Our Damon Wise heads to Sundance every year, armed with only a notebook, some warm undies and an iron liver, to bring you all the news on this most credible of festivals and its breakout films. This year, after watching a huge number of films during the 10-day Festival, Damo has compiled his choice of the ten best efforts to watch out for, the films that will be burning up our screen over the next year or so. Read on, and learn enough to sound knowledgeable about the coolest films of the next twelve months or so...
Expectations were riding high for Marsh's follow-up to Man On Wire, and some were disappointed by this chilling tale of dark science and even shadier ethics. However, for admirers of all the director's work and not just that wonderful WTC tightrope-walker movie, Project Nim carries his distinctive signature, telling the story of a chimpanzee that was used and abused in a science project which revealed almost nothing about its subject and a lot about the so-called specialists pulling its strings.
When you can see it in the UK: TBC, but sooner rather than later; Icon have UK rights.
Word on this cult thriller went through the festival like wildfire, and its star – previously invisible Olsen sister Elizabeth – became one of the festival's new It Girls (see also: Sound Of My Voice). Playing a frightened girl taking refuge with her sister after fleeing a sinister commune run with an iron rod by Winter's Bone star (and recent Oscar nominee) John Hawkes, Olsen gave one of the performances of the festival – and newcomer director Sean Durkin established himself as a Sundance discovery to watch.
When you can see it in the UK: Probably autumn, Fox Searchlight have UK rights.
Who would have thought that the director of last year's Douchebag would return so quickly with a style so fantastically refined? Like a junior Blue Valentine that puts you through the wringer only ever so slightly and then pats you down with a nice warm towel, Doremus's lovely US-UK romance touched the hardest of hearts and made a festival darling of Felicity Jones. And yes, that is Jennifer Lawrence lurching in the shadows as the girl who might (or might not) ruin everything...
When you can see it in the UK: Probably autumn/winter; Paramount have UK rights.
Asif Kapadia arrived in Park City without fanfare and left with a much-deserved Audience Award (unlike the dramatic audience, the doc audience usually gets it right). Telling the tragic story of Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna, this breathtaking biography offers a fascinating and moving insight into a very private and contradictory individual. I'm going to stick my neck out now and say that this could follow 2009 Sundance hit Man On Wire all the way to the Oscars – and it deserves to.
When you can see it in the UK: June 3, Universal have UK rights.
I didn't much care for this, but the packed audience I saw it with would disagree. Comedies have never been a Sundance forte, but this stood out as the best of a mixed bunch, a scrappy tale of family friction held together by a wonderful performance by Paul Rudd. Just remembering the scene in which his parole officer asks his character if he's retarded because he was jailed for selling pot to a uniformed cop (“Yeah, I get that a lot,” he smiles) still makes me laugh out loud.
When you can see it in the UK:* TBC, The Weinstein Company have UK rights.
The latest from the director of The Station Agent and The Visitor had some snide reviews, but if you like those movies, this is three for three. McCarthy has a great eye for detail, and though it certainly enters the realm of the sentimental, Win Win is the best kind of Hollywood movie, mixing relationship-drama pathos with sports-flick exuberance. Paul Giamatti excels as a money-grabbing lawyer whose plans to exploit an ageing client's estate go awry when the OAP's teenage nephew appears from nowhere, saving his struggling wrestling team but scuppering the cosy cash-cow deal.
When you can see it in the UK:* Probably autumn, Fox Searchlight have UK rights.
Smith had been ballyhooing his Christian fundamentalist shocker for weeks, so it was like Oscar night when the odious Westboro Baptist Church turned up to picket its world premiere. Had they seen the movie, they'd have seen that they came off quite lightly; though it's an unruly shotgun marriage of genres, Red State works best as a bloody meditation on First Amendment rights. Michael Parks drew the loudest cheers of the festival for his eerie, and scarily persuasive, preacher.
When you can see it in the UK: TBC! Kevin Smith controls all rights. Smith's self-distributed US roll-out is October 19; a traditional UK release is likely to follow soon after.
This raw, affecting film bagged two much deserved awards: a Directing prize and a shared Acting prize for its two leads, Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman. Before the Festival it seemed possible that US audiences might not respond well to this unlikely buddy movie, in which a beery lout befriends a battered wife, but the rousing applause at the film's World Premiere at the Egyptian cinema visibly surprised the film crew, who couldn't move for handshakes and congratulations from the crowd.
When you can see it in the UK: Autumn hopefully; Optimum have UK rights.
Terri perhaps garnered good word of mouth because it's a very traditional Sundance story, a sweet coming-of-age film about an outsider finding his place in society. Jacob Wysocki stars in a role that can only be described as fearless: Terri is a tubby loner who wears pyjamas to school and lives with his doped-up uncle. So far, so Precious, but Terri transforms into a dry, oddball, Rushmore-style comedy with the arrival of John C Reilly as Principal Fitz. It's a standout performance in itself but, really, a sideshow to the main event, in which Terri overcomes his crippling shyness.
When you can see it in the UK: TBC; UK rights were sold to new French sales company Coach 14.
Sci-fi redemption drama Another Earth, also starring and co-written by Brit Marling, took most of the headlines, but this strange, elliptical drama about two filmmakers infiltrating a religious cult was a little more satisfying to some. Marling proved a rising Sundance star on two fronts: not only is the film an intriguing, head-scratching mystery for devourers of Memento/Donnie Darko-style riddles to solve, it features an outstanding performance from Marling as a mysterious, domineering and somehow seriously ill cult leader who claims to come from the year 2054.
When you can see it in the UK: TBC; UK rights not yet sold but a deal is imminent.