeland, Screenwriter: Shelby Farrell) — Two teenage sisters start robbing trains to make ends meet after their single mother’s emotional meltdown in an electronics store lands her in jail. Cast: Ashleigh Murray, Rachel Crow, Tim Blake Nelson, David Sullivan, Danielle Nicolet, Sasheer Zamata. World Premiere
A Ghost Story / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Lowery) — This is the story of a ghost and the house he haunts. Cast: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham, Sonia Acevedo, Rob Zabrecky, Liz Franke. World Premiere
Gook / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Justin Chon) — Eli and Daniel, two Korean American brothers who own a struggling women’s shoe store, have an unlikely friendship with 11-year-old Kamilla. On the first day of the 1992 L.A. riots, the trio must defend their store–and contemplate the meaning of family, their personal dreams and the future. Cast: Justin Chon, Simone Baker, David So, Curtiss Cook Jr., Sang Chon, Ben Munoz. World Premiere
L.A. Times / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michelle Morgan) — In this classically styled comedy of manners set in Los Angeles, sophisticated thirtysomethings try to determine whether ideal happiness exists in coupledom or if the perfectly suited couple is actually just an urban myth. Cast: Michelle Morgan, Dree Hemingway, Jorma Taccone, Kentucker Audley, Margarita Levieva, Adam Shapiro. World Premiere
Lemon / U.S.A. (Director: Janicza Bravo, Screenwriters: Janicza Bravo, Brett Gelman) — A man watches his life unravel after he is left by his blind girlfriend. Cast: Brett Gelman, Judy Greer, Michael Cera, Nia Long, Shiri Appleby, Fred Melamed. World Premiere
Menashe / U.S.A. (Director: Joshua Z Weinstein, Screenwriters: Joshua Z Weinstein, Alex Lipschultz, Musa Syeed) — Within Brooklyn’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community, a widower battles for custody of his son. A tender drama performed entirely in Yiddish, the film intimately explores the nature of faith and the price of parenthood. Cast: Menashe Lustig. World Premiere
Person to Person / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Dustin Guy Defa) — A record collector hustles for a big score while his heartbroken roommate tries to erase a terrible mistake, a teenager bears witness to her best friend’s new relationship and a rookie reporter, alongside her demanding supervisor, chases the clues of a murder case involving a life-weary clock shop owner. Cast: Abbi Jacobson, Michael Cera, Ben Rosenfield, Tavi Gevinson, Philip Baker Hall, Bene Coopersmith, George Sample III. World Premiere
Thoroughbred / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Cory Finley) — Two teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. In the process, they learn that neither is what she seems to be–and that a murder might solve both of their problems. Cast: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift, Kaili Vernoff. World Premiere