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Thursday, December 8, 2016

J.D. Salinger, Bayard Rustin, Alfred Hitchcock and More Add Intrigue to Sundance's Slate of Documentaries, World Premieres, and Horror Narratives

The Sundance Film Festival slate continues to burst at the seams with the announcement of international narratives, documentaries, short films, and horror contributions. And it's not short of A-listers like Rashida Jones, Dee Rees, Danny Strong, and Stanley Nelson, who jump behind the camera to present narratives that range from young women exploitation to the legacy of black colleges in the U.S. And more talent stepping in front of the camera to portray characters who take on interracial relationships, the afterlife, murder mysteries, J.D. Salinger, 1930s racism, and gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. It's truly like an embarrassment of riches.
The festival will also highlight small screen series like Shots Fired (co-executive produced by Gina Prince Bythewood) and Gente-Fied (co-executive produced by America Ferrera).

I've scoured the massive list, and whittled it down to these 23 extremely intriguing titles. Check 'em out:


PREMIERES




BEFORE I FALL / U.S.A.
Director: Ry Russo-Young
Screenwriter: Maria Maggenti
Synopsis: Samantha Kingston has everything. Then, everything changes. After one fateful night, she wakes up with no future at all. Trapped into reliving the same day over and over, she begins to question just how perfect her life really was. 
Cast: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, Elena Kampouris, Diego Boneta. 
World Premiere




THE BIG SICK/ U.S.A. 
Director: Michael Showalter
Screenwriters: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Synopsis: Based on the real-life courtship: Pakistan-born comedian Kumail and grad student Emily fall in love, but they struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail must navigate the crisis with her parents and the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart. 
Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher. 
World Premiere

THE DISCOVERY / U.S.A. 
Director: Charlie McDowell
Screenwriters: Charlie McDowell, Justin Lader
In a world where the afterlife has just been scientifically proven—resulting in millions of people taking their own lives to get there—comes this love story. 
Cast: Jason Segel, Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, Jesse Plemons, Riley Keough, Ron Canada. 
World Premiere

THE LAST WORD / U.S.A.
Director: Mark Pellington
Screenwriter: Stuart Ross Fink
Synopsis: Harriett is a retired businesswoman who tries to control everything around her. When she decides to write her own obituary, a young journalist takes up the task of finding out the truth, resulting in a life-altering friendship. 
Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Heche, Thomas Sadoski, Philip Baker Hall. 
World Premiere




MARJORIE PRIME/ U.S.A.
Director and screenwriter: Michael Almereyda
Synopsis: In the near future—a time of artificial intelligence—86-year-old Marjorie has a handsome new companion who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance? 
Cast: Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Tim Robbins. 
World Premiere

MUDBOUND/ U.S.A.
Director: Dee Rees
Screenwriters: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees
Synopsis: In the post–World War II South, two families are pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape as they simultaneously fight the battle at home and the battle abroad. This epic pioneer story is about friendship, heritage and the unending struggle for and against the land. 
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund. World Premiere




REBEL IN THE RYE / U.S.A. 
Director and screenwriter: Danny Strong
Synopsis: This portrait of the life and mind of reclusive author J.D. Salinger goes from the bloody front lines of World War II to his early rejections and the PTSD-fueled writer's block that led to his iconic novel, The Catcher in the Rye
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Spacey, Sarah Paulson, Zoey Deutch, Hope Davis, Victor Garber. 
World Premiere




REMEMORY/ U.S.A., Canada 
Director: Mark Palansky
Screenwriters: Michael Vukadinovich, Mark Palansky
Synopsis: A visionary inventor found dead. A machine that can record people’s memories. A man haunted by the past. This noir mystery explores the ways in which memory defines the present. 
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Julia Ormond, Martin Donovan, Anton Yelchin, Henry Ian Cusick, Evelyne Brochu. 
World Premiere

WIND RIVER / U.S.A. 
Director and screenwriter: Taylor Sheridan
Synopsis: An FBI agent teams with the town's veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. 
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Jon Bernthal.
World Premiere

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES




TELL THEM WE ARE RISING: THE STORY OF BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES / U.S.A. 
Director: Stanley Nelson
Synopsis: A haven for black intellectuals, artists and revolutionaries—and path of promise toward the American dream—black colleges and universities have educated the architects of freedom movements and cultivated leaders in every field. They have been unapologetically black for 150 years. For the first time ever, their story is told. 
World Premiere

MIDNIGHT




78/52 / U.S.A. 
Director: Alexandre Philippe
Synopsis: This is an unprecedented look at the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the "man behind the curtain," and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema. World Premiere




KILLING GROUND / Australia 
Director and screenwriter: Damien Power
Synopsis: Ian and Samantha arrive at an isolated campsite to find an SUV and a tent—with no sign of the occupants. The discovery of a distressed child wandering in the woods unleashes a terrifying chain of events that will test the young couple's breaking point. 
Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Ian Meadows, Harriet Dyer, Aaron Glenane. 
International Premiere




XX / U.S.A.
Directors and screenwriters: Annie Clark, Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vuckovic
Synopsis: This all-female horror anthology features four dark tales from four fiercely talented women. 
Cast: Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool, Christina Kirk. 
World Premiere
Reel Talk Online preview

SPOTLIGHT


SAMI BLOOD / Sweden
Director and screenwriter: Amanda Kernell
Synopsis: Elle Marja, 14, is a reindeer-breeding Sámi girl. Exposed to race biology examinations at her boarding school and the racism of the 1930s, she starts dreaming of another life—one that demands she become someone else and break all ties with her family and culture. 
Cast: Lene Cecilia Sparrok, Mia Sparrok, Maj-Doris Rimpi, Olle Sarri, Hanna Alström, Malin Crépin. 
U.S. Premiere

SPECIAL EVENTS


SHOTS FIRED / U.S.A.
Executive Producers: Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo
Synopsis: After racially-charged shootings in a North Carolina town, an investigator digs into the cases alongside a special prosecutor. Together they seek justice while navigating the ensuing media attention and public unrest threatening the divided town. The Festival will premiere two episodes of this 10-hour series, followed by an extended Q&A. 
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, Helen Hunt, Richard Dreyfuss, Stephen Moyer, Mack Wilds. World Premiere




HOT GIRLS WANTED: TURNED ON / U.S.A. 
Director: Rashida Jones, “Women on Top” 
Executive Producers: Rashida Jones, Ronna Gradus, Jill Bauer, Peter LoGreco
Synopsis: This documentary series tells personal stories about people affected by the explosion of the internet, where pornography, dating apps, and virtual relationships are just a click away. Exploring the intersection of sex and technology, it tells stories of intimacy, connection, disconnection, self-promotion, race, and gender politics. The Festival will debut one episode of the series, followed by an extended Q&A with Director and Executive Producer Rashida Jones. 
World Premiere
Reel Talk Online preview

Independent Pilot Showcase

WHEN THE STREET LIGHTS GO ON / U.S.A.
Director: Brett Morgen
Screenwriters: Eddie O'Keefe, Chris Hutton
Synopsis: The residents of a small town grapple with the ruthless killing of a young girl and a teacher. 
Cast: Max Burkholder, Odessa Young, Adam Long, Ben Winchell, Kelli Mayo, Graham Beckel. World Premiere

Short-Form Episodic Showcase



GENTE-FIED / U.S.A.
Creator: Marvin Lemus
Executive Producers: Charles D. King, Aaliyah Williams, America Ferrera
Synopsis: Seven characters deal with the effects of change in LA's Boyle Heights. Bicultural millennials and old-school business owners hustle to create spaces that celebrate their Latino identities—even while faced with rent hikes, a housing crisis, and a steady stream of outsiders threatening to gentrify their barrio. The Festival will debut three episodes of this short- form episodic series. 
Cast: Edsson Morales, Alicia Sixtos, Victoria Ortiz, Yareli Arizmendi, Salvador Velez Jr, Rafael Sigler. 
World Premiere
Reel Talk Online preview

INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE SHORT FILMS




AND THE WHOLE SKY FIT IN THE DEAD COW'S EYE / Chile, U.S.A.
Director and screenwriter: Francisca Alegría
Synopsis: Emeteria is visited by the ghost of her patrón, Teodoro. She believes he has come to take her to the afterlife—but he has more devastating news.



SLAPPER / Australia 
Director: Luci Schroder
Screenwriters: Luci Schroder, Sam West
Synopsis: A broke and rebellious teen navigates a suburban wasteland, hustling money for the morning-after pill—before it's too late.



WHAT TEARS US APART / France
Director and screenwriter: Wei Hu
Synopsis: A Chinese couple visits the daughter they gave up for adoption 30 years ago. While meeting the French adoptive parents, language barriers become apparent and the birth mother's hidden emotions rise to the surface.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILMS




BAYARD & ME  / U.S.A. 
Director: Matt Wolf
Synopsis: Walter Naegle’s boyfriend, Bayard Rustin, was a famous civil rights activist 30 years Walter’s senior. In the 1980s, Bayard decided to adopt Walter for legal protection. This love story is about a time when gay marriage was inconceivable.

TOUGH / United Kingdom
Director: Jennifer Zheng
Synopsis: New light is shed on childhood cultural misunderstandings when a Chinese mother and her British-born daughter speak as adults for the first time. Some things can only be understood with maturity.

For a complete list of titles in each of these categories, visit the festival website here and here. The Sundance Film Festival is set to host screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah January 19-29.

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