Why It’s Hot: Before they moved into the White House, Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson were just two young people going on their first date in Chicago. It’s a fascinating entry point for a movie about the President and First Lady. We know how their story ends, but buyers are very curious how it began. Does Michelle kiss on the first date? We can’t wait to find out…
Why It’s Hot: Between his low budgets and his loyal following, Kevin Smith’s movies are attractive to buyers, especially if Johnny Depp co-stars. “Tusk” was divisive but we loved it and can’t wait for this follow-up, which seems a bit more accessible and commercial than a movie about a human walrus.
Why It’s Hot: This family dramedy finds Krasinski’s character returning home to his small town where his mother is about to undergo surgery. The star-studded ensemble makes the film a high priority for buyers, who are expected to pounce before the credits roll.
Why It’s Hot: Netflix bought worldwide SVOD rights for $7 million, but the film’s theatrical rights are still available. The splashy Netflix deal, rumored to be the biggest pre-festival acquisition in the history of Sundance, suggests that interest will be high among indie distributors who aren’t beholden to output deals.
Why It’s Hot: It’s the opening night film, and surely Sundance wouldn’t program a dud. While Shannon plays Plemons’ dying mother, Kelly is a “Saturday Night Live” writer, so expect a little levity in the proceedings. Plemons has earned no shortage of goodwill thanks to “Fargo,” “Breaking Bad” and “Friday Night Lights.” Perhaps this is the project that makes him a movie star.
Why It’s Hot: Reichardt has earned a loyal following in indie circles thanks to her previous films with Williams -- “Wendy and Lucy” and “Meek’s Cutoff.” Kristen Stewart’s indies have been hit-and-miss at the box office, but she’s still a high-profile actress, so if the film delivers dramatically, buyers will be ready to open their checkbooks.
Why It’s Hot: Lonergan is one of indie cinema’s most-respected filmmakers whose work appeals to prestige distributors. This film was initially set to star Matt Damon before Casey Affleck took over, though Damon is still credited as a producer. “Manchester” was shot by indie darling DP Jody Lee Lipes, who represents another attractive element amid the high-profile package.
Why It’s Hot: This project has been in the works for more than a decade. It’s based on a shocking memoir by Brad Land, who recounted a terrifying assault and his experience pledging his brother's college fraternity. The film explores the issue of hazing and how that brutal annual ritual tests the siblings’ bond. James Franco produced “Goat” with Killer Films and David Gordon Green wrote the script, so expect this one to be a must-see for seasoned buyers who like their indies with an edge.
Why It’s Hot: Rebecca Hall is said to give a devastating performance as Christine Chubbuck, a depressed TV reporter who shot herself live on the air in the 1970s. It’s a fascinating story and Campos’ most accessible movie to date. His other, more challenging films found distribution and they didn’t have the star power “Christine” boasts, so expect some smart buyer to take it off the table quickly if reviews are positive.
Why It’s Hot: The logline alone -- a champion college quizzing team tries to win the all-India finals and lose their virginities -- had us in stitches, and the controversial Indian filmmaker known simply as Q doesn't play it safe. This could end up being this year’s “Napoleon Dynamite” if advance buzz is any indication. Buyers shouldn’t underestimate the audience for a movie like “Brahman Naman,” which is in English but could still lend itself to an American remake.
"Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown to Off the Wall"
Why It’s Hot: Sundance is the undisputed king of indie cinema, and director Linklater is among its filmmaking royalty. This documentary examines his impact on the indie world, from making “Slacker” in Texas in the early '90s to directing "Dazed and Confused," "Waking Life” and “Boyhood.” His work has inspired a generation of filmmakers to try their hand at DIY-filmmaking. The Sundance crowd should eat it up.
"The Lovers and the Despot"
Director: Ross Adam and Robert Cannan
Why It’s Hot: This strange-but-true story follows a famous director and actress who are kidnapped by movie-obsessed dictator Kim Jong-il and forced to make films in North Korea, where they get a second chance at love, but only one chance at escape. With a gloriously bizarre premise like that, this documentary promises to be fascinating.
"Under the Gun"
Director: Stephanie Soechtig
Why It’s Hot: Produced by Katie Couric, this doc about gun violence is guaranteed to generate controversy, which might as well be music to buyers’ ears. It gives distributors something to sell. “Under the Gun” examines the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre and includes never-before-seen footage from the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. It’s probably the hottest documentary at Sundance this year, so don’t miss it.
Director: Will Allen
Why It’s Hot: Sundance played a savvy publicity game with this title, initially keeping Allen’s identity a secret. He eventually came forward to claim responsibility, but his reluctance is understandable. The film takes an inside look at a West Hollywood cult formed by a charismatic teacher in the 1980s that eventually imploded. We don’t know what kind of cult is depicted in the movie, but we’re guessing he didn’t want to get on its bad side.