Home » News

Redford will be among stars shining at Sundance Film Festival

First Published      Last Updated Jan 17 2017 07:02 pm

Premieres » Sundance Institute’s founder slated for two public events at film festival.

Once again, the stars will be out in January for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Familiar names like James Franco, Jesse Eisenberg, Lily Tomlin, Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Reynolds, Ewan McGregor, Ethan Hawke and Anna Kendrick are among those cast in the 16 films announced Monday for Sundance's Premieres slate.

The 13 titles in the Documentary Premieres slate, also announced Monday, includes some celebrity firepower, with profiles of singer Nina Simone, comedian Tig Notaro and the late rocker Kurt Cobain. The documentary list also delves into serious topics: Sexual assault on college campuses, Scientology, polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, America's education system, and the history of the Black Panther Party.

Most notable, perhaps, is that the festival's perennial star — Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford — is scheduled to have more of a public presence at the festival than in years past.

Redford usually prefers to work behind the scenes during Sundance, meeting filmmakers and Sundance donors, fielding questions at the opening-day press conference, and slipping in to see the occasional movie. Some years, the only time the general public gets a glimpse of Redford is when he introduces the opening-night film in Park City's Eccles Theatre.

For 2015, though, Redford is slated to take part in two, one-of-a-kind public events.

One is a panel discussion, "Visions of Independence," that will pair Redford onstage with "Star Wars" creator George Lucas. The panel, part of Sundance's "Power of Story" series, is the centerpiece of "Art of Film," a program of events during the festival's second weekend highlighting the craft and process of filmmaking.

The "Art of Film" program is "a way to get a little more of a signature on the last part of the festival, as different from the first part," said festival director John Cooper. The events are still being programmed, but Cooper expects to enlist filmmakers whose work is on the Sundance slate.

Redford's other appearance will be as part of "The Way of the Rain," a multi-disciplinary performance-art piece created by Redford's wife, painter and environmental artist Sybille Szaggars Redford. The work, a variation of which she staged last year in Miami, combines paintings, music, dance, film and spoken-word performance.

"It's never the same — it keeps morphing," Cooper said of the work. "I said, 'Let's bring it in during the festival.'"

"The Way of the Rain" will be staged at The Complex, a concert venue at 536 W. 100 South in Salt Lake City. Cooper said there was no available space big enough in Park City, and "[Redford] is interested in Salt Lake City, and bringing Salt Lake more into the umbrella of the festival."

The 2015 Sundance Film Festival will run Jan. 22 to Feb. 1 in Park City, and at venues in Salt Lake City, Ogden and the Sundance resort.

Here are the 29 titles in the Premieres and Documentary Premieres categories of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, announced Monday.

Also listed are the festival's "Special Events," which include the two major panel discussions in Sundance's "Power of Story" series.

The selections in Sundance's short-film competition will be announced Tuesday.

All films produced in the United States, unless otherwise noted.


"Brooklyn" • (U.K.) An Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) in 1950s New York is faced with a choice between two men: An Italian plumber (Emory Cohen) in Brooklyn or a pub owner (Domhnall Gleeson) back home. John Crowley directs this adaptation of Colm Tóibín's novel, with a script by novelist Nick Hornby ("High Fidelity," "Fever Pitch").

"Digging for Fire" • Director Joe Swanberg ("Happy Christmas," SFF'14) returns with this romance, in which a married couple (Jake Johnson, who co-wrote with Swanberg, and Rosemarie DeWitt) go off on separate adventures after the discovery of a bone and a gun. The cast includes Orlando Bloom, Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick.

"Don Verdean" • The folks who made "Napoleon Dynamite" (SFF'04), Utah-based director Jared Hess and his wife/co-writer Jerusha ("Austenland," SFF'13), are back with this comedy about a biblical archaeologist (Sam Rockwell) who must get creative when he fails to find faith-promoting relics in the Holy Land. Also starring Jemaine Clement, Amy Ryan, Danny McBride, Leslie Bibb and Will Forte.

"End of the Tour" • Director James Ponsoldt ("Off the Black," SFF'06; "Smashed," SFF'12; "The Spectacular Now," SFF'13) and writer Donald Margulies adapt David Lipsky's account of interviewing novelist David Foster Wallace for Rolling Stone while on a five-day book tour in 1996. Jason Segel plays Wallace, Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky. Also starring Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer and Ron Livingston.

"Experimenter" • Writer-director Michael Almereyda ("Nadja," SFF'95; "Hamlet," SFF'00) casts Peter Sarsgaard as Stanley Milgram, the social psychologist who in 1961 conducted the infamous experiments in which people believed they were administering painful electrical shocks to strangers. The cast includes Winona Ryder, Jim Gaffigan, Kellan Lutz, Taryn Manning and John Leguizamo.

"Grandma" • Lily Tomlin stars as a misanthrope whose 18-year-old granddaughter (Julia Garner) suddenly shows up in need of help, in writer-director Paul Weitz' comedy. Also starring Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox and Sam Elliott.

"I Am Michael" • James Franco stars in this true story of a gay activist who becomes an ex-gay Christian pastor. Director Justin Kelly co-wrote with Stacey Miller. The cast includes Zachary Quinto and Emma Roberts.

"I'll See You in My Dreams" • Blythe Danner stars as Carol, a widow in her 70s who re-enters the dating world for the first time in 20 years — and finds herself in relationships with two very different men. Director Brett Haley co-wrote with Mark Basch. Also starring Martin Starr, Sam Elliott, Malin Akerman, June Squibb and Rhea Perlman.

"Last Days in the Desert" • Ewan McGregor plays Jesus, and the Devil, in this telling of the biblical story of Christ's 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert. Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia ("Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her," SFF'00; "Nine Lives," SFF'05; "Mother and Child," SFF'10) has also cast Ciarán Hinds, Ayelet Zurer and Tye Sheridan.

"Lila & Eve" • Viola Davis portrays a mother attending a support group after her son is murdered — where she meets a woman (Jennifer Lopez) who urges her to track down the killers. Charles Stone III directs a script by Ptrick Gilfillan.

"Mississippi Grind" • A poker player (Ben Mendelsohn) on a losing streak convinces a younger player (Ryan Reynolds) to join him on a road trip to New Orleans, where a high-stakes game awaits. This drama, by the writing-directing team of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden ("Half Nelson," SFF'06; "Sugar," SFF'08), also stars Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard and Robin Weigert.

"Mistress America" • Director Noah Baumbach ("The Squid and the Whale," SFF'05) casts his girlfriend and co-writer, Greta Gerwig, as Brooke, who "rescues" her soon-to-be stepsister Tracy (Lola Kirke), a lonely college freshman, with a series of alluringly mad schemes.

"Seoul Searching" • (U.S./Korea) Three foreign-born Korean teens meet at a Seoul summer camp in the '80s, where they learn what it means to be Korean — and meet three girls who change their lives. Justin Chon (from the "Twilight" saga) leads the ensemble cast for writer-director Benson Lee ("Miss Monday," SFF'98).

"Sleeping With Other People" • Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainie (Alison Brie), who lost their virginity to each other in college, meet up 12 years later — when he's a womanizer and she's a serial cheater — and form a platonic friendship in this comedy by writer-director Leslye Headland ("Bachelorette," SFF'12). Also starring Adam Scott, Amanda Peet and Natasha Lyonne.

"Ten Thousand Saints" • After his friend overdoses, a Vermont teen (Asa Butterfield) is sent to live with his father (Ethan Hawke) in Manhattan — where he befriends his friend's pregnant girlfriend (Hailie Steinfeld) and his straight-edge half-brother (Emile Hirsch). The directing-writing team of Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman ("American Splendor," SFF'03; "The Extra Man," SFF'10) adapt Eleanor Henderson's '80s-set novel. Also starring Emily Mortimer and Julianne Nicholson.

"Zipper" • Patrick Wilson stars as a federal prosecutor with a promising political future — which is jeopardized by his habit for hiring escort services. Director Mora Stephens co-wrote with Joel Viertel. The cast includes Lena Headey, Richard Dreyfuss, Ray Winstone, John Cho and Dianna Agron.

Documentary Premieres

"Beaver Trilogy Part IV" • Director Brad Besser chronicles what happened when Utah filmmaker Trent Harris met a young man from Beaver, Utah, in a TV station parking lot in 1979 — and how Harris' attempt to tell that man's story, over and over again, became the film artifact "Beaver Trilogy."

"The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" • Director Stanley Nelson ("The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords," SFF'99; "Marcus Garvey: Look For Me in the Whirlwind," SFF'01; "A Place of Our Own," SFF'04; "Wounded Knee," SFF'09; "Freedom Riders," SFF'10; "Freedom Summer," SFF'14) returns with this look at the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party.

"Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon" • Director Douglas Tirola tells the story of when three Harvard grads created the first national humor magazine for adults — a story of success, excess, and the beginning of the careers of some of Hollywood's funniest people.

"Fresh Dressed" • Hip-hop fashion's evolution from the South Bronx to a billion-dollar worldwide industry is chronicled, with archival footage and new interviews, by filmmaker Sacha Jenkins.

"Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief" • After taking on Guantanamo (in his Oscar-winning "Taxi to the Dark Side"), corporate fraud ("Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," SFF'05) and Jack Abramoff ("Casino Jack and the United States of Money," SFF'10), filmmaker Alex Gibney ("Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," SFF'06, "Magic Trip," SFF'11; "Finding Fela!," SFF'14) looks at the Church of Scientology, profiling eight former members and adapting Lawrence Wright's book.

"The Hunting Ground" • Director Kirby Dick ("Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist," SFF'97; "Chain Camera," SFF'01; "Derrida," SFF'02; "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," SFF'06; "The Invisible War," SFF'12) uses verité footage and first-person accounts to investigate the number of rape and sexual-assault cases on college campuses.

"In Football We Trust" • Salt Lake City filmmakers Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn follow the fortunes of four teens in Utah's Polynesian community, playing football as a way to overcome gang violence, poverty and family pressures.

"Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck" • Brett Morgen ("On the Ropes," SFF'99; "The Kid Stays in the Picture," SFF'02; "Chicago 10," SFF'07) directs this biography of Kurt Cobain, from his rough childhood in Aberdeen, Wash., to stardom as the lead singer and songwriter of Nirvana — seen through home movies, recordings, artwork, photos and journals. Cobain's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, is an executive producer.

"The Mask You Live In" • Director Jennifer Siebel Newsom ("Miss Representation," SFF'11) examines America's "boy crisis," and how narrow definitions of masculinity harm boys, men and society.

"Most Likely to Succeed" • A look at education in America, and whether a system designed for the Industrial Revolution still works in the 21st century. Directed by Greg Whiteley ("New York Doll," SFF'05; "Mitt," SFF'14).

"Prophet's Prey" • Filmmaker Amy Berg ("West of Memphis," SFF'12) digs into the life of Fundamentalist LDS leader Warren Jeffs — and the trail of abuse and ruined lives he has left behind as he holds onto power over thousands of followers.

"Tig" • An intimate, mixed-media profile of comedian Tig Notaro, who has put her life — including a battle with breast cancer — into her stand-up act, with extraordinary results. Directed by Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York; written by Jennifer Arnold.

"What Happened, Miss Simone?" • The tumultuous life of Nina Simone — classically trained pianist, dive-bar singer, black power icon and legendary recording artist — is told through rare footage and never-before-heard recordings by director Liz Garbus ("The Farm: Angola, USA," SFF'98; "The Execution of Wanda Jean," SFF'02; "Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech," SFF'09; "Bobby Fischer Against the World," SFF'11). Day One film.

Special Events

"Animals" • An animated series looking at the rats, pigeons, bed bugs and other creatures that survive Earth's least habitable environment: New York City. The screening will be followed by a conversation with writer-directors Phil Matarese and Mike Luciano, and actor Mark Duplass, about how the project came to be — and the changing landscape of episodic storytelling in the digital age.

"The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst" • Director Andrew Jarecki ("Capturing the Friedmans," SFF'03) gets a rare interview with Robert Durst, son of a New York real-estate tycoon, accused but never convicted of three murders. (Jarecki told a fictionalized version of Durst's story in the 2010 drama "All Good Things.")

"Misery Loves Comedy" • Comedian Kevin Pollak directs and co-writes (with John Varhous) this documentary that asks 50 famous funny people the question: Do you have to be miserable to be funny? Among those who answer are Tom Hanks, Larry David, Amy Schumer, Jimmy Fallon, Judd Apatow and Jim Gaffigan.

The Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge • Filmmakers from around the world — including Sundance Institute alumni Gael Garcia Bernal, Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, Diego Luna and Marialy Rivas — make shorts designed to highlight potential solutions to real-world problems like extreme hunger and poverty. Presented with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"The Way of the Rain" • Painter and environmental artist Sibylle Szaggars Redford directs this live multi-disciplinary performance piece, inspired by the monsoon rains that sustain life on the southwest's high desert plateaus. The work — by Szaggars Redford with collaborators — Will Calhoun, Dave Eggar, Chuck Palmer, Desmond Richardson, Ron Saint Germain, Steve Cohen and Floyd Thomas McBee III — features appearances by Sussan Deyhim, Marc Roberge, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Robert Redford (the artist's husband).

"Power of Story" panels

"Serious Ladies" • A discussion of the growing range of fully fleshed-out female characters on film and TV. Moderated by The New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum, the panel is set to feature Lena Dunham ("Girls"), Mindy Kaling ("The Mindy Project") and Jenji Kohan ("Orange Is the New Black").

"Visions of Independence" • To kick off Sundance's "Art of Film," a new program dedicated to the craft of filmmaking, two independent-film icons — Robert Redford and George Lucas — sit down for a conversation with critic Leonard Maltin.


Twitter: @moviecricket



Sundance passes and tickets

Some passes and ticket packages for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival are still available at the festival’s website, sundance.org/festival.

Utah residents can register for a time slot to buy individual tickets, at $20 each, from now to Dec. 15, at 4 p.m.

Tribune’s Sundance blog

The Salt Lake Tribune will launch its Sundance blog Tuesday, Dec. 9, at sltrib.com/blogs/sundance.

Before the festival starts, the blog will feature daily information leading up to the big event — including a “trailer of the day” video touting movies coming to Park City. During the festival, from Jan. 22 to Feb. 1, Tribune staff will have up-to-the-minute coverage on the blog.