Oddities, experiments, and social commentary
Since 1978, the mission of Sundance Film Festival has been to promote and discover independent films. Cinematic gems such as Napoleon Dynamite, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Reservoir Dogs have all risen from previous festivals, and this year’s offerings look promising as well. Some highlights:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s film did well at the festival, winning both the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for drama and the Audience Award for U.S. Drama. It centers on Greg, a high school loner who makes strange videos with his friend Earl and is forced by his mother to befriend his classmate Rachel when she is diagnosed with leukemia.
Crystal Moselle created a documentary on six brothers and one sister who grew up locked away in a New York City apartment. Their perception of the outside world has been built by the over 5,000 movies they have watched and their extremely infrequent voyages into the outside world. The film was awarded the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for documentary.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Kyle Patrick Alvarez directed this film based on the notorious, real-life experiment of the same title. The movie follows subjects placed in pretend roles of prisoner and guard as they internalize the power dynamics in shocking ways. Tim Talbot received the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for the screenplay.
Chuck Norris vs. Communism
This eye-catching documentary demonstrates the influential power of media, specifically the effects of Western film on Romania. Ilinca Calugareanu’s film details how bootlegged Hollywood movies and a brave translator sparked a revolution against the Iron Curtain.
Hot Girls Wanted
Netflix picked up this film, making it the first they have ever acquired from Sundance. Produced by Rashida Jones and directed by documentarians Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, this film shines a harsh light on the exploitations and harmful effects of the porn industry that consumers can’t see from behind their computer screen.
This documentary-horror hybrid narrates the experiences of eight people who suffer from sleep paralysis. Reenactments and retellings of night terrors and dreamscapes illustrate this surprisingly common condition. The director, Rodney Ascher, is known for the film Room 237, his eccentric analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.