The Sundance Film Festival is headed into its final weekend, and while there will be more reviews and coverage to come, the dust has settled, the biggest movies have all been unveiled and the first major event in the movie calendar for 2016 is beginning to wrap up. As is always the case, we leave Sundance with a long list of new names — actors and filmmakers alike — that we’ll be keeping an eye on moving forward.
Perhaps more than any other major festival, Sundance always proves to be a fertile ground for the arrival of new talent — Jennifer Lawrence, Carey Mulligan, Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Marielle Heller and the director of the upcoming 'Spider-Man' reboot Jon Watts make up a fraction of those who went on to huge success after making a splash here in recent years.
2016's festival certainly delivered on that front. As we’ve done in past years, we’ve picked out some of the actors, directors and cinematographers that people have been talking about in the queues, slopes and bars in Park City all week. Take a look at the 25 names below, and let us know who you’re predicting for success in the comments.
Babak Anvari - "Under The Shadow"
One more and we can call it a trend —after the breakthrough success of Iranian vampire love story "A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night," here comes Iranian horror "Under the Shadow." Graded at an A- by Eric Kohn over at Indiewire, dubbiing it "the first great horror movie of the year," this film has been widely compared to "The Babadook" in its story of a mother trying to protect her child from unnatural forces, while bombs rain down outside. Set in Tehran in 1988 during the Iran/Iraq war, the film, which is Anvari's feature debut, was snapped up by Netflix prior to its bow at Sundance (Vertical Entertainment and XYZ Films have partnered for global distribution). If it follows the same pattern as previous hotly-buzzed horror titles from the festival ('A Girl Walks Home,' "The Babadook," "The Witch"), we should expect to be hearing as much about Anvari over the coming months as we did about Ana Lily Amirpour, Jennifer Kent and Robert Eggers.
Morfydd Clark and Tom Bennett - “Love & Friendship”
Whit Stillman’s getting some of the best reviews of his career for the Jane Austen adaptation “Love & Friendship.” Much of the talk around the film is concerned with his reunion with his “Last Days Of Disco” stars Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, with a performance by the former in particular that might be her best work in decades and a far cry for the vampire-killing she’s best known for these days. But two younger names in the cast have picked up strong reviews and look likely to get a big boost: young Welsh actress Morfydd Clark plays Frederica, the daughter of Beckinsale’s character: we’ve had our eye on her since Carol Morley’s “The Falling,” and she’s apparently “perfect” in Stillman’s film, according to the Telegraph. Meanwhile, Tom Bennett, best-known as Chris O’Dowd’s sidekick in Christopher Guest’s underrated “Family Tree” series, gives what Noel Murray called a “scene-stealing comic performance as the impossibly witless Sir James.” Expect to see a lot more from both soon.
Markees Christmas & Craig Robinson - “Morris From America”
Chad Hartigan’s latest film is “Morris From America,” and while our review suggests it doesn’t quite hit the heights of his previous “This Is Martin Bonner” (Sam Fragoso’s review criticized its “lazy stereotypes”), it does excel thanks to its two central performances. As the titular American teen now living in Germany, newcomer Markees Christmas (whose only previous credit comes from a web series that came about through the "Big Brother" program) is charming, funny, and sure to go on to bigger things. And the more familiar Craig Robinson, star of “The Office” and his own recent short-lived series “Mr. Robinson,” is a revelation in a mostly dramatic role as a grieving father. We’ve always liked Robinson, but, as our review states, he gives “a knockout performance” here, and it’ll hopefully open all kinds of doors.
J.D. Dillard & Jacob Latimore - “Sleight”
Few movies in Park City this year felt like a calling-card to the extent that “Sleight” did for J.D. Dillard. The music video helmer’s hugely impressive and assured feature debut about a street magician trying to protect his sister from drug dealers mixes “Iron Man,” “Attack The Block,” “The Prestige” and a coming-of-age picture with innate sweetness, genre chops and a distinct sense for an image. Dillard, whose work includes videos for Empire Of The Sun, was already on his way up —he has a development deal with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, where he used to work as a receptionist— but the reception accorded to his thrilling, authentic debut is sure to cement him as a rising star (and pleasingly, he says he’d rather make original movies than jump on a franchise). Expect to see a lot more of his lead, Jacob Latimore— he's best known as a pop star and for “The Maze Runner,” but he proves to have an easy charisma here.
Berenice Eveno - “The Free World”
We didn’t unreservedly love “The Free World,” the directorial debut of “Restless” screenwriter Jason Lew, but it’s an ambitious and sincere film with a lot to like about it, including a performance from Boyd Holbrook that fulfills the considerable promise he’s been showing in the last few years. The particular standout, according to Katie Walsh's review, is cinematographer Bérénice Eveno, who helps make the film “a gorgeous creation, lovingly [and] luminously photographed.” Born in France but now based in L.A, Eveno trained at the American Film Institute and then served as an apprentice to Wally Pfister on “The Dark Knight Rises.” She’s shot a number of low-budget features since, including “Free The Nipple,” but “The Free World” is certainly her most high profile project to date.
Dylan Gelula & Brianna Hildebrand - "First Girl I Loved"
Reviews have been somewhat mixed for Kerem Sanga's follow-up to 2014's "The Young Kieslowski," ranging from delirious Twitter reactions to underwhelmed shrugs from the trades, but no one has had a bad word to say about the two lead actresses. As high school teenagers negotiating the early stages of their lesbian attraction, Gelula plays Anne, the less socially adept one (which will be a surprise to those of us who adored her turn as brattish Queen Bee Xanthippe in "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"), while Hildebrand is the popular athletic star whose obnoxious boyfriend is another obstacle to their nascent relationship. And we won't have to wait long to see Hildebrand again — after just a couple of features and a short, she landed a role in the upcoming "Deadpool" as Ellie Phimister/Negasonic Teenage Warhead. So while both are somewhat established, this movie showcases their more dramatic sides, proving they have range, and with Hollywood's appetite for beautiful ingenues as insatiable as ever, we expect big things.
Lily Gladstone - “Certain Women”
Kelly Reichardt’s latest, “Certain Women,” has as good a collection of actresses as you could ask for, with prominent roles for Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, and Kristen Stewart, but the one who ends up stealing the show is a relative newcomer. Lily Gladstone is a young actress (of Amskapi Pikuni, Kainaiwa, and Nimiipuu heritage) who had roles in Arnaud Desplechin’s “Jimmy P” and Alex and Andrew Smith’s indie “Winter In The Blood,” but she’s the anchor of the third section of Reichardt’s triptych, as a young rancher draws to the lawyer teaching her night class. It’s a performance that Variety called “revelatory,” and while her co-stars are more familiar right now, we’re sure it won’t be long before she’s racking up the credits and being seen on the same kind of level, having more than held her own alongside them in Reichardt’s film.
Sian Heder - “Tallulah”
Anyone smart enough to pair up Ellen Page and Allison Janney, whose chemistry was undoubtedly the highlight of “Juno,” and who do consistently stellar work together and apart, clearly knows what they’re doing, and everything else about “Tallulah,” Sian Heder’s directorial debut, backs that up. Following the relationship between Page’s rootless drifter and Janney’s Manhattan divorcee when Page kidnaps a baby and takes her to Janney, her ex-boyfriend’s mother, the film is, per Russ Fischer’s review, “an impressive feature debut.” A former actress, Heder’s first short film “Mother” played at Cannes a decade ago, and she’s since gone on to do fine work on TV with the likes of “Men Of A Certain Age” and “Orange Is The New Black,” but proves herself a fine film director as well as a writer here, “shaping the film around the case as each woman pays out their own specific nuances of loss and insecurity, and occasionally, optimism.”