25 Most Anticipated Films At the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival is enterting a new decade, in fact, it’s the first major festival to usher in the new era, but color us slightly concerned about its upcoming slate. While the documentary features are as intriguing as ever (outside of the eyebrow raising inclusion of a Netflix Taylor Swift doc) many of the narrative selections seem eerily familiar. Such is the state of the global independent film scene it seems.

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Luckily, there are a number of narrative titles that should more than peak your interest.  And, as its John Cooper‘s last year as festival Director we’re hoping his impressive run will go out with a bang.

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That being said, is there a “Souvenir,” “Farewell,” “Blair Witch Project,” “Precious,” or “Napoleon Dynamite” on this year’s slate?  We’re not so sure, but here’s a rundown of 25 titles announced for Sundance so ar that we’re uniquely curious about.

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Director: Benh Zeitlin
Cast: Devin France, Yashua Mack
Lowdown: Zeitlin’s long awaited follow up to 2012’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which debuted at Sundance, earned Best Picture and Best Director nominations. The Queens native has been somewhat under the radar since, but returns with a new, modern take on J.M Barrie’s “Peter Pan.” The fact Zeitlin has been so under the radar for most of the decade (it felt like he completely disappeared) and “Wendy” seems stylistically similar to “Beasts” makes this Fox Searchlight title a must-see for any cinephile.

Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho
Lowdown: An eventual A24 release, the concept of a 7-year-old boy dealing with the difficulty of his Korean family moving to Arkansas in the mid-80’s isn’t as fresh as it might seem. That being said, Yeun, who plays the patriarch of the family, and Oscar-winning producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner have exemplary taste (you could argue the latter rarely produce a misfire because it’s true).
[U.S. Dramatic Competition]

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
Director: Eliza Hitman
Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten
Lowdown: This writer thought Hitman’s last feature, “Beach Rats,” was massively overrated, but her latest centers on two teenage girls from rural Pennsylvania making their way to New York City to deal with an unwanted pregnancy is intriguing material.  And the fact Focus Features and producer Adele Romanski, who won an Oscar for “Moonlight” and is willing to take on challenging projects like “Under the Silver Lake,” is on board is a very good sign.
[U.S. Dramatic Competition]

“Palm Springs”
Director: Max Barbakow
Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Meredith Hagner, Camila Mendes, Peter Gallagher
Lowdown: A comedic tale of a wedding night fling gone wrong in, yes, Palm Springs is Barbakow’s feature debut.  Groundbreaking? We’re not so sure, but it made the dramatic competion, stars Samberg, Simmons (who doesn’t say yes to just anything) and was partially produced by Sandberg’s The Loney Island trio so that should be enough to get your attention.
[U.S. Dramatic Competition]

Director: Janicza Bravo
Cast: Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun, Colman Domingo
Lowdown: Based on a 148-tweet thread from that went viral in 2015, this long in the works A24 production follows a Detroit waitress, the Zola in question, whose road trip to Florida with a stripper simply seemed too out there to believe.  It took Bravo (“Lemon,” FX’s “Atlanta”) and Broadway’s hottest playwright, Jeremy O. Harris, to adapt the story for the big screen.  Whether it remains as sensational as the original content (Zola admits some of the more sensational aspects were exaggerated) remains to be seen, but this has the potential to be one of the biggest breakouts of the festival.
[U.S. Dramatic Competition]

“The Nest”
Director: Sean Durkin
Cast: Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Charlie Shotwell, Oona Roche
Lowdown: “Wendy’s” Ben Zeitlin isn’t the only filmmaker to return to Sundance after a very long absence.  Durkin set the festival and the careers of Elizabeth Olsen  and Sarah Paulson on fire with 2011’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene.”  The film’s aesthetic defined a good portion of indie and prestige television for the decade, but it’s taken Durkin almost 10 years to direct another fim.  This acquisition title features Law and Coon as an American couple who discover something sinister in their new English manor.  It seems quite conventional until you remember that conventional simply isn’t in Durkin’s DNA.

Director: Maïmouna Doucouré
Cast: Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Myriam Hamma, Maïmouna Gueye
Lowdown: This Netflix release centers on an 11-year-old girl who is intoxicated by her friends, a group of dancers at her school known as the “cuties.”  This doesn’t sit well with her conservative mother and tween conflict ensues.  Doucouré’s feature debut could be a whiff that doesn’t bring much to the genre, but something tells us its just unique enough to check out.
[World Dramatic Competition]