After a successful year for Sundance, with highly praised films including Past Lives, Passages, Fair Play, and 20 Days in Mariupol making their premieres, all attention is now on what will come out of this year’s edition, which begins this week in Utah.
As the festival moves away from its digital aspect due to Covid-19 and a new leader aims to revive its independent nature, the 2024 lineup presents some intriguing uncertainties with less familiar works and more potential, creating an enticingly unpredictable selection of films to kick off the new year.
These are a few of the most significant possibilities:
Saoirse Ronan, who has been nominated for an Oscar four times, may have faced some challenges with her recent projects See How They Run and Foe. However, she is starting off 2024 with two more promising ventures. The first of these will be featured in the premieres section, but out of competition. It is a film called The Outrun, based on the memoir of journalist-turned-author Amy Liptrot. The story explores Liptrot’s return to her hometown in the Orkney Islands after struggling with alcoholism in London. The film will provide an intimate showcase for Ronan and offer a raw depiction of addiction, told through a nonlinear narrative similar to Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild, which earned Reese Witherspoon an Oscar nomination in 2015.
Amazon’s never-ending growth has resulted in unimaginable expansion and expectedly, uncontrollable issues, as workers have begun to protest against numerous unfair practices. The documentary Union brings together the experiences and efforts of those fighting against the company, with a focus on Chris Smalls, the organizer of their first union. Directors Brett Story and Stephen Maing have gained privileged access to a contemporary version of this long-standing battle, now complicated by the Covid pandemic, as Amazon utilizes a charm offensive to counter the spread of misinformation about the company. This film is sure to be one of the most inspiring at the festival.
Kristen Stewart has been a regular attendee at the Sundance festival for a while now, but her success there hasn’t always been as impressive as her talent suggests. This year, she has two highly anticipated projects at the festival, both of which are vastly different. In one, she stars alongside Steven Yeun, who has had better luck at Sundance with his film Minari earning him his first Oscar nomination after its premiere at the festival in 2020. The film, titled Love Me, is a unique post-apocalyptic love story between a “smart buoy” and an orbiting satellite that spans over a billion years. The plot may seem confusing at first glance, but it will surely be worth watching to fully grasp its concept.
Love Lies Bleeding
Stewart’s next major film may be easier to understand on paper, but it is far from conventional. It is a gory lesbian crime thriller directed by the same person behind Saint Maud. In Love Lies Bleeding, Stewart portrays a gym manager who falls for a driven bodybuilder, played by Katy O’Brian from The Mandalorian. The two get caught up in a tragic crime story. Director Rose Glass, known for her breakout horror film, is sure to push some buttons with this latest project. The film will premiere at the festival’s midnight section and early screenings have reportedly elicited strong reactions. It is expected to be a major topic of discussion after its premiere this weekend.
Amid the pandemic, Steven Soderbergh created one of the most essential films centered around it – the clever technological thriller Kimi. While his subsequent film, Magic Mike’s Last Dance, was not well-received, his upcoming project seems to be a thrilling complement to Kimi. Teaming up with David Koepp, the screenwriter for Kimi, Soderbergh’s new film, Presence, will be an innovative haunted house movie told from the ghost’s point of view. In an interview with Variety, Soderbergh explained that the presence will only catch glimpses of a family, revealing their unraveling dynamic. The ghost element serves as a disguise to showcase a group of individuals on the brink of collapse.
The new documentary at this year’s Sundance festival is seen by many as the most important one. It continues the story from last year’s festival, where the popular documentary Boys State won a lot of attention and was purchased by Apple and A24 for $12 million. The sequel, Girls State, aims to answer a question that was left unanswered in the first film – what about the girls? It provides another significant look into the lives of American youth in the 21st century, as high school students gather in Missouri for a program where they can experience what it’s like to be involved in politics. The documentary takes place during a time when the US was debating laws regarding abortion, making it a timely but possibly difficult film to watch.
I witnessed the luminosity of the television.
During the 2021 virtual Sundance festival, first-time filmmaker Jane Schoenbrun rose to prominence with the unsettling internet-based horror film, “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair.” This film was a better fit for an online premiere compared to others in that year’s lineup. Their next project, “I Saw the TV Glow,” also explores our relationship with media. This time, the story follows two friends who become obsessed with a mysterious late-night TV show that blurs the lines between reality and fiction. The film features Justice Smith, who also stars in the highly-anticipated satire “The American Society of Magical Negroes,” making it one of the most unique genre films of the year.
Filmmaker Yance Ford is making a comeback at the Sundance Film Festival following the success of his breakout film “Strong Island” in 2017. The documentary received an Oscar nomination for best documentary and explored the personal and difficult subject of the murder of his brother, a young Black man, by a white mechanic who faced no consequences. Ford’s latest project, “Power,” is expected to address similar issues on a larger scale, focusing on the history of policing in the US and how factors such as race and class have influenced its impact on American lives past and present.
In the 2000s, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck made a strong debut at Sundance with the teacher-student drama Half Nelson starring Ryan Gosling. However, their career has been inconsistent since then, with their latest decision to direct Captain Marvel in 2019 receiving criticism. They are now releasing a new film titled Freaky Tales, set in 1980s California and featuring four interconnected stories incorporating supernatural elements, hip-hop, horror, and kung fu. The film’s climax promises to be intense, with a cast including Pedro Pascal, Ben Mendelsohn, the late Angus Cloud, and singer Normani in her debut acting role.
My Old Ass
Prior to her appearance on the second season of The White Lotus on HBO, Aubrey Plaza showcased her versatility in both comedic and dramatic roles at the Sundance Film Festival. She wowed audiences with her performances in Ingrid Goes West, Black Bear, and Emily the Criminal. In her newest project, My Old Ass, a high-concept comedy, Plaza plays the older version of a teenager who embarks on a mushroom-induced journey to meet her younger self before leaving for college. The film, produced by Margot Robbie (known for her work on Promising Young Woman at Sundance in 2020), is expected to be highly sought after at the festival.