Forget the Oscars drama for a second, Sundance Film Festival is upon us once again.
Since its beginnings in 1978 the festival - which is named after it's original chairman, Robert Redford's character from the film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - has become known as the place to spot up and coming talent from both sides of the camera. Having spawned multiple Academy Award winners like Boyhood, Whiplash and Precious, the festival has become the place to predict future box office hits and Oscar winners.
With films tackling issues such as hazing, America's obsession with guns and a documentary which takes us inside of a cult, the line-up this year is set to stun.
We give you the ultimate cheat sheet to this year's festival and why you should watch out for the films below:
What’s it about? Rebecca Hall plays the tragic, Christine Chubbuck, the Florida based television reporter who committed suicide on a live broadcast in 1974.
Why should we get hyped up about it? Rebecca’s performance is meant to be incredible. Expect to her see her name a lot during next year's award season.
What’s it about? The film follows the story of two high school boys who find their friendship tested when their parents fight over rent in the gentrified Brooklyn.
Why are people excited? Everyone loves a coming of age drama - this is definitely a one to watch.
What’s it about? Written and directed by Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women is based on Maile Meloy’s short story collection Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It and Half In Love. The film follows the story of three women whose lives intersect in small-town America.
Why are people excited? If the above wasn’t enough, the film positions women at the forefront of the story (for once) rather than as just wives or girlfriends. Did we forget to mention it stars Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kirsten Stewart?
What’s is about? Based on Philip Roth’s 2008 novel of the same name, the film begins in 1951 and follows Marcus (played by Logan Lerman), a working-class Jewish student from New Jersey as he struggles with anti-Semitism, sexual repression and the Korean War all while attending college in Ohio.
Why are people raving? Indignation looks like it could be a promising prospect for Lerman who you may recognize as Charlie Kelmeckis from 2012’s film adaption of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
The Birth of a Nation
What’s it about? Based on the story of Nat Turner, a literate African-American slave who led the biggest slave rebellion in US history in 1831. The film is ironically named after the 1915 silent film of the same name
Why should I watch? As Hollywood is still reeling from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, The Birth of a Nation gives cause for celebration. All eyes are on Nate Parker who proves he’s a triple threat by writing, directing and starring in this historical period drama.
Swiss Army Man
What am I watching? Stay with us here. This film focuses on a stranded man (played by Paul Dano) who befriends a corpse. Yes, you read that right. He befriends a corpse who is (naturally) played by Daniel Radcliffe. Bizarre? Yes. Intrigued? How could we not be?!
What’s the buzz? This is the first feature length film from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (did it not get confusing on set with all those Daniels flying around?!) who directed the music video for ‘Turn Down For What.’
Manchester by the Sea
What’s the story? A working-class man becomes his nephew’s guardian.
Why are we excited? The film – which starts Michelle Williams and brother of Ben, Casey Affleck – was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who won a Sundance grand jury prize back in 2000 for his film, You Can Count On Me. It also went on to earn him an Oscar nomination for screenwriting. This one could be kind of a big deal.
What’s the story here? Wolf of Wall Street move over, The Big Short shhhh already, Hollywood will again be shining a light on the underbelly of the financal world but this time with women in the lead roles. Anna Gunn stars as a banker who backs a questionable tech start-up.
Why should we be excited? Hollywood is finally putting women at the forefront of films. Celebrations all round.
What’s it all about? Homeland’s Morgan Saylor stars as an affluent young, hedonistic college student who falls for a Puerto Rican drug dealer.
Why should we be excited? The film is based on director Elizabeth Wood’s own college journal entries.
What are we watching? Comedians Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally, Nick Kroll, Brett Gelman and Jenny Slate all come together in Joshy, a comedy (natch) about a group of emotionally stunted companions on a bachelor weekend. Can we expect Hangover-esque antics? Maybe.
Why are people raving? The all-star comedic cast suggests that this one will have tears rolling down your face for all the right reasons.
What’s the story? The film follows the story of Mathilde, a Red Cross doctor who travels to a remote convent in Poland to help a group of pregnant nuns. Intrigued? We are.
Why should I watch? Lou de Laage is already being pinned as one of Sundance’s breakout stars.
Southside With You
What’s the story? A romantic one – Southside With You follows the story of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date in 1989.
Why are people excited? One of the most wholesome sounding films to come out of Sundance this year, we’re excited to see whether Obama is as much as a romantic as we imagine he is…
What’s the story? Well, you’ll already know it. This film is inspired by the 2012 Aurora shooting and follows a variety of characters in the lead up to the violent act.
Why is there so much buzz? The subject matter is one which is both controversial and relevant in today’s America so the film will undoubtedly prompt debate.
What’s the story? The romantic drama follows a married couple played by Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon whose life is turned upside down when a former flame reappears.
What’s the buzz? The film has already been purchased by Amazon pre-festival so it sounds promising to say the least!
Frank & Lola
How would you describe the plot? Scandalous, it seems. Described as a ‘psychosexual noir love story’ which sees the cast jet from Vegas to Paris, the film covers love, obsession, sex, revenge and redemption.
Who stars? Michael Shannon makes another Sundance appearance with this while Imogen Poots, Justin Long, Emmanuelle Devos, Michael Nyqvist and Rosanna Arquette also star.
The Free World
What’s the story? Starring Boyd Holbrook (a Sundance regular of late) as Mo Lundy, a man who comes out of prison after being wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he doesn’t commit. Taking up a job at an animal hospital, Mo meets Doris (played by Elizabeth Moss) a woman who has troubles of her own.
What’s the buzz? A timely story which echoes some of the themes of Making a Murderer, The Free World is set to have people talking.
What’s it all about? A couple return to the husband’s small hometown to look after his sick mother.
What’s the buzz? The family comedy was directed by The Office’s John Krasinski who stars alongside Anna Kendrick as his pregnant wife. Dream coupling, right there.
What’s the story? Who would have thought that a film starring a Jonas brother would be hailed as one of Sundance’s films to watch? Not us, but here we are, times they are a-changing. This college drama takes a look at the practise of hazing in American fraternity houses. Nick Jonas plays a frat boy who questions the meaning of brotherhood when his sibling (played by Ben Schnetzer) pledges into his fraternity.
What’s the buzz? The practise of hazing has been explicitly banned in many colleges in the US and Goat takes a look at the relationships within the fraternities and the notion of brotherhood.
What’s the story? This enlightening documentary is a first person account by filmmaker Will Allen about the 22 years he spent in a West Hollywood cult.
What’s the buzz? Pieced together using footage that Allen shot at the time of his involvement within the cult, Holy Hell takes an inside view into life within the organization. The film follows the euphoric start and the sexually exploitative results of Allen’s time with his teacher.
What’s the story? The skateboarding film follows the lives of four teenagers who devote their summer to escaping the harsh streets of Cleveland. After getting caught up in the local drug dealing business, their friendship is tested.
Why are people excited? None other than hip-hop legend Nas is executive producing the film as well as producing the film’s soundtrack.
What’s the story? This film does what it says on the tin and follows a couple whose couples retreat actually turns out to be an intervention on their marriage.
What’s the buzz? The ensemble drama is the hotly tipped Clea DuVail’s directorial debut and features Natasha Lyonne who you may recognize as Nicky from Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.
What’s the story? Inspired by writer-director Sian Heder’s time as a nanny for hire in upscale LA hotels, Tallulah follows the story of a nanny who impulsively decides to take a child after witnessing her unfit mother care for her.
Why the buzz? Ellen Page plays the titular character, Tallulah while Tammy Blanchard plays the alcoholic trophy wife.
What’s the story? A young street magician (played by Dule Hill) takes to drug dealing after his mother’s passing means he must care for his little sister. After running into trouble with his dealer, his sister is kidnapped and he is forced to rely on his skills to save her.
Why should we watch? While Sleight was done on a relatively low budget, it’s already being raved about and has been hailed as one of the most anticipated of the festival. Eyes on this one.
What’s the story?
A follow on from Solondz’s 1995 film, Welcome to the Dllhouse, Wiener-Dog picks up with a thirtysomething Dawn Wiener.
Why should we be excited? Directed by the experimental Todd Solondz and produced by Christine Vachon (who was also behind mega-hit, Carol) and Megan Ellison (American Hustle) this film is destined to do well. Fingers crossed it lives up to the hype.
24 Films You Need To Know About From This Year's Sundance Film Festival
Forget the Oscars drama for a second, Sundance Film Festival is upon us once again.
Subscribe to Marie Claire from only £13.99!
Choose how you want to receive Marie Claire – available in print or on your iPad