Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Our Most Anticipated Films From The 2024 Sundance Film Festival

With the dawning of a new year, so comes another edition of the Sundance Film Festival. The preeminent showcase for new independent voices and films takes place in the snowy haven of Park City, Utah. As with every year, a massive slate of new movies awaits festivalgoers, and here are just a few of the ones for which we’re most excited. 

“The American Society of Magical Negros”Plot: A young man, Aren, is recruited into a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people’s lives easier.
Director/Writer: Kobi Libii
Cast: Justice Smith, David Alan Grier, An-Li Bogan, Drew Tarver, Rubert Friend, Nicole Byer
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: With a startling title and a trailer that provoked intense online discussion, this film already has eyes on it. Writer-director Kobi Libii makes his feature debut with this film that’s sure to ignite even more debate than it already has.

“Desire Lines”

Plot: Past and present collide when an Iranian-American trans man time-travels through an LGBTQ+ archive on a dizzying and erotic quest to unravel his sexual desires.
Director: Jules Rosskam
Writers: Nate Gualtieri & Jules Rosskam
Cast: Theo Germaine, Aden Hakimi
Section: Next
Why We’re Interested: Sundance is a great place to discover the latest in new LGBTQ+ films and artistic voices. “Desire Lines” tells the story of an Iranian-American trans man on a time-bending, historical journey; it sounds like just the kind of boundary-pushing queer film that will appeal to specific audiences.

“DEVO”

Plot: This high-energy documentary embraces the spectacle of the band DEVO, reveling in lofi archival footage, swift montages, and a charging rhythm that leaves you mesmerized by their wild rise. Band members are open with both their memories and archives, finally sharing the full story.
Director: Chris Smith
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: Much of the public’s general knowledge of the band DEVO boils down to their hit song “Whip It” and their penchant for wearing funny headgear. But, this documentary looks to explore much more about the new-wave group, including their birth in response to the massacre at the band’s alma mater, Kent State.

“Dìdi (弟弟)”

Plot: In 2008, during the last month of summer before high school begins, an impressionable 13-year-old Taiwanese-American boy learns what his family can’t teach him: how to skate, how to flirt, and how to love your mom.
Director/Writer: Sean Wang
Cast: Izaac Wang, Joan Chen, Shirley Chen, Chang Li Hua
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
Why We’re Interested: This film appears to be an emotional look back at a specific time in a young boy’s life, namely, the summer of 2008. Young director Sean Wang currently has a film on the Academy’s shortlist for Best Documentary Short called “Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó,” so he’s already making a name for himself even before his feature debut at this year’s Sundance.

“A Different Man”

Plot: Aspiring actor Edward undergoes a radical medical procedure to drastically transform his appearance. But, his new dream face quickly turns into a nightmare as he loses out on the role he was born to play and becomes obsessed with reclaiming what was lost.
Director/Writer: Aaron Schimberg
Cast: Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve, Adam Pearson
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: This film already made headlines when star Sebastian Stan’s intensive prosthetic makeup was revealed. “A Different Man” promises to be a surreal look at the artistic process and how far some are prepared to go for success.

“Exhibiting Forgiveness”

Plot: Utilizing his paintings to find freedom from his past, a Black artist on the path to success is derailed by an unexpected visit from his estranged father, a recovering addict desperate to reconcile. Together, they learn that forgetting might be a greater challenge than forgiving.
Director/Writer: Titus Kaphar
Cast: André Holland, John Earl Jelks, Andra Day, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
Why We’re Interested: This year’s Sundance features plenty of films with star-studded casts, and the ensemble of “Exhibiting Forgiveness” is one of the most noteworthy. Starring André Holland of “Moonlight” fame, plus Academy Award nominees Andra Day and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, this story of an artist facing familial troubles from his past is sure to attract attention.

“Freaky Tales”

Plot: In 1987 Oakland, a mysterious force guides The Town’s underdogs in four interconnected tales: Teen punks defend their turf against Nazi skinheads, a rap duo battles for hip-hop immortality, a weary henchman gets a shot at redemption, and an NBA All-Star settles the score. Another day in the Bay.
Directors/Writers: Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden
Cast: Pedro Pascal, Jay Ellis, Normani Kordei Hamilton, Dominque Thorne, Ben Mendelsohn, Ji-Young Yoo, Jack Champion, Angus Cloud, Kier Gilchrist
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: This anthology film comes from Sundance darlings Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who directed the acclaimed “Half Nelson” and the blockbuster “Captain Marvel.” They return to the festival with a film promising style and shock, featuring an impressive cast, including Pedro Pascal, Ben Mendelsohn, the late Angus Cloud, and Normani.

“Girls State”

Plot: Teenage girls from wildly different backgrounds across Missouri navigate a week-long immersive experiment in American democracy, build a government from the ground up, and reimagine what it means to govern.
Directors: Amanda McBaine & Jesse Moss
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: Boys State,” by directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, was one of the best documentaries of 2020. Now, that same directing pair is back with a companion piece entitled “Girls State.” This film explores territory similar to its male-based counterpart but instead focuses on a week-long mock-government experience for teenage girls that takes place in Missouri.

“Handling the Undead”

Plot: On a hot summer day in Oslo, the newly-dead awaken. Three families faced with loss try to figure out what this resurrection means and if their loved ones are truly back. Based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Director: Thea Hvistendahl
Writers: John Ajvide Lindqvist & Thea Hvistendahl
Cast: Renate Reinsve, Bjørn Sundquist, Bente Børsum, Anders Danielsen Lie, Bahar Pars, Insea Dauksta
Section: World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Why We’re Interested: Sundance is always an excellent place to find new voices in horror; last year brought us the brilliant “Birth/Rebirth” and future A24 hit “Talk to Me.” This Norwegian film is about a world where the dead suddenly reanimate stars Renata Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie, who cinephiles will recognize from their highly acclaimed turns in “The Worst Person in the World.”

“Hit Man”
Hit Man

Plot: A strait-laced professor discovers his hidden talent as a fake hitman. He meets his match in a client who steals his heart and ignites a powder keg of deception, delight, and mixed-up identities. Inspired by an unbelievable true story.
Director: Richard Linklater
Writers:  Richard Linklater & Glen Powell
Cast: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio, Retta, Sanjay Rao
Section: Spotlight
Why We’re Interested: After a promising premiere at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Richard Linklater’s latest comes to Sundance ahead of its eventual Netflix release. The film re-teams Linklater and star/co-writer Glen Powell, who previously worked with the famed indie director on “Everybody Wants Some!!” and “Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood.”

“I Saw the TV Glow”

Plot: Teenager Owen is just trying to make it through life in the suburbs when his classmate introduces him to a mysterious late-night T.V. show: a vision of a supernatural world beneath their own. In the pale glow of the television, Owen’s view of reality begins to crack.
Director/Writer: Jane Schoenbrun
Cast:  Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Ian Foreman, Helena Howard, Fred Durst, Danielle Deadwyler
Section: Midnight
Why We’re Interested: Director Jane Schoenbrun made a splash with “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” — an eerie, unsettling film that premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Now, they’re back with “I Saw the TV Glow,” which looks to be similarly captivating in tone and energy.

“Love Lies Bleeding”

Plot: Reclusive gym manager Lou falls hard for Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder headed through town to Las Vegas in pursuit of her dream. But, their love ignites violence, pulling them deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family.
Director: Rose Glass
Writers: Rose Glass & Weronika Tofilska
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov
Section: Midnight
Why We’re Interested: After its trailer made a splashy debut online, “Love Lies Bleeding” has secured its spot as one of the festival’s buzziest titles. Starring Kristen Stewart and up-and-comer Katy O’Brian in an impressive physical performance, this marks director Rose Glass’s second feature after their fantastic debut, “Saint Maud.”

“Love Me”

Plot: Long after humanity’s extinction, a buoy and a satellite meet online and fall in love.
Directors/Writers: Sam & Andy Zuchero
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Steven Yeun
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
Why We’re Interested: This sci-fi-esque film centers around two of the most exciting actors working today: Oscar nominees Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun. That should be enough to pique any cinephile’s interest, but the strange, original premise makes this a must-see.

“The Moogai”

Plot: A young Aboriginal couple brings home their second baby. What should be a joyous time takes a sinister turn as the mother starts seeing a malevolent spirit she is convinced is trying to take her baby.
Director/Writer: Jon Bell
Cast: Shari Sebbens, Meyne Wyatt, Tessa Rose, Jahdeana Mary, Clarence Ryan, Bella Heathcote
Section: Midnight
Why We’re Interested: Notably, this horror film comes to the festival from the same producers of “The Babadook” and “Talk to Me,” two movies that premiered at Sundance before going on to become modern classics of the genre. Drawing from Indigenous lore, this supernatural folk tale should speak directly to horror lovers.

“Never Look Away”

Plot: New Zealand-born groundbreaking CNN camerawoman Margaret Moth risks it all to show the reality of war from inside the conflict, staring down danger and confronting those who perpetuate it.
Director: Lucy Lawless
Writers: Matthew Metcalfe, Tom Blackwell, & Lucy Lawless
Section: World Cinema Documentary Competition
Why We’re Interested: Lucy Lawless, best known for her portrayal of the title role in “Xena: Warrior Princess,” makes her directorial debut with this documentary. It looks at the life and work of CNN camerawoman Margaret Moth, who made a name for herself by fearlessly shooting from inside active war zones. This looks to be a harrowing, albeit inspiring, look at the life of a woman who worked hard to make the world aware of the worst atrocities.

“The Outrun”

Plot: After living life on the edge in London, Rona attempts to come to terms with her troubled past. She returns to the wild beauty of Scotland’s Orkney Islands — where she grew up — hoping to heal. Adapted from the bestselling memoir by Amy Liptrot.
Director: Nora Fingscheidt
Writers: Nora Fingscheidt & Amy Liptrot
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Paapa Essiedu, Stephen Dillane, Saskia Reeves
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: Saoirse Ronan is the kind of esteemed actress who draws the attention of film lovers with any project she chooses, given the consistent quality of her work and her magnetic power with awards bodies. This memoir-based drama is almost certain to have a life beyond the festival, thanks partly to Ronan’s star power. 

“Presence”

Plot: A family moves into a suburban house and becomes convinced they’re not alone.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: David Koepp
Cast: Lucy Liu, Chris Sullivan, Callina Liang, Julia Fox, Eddy Maday, West Mulholland
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: Steven Soderbergh has a reputation for being one of the fastest filmmakers this side of Clint Eastwood, and his one-film-a-year tradition continues with “Presence.” Little is known about the film, but the talented cast and eerie premise are undeniably intriguing.

“Sasquatch Sunset”

Plot: A year in the life of a singular family.
Directors: David & Nathan Zellner
Writer: David Zellner
Cast: Riley Keough, Jesse Eisenberg, Christopher Zajac-Denek, Nathan Zellner
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: The cheekily simplistic plot summary hides this film’s inherently bizarre premise: it looks to follow a family of sasquatches through their life. Anchored by the dynamic acting duo of Riley Keough and Jesse Eisenberg, this marks the Sundance return of the Zellner Bros, the team behind the Sundance hit “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” & “Damsel.”

“Stress Positions”

Plot: Terry Goon is keeping strict quarantine in his ex-husband’s Brooklyn brownstone while caring for his nephew — a 19-year-old model from Morocco named Bahlul — who is bedridden in a full leg cast after an electric scooter accident. Unfortunately for Terry, everyone in his life wants to meet the model.
Director/Writer: Theda Hammel
Cast: John Early, Qaher Harhash, Theda Hammel, Amy Zimmer, Faheem Ali, John Roberts
Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
Why We’re Interested: This comedy is already gaining buzz thanks to its NYC comedy roots. Theda Hammel’s directorial debut features, among others, familiar comedy names John Early (“Search Party”) and John Roberts (“The Bob’s Burgers Movie“).

“Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story”

Plot: Never-before-seen home movies and extraordinary personal archives reveal how Christopher Reeve went from an unknown actor to an iconic movie star as the ultimate screen superhero. He learned the true meaning of heroism as an activist after suffering a tragic accident that left him quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator to breathe.
Directors: Ian Bonhôte & Peter Ettedgui
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: Sundance has always been a great place to catch documentaries that will eventually go onto recognition and, for a lucky few, Oscar attention, such as last year’s “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” which made this year’s Academy shortlist. “Super/Man” tells the legendary story of Christopher Reeve, who had a profoundly inspiring career as both an actor and an activist for disability rights.

“Thelma”

Plot: When 93-year-old Thelma Post gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson, she sets out on a treacherous quest across the city to reclaim what was taken from her.
Director/Writer: Josh Margolin
Cast: June Squibb, Fred Hechinger, Richard Roundtree, Parker Posey, Clark Gregg, Malcolm McDowell
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: The film’s premise is charming enough, but the all-star cast (including June Squibb and Parker Posey) makes this a must-see. It’s also the final film of the recently departed blaxploitation legend Richard Roundtree.

“Will & Harper”

Plot: When Will Ferrell finds out his close friend of 30 years is coming out as a trans woman, the two decide to embark on a cross-country road trip to process this new stage of their relationship in an intimate portrait of friendship, transition and America.
Director: Josh Greenbaum
Section: Premieres
Why We’re Interested: Celebrity-based documentaries are nothing new for Sundance, but this one has quite an eye-catching premise. It follows Will Ferrell and his close friend Harper Steele as they set out on a cross-country journey after Steele comes out as a trans woman. It looks to be a funny and heartwarming adventure for both the central pair and the audience.

What are you most looking forward to watching at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our X account. You can check out the whole lineup here (there are so many others not listed above that we cannot wait to see) and be on the lookout for our reactions on X, our written reviews and podcast recap which will go up on January 27th.

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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