The Sundance Film Festival announced the addition of 10 new titles to its 2015 program, which features 123 feature-length films and represents 29 countries. The two additions to the premiere category, “True Story” and “A Walk in the Woods,” appear to have increased the festival's already potent acquisition market and star power.
Directed by English theater and TV director Rupert Goold, “True Story” centers on the strange relationship that developed between former New York Times reporter Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) and convicted murderer Christian Longo (James Franco). Felicity Jones also stars. This is one film that won't be available for acquisition. New Regency has financed the thriller and Fox Searchlight will distribute.
“A Walk in the Woods” features Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as “estranged” buddies who set out to hike the 2,100-mile Appalachian trail. This senior citizens' “Wild” has an intriguing cast, including Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman and Kristen Schaal. It's not surprising this title debut will be part of the festival's yearly Salt Lake City screenings.
The Sundance Kids program now has three more titles including the international premiere of Aardman Animation's stop-motion “Shaun the Sheep,” the Norwegian adventure “Operation: Arctic” and the fantasy flick “The Games Maker,” which stars Joseph Fiennes and, no joke, Ed Asner.
A Romanian comedy, “Pioneer's Palace,” has been announced as a special event. You can get a sneak peek of the 1992-set film in the video at the top of this post.
Additionally, Sundance will be screening a new DCP from 16mm elements of the legendary 1990 documentary “Paris is Burning.” If you're attending the festival and have never seen it on the big screen, we cannot recommend it more highly.
Notable late additions to the festival in previous years include Best Picture nominee “The Kids Are All Right,” Miranda July's “The Future” and last year's sneak of Richard Linklater's “Boyhood,” which effectively became the world premiere.
More details on the aforementioned movies as well as New Frontier additions (which includes an odd “Wild” tie-in) can be found on the next page.
“A Walk in the Woods”
Director: Ken Kwapis, Screenwriters: Rick Kerb, Bill Holderman
An aging travel writer sets out to hike the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail with a long-estranged high school buddy. Along the way, the duo face off with each other, nature, and an eccentric assortment of characters. Together, they learn that some roads are better left untraveled.
Cast: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman, Kristen Schaal.
World Premiere. SALT LAKE CITY GALA FILM.
Director: Rupert Goold, Screenwriters: Rupert Goold, David Kajganich
When disgraced New York Times reporter Michael Finkel meets accused killer Christian Longo – who has taken on Finkel”s identity – his investigation morphs into an unforgettable game of cat and mouse. Based on actual events, Finkel”s relentless pursuit of Longo”s true story encompasses murder, love, deceit, and redemption.
Cast: Jonah Hill, James Franco, Felicity Jones.
This section of the Festival is especially for our youngest independent film fans. Programmed in cooperation with Tumbleweeds, Utah”s premiere film festival for children and youth.
“The Games Maker”
Argentina, Canada, Italy
Director and screenwriter: Juan Pablo Buscarini
Ivan Drago's love of board games catapults him into the fantastical world of game invention and pits him against the inventor Morodian, who wants to destroy the city of Zyl. To save his family, Ivan must come to know what it is to be a true Games Maker. Cast: David Mazouz, Joseph Fiennes, Ed Asner, Megan Charpentier, Tom Cavanagh, Valentina Lodovini.
*This film has already opened in a number of South American markets.
Director and screenwriter: Grethe Bøe-Waal
This modern-day Robinson Crusoe adventure is set in the Arctic. Through a misunderstanding, 13-year-old Julia and her eight-year-old twin siblings, Ida and Sindre, are left on a deserted island. The children have to find ways to survive, battling fierce winter weather, hungry polar bears, and loneliness.
Cast: Kaisa Gurine Antonsen, Ida Leonora Valestrand Eike, Leonard Valestrand Eike, Nicolai Cleve Broch, Kristofer Hivju, Line Verndal.
**This film has already opened in Norway.
“Shaun the Sheep”
Directors and screenwriters: Richard Starzak, Mark Burton
When Shaun's mischief inadvertently leads to the Farmer being taken away from the farm, Shaun, Bitzer and the flock have to go into the big city to rescue him, setting the stage for an epic adventure.
***This film will have its world premiere in the U.K., but the Sundance premiere is still a week before it opens overseas.
“Pioneers Palace B'92”
Director and screenwriter: Bobby Paunescu
In the wild days of post-Ceausescu Bucharest, teenagers open a disco at their high school, terrified of an AIDS scare after their visit to a local brothel. Part of the Festival”s new Art of Film program, Pioneers Palace B'92 was produced by film students and supported by Mandragora Film Academy together with Solar Indie Junction.
Cast: Toto Dumitrescu, Mihai Dorobantu, Maria Bata, Dragos Savulescu, Alice Halpert, Alice Peneaca.
The following installations will be featured in The VR works of Felix & Paul, a showcase of groundbreaking live-action virtual reality experiences by artists Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël in the Festival”s New Frontier exhibition.
Artists: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël
Mongolian pastoral herders are one of the world's last remaining nomadic cultures. For millennia they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the grasslands. Through a series of virtual reality experiences, the viewer is invited into the reality of a nomadic family of yak herders.
“Strangers with Patrick Watson”
Artists: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël, Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski
Strangers with Patrick Watson invites the viewer to spend an intimate moment with celebrated Montreal musician Patrick Watson at work in his studio loft on a winter”s day. Cast: Patrick Watson.
“WILD – The Experience”
Artists: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël
Fox Searchlight and the Fox Innovation Lab present this virtual reality experience drawing from the film “Wild.” Viewers enter a fully immersive media environment to join an intimate moment on the Pacific Crest Trail between a woman, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon), and her mother, Bobbi (Laura Dern), a vision from the afterlife.
FROM THE COLLECTION
A selection from The Sundance Collection at UCLA, a film preservation program established in 1997. The Collection is specifically devoted to the preservation of independent documentaries, narratives and short films supported by Sundance Institute and has grown to nearly 2,300 holdings representing 1,800 titles, including recent additions such as El Mariachi, Winter”s Bone, Johnny Suede, Working Girls, Crumb, Groove, Better This World, The Oath and Paris, Texas. Titles are generously donated by individual filmmakers, distributors and studios.
“Paris is Burning”
Director: Jennie Livingston
Paris is Burning visits black and Latino drag balls of the 1980s in New York City, where at raucous celebrations, rival Houses create intense competition and provide deep sustenance. This world within a world is instantly familiar, filled with intense yearnings for “Realness” that reflects America itself.
Cast: Dorian Corey, Freddie Pendavis, Pepper Labeija, Junior Labeija, Venus Xtravaganza, Willi Ninja.
The screening will feature a DCP of the new digital restoration of Paris is Burning created from original 16mm elements. This recent effort restores the feature to the original uncropped aspect ratio. The project represents the collaborative efforts of the Sundance Institute, the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, and UCLA Film & Television Archive, with permission of Miramax.
The 2015 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 22-Feb. 1. Look for complete coverage on HitFix for the duration of the festival.