How important is the Sundance Film Festival's NEXT program? The yearly slate of edgier fare has led to critically acclaimed art house hits such as “Obvious Child,” “Listen Up Phillip” and “Sound of My Voice.” It also has inspired the Los Angeles-based Sundance Next Festival, which just wrapped up its second edition this past August. So while it may not have the prestige of the U.S. dramatic competition, NEXT films are something any movie lover should pay attention to.
Along with the top competition categories, the Sundance Institute announced the NEXT slate for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and it features some indie star power. Kristen Wiig stars in Sundance alum Sebastian Silva's “Nasty Baby” (which makes it back-to-back festivals for the “Skeleton Twins” star), John C. Reilly and Michael Cera appear in the comedy “Entertainment” and former “Girls” star Chris Abbott and Cynthia Nixon star in Josh Mond's “James White.” Perhaps most notably, Troy, N.Y. gets its moment in the spotlight in “H.” which, according to the festival's description, centers on “two women, each named Helen, [who] find their lives spinning out of control after a meteor allegedly explodes over” the city.
The complete NEXT slate for Sundance 2015 on the next page.
“Bob and the Trees”
Director: Diego Ongaro, Screenwriters: Diego Ongaro, Courtney Maum, Sasha Statman-Weil
Bob, a 50-year-old logger in rural Massachusetts with a soft spot for golf and gangsta rap, is struggling to make ends meet in a changed economy. When his beloved cow is wounded and a job goes awry, Bob begins to heed the instincts of his ever-darkening self.
Cast: Bob Tarasuk, Matt Gallagher, Polly MacIntyre, Winthrop Barrett, Nathaniel Gregory. World Premiere
Director and screenwriter: Charles Poekel
A heartbroken Christmas tree salesman returns to New York, hoping to put the past year behind him. He spends the season living in a trailer and working the night shift, until a mysterious woman and some colorful customers rescue him from self-destruction.
Cast: Kentucker Audley, Hannah Gross, Jason Shelton, Oona Roche.
North American Premiere
Director and screenwriter: Michael Larnell
Twenty-two-year-old Louis doesn”t know whether his childhood friendship with Jack will last beyond today.
Cast: George Sample III, Zurich Buckner, Brian Kowalski.
Director: Rick Alverson, Screenwriters: Rick Alverson, Gregg Turkington, Tim Heidecker
En route to meeting with his estranged daughter, in an attempt to revive his dwindling career, a broken, aging comedian plays a string of dead-end shows in the Mojave Desert. Cast: Gregg Turkington, John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera, Amy Seimetz, Lotte Verbeek.
Directors and screenwriters: Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia
Two women, each named Helen, find their lives spinning out of control after a meteor allegedly explodes over their city of Troy, New York.
Cast: Robin Bartlett, Rebecca Dayan, Will Janowitz, Julian Gamble, Roger Robinson.
Director and screenwriter: Josh Mond
A young New Yorker struggles to take control of his reckless, self-destructive behavior in the face of momentous family challenges.
Cast: Chris Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Scott Mescudi, Makenzie Leigh, David Call.
Director and screenwriter: Sebastian Silva
A gay couple try to have a baby with the help of their best friend, Polly. The trio navigates the idea of creating life while confronted by unexpected harassment from a neighborhood man called The Bishop. As their clashes grow increasingly aggressive, odds are someone is getting hurt.
Cast: Sebastian Silva, Tunde Adebimpe, Kristin Wiig, Reg E. Cathey, Mark Margolis, Denis O'Hare.
“The Strongest Man”
Director and screenwriter: Kenny Riches
An anxiety-ridden Cuban man who fancies himself the strongest man in the world attempts to recover his most prized possession, a stolen bicycle. On his quest, he finds and loses much more.
Cast: Robert Lorie, Paul Chamberlain, Ashly Burch, Patrick Fugit, Lisa Banes.
“Take Me to the River”
Director and screenwriter: Matt Sobel
A naive California teen plans to remain above the fray at his Nebraskan family reunion, but a strange encounter places him at the center of a long-buried family secret.
Cast: Logan Miller, Robin Weigert, Josh Hamilton, Richard Schiff, Ursula Parker, Azura Skye.
Director: Sean Baker, Screenwriters: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.
Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O'Hagan, Alla Tumanyan, James Ransone.
The 2015 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 22 through Feb. 1, 2015. Look for complete coverage from Park City on HitFix.