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Sundance Film Festival takes place every January in Utah, USA, establishing itself as one of the major events in the cinema calendar. Founded by actor and director Robert Redford, it has a reputation for attracting the best independent filmmakers, including a host of new voices directors such as David O. Russell, Darren Aronofsky, Paul Thomas Anderson, Ryan Coogler and Ava DuVernay who all got their break through the festival, and the 2018 edition proved no different.
Since 2012, Sundance has hosted spin-off screenings in London later in the year, and our Film Curators Michael and Maria attended this year's events and picked their highlights, which they reveal below, while our reporter Emilie sat down to speak to some of the directors and filmmakers to discuss their films.
American comedian Bo Burnham's directorial debut follows the final days of 13 year-old Kayla's school year, her last before she makes the transfer to high school. Living with her father, Kayla is a shy and awkward teenager who stumbles over her words as she attempts to make a meaningful friend in her life. Hamstrung by anxiety, she nervously navigates the trials of adolescence, from burgeoning sexuality to embarrassing social occasions. This is a fresh coming-of-age film which balances honest comedy with more melancholic moments of reflection, and features a moving father-daughter relationship at its centre.
Lauren Greenfield's autobiographical exploration of wealth in all its forms - and society's apparently ever-increasing obsession with it - is a fascinating documentary. The filmmaker and photographer combines her interests with her background in anthropology to produce what is essentially a long-term study, ranging from the current culture of privilege in places like Los Angeles the director's hometown to musings on the 2008 financial crash, with comparisons to the final days of Rome. Greenfield also turns the camera on herself and her own family, asking difficult questions about different forms of addiction which hit closer to home. Taking in a range of themes along the way, from body image to mental illness, Generation Wealth is an impressive, engaging film which offers plenty to discuss about the values of modern day society.
This documentary focuses on the lack of female filmmakers in Hollywood, interviewing a whole host of women directors (and other female industry figures) to get their take on the situation. Featuring high-profile names such as Ava DuVernay and Lena Dunham, as well as a host of indie filmmakers, the film tackles subjects ranging from getting your first break to handling a crew, with an exclusively female cast being given a welcome voice. Half the Picture is an important and timely piece of work which shines a light on the difficulty and lack of opportunity afforded to women in the film industry, while offering hope that change is ready to happen.
In the video below, our reporter Emilie sits down with Amy Adrion, director of Half a Picture, to discuss the issues that the film broaches.
Ari Aster is a name to look out for. Having previously made a number of shorts, this is his first foray into feature filmmaking and this horror is quite a way for the filmmaker to announce his arrival. After the matriarchal grandmother of the Graham family dies, survived by her daughter Annie (a superb performance from Toni Collette), son-in law and two grandchildren Peter and Charlie strange things begin to occur within the Graham household. Annie attends grief counselling despite her fears that it will do no good, Peter is more interested in parties than his schoolwork, whereas Charlie has some darker, mysterious habits. When tragedy strikes, the family appear to be trapped in an entropic fate in this tense and gripping horror, full of twists and turns, which plays with genre conventions and audience expectations to great effect.
This dark yet sensitive drama stars Chloë Grace Moretz as a college graduate sent to a Christian conversion camp after she is caught hooking up with her female best friend during prom. There she meets others like her who are hoping to pray their ‘sins' away and those not so sure they need to be ‘fixed'. Like in Desiree Akhavan's debut Appropriate Behaviour, there are plenty of moments of joy, such as a mandatory sing-off to 4 Non Blondes song What's Up, but the more sinister aspects of the camp's brainwashing do not go unexplored. This is a much-needed addition to representation of queer female characters that will no doubt connect with young audiences.
Debra Ganik's follow up to Winter's Bone is a gentle yet complex film that embeds some very strong questions about housing, society and the environment in its narrative which follows an army veteran and his daughter living in a public park in Portland, Oregon. The two live on the fringes of society, only visiting the city to buy food; however, when they are spotted by social services, they must face the consequences of their unconventional way of life. We see the story unravel through the eyes of 13 year-old Tom, with a remarkable performance by Thomasin McKenzie, with her world opening up as the duo struggle to stay in transit.
In the video below, Emilie speaks with Leave No Trace's director Debra Ganik to find more about the film.
Skate culture is still a boys' club but Skate Kitchen is here to prove that things are changing. Featuring real-life skate girls from the same crew as the film's title, this coming-of-age drama follows Camille, an 18 year-old girl from Long Island who has been banned from skating by her mother, escaping to the breezy parks of Lower East Side New York. There she finds the female solidarity and support she yearns for, but soon enough she must face some of the challenges that come with friendship. The film captures the feeling of freedom of summer in the city from the girls' perspective and oozes with authenticity right down to the girls' dialogue, style, and of course, their killer skate skills.
Emilie also sat down with Skate Kitchen director Crystal Moselle, who spoke about her hopes for the film's impact, and the challenges of filming at a real skate park.
Our film curation team were joined by young reporter Ceyda at this year's Sundance London to speak to filmmakers and highlight some great films to look out for.
Reading time 8 mins
Our Summer Screenings return in June 2018, with classic musical films for all ages - demonstrating the power of music when words don't suffice.
Reading time 2 mins
Also released on DVD are 'Maze Runner: The Death Cure', which concludes the dystopian trilogy, and ecological comedy-drama 'Downsizing'.
Reading time 2 mins
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