Nate Parker was pumped. The writer-director-actor had just finished the Q&A for the final Sundance Film Festival screening of his breakout debut feature The Birth of a Nation, but he wasn’t nearly ready to stop talking about the movie that had taken the festival by storm. Parker wrote, directed and stars in the biopic of Nat Turner, a preacher and slave who, in 1831, led a famed slave rebellion in Virginia.
Sure, there are plenty of high-profile films from award-winning filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival, but of the great joys of the indie mecca is the opportunity for discovery. Every year, little films from semi-anonymous directors capture the imaginations of audiences and journalists piled into retrofitted theaters in Park City, Utah. With a title aimed squarely at D.W. Griffith’s racist, 1915 celebration of white supremacy, Nation is a raw, visceral depiction of the life of Nat Turner (Parker), the charismatic, God-fearing preacher and slave who led a brief, but earth-quaking revolt in Virginia in 1831.
No wonder the annual Sundance Film Festival is known for being a place to discover the next big thing. This year, the offspring of actors Johnny Depp and Clint Eastwood, singer Lisa Marie Presley, and others are all making the rounds.
Colin Trevorrow prefers to watch period pictures that are shot on film instead of on a digital camera, the director behind Jurassic World said during a press conference at the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday. A belief that digital cameras are anachronistic will impact his choices on his next project. When Trevorrow slides behind the camera on Star Wars: Episode IX, he plans to use film stock.
After Wyatt Cenac left The Daily Show With Jon Stewart in 2012, viewers likely assumed the fan favorite would start popping up in Hollywood comedies à la fellow alums Rob Riggle and Kristen Schaal, or perhaps even headlining films like Steve Carell and Ed Helms. Written and directed by Bernardo Britto (whose 2014 Sundance-winning short Yearbook is essential viewing), Jacqueline is an inspired mockumentary-style indie starring Cenac as an unnamed “director” contacted by the titular low-level French government employee (Camille Rutherford). Jacqueline has taken refuge in South America after happening upon documents outlining plans to assassinate a Middle Eastern politician, and the director documents his journey to Argentina to tell her story.
Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards is not a household name in the U.S. — and frankly, said Hugh Jackman, that’s the reason why a biopic about the British Olympian was kicking around Hollywood for 15 years before it got made. Jackman and friends are hoping that changes with the inspirational new sports drama Eddie the Eagle, which premiered to cheers last night as the surprise, unofficial screening at the Sundance Film Festival. The film stars Kingsman breakout Taron Egerton as Edwards, who, despite his working-class London background and severe athletic shortcomings, was so determined to become an Olympian that trained himself how to ski jump in less than a year and found loopholes in the entry process enabled him to compete in the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.
Deadpool has been incessantly shooting off his trap — as Deadpool is wont to do — over the past few weeks in the ramp up to his titular movie, out Feb. 12. Among the most notable targets of Ryan Reynolds’s mouthy alter ego: Wolverine. Specifically, the 2009 movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where the Marvel mercernary made his first big-screen appearance alongside Hugh Jackman’s hirsute hero.
The 2016 Sundance Film Festival is in full swing in Park City, Utah, and the photo opportunities are as numerous as the films. Here’s a peek at who’s making the scene at the premieres and parties, or just breaking out their winter wear for a snowy stroll.
The Oscar-nominated filmmaker and playwright Kenneth Lonergan has developed over the past two decades a reputation as a bit of a quiet genius who prefers to let his work do the talking. Lonergan was visibly relieved by the quick and lucrative resolution this time, but in speaking with Yahoo Movies, he hadn’t yet processed the technological or business implications of selling to a big streaming platform.
The Chickening, a five-minute film that’s been making the festival rounds, has just landed on the Internet — and once you’ve watched it, you’ll definitely be wondering “What the cluck?” Nick DenBoer and Davy Force’s completely bonkers movie (which played at Sundance yesterday) takes footage from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and re-edits it with layers upon layers of digital effects and animation. In The Chickening, the sinister Overlook Hotel from The Shining becomes Charbay’s Chicken World, “the largest fast foot entertainment complex in North America,” where Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is hired to be the night manager. It should surprise no one that directors, co-writers, and animators DenBoer and Force have been involved with the edgier side of animated film for years, contributing to Adult Swim, Mondo Media, and Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation.
Kevin Smith has had to ask Johnny Depp and his ex-wife for parental consent sign-offs a couple times now. It happened first during the 2014 production of the director’s first foray into horror filmmaking, the certifiably weird shockfest Tusk, about a lunatic who turns a podcaster into his own pet walrus. Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn, and Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose, have been best friends since they met in kindergarten at 5.
Sundance is well underway, and buzzy entries are getting snatched up left and right. Hollywood pays big bucks for little movies because, it turns out, it’s a pretty great shortcut to prestige, come awards season. So, let’s break down the purchases that we’re betting will make waves down the road.
Drama about the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner is inspiring fierce bidding following its electrifying premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Nate Parker in ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (Sundance Film Institute) Consider this an official declaration: The Birth of a Nation is the first major contender for the 2017 Oscars. Nate Parker’s period drama, about the black preacher who led a bloody insurrection against Virginia slave owners in 1831, was adoringly received at its Monday afternoon Sundance screening, drawing several standing ovations at the cavernous Eccles Theatre. Parker, who starred in 2014’s cult hit romance Beyond the Lights and the Denzel Washington film The Great Debaters, not only wrote and directed The Birth of a Nation, but also plays its central character. The Birth of a Nation makes no bones about the unthinkable evils of slavery.
The Sundance documentary Tickled — summarized with the logline “a New Zealand reporter accidentally stumbles upon an underground competitive tickling contest” — sounded like a barrel of laughs. Instead David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s fascinating film reveals a dark and ominous tickling world ruled by a shadowy and sinister creep who shall hereby be known as the real-life Tickle Monster. You just can’t make this stuff up, which is exactly what makes Tickled a must-see documentary.
The documentary Holy Hell, about a long-running cult based in California and Texas, is filled with horrifying revelations and cringe-worthy moments of outright absurdity. Allen, now 53 years old, was just 22 when he was invited by his sister to join what, at the time, seemed like a joyous commune in California. Video that Allen captured as the group’s unofficial filmmaker depict a yuppie paradise on the California coast, filled with dancing and singing and spiritual awakening imparted by its leader, a man who went only by the name Michel.
Rebecca Hall so thoroughly inhabits the role of late Florida newscaster Christine Chubbuck in the movie Christine that, when she spoke with Yahoo Movies about the Sundance Film Festival drama on Sunday, the sound of her natural British accent qualified as a genuine shock. Hall delivers a bold, transformed performance in director Antonio Campos’ intense and ultimately tragic second feature, offering up a sympathetic portrait of a very enigmatic (and unknowable) figure. In a strangely forgotten chapter in American media history, Chubbuck, a 29-year-old reporter working for a small TV station in Florida in 1974, committed suicide on camera.
The new documentary Weiner is as much about the media’s rabid hunt and bottomless appetite for lurid, sensational stories as it is about the rise and fall of Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman who ran for mayor of New York. —Weiner suggests that Abedin, a top aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was a major influence in his decision to run for mayor. —Abedin was active in the early stages of Weiner’s campaign, making campaign appearances and fundraising phone calls to well-connected friends (despite loathing the activity).
After the messy, half decade-long battle over the final cut of his previous film, 2011’s Margaret, it’s a relief to declare that Manchester by the Sea is pure Kenneth Lonergan. Many of Lonergan’s trademarks are on display in Manchester, a nuanced and gorgeously downbeat family dramedy that made its debut (and earned several standing ovations) at Sundance on Saturday. Both of Lonergan’s previous films began with a sudden death, and Manchester follows in that tradition.
Nearly a decade after they charmed the world in Juno, Ellen Page and Allison Janney have re-teamed for a new — and very different — examination of motherhood. With Tallulah, which made its world premiere on Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival, Page has graduated from playing a quirky and earnest teen who is giving her baby up for adoption, to a troubled drifter who kidnaps a toddler. It’s a lot easier, initially, to sympathize with Juno, but that is part of the point: Tallulah, both with its script and Page’s performance, creates a moving portrait of a complex and misguided character who demands, at the very least, our sympathy.
There was only one problem: He was a hostage of the brutal North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Just over a year after the uproar over The Interview, Seth Rogen’s goofy satire about foreigners infiltrating the North Korean dictatorship, a new documentary that premiered at Sundance tells the very real story of two people who survived an even closer encounter in Pyongyang. The saga of Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee, also recently detailed in a book by Paul Fischer, is brought to life in The Lovers and the Despot from directors Ross Adam and Robert Cannan, with the help of photos, interviews, re-enactments, and secretly taped conversations featuring Kim Jong-il.
The Sundance Film Festival has long been on the cutting edge of indie film, and this year’s 10th iteration of its forward-looking New Frontier program is focused on the burgeoning field of virtual reality. VR has been buzzed about on and off since the ‘90s, but over the last several years, the emergence of consumer products such as the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard has brought the technology closer to a viable storytelling medium. Google Cardboard: A basic hardware combination made of a cardboard mask and Android cell phone, it is already being used for niche projects and marketing experiments, making it the most accessible iteration of VR currently available.