What to Watch

Noovie at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

This year's Sundance Film Festival featured plenty of eclectic films that may be earning Oscar attention. Check here for Noovie's coverage.

By Matthew Lissauer

sundance-film-festival

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival is now a wrap. See below for winners and coverage.

Sundance Hot Takes

We round up all the buzz, reviews and our own dispatches from the slopes of Park City.Latest Aquisitions:

'The Father' Review - Florian Zeller's heartwrenching drama takes you inside the mind of a person slowly succumbing to dementia. Variety

'Nine Days' Review - First time director Edson Oda delivers a movie that will likely spark conversations. Variety

'Amulet' Review - Actress and now first-time director Romola Garai might be the next Jordan Peele, with her haunted house thriller, "Amulet," causing quite a bit of scares in the Midnight section of Sundance. Indiewire

'Welcome to Chechnya' Uses "Face Doubles" to Mask Anonymous Sources - Gone are the days of masking anonymous sources with pixelation o r shadows. In order to best convey the emotional ordeal the subjects of "Welcome to Chechnya" were facing as they resisted the anti-LGBTQ laws in Chechnya, filmmaker David France turned to artifical intelligence to cloak the face while still showing the person's humanity. Shoot Online

Taylor Swift Opens Up - The pop superstar opens up about her struggles with an eating disorder and whether or not it was right for her to endorse a candidate in the 2018 midterm elections in Netflix's raw documentary "Miss Americana." Entertainment Weekly

Obamas' 'Crip Camp' Brings Social Justice to the Disabled - The latest documentary from Barack and Michelle Obama's distribution company, Higher Ground Productions, opens the festival. Directors Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham tell The Hollywood Reporter they hope its release will do for disabled people what "The Times of Harvey Milk" did for LGBTQ rights. "Crip Camp's" debut comes on the heels of the Oscar nomination of "American Factory," another Higher Ground produced documentary that premiered at Sundance last year. The Hollywood Reporter

'Bad Hair' Reviews - Director Justin Simien ("Dear White People") might have a breakout hit on his hands with his sophomore effort "Bad Hair." Reception was mixed, but mainly positive, especially with respect to the solid performance from newcomer Elle Lorraine. Indiewire

Sundance Goes Mainstream - Last year top dollar was being spent from streamers Netflix, Amazon and Apple. This year that spend will likely continue, as the festival starts to reach a more broader audience than usual. Disney+ is also set to debut their new kid-friendly drama from "Spotlight" director Tom McCarthy, while A-listers Will Smith, Ben Affleck and Angelina Jolie will arrive at the festival to tout their latest arthouse turns. The Hollywood Reporter

Viggo Mortensen's Directorial Debut - "Lord of the Rings" actor Viggo Mortensen goes behind the camera for the first time with his directorial and screenwritting debut "Falling." Mortensen returns to Sundance for the first time since the debut of 2016's "Captain Fantastic." Deadline

What to Watch at Sundance

Now in its 42nd year, the Sundance Film Festival has become a prime breeding ground for quality independent films that often become top contenders later in the year during the race to the Oscars.

As this awards season has given attention to such films and documentaries as "American Factory," "The Farewell," "Clemency," "The Last Black Man in San Francisco," "Apollo 11," "Honeyland," and "Honey Boy," it's important to note that each of these films had their debut at last year's festival. In recent years, as streaming platforms look to beef up their original content, with hopes of also earning a top Oscar or two, distributors like Netflix and Amazon have come to dominate the festival landscape.

Last year Amazon spent as much as $41 million, scooping up such notable titles as "Brittany Runs a Marathon," "Honey Boy," and "The Report." Apple even entered the mix, picking up Muslim drama "Hala," as it looked to add films to its now-launched streaming platform Apple TV+.

This year it's Netflix that's dominating out the gate, as they're set to debut seven titles at the festival, including the much-anticipated Taylor Swift documentary, "Miss Americana." Also in the mix is Disney+, with their debut of the kids-friendly adaptation "Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made." Other notable debuts include "Wendy" and "Downhill" from Fox Searchlight, A24's Twitter-inspired comedy "Zola," and HBO's LGBTQ documentary "Welcome to Chechnya."Here are all the films we're excited to see (in no particular order)...

© Fox Searchlight

Downhill

Section: Premieres

Distributor: Fox Searchlight

The Buzz: This American remake of 2014's Swedish Cannes Jury Prize winner "Force Majeure," finds Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a couple on a ski retreat with their children. Tensions arise when an avalanche occurs, and Ferrell instinctively saves himself leaving behind Louis-Dreyfus and his children.

© Fox Searchlight

Wendy

Section: Premieres

Distributor: Fox Searchlight

The Buzz: "Beasts of the Southern Wild" director Benh Zeitlin returns to Sundance with this reimagining of Peter Pan, which finds the titular character fighting to save her family while on a remote island where time and age are all but meaningless.

Courtesy: Sundance Film Festival

Zola

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Distributor: A24

The Buzz: In 2015 a Detroit waitress named Zola logged on to Twitter to recount an epic and debaucherous road trip she took with a stripper named Jessica. As these things tend to do, the tweet thread became a viral sensation. About one month – and a Rolling Stone article – later, the whole story was soon being optioned as a screenplay. Janicza Bravo took on directing duties, after original director James Franco was dropped in 2018 following his sexual misconduct allegations. Bravo previously won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for her 2014 short "Gregory Go Boom."

Nine Days

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Distributor: None yet

The Buzz: Edson Oda will be one new filmmaker to pay attention to this year, with his fantasy drama that supposes souls all vie for the ultimate privilege of being born. Recluse Will (Winston Duke) interviews prospective candidates over the course of nine days, where five contenders emerge. The winner gets birth, while the others cease to exist, leaving those nine days as the only days they'll ever experience.

Minari

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Distributor: None yet

The Buzz: After earning solid buzz from his performance in South Korea's 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry "Burning," Steven Yeun returns with what is sure to be an equally solid performance in this drama about a Korean family that faces a new way of life after moving from the West Coast to Arkansas.

© Netflix

Miss Americana

Section: Documentary Premieres

Distributor: Netflix

The Buzz: Pop superstar Taylor Swift might have made a minor career misstep last year with her appearance in "Cats," but she'll have a shot at redemption with the release of this raw and personal documentary that focuses on the music sensation finding her true voice amid a world in political chaos. The documentary also includes the debut of Swift's new song, "Only the Young," which she wrote following the 2018 U.S. elections.

© Focus Features

Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition

Distributor: Focus Features

The Buzz: Director Eliza Hittman has been a student of Sundance throughout the past decade. Her past films, "It Felt Like Love" and "Beach Rats" both drew critical attention when they premiered at the festival in 2013 and 2017, and then later in release. She returns with this teen drama that follows two young cousins as they head from their home town in Pennsylvania to New York City to seek medical help following an unplanned pregnancy.

Courtesy: Sundance Institute

Welcome to Chechnya

Section: U.S. Documentary Competition

Distributor: HBO Documentary Films

The Buzz: Investigative journalist and documentarian David France returns to Sundance with this exposé that follows a group of activists who risk their lives resisting the anti-LGBTQ policies in Cechnya.

Courtesy: Sundance Institute

The Last Thing He Wanted

Section: Premieres

Distributor: Netflix

The Buzz: Director Dee Rees follows up her previous Sundance success, "Mudbound," with this political thriller adapted from Joan Didion's 1996 novel, in which a D.C. reporter (Anne Hathaway) suddenly becomes the subject of her own story that she's trying to break.

Into the Deep

Section: World Cinema Documentary Competition

Distributor: Netflix

The Buzz: Filmmaker Emma Sullivan's documentary was originally supposed to be a profile of Danish amature inventor Peter Madsen. But, after journalist Kim Wall turned up missing on the day Wall was interviewing Madsen on his homemade submarine, Sullivan's doc transformed into a true crime thriller that explores the dark truth behind the murder and the man who committed it.

© Focus Features

Promising Young Woman

Section: Premieres

Distributor: Focus Features

The Buzz: From Emerald Fennell, writer and producer of the Emmy-winning second season of "Killing Eve," comes this revenge thriller that follows med-student-turned-barista Cassie (Carey Mulligan), who enjoys gossiping with her boss (Laverne Cox) by day and seeking revenge on the men who crossed her at night. "Promising Young Woman" boasts a pretty promising ensemble that also includes previous Sundance favorite Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Jennifer Coolidge and Connie Britton.

Courtesy: Sundance Institute

The Go-Go's

Section: Documentary Premiers

Distributor: HBO Documentary Films

The Buzz: Filmmaker Alison Ellwood unseals the lips of iconic '80s all-female punk/new wave band the Go-Go's, and digs into the rock group's history.

Courtesy: Sundance Institute

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind

Section: Documentary Premieres

Distributor: HBO Documentary Films

The Buzz: Director Laurent Bouzereau explores the life and tragic death of actress Natalie Wood, through the eyes of Wood's daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner.

Courtesy: Sundance Institute

Rebuilding Paradise

Section: Documentary Premieres

Distributor: National Geographic

The Buzz: Academy Award–winning filmmaker Ron Howard takes his camera to the California town of Paradise, who's name became unfortunately ironic as it was devastated following the rash of wildfires that plagued Southern California at the end of 2018. Howard looks at the wildfire that ravaged the town, leaving 85 dead; and how the surviving townspeople came together to grieve and search for a way to rebuild.

Sundance 2020 Winners

  • U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary - Boys State (directors: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine)
  • U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic - Minari (director: Lee Isaac Chung)
  • World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary - Epicentro (director: Hubert Sauper)
  • World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic - Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness (director: Massoud Bakhshi)
  • Audience Award: U.S. Documentary - Crip Camp (directors: Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht)
  • Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic - Minari (director: Lee Isaac Chung)
  • Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary - The Reason I Jump (director: Jerry Rothwell)
  • Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic - Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) (director: Fernanda Valadez)
  • Audience Award: NEXT - I Carry You With Me (director: Heidi Ewing)
  • Directing Award: U.S. Documentary - Time (director: Garrett Bradley)
  • Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic - 40-Year-Old Version (director: Radha Blank)
  • Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary - The Earth Is Blue as an Orange (director: Iryna Tsilyk)
  • Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic - Cuties (director: Maïmouna Doucouré)
  • Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic - Nine Days (director: Edson Oda)
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast - Charm City Kings (director: Angel Manuel Soto, cast: Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Meek Mill, Will Catlett, Teyonah Parris, Donielle Tremaine Hansley, Kezii Curtis)
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Auteur Filmmaking - Shirley (director: Josephine Decker)
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Neo-Realism - Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always (director: Eliza Hittman)
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing - Welcome to Chechnya (director: David France)
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling - Dick Johnson Is Dead (director: Kirsten Johnson)
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker - Feels Good Man (director: Arthur Jones)
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking - The Fight (directors: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres)
  • World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting - Ben Whishaw, Surge (director: Aneil Karia)
  • World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking - This Is Not A Burial, It's A Resurrection (director: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese)
  • World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay - Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) (screenwritters: Fernanda Valadez, Astrid Rondero)
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling - The Painter and the Thief (director: Benjamin Ree)
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography - Acasa, My Home (cinematographers: Mircea Topoleanu and Radu Ciorniciuc)
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing - Softie (editors: Mila Aung-Thwin, Sam Soko, Ryan Mullins)
  • NEXT Innovator Prize - I Carry You With Me (director: Heidi Ewing)
  • Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize - Tesla (director: Michael Almereyda)
  • Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Features - Whirlybird (director: Matt Yoka)
  • Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Features - Farewell Amor (director: Ekwa Msangi)
  • Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Documentary - Carla Guttierez
  • Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Narrative - Affonso Gonçalves
  • Sundance Institute | NHK Award - Higher (director: Kirsten Tan)

Advertisement