At the beginning of every new year, tens of thousands of people, including the best filmmakers, actors and critics, gather in Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. As a film lover, attending the festival is definitely on my bucket list, but fortunately for those of us who aren’t rich enough to travel to Utah, the popularity of this festival means the movies featured there typically receive theatrical releases.
While it’s not as good as seeing the movies at the festival itself, it means we still get a chance to see these often award-winning films. But what Sundance movies should you be most looking forward to this year? Read on to find out!
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Although the reviews that liken it to an indie version of The Fault in Our Stars don’t make me want to see it, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl ended up swiping both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in U.S. Dramatic. Which means it’s probably pretty good. The movie is a coming-of-age story about a teenage filmmaker named Greg (Thomas Mann) and his friendship with Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a classmate of his who has leukemia. No release date has been set, but the movie will come out this year. In the meantime, you can pick up Jesse Andrews’s book of the same name for a taste of what the movie will be like since he wrote the screenplay too.
Also a coming-of-age story, Dope has made it onto many a “best movies of the festival” list. The movie follows high school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) as he navigates applying to colleges and life in Inglewood, California, after a drug dealer invites Malcolm and his friends to a party. The movie snagged a Special Jury Award for Editing and is scheduled for release June 12. As some of you might know, that’s the same day Jurassic World comes out, but put the dinosaurs off for a few days and go see Dope.
I was honestly already destined to like The Witch because it’s a horror movie set in New England in the 1600s. Although it’s not clear from summaries whether there’s an actual witch involved or it’s just paranoia, the movie is about a family turning on each other after the new baby disappears. Even though The Witch is his debut feature, director/writer Robert Eggers won the Directing Award in U.S. Dramatic, and a lot of the critics were most impressed by the faithful period recreation.
Released at the end of January, Girlhood is the story of French girl Marieme/Vic (Karidja Touré), who joins a gang of girls in hopes of freeing herself from an abusive home life. The movie was written and directed by Céline Sciamma, who also wrote and directed Tomboy, a film I loved. Girlhood wasn’t in competition at Sundance, but it played at several international film festivals, including Cannes, and was nominated for several Lumière Awards, the French equivalent of the Golden Globes, as well as several César Awards, the French equivalent of the Academy Awards.
3 ½ Minutes
Switching to the documentary side of things, we have 3 ½ Minutes, which tells the story of Jordan Davis, an African-American teenager shot by a white man. The movie covers not only the killing itself, but its aftermath, exploring self-defense laws, the man’s trial and the grief of Davis’s parents. Particularly relevant in the wake of similar events in Ferguson, 3 ½ Minutes not only won a Special Jury Award for Social Impact but also garnered the attention of HBO, where it will air later this year.
The Hunting Ground
Another socially relevant film, The Hunting Ground comes from the Academy Award-nominated team behind The Invisible War, which dealt with the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in the U.S. military. Although still dealing with the high incidence of rape and sexual assault in the U.S., The Hunting Ground turns its attention to college campuses, revealing a series of cover-ups and denial of crimes as it follows several undergraduate rape survivors trying to continue their education and pursue justice at the same time. The movie is scheduled for theatrical release March 20 and will also be broadcast on CNN.
So, there you have it, film lovers! Once you’re done checking off the Oscar nominees you didn’t get a chance to see, make sure to look out for the Sundance films. After all, like Little Miss Sunshine and Winter’s Bone before them, these films could be nominees next year. And just remember one day, we’ll make it to the festival. See you there!