Climate change, ghosts, and Grindr: five films to look out for at Sundance 2017

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Sundance is back. Amidst the shallow glitz and glamour of the awards season, the world’s largest independent film festival gives us a sobering look at the most anticipated films of the year. Largely an indie affair (although it’s becoming increasingly mainstream), Sundance gives new artistic voices a springboard to the gates of Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, and James Wan all owe their success to Robert Redford’s institute.  

Back in 1978, the festival started as a scheme to attract more filmmakers to Utah; thirty years on, it's grown exponentially, reliably churning out cult classics and Oscar winners. Recent success stories include Swiss Army Man (2016), It Follows (2015), and What We Do in the Shadows (2014).

2017 sees the institute’s most impressive line-up yet. Here are five films to bookmark – there’s no doubt you’ll be trekking to the cinema or watching them on Netflix within the coming months. 

Beach Rats 

Image Credit: Sundance via IMDb

Eliza Hittman’s It Felt Like Love was a previous Sundance favourite; her latest – shot entirely on film – is set to cement her status as one of independent cinema’s most eloquent filmmakers. Beach Rats sees newcomer Harris Dickinson head to a cruising beach to cure his teenage angst. Whilst there, he chats up older men online and simultaneously falls in love with a younger woman. Breathing the same air as last year’s Palm d’Or nominee American Honey, is set to provide a compelling portrait of online hook-ups, queer youth, and teenage misery.

 

An Inconvenient Sequel 

From none other than former Vice President Al Gore, An Inconvenient Sequel deals with climate change and the search for a renewable energy revolution. It couldn’t be more aptly named – as we enter the Trump era, it’s clear that we haven’t learned from his 2006 Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The former VP has made a name for himself in the climate genre of documentary filmmaking; his latest is set to bring new ideas to the table and maybe, just maybe, offer a little hope.

 

Ingrid Goes West 

Image Credit: Sundance via IMDb

Ingrid Goes West sees Aubrey Plaza as an obsessive fan of a high profile YouTuber, played by Elizabeth Olsen, in this tragedy of online social mobility. She’s jealous of her superficial perfection, her millions of subscribers, and her product-endorsed celebrity lifestyle. Plaza’s deadpan delivery stole the show from Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation; it’ll be interesting to see how she fares on the big screen after the mediocre Safety Not Guaranteed. Ingrid Goes West is a film perfectly wired to our social media celebrity culture.  

 

A Ghost Story 

As Casey Affleck picks up award after award for Manchester by the Sea (which was first shown at Sundance last year), his latest feature premiers in Salt Lake City. Starring alongside Rooney Mara as his grief-stricken wife, Affleck plays the “spectral figure” that haunts his former home. Mara proved her talents in Carol, winning Best Actress at Cannes; expectations are high, then, for what appears to a challenging role. From Ain’t Them Bodies Saints director Neil Miller, A Ghost Story promises to be poetic, sombre, and brooding. 

 

Landline 

Image Credit: Sundance via IMDb

Obvious Child, the feminist comedy which took a brave stance on abortion, sees its director return with Landline. Recruiting regular Jenny Slate – who’s performance in Obvious Child was both poignant and hilarious – Gillian Ribespierre serves up a plate of 90s nostalgia with her latest feature. Set in 1995 Manhattan, it sees Dana go on a bender as she gets cold feet before tying the knot with her beau. Ribespierre is shifting her focus to drama and away from the toilet humour of her previous works – it’s an interesting move. Let’s just hope it pays off. 

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Film editor. English student at the University of Birmingham. Culture vulture. Nerd.