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Our 20 Most-Anticipated Sundance Film Festival 2019 Premieres

Written by on January 21, 2019 

10. The Death of Dick Long (Daniel Scheinert)

A few years back the directing duo known as the Daniels debuted Swiss Army Man to an unsuspecting Sundance audience and, being at the premiere, it was quite a sight to behold. Now one-half is back with a new feature, once again backed by A24. Daniel Scheinert’s The Death of Dick Long follows a trio of bandmates in a small Alabama town and after one dies, things get quite mysterious. Part of the NEXT section, we imagine this will be one of Sundance’s strangest trips.

9. To the Stars (Martha Stephens)

One of the most delightful Sundance premieres I’ve seen in the last few years was Land Ho! and now co-director of that buddy adventure, Martha Stephens, is back with a drama set in 1960s Oklahoma. Another buddy adventure of sorts, it follows a reclusive teen and her mysterious new friend as their small-town gets shaken up. With it being seven years since Stephens’ last solo feature, Pilgrim Song, we’re eager to see her back in the director’s chair in one of the most compelling U.S. Drama competition premieres.

8. Honey Boy (Alma Har’el)

honey-boy

Shia LaBeouf is once again getting meta this year, starring in Honey Boy, a film based on his own experiences with his alcoholic father, played by LaBeouf himself. Playing the character inspired by LaBeouf across different time periods in his contentious upbringing as a childhood TV star is both Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe. Directed by Alma Har’el, who last gave us the beautiful documentary Love True, and shot by The Neon Demon cinematographer Natasha Braier, we imagine this will be the talk of Sundance.

7. The Lodge (Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz)

the-lodge

After earning acclaim for their horror feature Goodnight Mommy, directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz are back this year with what looks to be an even bigger break-out. The Lodge, starring Riley Keough, Richard Armitage, Jaeden Lieberher, and Lia McHugh, follows tells the story of a young woman and her new stepchildren who are menaced by a terrifying supernatural force while spending Christmas in their remote cabin. Shot by Yorgos Lanthimos’ frequent cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis, this has the makings of a chilly fright fest.

6. Light from Light (Paul Harrill)

If the jump scares and horror setpieces of Paranormal Activity or The Conjuring franchises were exchanged for an authentic reckoning of the tangled emotions the departed may leave behind, you may have something close to Light From Light. Paul Harrill’s follow-up to his remarkable debut Something, Anything follows Shelia (Marin Ireland), a single mom living in rural Tennessee, working at a car rental service by day and a paranormal investigator at night. With her passion for ghost hunting sparked by a prophetic dream, she’s taken on a new case involving Richard (Jim Gaffigan), whose wife Susanne died a year prior in a plane crash and peculiar occurrences are happening in his home.

5. The Report (Scott Z. Burns)

the-report-1

The work of Scott Z. Burns has been most seen in his fruitful collaborations with Steven Soderbergh, and now the writer has gotten behind the director’s chair for his own drama. Starring the powerhouse cast of Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Ted Levine, Maura Tierney, and Michael C. Hall, The Report dives into the uncovering of the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation tactics, as discovered by Senate staffer Daniel Jones, played by Driver. After Adam McKay’s recent disaster, hopefully this is a more insightful look into the Bush era.

4. Velvet Buzzsaw (Dan Gilroy)

velvet-buzzsaw

While his last film Roman J. Israel, Esq. didn’t earn as much acclaim as Nightcrawler, this writer found it to be a more fascinating, idiosyncratic character study. Dan Gilroy is now back with his third film, Velvet Buzzsaw, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, and Toni Collette in the story of the strange world of fine-art trading. In the trailer, what begins as a cheekily goofy satire soon turns into a strange-looking thriller with horror elements sprinkled in, something that hopefully proves true in the final film.

3. Wounds (Babak Anvari)

wounds

After gaining attention with his horror feature Under the Shadow, director Babak Anvari is returning to Sundance Film Festival this year with a higher-profile project. Starring Armie Hammer and Dakota Johnson, Wounds follows a bartender in New Orleans who picks up a phone left at his bar and a series of strange, disturbing occurrences begin to unravel. Backed by Annapurna Pictures, it will be intriguing to see two of Luca Guadagnino’s collaborators team for what looks to be a dark psychological mind game.

2. Divine Love (Gabriel Mascaro)

divine-love

Sundance Film Festival certainly has beefed up their world cinema offerings this year and one of the highlights is the latest film from Neon Bull writer-director Gabriel Mascaro, reteaming with cinematographer Diego Garcia, who shot Paul Dano’s debut WildlifeDivine Love, set in the near-future of 2027, takes place in a dystopian Brazil and follows a religious woman who helps save couples from divorce, only to be confronted by a crisis in her own marriage. We expect another erotic, beautiful, and strange drama from the director.

1. The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg)

the-souvenir

The long-awaited return of Exhibition and Archipelago director Joanna Hogg, Souvenir is our most-anticipated world premiere at Sundance Film Festival. While Tilda Swinton appears in the film, it is actually led by her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne, who stars alongside Tom Burke. The story follows a young film student who finds her first love in a mysterious man as a dangerous relationship begins. Already picked up by A24, we’re eager to see Hogg’s singular, observational approach in this 1980s-set drama.

Honorable Mentions

With nearly 100 more films in the lineup, there’s much more we’re looking forward to, including the Mica Levi-scored Monos, the archival footage doc Apollo 11, the Midnight premiere Mope, a look at Ridley Scott’s masterpiece with MEMORY–The Origins of Alien, the NEXT titles The Wolf Hour and Selah and the Spades, as well as a handful of bigger films, including the Opening Night selection Native SonTroop Zero, Sweetheart, Late Night, and The Farewell.

Continue: Sundance Film Festival 2019 Trailer Round-Up

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