Combined with the Spotlight section, this batch of Premieres offers some of the best movies of the year, and the big ones to watch.
Big names are all the rage in this year’s batch of Sundance premieres, a two-pronged assortment of both narrative and documentary films that first bow at the annual January festival before — hopefully — going on to greater glory in the movie world. This year’s list includes such heavy-hitters as Gus Van Sant, Debra Granik, and Morgan Neville, along with new picks from festival favorites likes Ben Lewin, the Zellner brothers, David Wain, Jesse Peretz, and Brett Haley.
The narrative section boasts an impressive array of storylines — not just the expected “Sundance drama” types — including films about U.S. diplomats, sports stars turned spies, the beloved author Colette, a new spin on “Hamlet,” and even a character study that spins around a love for jigsaw puzzles. Talk about something for everyone.
For the 2018 Festival, 110 feature-length films were selected, representing 29 countries and 47 first-time filmmakers, including 30 infilms were selected from 13,468 submissions including 3,901 feature-length films and 8,740 short films. Of the feature film submissions, 1,799 were from the U.S. and 2,102 were international. One-hundred feature films at the Festival will be world premieres.
Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said in an official statement, “We’re proud of the diversity of this year’s lineup; emboldening broader, more inclusive independent voices is a crucial part of our work at the Festival and throughout the year. These stories might inspire or move us, even occasionally make us uncomfortable – but they can shift our perspectives, spark conversation and create change.”
Other sections announced today including the full competition lineup, Midnight, NEXT, and Kids, which you can read up on right here. More lineup announcements, including Shorts, new-this-year Indie Episodic, and New Frontier, will arrive next week.
This year’s festival runs from January 18 – 28 in Park City, Utah. Check out the full list of just-announced Premiere and Spotlight titles, with all synopses provided by Sundance, below.
A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated narrative films of the coming year.
“A Kid Like Jake” / United States (Director: Silas Howard, Screenwriter: Daniel Pearle, Producers: Jim Parsons, Todd Spiewak, Eric Norsoph, Paul Bernon, Rachel Song) — As married couple Alex and Greg navigate their roles as parents to a young son who prefers Cinderella to G.I. Joe, a rift grows between them, one that forces them to confront their own concerns about what‘s best for their child, and each other. Cast: Claire Danes, Jim Parsons, Octavia Spencer, Priyanka Chopra, Ann Dowd, Amy Landecker. World Premiere
“Beirut” / U.S.A. (Director: Brad Anderson, Screenwriter: Tony Gilroy, Producers: Mike Weber, Tony Gilroy, Shivani Rawat and Monica Levinson) — A U.S. diplomat flees Lebanon in 1972 after a tragic incident at his home. Ten years later, he is called back to war-torn Beirut by CIA operatives to negotiate for the life of a friend he left behind. Cast: Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Shea Whigham, Dean Norris. World Premiere
“The Catcher Was a Spy” / U.S.A. (Director: Ben Lewin, Screenwriter: Robert Rodat, Producers: Kevin Frakes, Tatiana Kelly, Buddy Patrick, Jim Young) — The true story of Moe Berg – professional baseball player, Ivy League graduate, attorney who spoke nine languages – and a top-secret spy for the OSS who helped the U.S. win the race against Germany to build the atomic bomb. Cast: Paul Rudd, Mark Strong, Sienna Miller, Jeff Daniels, Guy Pearce, Paul Giamatti. World Premiere
“Colette” / United Kingdom (Director: Wash Westmoreland, Screenwriters: Wash Westmoreland, Richard Glatzer, Producers: Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon, Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley) — A young country woman marries a famous literary entrepreneur in turn-of-the-century Paris: At her husband’s request, Colette pens a series of bestselling novels published under his name. But as her confidence grows, she transforms not only herself and her marriage, but the world around her. Cast: Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Fiona Shaw, Denise Gough, Elinor Tomlinson, Aiysha Hart. World Premiere
“Come Sunday” / U.S.A. (Director: Joshua Marston, Screenwriter: Marcus Hinchey, Producers:Ira Glass, Alissa Shipp, Julie Goldstein, James Stern, Lucas Smith, Cindy Kirven) — Internationally-renowned pastor Carlton Pearson — experiencing a crisis of faith — risks his church, family and future when he questions church doctrine and finds himself branded a modern-day heretic. Based on actual events. Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Condola Rashad, Jason Segel, Lakeith Stanfield, Martin Sheen. World Premiere
“Damsel” / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, Producers: Nathan Zellner, Chris Ohlson, David Zellner) — Samuel Alabaster, an affluent pioneer, ventures across the American Frontier to marry the love of his life, Penelope. As Samuel, a drunkard named Parson Henry and a miniature horse called Butterscotch traverse the Wild West, their once-simple journey grows treacherous, blurring the lines between hero, villain and damsel. Cast: Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Robert Forster, Nathan Zellner, Joe Billingiere. World Premiere
“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot” / U.S.A. (Director: Gus Van Sant, Screenwriters: Gus Van Sant (screenplay), John Callahan (biography), Producers: Charles-Marie Anthonioz, Mourad Belkeddar, Steve Golin, Nicolas Lhermitte) — John Callahan has a talent for off-color jokes…and a drinking problem. When a bender ends in a car accident, Callahan wakes permanently confined to a wheelchair. In his journey back from rock bottom, Callahan finds beauty and comedy in the absurdity of human experience. Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black. World Premiere
“Futile and Stupid Gesture” / U.S.A. (Director: David Wain, Screenwriters: John Aboud, Michael Colton, Producers: Peter Principato, Jonathan Stern) — The story of comedy wunderkind Doug Kenney, who co-created the National Lampoon, Caddyshack, and Animal House. Kenney was at the center of the 70‘s comedy counter- culture which gave birth to Saturday Night Live and a whole generation’s way of looking at the world. Cast: Will Forte, Martin Mull, Domhnall Gleeson, Matt Walsh, Joel McHale, Emmy Rossum . World Premiere
“The Happy Prince” / Germany, Belgium, Italy (Director and screenwriter: Rupert Everett) — The last days of Oscar Wilde—and the ghosts haunting them—are brought to vivid life. His body ailing, Wilde lives in exile, surviving on the flamboyant irony and brilliant wit that defined him as the transience of lust is laid bare and the true riches of love are revealed. Cast: Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Rupert Everett. World Premiere
“Hearts Beat Loud” / U.S.A. (Director: Brett Haley, Screenwriters: Brett Haley, Marc Basch, Producers: Houston King, Sam Bisbee, Sam Slater) — In Red Hook, Brooklyn, a father and daughter become an unlikely songwriting duo in the last summer before she leaves for college. Cast: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Sasha Lane, Blythe Danner, Toni Collette. World Premiere
“Juliet, Naked” / United Kingdom (Director: Jesse Peretz, Screenwriters: Tamara Jenkins, Jim Taylor, Phil Alden Robinson, Evgenia Peretz, Producers: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa) — Annie is the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan, an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe. When the acoustic demo of Tucker’s celebrated record from 25 years ago surfaces, its release leads to an encounter with the elusive rocker himself. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby. Cast: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd. World Premiere
“Ophelia” / United Kingdom (Director: Claire McCarthy, Screenwriter: Semi Chellas, Producers: Daniel Bobker, Sarah Curtis, Ehren Kruger, Paul Hanson) — A mythic spin on Hamlet through a lens of female empowerment: Ophelia comes of age as lady-in-waiting for Queen Gertrude, and her singular spirit captures Hamlet’s affections. As lust and betrayal threaten the kingdom, Ophelia finds herself trapped between true love and controlling her own destiny. Cast: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George MacKay, Tom Felton, Devon Terrell. World Premiere
“Puzzle” / U.S.A. (Director: Marc Turtletaub, Screenwriter: Oren Moverman, Producers: Peter Saraf, Wren Arthur, Guy Stodel) — Agnes, taken for granted as a suburban mother, discovers a passion for solving jigsaw puzzles which unexpectedly draws her into a new world – where her life unfolds in ways she could never have imagined. Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Irrfan Khan, David Denman, Bubba Weiler, Austin Abrams, Liv Hewson. World Premiere
Untitled Debra Granik Project / U.S.A. (Director: Debra Granik, Screenwriters: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, Producers: Anne Harrison, Linda Reisman, Anne Rosellini) — A father and daughter live a perfect but mysterious existence in Forest Park, a beautiful nature reserve near Portland, Oregon, rarely making contact with the world. A small mistake tips them off to authorities sending them on an increasingly erratic journey in search of a place to call their own. Cast: Ben Foster, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Jeff Korber, Dale Dickey. World Premiere
“What They Had” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Elizabeth Chomko, Producers: Keith Kjarval, Bill Holderman, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Alex Saks and Andrew Duncan) — Bridget returns home to Chicago at her brother‘s urging to deal with her mother‘s Alzheimer‘s and her father‘s reluctance to let go of their life together. Cast: Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Blythe Danner, Robert Forster. World Premiere