The Ultimate Sundance London 2017 Lowdown!
Sundance London 2017 is the Official “spin-off” festival to The Sundance Festival that focuses on independent filmmakers and documentaries. The Sundance Film Festival was started by Robert Redford has been instrumental in igniting the success of then small filmmakers and their art. Directors that have achieved acclaim at The Sundance Sundance Film Festival include Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Damien Chazelle, Amma Asante for films such as Reservoir Dogs, Four Lions, Whiplash, American Psycho, Man on Wire, Moon, Four Lions and the Usual Suspects.
Sundance London 2017 takes place between 1st to 4th June and brings with it a selection of the films and from the bigger sister event that takes place in Park City in Utah in the United States every January.
The list below gives a brief lowdown on the films showing at Sundance London 2017 at the AMAZING Picturehouse Central and hopefully, you’ll get to see them when they come out on general release. This is another big list of films, similar to our Review of 2016 Let us know what you think! Normal services will resume shortly with our Netflix reviews such as the What We Do In the Shadows Episode. Visit the Flixwatcher Podcast Website and for a list of our recent episodes.
The links listed below are for the official Twitter Accounts or Wikipedia pages for the films and filmmakers.
Dir: Miguel Arteta
Written for Screen by: Mike White
Starring: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Chloe Sevigny
Salma Hayek stars as the titular character Beatriz who inadvertently is invited to stay for a dinner party that one of her clients is hosting after car breaks down. That does sound like a placid setup for a film until you realise that it’s the setup for a “head to head” where Beatriz and the main antagonist “Doug Strutt” as played by John Lithgow clash and lock horns time and again.
The writer Mike White based the Doug’s character on the dentist that shot and killed Cecil the lion back in 2015. Beatriz is an eternal empath and rallies hard against the consciousless Doug who has no trouble sleeping at night despite leaving destitution in his wake.
Beatriz at Dinner is a sublime chamber piece that is superbly helmed by Miguel Arteta and brought to life by the flawless casting.
Dir: Michael Showalter
Written for Screen by: Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Adeel Akhtar, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano
The Big Sick “dramadises” the real life story of Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. During their time of courtship Emily falls so ill that she had to be placed into a medically induced coma to help fight the infection and illness.
The Big Sick focuses on their story during this difficult time as well as the trials and tribulations between Kumail and his own parents and getting to know and love Emily’s parents. These three story threads are excellently played out and endearing. There is a lot of love for the writing of Kumail and Emily and the direction from Michael Showalter works perfectly with them.
I cannot think of many comedies that should be longer than 90 minutes long and The Big Sick, with a running time of around two hours, is not one of them. That said it is a fantastic and heartfelt moden rom-com that you should make an effort to see.
Dir: Marianna Palka
Written for Screen by: Marianna Palka
Starring: Marianna Palka, Jason Ritter, Jaime King
When a film starts off with an attempted suicide, as “Bitch” does, you know you’re not going to be in for a smooth ride. The suicide attempt made by Marianna Palka’s character is a vain attempt to resolve the problems of living with a cheating husband. Her husband, played by Jason Ritter, is so pathetic that he doesn’t know where his kids go to school or even know how to start the car to take them there.
The suicide is unsuccessful, however, the drastic measures are taken that results in her separation from the family as we know it. What follows is the family coming to terms with the type of loss that has never been committed to screen.
Dir: Cary Munion, Jonathon Milott
Written for Screen by: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick
Starring: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow, Angelic Zambrana
A girlfriend, Lucy (Brittany Snow) and boyfriend couple arrive in Bushwick, an area of Brooklyn, with the intention of introducing him to her family. As they walk out of the underground and eerie silence is replaced by the sound of gunfire and the guy is soon firebombed. He dies but there is no time for tears as all hell has broken loose and she is soon having to dodge sniper fire and run for safety.
Lucy finds assistance in Stupe (Dave Bautista), an ex-marine turned janitor, and they work together to find the scattered pieces of her family in the Bushwick neighbourhood and onto safety.
Bushwick is all shot on Steadicam and in as real time as possible, trying to mimic film showing the passage of time in a single take. The concept is great and the film is a fun one with a few sections of improvised dialogue that are cringe inducing, but the fast pace and vicscera almost make that forgiveable!
Dir: Jeff Orlowski
Starring: Richard Vevers, Zack Rago, Chloe Sevigny
Chasing Coral depicts the drastic dying out of the coral reefs around the globe. We see over the space of 2 months or less the vibrant coral turning white and then dying out. This is a result of global warming that has caused the sea temperatures to increase by 2-3 degrees. This doesn’t sound like much but is enough to cause the coral and the infrastructure they support to die out.
The documentary works in three parts, the environmental, technological and the character driven. All three impress and combine into a beautiful tour-de-force that is as impressive as it is depressing…
Chasing Coral is coming to Netflix if it isn’t there by the time you read this lowdown. Please do try and see this on the big screen if you can. Some of the visuals are eye-popping!
Dir: Matt Ruskin
Written for Screen by: Matt Ruskin
Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomuhga, Natalie Paul
The story behind Crown Heights is a true one and was initially popularised on in a Podcast episode “DIY” of This American Life. Lakeith Stanfield stars as Colin Warner, a man convicted of life imprisonment for a murder he did not commit. The ordeal that he goes through is heinous especially given the amount of evidence in his favour.
It follows the story of Colin on “the inside” and his best friend Chris who keeps on rallying for him “on the outside” following setback after knockback after setback. It’s great stuff and the story is beyond unfortunate, however, one has to wonder if would have been better served as a documentary. We have to concede that this story will receive a greater audience as a biopic and that can only be a great thing!
Dir: Dan Sickles, Antonio Santini
Starring: Dina Buno, Scott Levin
The documentary “Dina” follows Dina Buno and her fiance Scott as they prepare for their wedding and their life together. That concept is not typical fare for a documentary until you add the fact that both Dina and Scott both are both on the autistic spectrum and Dina’s life has been traumatic including her previous marriage ended in tragedy.
The pairing of Scott and Dina is endearing and fraught with intrinsic difficulties. It’s clear that they love each other but the way that this manifests physically is often difficult to bear. Scott is whilst being affectionate finds physical contact difficult, whilst Dina, a “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” is forthright, honest and craves physical passion.
Dir: David Lowery
Written for Screen by: David Lowery
Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham
“A Ghost Story” is beautiful, ethereal, thought provoking and haunting (pun intended) film that provoked a lot of discussion after the screening. The setup follows a young couple played by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara just before he is involved in a fatal car accident.
Casey comes back as “Ghost Costume 101” in the form of a sheet with eye-holes cut out after referring to “Pac-man” as a guide for sewing pattern. We then follow the ghost as he is seemingly bound to the house where he used to live and experiences life carrying on around him.
A Ghost Story is presented in a square image with a subdued filter, almost as if shot with a bespoke Instagram filter. This presentation when coupled with the sublime score and track “I Get Overwhelmed” by Dark Rooms makes for a film that will nest in your conciousness for a long time after you first watch it.
Dir: Bryan Fogel
Starring: Bryan Fogel
The setup for Icarus is a fascinating one. Bryan is an accomplished amateur cyclist who came 14th in the Alpine Haute Route in 2014, which is an amazing accomplishment. Bryan, who had been let down by his cycling hero Lance Armstrong, noted that in spite of the systematic doping program that Lance Armstrong had never failed a drugs test.
Fogel set out to prove that it was relatively easy to evade the doping systems by participating in his own program with the intent of exposing the scams and methods to a wider audience. The program that Bryan undergoes is stringent and overseen by the Director of the Russian Anti-Doping Lab, Grigory Rodchenkov.
We are initially disappointed that this promising premise is not fully realised, but what it makes way for is a mindblowing crime caper that involves KGB, Putin, The Olympics and death threats and leaves you paranoid as you leave the cinema.
Icarus will be available on Netflix later this year and is must – see documentary.
Dir: Jim Strouse
Written for Screen by: Jim Strouse
Starring: Jessica Williams, Chris O’Dowd, Lakeith Stanfield, Noel Wells
The Incredible Jessica James was written By Jim Strause specifically for Jessica Williams after he had worked with her on previous film projects.
In the film, Jessica is a theatre playwright, performer, teacher and lover who is struggling to come to terms with her perception of success is whilst at the same time trying to deal with the break-up of a relationship and the start of a new one.
Jessica Williams heads up the cast alongside Chris O’Dowd Lakeith Stanfield and Noel Wells in a film that has been expertly crafted for her. The Incredible Jessica James is endearing without being mawkish and comes sets up Jessica’s character as outgoing without ever overstepping the mark.
“The Incredible Jessica James” is a hilarious film that with is engaging all the way through.
Dir: Michael Almereyda
Written for Screen by: Michael Almereyda
Starring: Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Tim Robbins
Marjorie Prime is the film adaptation of a stage play of the same name. In this world a “Prime” is a holographic representation of a real-world person that has previously died. There are a few primes in this film the first being depicted by Jon Hamm who Is employed to keep Marjorie, the titular character, company as she descends into older age and increasing dementia.
We’ve seen similarly themed films such as with “Robot and Frank”, “Her” and themes are shown in TV series Black Mirror and represents the move toward the Technical Singularity where people’s memories and personality live way beyond the constrains of their physical form.
It is evident that Marjorie Prime is based on a stage play in the form that the film takes. This, however, Is the perfect setting for actors of the calibre of Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins and of course Geena Davies.
Dir: Alex Smith and Andrew Smith
Written for Screen by: Alex Smith and Andrew Smith
Starring: Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins, Bill Pullman
A shorthand to understanding the film “Walking Out” would be Refer to it as a more personalised version of The Revenant.
In Walking Out we deal with threats from bears and cold weather, But that is where the parallels end. The story of walking out reunites a father and son, Cal and David, who are typically estranged by both distance and life experiences. The “city mouse” son joins his “Country mouse” father shortly after his 14th birthday with the aim of reconnecting and to kill a moose.
The story starts with the initial disappointment from Cal’s point of view as he sees David’s reliance on modern technology turns into pride as his son strives to save them.
Walking out is breathtakingly beautiful and benefits from the constraints of limited budget in the way you can see the epic beauty of real landscape and weather that would be staged larger scale films.
Dir: Craig Johnson
Written for Screen by: Daniel Clowes
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer
Wilson is adapted from the graphic novel and depicts Woody Harrelson playing the titular Wilson. We are initially introduced to a lonely but happily cranky Wilson who after a family bereavement seeks to modify life and re-connect with his estranged wife.
In this process of reconnecting Wilson learns that he is actually a father and sets out to get to know his daughter and become part of her life.
Wilson’s grumpy demeanour is as entertaining for the viewer as it is irritating for the other characters in the film but this slowly ebbs away as his good nature breaks through. The episodic nature of the story might have been best suited to a series but this is an enjoyable film non the less!
This was shown as a short at Sundance London and here is the full film for you to watch. What do you think you would do?