Metamora Films’ Coverage of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival: Premier Schedule

 

We would love it if you viewed our 2016 Sundance Film Coverage.  Then, check out SOME of the films that we are planning to cover this year.  We scoured the Sundance Film Festival program and hand selected films that contain either thought-provoking messages, a moral, or just an underlying meaning that has the power to transform hearts and minds. (just like our slogan!)  Last year we focused on films, premiers and special events that contained powerful and thought-provoking messages.  We are at it again in 2017 with a new lineup of narratives and documentaries that help us think about the world around us.

What I found interesting last year when I was on the red-carpet interviewing such artists as Selena Gomez, Kristin Stewart, Spike Lee, Paul Rudd, and Ewan McGregor, is that a film doesn’t necessarily have to be a ‘drama’ to contain an underlining meaning…light hearted films can also have a message that viewers can take with them.  An example of this is John Krasinski’s, “The Hollars”, which was screened at Sundance in 2016.  Krasinski states in a recent interview:  “I think the reason I said yes to this film immediately was I come from a very tightknit, loving family, and yet at the end of this movie about a dysfunctional family, I was like “Oh my God, that’s my family.” Whether you love your family, don’t love your family, whether it’s complicated or really easy with your family, there’s something about family that’s inherent in all of us.”

We’re headed to Park City to the brave the craziness of the red-carpet and to open our mics to film directors, cast members and performers at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  This year there is a wide variety of films that are screening at one of the largest festivals in the world.  I like how Keri Putnam, the Executive Director at the Sundance Institute focuses on the power of stories:

“Regardless of our political views, the results of this election rocked many of us, taking us by surprise. Win or lose, the rhetoric of divisiveness during the campaign was made manifest by a vote that tore our country in half, with each side barely recognizing the other.

Let’s bravely stride into this breach to understand the anxiety and fear that have motivated both parts of our electorate this year — never to excuse hatred and bigotry, and always as allies with those whose voices are overlooked.We live in a country with a diverse and vibrant array of voices, but they are speaking in echo chambers, only to the like-minded. We need a shared media space in which robust civil debate is welcome — a campfire we can all gather around, with open minds and the ability not just to hear but to really listen.I believe the artists will lead us with brave creative visions and generosity of spirit. Independent storytellers have a profound legacy of building understanding of worlds and characters different from those we know. The stories they tell — on the screen, on the stage, and beyond — can be our campfire.Artists spark our shared imagination of what’s possible and allow us to hear one another, above the din of internet chatter. And while facts provide the baseline reality of the world as it is, stories reach us in our marrow and allow us to imagine the world as it can be. Through these stories I believe we will find common humanity and purpose.”

 

FESTIVAL PREMIER SCHEDULE (subject to change)

 

‘The Discovery’ (Robert Redford)

What would you do if there was proof of an afterlife? The answer to this question is rivetingly explored in The Discovery, where world-renowned physicist Doctor Thomas Harber (Robert Redford) is able to scientifically prove the existence of an afterlife—but with dire consequences. His estranged son, Will (Jason Segel), tries to confront the situation by returning to the New England–esque island where he grew up. He crosses paths with Isla (Rooney Mara), who’s returning to the island for mysterious reasons of her own. The tale unfolds over the ensuing days as the regret of past choices forces these lost characters to reflect on how they’ve gotten to where they are.

Director/co-writer Charlie McDowell (2014’s The One I Love) returns to the Festival with another metaphysical thriller that uses a fascinating premise as a launching point to explore complex issues in a deftly absorbing fashion. Enlisting a world-class cast who use their unique qualities to infuse humor and humanity, The Discovery plays to both the head and the heart.

‘Mudbound’ (Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchel, Garrett Hedlund)

Set in the post-WWII South, this epic pioneer story pits two families against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape as they simultaneously fight the battle at home and the battle abroad. Newly transplanted from the quiet civility of Memphis, the McAllans are underprepared and overly hopeful for Henry’s grandiose farming dreams while Laura strives to keep the faith in her husband’s losing venture. For Hap and Florence Jackson, whose families have worked the land for generations, every day is a losing venture as they struggle bravely to build some small dream of their own. The war upends both families, as their returning loved ones, Jamie and Ronsel, forge a fast, uneasy friendship that challenges them all.

Mudbound boasts a screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees based on the acclaimed novel by Hillary Jordan. The stellar ensemble cast—Jonathan Banks, Mary J. Blige, Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan and Carey Mulligan—fiercely commits to the grit demanded by extraordinary writer/director Rees (Pariah, 2011 Sundance Film Festival; HBO’s Bessie). Devastating in its power and authenticity, Mudbound is destined to become a classic.

‘Sydney Hall’ (Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Monaghan, Nathan Lane, Margaret Qualley)

Sidney Hall harbors a precocious talent for writing. His classroom essays exhibit a danger that some find off-putting, though one teacher recognizes his talent and urges Sidney to pursue a writing career. Early success with his first novel makes Sidney a celebrity, though his dystopian observations about suburbia provoke tragic outcomes among some young readers, cloaking his name in scandal. Heightened scrutiny and expectations haunt him, as do dark secrets from his past that complicate his creativity, and interfere with his chances of finding love with a childhood sweetheart. When the disillusioned writer has all but disappeared from public life, a mysterious detective seeks the answer to his mystery.

Shawn Christensen’s impressive second feature offers a far-reaching examination of the societal pressures and failings that can send a life of promise into free fall. Told in elliptical flashbacks and flash-forwards showing Sidney at different stages of life (and of emotional disintegration), this somber and beautifully photographed film demonstrates an energetic thematic reach, matched by Logan Lerman’s captivating performance in the title role.

‘It’s Not Yet Dark’ (Frankie Fenton, Colin Farrell, Kathryn Kennedy, Lesley McKimm)

Soon after premiering his short film The Sound of People at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, promising young Irish director Simon Fitzmaurice was tragically diagnosed with motor neurone disease (ALS). At just 34 years old, he was given four years to live.

Fitzmaurice and his wife were expecting their third child, and a career in storytelling lay at his feet. Reeling from the shock, Fitzmaurice drew strength from his deepest desires—instead of being stuck in that painful moment, he realized his greatest defiance of ALS would be to direct his first feature film. Seven years later, despite total physical incapacitation, Fitzmaurice completed My Name is Emily (2015), directing it only with the use of his eyes.

This emotional journey of self-realization and personal triumph over life-crushing adversity is nothing short of inspiring. All of it is captured with intimate home movies, photographs, and an affectionate voice-over by compatriot Colin Farrell, transporting us into Fitzmaurice’s creative world where every physical and psychological challenge is met with positivity and the desire to fulfill a dream.  It’s Not Yet Dark is a must watch.

‘Marjorie Prime’ (Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Tim Robbins)

Eighty-six-year-old Marjorie spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband. With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s “Prime” relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop ever diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past.

Built around exceptional performances from a veteran cast and shot with the intimate rhythm of mortality, Marjorie Prime shines a light on an often-obscured corner in the world of artificial intelligence and its interactions with death. Bringing us robustly into the future, Michael Almereyda’s poetic film forces us to face the question—If we had the opportunity, how would we choose to rebuild the past, and what would we decide to forget?

‘To The Bone’ (Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, Alex Sharp, Liana Liberato)

Ellen is an unruly, 20-year-old anorexic girl who spent the better part of her teenage years being shepherded through various recovery programs, only to find herself several pounds lighter every time. Determined to find a solution, her dysfunctional family agrees to send her to a group home for youths, which is led by a non-traditional doctor. Surprised by the unusual rules—and charmed by her fellow patients—Ellen has to discover for herself how to confront her addiction and attempt self-acceptance, in order to stand a chance against her demons.

Television veteran Marti Noxon brings her aptitude for storytelling to her remarkable debut feature, tackling the challenges of self-esteem with a refreshingly humorous—yet painstakingly honest—voice. Featuring a career-making performance by Lily Collins, and pitch-perfect supporting roles by Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, and Lili Taylor, To the Bone subverts expectations at every turn with its razor-sharp script, and its undiluted look at what young women face in living up to both society’s expectations of beauty, and their own.

‘Dolores’ (Carlos Santana, Peter Bratt, Brian Benson)

History tells us Cesar Chavez transformed the U.S. labor movement by leading the first farm workers’ union. But missing from this narrative is his equally influential co-founder, Dolores Huerta, who fought tirelessly alongside Chavez for racial and labor justice and became one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century.

Like so many powerful women advocates, Dolores and her sweeping reforms were—and still are—sidelined and diminished. Even as she empowered a generation of immigrants to stand up for their rights, her relentless work ethic was constantly under attack. False accusations from foes and friends alike, of child neglect and immoral behavior—she married three times and raised 11 children—pushed Dolores out of the very union she helped create.

Peter Bratt’s provocative and energizing documentary challenges an incomplete history. Through beautifully woven archival footage and interviews from contemporaries and from Dolores herself, now an octogenarian, the film sets the record straight on one of the most effective and undervalued civil and labor rights leaders in modern U.S. history.

 

Matt Duhamel, Filmmaker/Host

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