Sundance Film Fest 2022: Buzziest Titles

Sundance Film Fest 2022: Buzziest Titles

Sundance Park City Atmosphere
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The shift to a virtual event isn’t likely to stifle dealmaking. After all, the 2021 edition of Sundance saw films like “Passing,” “Summer of Soul” and “CODA” scored record- breaking deals, even if the bidding wars were over Zoom.

This year’s festival has some high-profile features that should attract buyers’ attention, either because they feature stars like Lena Dunham, Dakota Johnson and Regina Hall or because they deal with hot topics like abortion rights and religion.

There are also documentaries the rise of TikTok, and the fight to prevent a climate change catastrophe.

With streaming services such as Disney Plus and HBO Max looking for content and digital vets like Amazon and Netflix very present, it’s a seller’s market.

Some of the films on the must-watch list:

 

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Sharp Stick, Sundance Institute

SHARP STICK
Director: Lena Dunham
Stars: Jon Bernthal, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kristine Froseth, Taylour Paige, Lena Dunham

Dunham, who has kept a relatively low profile since Girls ended its six-season run in 2017, returns with this look at a young woman’s sexual coming-of-age. She writes, directs and takes a supporting role in her new film.

LIVING
Director: Oliver Hermanus
Cast: Bill Nighy, Amiee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Tom Burke

Acclaimed actor Bill Nighy known for showy turns in “Love Actually” and “Notes on a Scandal,” has never been given center stage. That could change with “Living,” a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru that boasts a screenplay by Nobel Prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro. As a zombified bureaucrat who is shaken out of his torpor after learning he is fatally ill, Nighy gets the role of a lifetime.

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Cha Cha Real Smooth. Sundance Institute

CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH
Director: Cooper Raiff
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Cooper Raiff, Leslie Mann, Brad Garrett

The comedy about a bar mitzvah party host and the bond he forms with a single mother and her autistic daughter is hailed as one of the festival’s “feel good” movies, a warm-hearted comedy with breakout potential.

Raiff has been described as the Gen Z answer to Richard Linklater and the Duplass brothers. If the hype proves accurate, the price tag for “Cha Cha Real Smooth” could be high.

TIKTOK BOOM
Director: Shalini Kantayya

This look at the world’s most downloaded app feels relevant for our pandemic times. Non-fiction films with political bent have proved irresistible to buyers at recent Sundance’s, and “TikTok Boom” has all the makings of a ripped-from-the-headlines hit.

 

 

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“Honk for Jesus Save Your Soul” Sundance Institute

HONK FOR JESUS, SAVE YOUR SOUL
Director: Adamma Ebo
Cast: Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown, Nicole Beharie

This satire of megachurch culture has some serious star power in Hall and Brown and a fallen-from-grace storyline that seems heaven-sent.

TO THE END
Director: Rachel Lears

Lears’ previous film Knock Down the House landed a pact from Netflix when it debuted at Sundance in 2019. Her follow-up “To The End” also pulls back the curtain on our political process by profiling four women of color who are pushing the Green New Deal. Once again, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez features prominently. The film could provide some much-needed inspiration at a time when D.C. feels hopelessly gridlocked. Of course, it could also serve as a depressing reminder of what’s lost in the midst of all this governmental dysfunction. So there’s that.

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Call Jane, Wilson Webb

CALL JANE
Director: Phyllis Nagy
Cast: Kate Mara, Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Messina

This historical drama feels urgent at a time when the Supreme Court is deciding the future of reproductive rights in America. “Call Jane” centers on underground organization that helped women obtain abortions in the years before Roe V. Wade was decided. The topical nature of the drama, plus an ensemble of acting heavyweights, means that interest is high.

2ND CHANCE
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Cast: Richard Davis

An Oscar-nominated screenwriter and consistently intriguing director, Ramin Bahrani comes to Sundance with a nonfiction project. “2nd Chance” tells the true story of Richard Davis, the man who invented the first concealable bullet proof vest. Shooting himself nearly 200 times to prove its effectiveness, the project takes a look at the American pastime of cultivating image, and how the lies we tell ourselves often come at great cost.

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“Palm Trees and Power Lines” Sundance Institute

PALM TREES AND POWER LINES
Director: Jamie Dack
Cast: Lily McInerny, Jonathan Tucker, Auden Thornton, Gretchen Mol

Intense dramas about dissociative teens are popular right now. This potent indie from Jamie Dack sees Lily McInerny as a lost 17-year-old who becomes entangled with a man twice her age (the perpetually underserved Jonathan Tucker). While his laser focus on her needs provides long overdue emotional support, the older man’s intentions become alarmingly clear.

FIRE OF LOVE
Director: Sara Dosa
Cast: Katia and Maurice Krafft

Sara Dosa’s “Fire of Love” is a documentary about the bond and life work of French scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft. The pair spent a lifetime finding and studying volcanoes, increasing our understanding of the natural world and capturing some incredible images along the way. Sundance regular Miranda July serves as narrator.

892
Director: Abi Damaris Corbin
Cast: John Boyega, Michael K. Williams, Connie Britton

The emotional gravity of the final screen performance from Michael K. Williams, the celebrated star of “The Wire” and “Lovecraft Country.” In his last turn, Williams backs John Boyega in this timely drama about a Marine’s mental and emotional struggles to reenter society.

WATCHER
Director: Chloe Okuno
Cast: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman

A genre title, Watcher stars millennial horror queen Maika Monroe of “It Follows.”  She plays a young wife recently transplanted to Romania, where her husband has been called to work. Aimless after abandoning her acting career she spends her days wandering a city overtaken by a serial killer known as “The Spider.” Things change when she spots a mysterious neighbor spying on her from a nearby window — and begins to suspect she’s being watched around the clock.

AM I OK? 
Directors: Stephanie Allyn and Tig Notaro
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Sonoya Mizuno, Kiersey Clemons, Jermaine Fowler

This year’s Sundance queen Dakota Johnson delivers a subtle but heartbreaking performance as Lucy, a woman in her mid-30s struggling with her sexuality. A nicely etched portrait of early-adulthood friendship, the film aims to remove stigma from late bloomers.