One might think the late pop star Michael Jackson and the far-right political operative Steve Bannon would have nothing in common — but both are the subjects of late additions to the 2019 Sundance Film Festival lineup.
Organizers of the festival, put on by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, announced the additions Wednesday, just before Utah locals who bought ticket packages start selecting their dates and times on Thursday. (Individual tickets go on sale to locals next Thursday, Jan. 17, starting at noon.)
On Friday, one more title popped up in what listed as the “surprise screening” slot: The comedy “Fighting With My Family,” based on a true story of a young English woman (Florence Pugh) who auditioned for World Wrestling. Nick Frost (“Shaun of the Dead”) and Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”) play her parents, and Dwayne Johnson appears as himself. The movie is written and directed by Stephen Merchant, who co-created the British version of “The Office.” MGM Studios is slated to release the movie across America on Valentine’s Day.
“The Brink,” debuting in the Documentary Premieres category, follows Bannon in the days after he left Donald Trump’s White House as self-appointed leader of the “populist movement,” spreading a hard-line anti-immigration message across America and around the world. The movie is directed by Alison Klayman, whose first documentary, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” a profile of the Chinese artist and dissident, premiered at Sundance in 2012.
Magnolia Pictures announced Wednesday it has picked up the distribution rights to “The Brink” ahead of its premiere, the trade publication Daily Variety reported.
A publicist for the film told The Salt Lake Tribune that Bannon is not expected to attend the festival. He has been to Sundance before: In 2013, before the Trump campaign was more than an idea, Bannon was a producer on the Western “Sweetwater” and attended its premiere at the festival.
“Leaving Neverland,” in the Special Events section, centers on two men in their 30s who had long relationships with Michael Jackson when they were 7 and 10 years old and, they say, were sexually abused by him. The four-hour documentary is directed by Dan Reed.
Jackson’s estate denounced the documentary in a statement Wednesday, calling it “just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations,” the Associated Press reported. The estate called the documentary “yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.”
Jackson was acquitted of molestation charges in a 2005 trial.
The 2019 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 24 to Feb. 3 in Park City, and at venues in Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort.