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Sundance 2012 Preview: 10 Must-See Festival Favorites Hitting Park City

Written by , on January 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm 

While Sundance Film Festival is a wonderful place for discovery, programmers still curate a small, but wonderful line-up of festival favorites. From our journeys around the film festival circuit the last year we are here to let you know what should be on your radar. Most of these can be found in the Spotlight check, but there are also shorts and midnight films to be seen! Check them out below, with help from our own Nick Newman. We’ve also partnered with other sites to give you an extensive overview of coverage, so check out the links below!

10. This Must Be The Place (Paolo Sorrentino)

Synopsis: A bored, retired rock star sets out to find his father’s executioner, an ex-Nazi war criminal who is a refugee in the U.S

Why It Should Be On Your Radar: Reactions were mixed at its Cannes premiere this year (our review here), but the Sean Penn‘s next film is getting a second chance with its North American premiere in Park City. Co-starring Frances McDormand, I’m at the very least curious about this off-kilter drama.

9. Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau)

Synopsis: An elegant reflection on loss and death focused on an Algerian immigrant teacher who brings emotional stability to a Montreal middle school class shaken by the suicide of their well-liked teacher.

Why It Should Be On Your Radar: Sundance can be a little short on truly affecting human dramas, which is where Monsieur Lazhar comes in. While some of it sounds like your typical indie tearjerker, past word has indicated that this is certainly not the case. If any of the festival’s entries have award resonance in the months to come, this could be one of them.

8. Declaration Of War (Valérie Donzelli)

Synopsis: A young couple embark upon a painful, enlightening journey when they discover that their newborn child is very ill.

Why It Should Be On Your Radar: After getting praised at the Cannes Film Festival, France’s Best Foreign Oscar entry is headed to Sundance. A counterpart to last year’s 50/50, it looks to be a well-told story with some beautiful visuals.

7. Where Do We Go Now? (Nadine Labaki)

Synopsis: A group of Lebanese women try to ease religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in their village.

Why It Should Be On Your Radar: Seemingly coming out of nowhere at the Toronto International Film Festival, this Lebanese drama picked up the top award by its audience and will now hit Park City. Will it live up to the hype? I can’t imagine it handling tension better than A Separation, but we’ll see soon.

6. Elena (Andrei Zvyagintsev)

Synopsis: A meditative, modern-noir tale about an older woman, Elena, who marries the wealthy business man for whom she worked and, when his health fails, is forced to deal with his estranged daughter who threatens her inheritance.

Why It Should Be On Your Radar: One of the best directorial debuts of the last decade was Andrei Zvyagintsev‘s The Return. The small story following two brothers packed a punch thanks to the director’s perfect pacing and unsettling style. His latest film, Elenapicked up the special jury prize at Cannes this past May and will now have its US premiere.

5. BEAR (Nash Edgerton)

Synopsis: Jack means well, but sometimes good intentions have horrible consequences.

Why It Should Be On Your RadarNash Edgerton‘s sequel to his darkly funny short, Spider, shows promise of living up to the original, with its returning lead and enigmatic title. Those afraid of humor-laced violence may want to sit this one out, however.

4. Your Sister’s Sister (Lynn Shelton)

Synopsis: While still mourning the recent death of his brother, a bereft and confused man finds love and direction in a most unexpected place.

Why It Should Be On Your Radar: One of the pleasant surprises at TIFF last year was this Lynn Shelton dramedy. Crafting realistic characters acting natural in a somewhat unnatural situation, we are sent to a cabin with the lovely trio of Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mark Duplass.

3. The Raid (Gareth Evans)

Synopsis: All hell breaks loose when an elite SWAT team, given orders to raid a run-down Jakarta apartment building that houses the city’s most notorious crime boss, is forced to fight their way to freedom or die trying.

Why It Should Be On Your Radar: The Indonesian action flick blew up at TIFF and will now arrive via Sony Pictures Classics this spring. Taking place among 30 floors of an apartment building, this one is said to have non-stop action, for which Evans was inspired by films like Hard Boiled, Die Hard and Assault On Precinct 13. I’ll throw out this prediction now: it will likely succeed more than most US summer blockbusters a la last year’s Attack the Block.

2. Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold)

Synopsis: A freshly conceived retelling of Emily Bronte’s classic novel about Heathcliff and Cathy, two teenagers whose passionate love for each other creates a storm of vengeance.

Why It Should Be On Your Radar: Coming off her praised coming-of-age story Fish Tank, Andrea Arnold travels back a few hundred years to re-tell a beloved classic. With barely any dialogue, the stark, but luscious cinematography overwhelms in this tough adaptation. Check out my Toronto review. - Jordan R.

1. Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier)

Synopsis: One man, one city, 24 hours. Oslo, August 31st is a portrait of contemporary Oslo. A visually striking and quietly shattering drama about a man in deep existential crisis.

Why It Should Be On Your Radar: Scoring a rare, perfect A-grade during Toronto (review here), own Jared Mobarak praised Joachim Trier‘s Reprise follow-up a “dark, hopeful and depressing love letter to his hometown. Trier is a master at handling emotion and aesthetic. The subject matter may be a downer, but somehow the film shines with a glimmer of hope. Even when it appears all is lost, death his only release from past mistakes, we hold onto the possibility he’ll find something worth living for.”

Sundance 2012 kicks off on January 19thFollow our complete coverage from the fest here.

And for more Sundance 2012 previews, check out…

Daniel Walber at Movies.com’s Six Shorts from Sundance’s First-Time Feature Directors

Matt Patches at Hollywood.com’s A-List Stars Making Their Splash at Sundance

Christopher Rosen at Moviefone’s Television Stars Invading Park City

Katey Rich at CinemaBlend’s 5 Returning Sundance Successes to Watch

Alex Billington at FirstShowing’s Top 10 Sundance Film Festival 2012 Movies to Keep An Eye On

What is on your Sundance radar?


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