by Tim Gordon
The following films will spotlight a group of rising filmmakers all competing to find out who’s up “Next,” this year at Sundance.
(Directors and screenwriters: Elan Bogarín & Jonathan Bogarín) – Do objects retain a spark of life from their owner after that person dies? This question catapults a dynamic brother-sister filmmaking duo on an epic odyssey to excavate their deceased grandma Annette’s unassuming Newark home of 71 years. Toothbrushes, tax documents, three vacuum cleaners—her motley collection of stuff becomes a universe unto itself, springing to life in the cinematic playground of this innovative documentary.
A Boy, A Girl, A Dream.
(Director: Qasim Basir; screenwriters: Qasim Basir & Samantha Tanner) – Cass (Omari Hardwick), a handsome USC grad stalled in his career, is getting lost in the alcohol- and drug-infused world of LA club promotion. On the night of the 2016 presidential election, he meets Frida (Meagan Good), a beautiful, spirited midwestern visitor dealing with a difficult breakup. Their chemistry is undeniable. Nothing will ever be the same again.
An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn
(Director: Jim Hosking; screenwriter: Jim Hosking & David Wike) – After getting fired by her scheming husband Shane Danger (Emile Hirsch) from his cappuccino shop, dissatisfied Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza) is stunned when a TV commercial for “An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn For One Magical Night Only” reveals a mysterious man from her past (Craig Robinson). When Shane and his bumbling cohorts steal the cashbox from Lulu’s adopted vegan brother Adjay, specialist Colin (Jemaine Clement) enters the fray to retrieve the stolen funds. But Lulu seizes the opportunity to run off in search of her mystery man—and events only become stranger from there.
(Director and screenwriter: Bridey Elliott) – Actor Ted Reynolds and Clara, his scattered, homemaker wife, welcome their twenty-something daughters—a pair of former child stars—back to their Connecticut home so Ted and the girls can be in a family-themed photo shoot for an airplane magazine. While celebrating their dog’s birthday with amiable drug dealer Poo Poo, the vodka-loving clan’s banter becomes increasingly bitter and petty, and they devolve into a drunken mess. Meanwhile, a specter only Clara can see urges her to confront her self-centered family.
(Director and screenwriter: Bridey Elliott) – Madeline is dedicated to her theatre workshop. Much to the worry of her protective mother (Miranda July), she has become an integral part of a prestigious, progressive, and experimental theatre troupe in the city, one that emphasizes movement, commitment, and an intense focus on authenticity. When the workshop’s ambitious theater director (Molly Parker) pushes teenage Madeline to weave her troubled history and rich interior world into their collective art, the lines between performance and reality begin to blur in surprising and potentially destructive ways, spiraling out of the safe rehearsal space and into her everyday interactions.
Night Comes On
(Director: Jordana Spiro; screenwriters: Jordana Spiro & Angelica Nwandu) – Eighteen-year-old Angel leaves her stint in juvenile detention with nothing but a few bucks and a dead cellphone. After serving time for unlawful possession of a weapon, she’s thrown back onto the streets and into a world riddled with the demons of her past. Her little sister, Abby, is stuck in foster care while her dad, responsible for the murder of their mother, roams free in some undisclosed suburb. But Angel, strong-willed and resourceful, has a quick-fix plan: find Abby, get a gun, hunt down her father, and hit the reset button on her and her sister’s life.
(Director: Aneesh Chaganty; screenwriters: Aneesh Chaganty & Sev Ohanian) – After a five-minute sequence of the Kim family’s online activity that beautifully relays a decade of their shared lives, Search drops us into the current online existence of family patriarch David and daughter Margot, a high school freshman. Parenting mainly through iMessages and quick FaceTime chats, David is initially more annoyed than concerned when a series of his texts go unreturned, but he soon realizes Margot has gone missing. While a helpful detective searches for Margot out in the real world, David grasps at rediscovering his daughter in an unfamiliar online landscape as he searches through the traces she left behind on her laptop.
(Director: Crystal Moselle; screenwriters: Crystal Moselle & Aslihan Unaldi) – Introverted 18-year-old skateboarder Camille lives on Long Island with her single mother. After a startling injury, she promises her mother she’ll hang up her board, but the pull to skate is too strong. On Instagram she discovers “The Skate Kitchen,” a subculture of girls whose lives revolve around skating, and bravely seeks them out. The sexually fluid, rambunctious big-city girls quickly adopt the naive Camille as part of their gang, and soon they’re featuring her in trick videos and exposing her to a wild life she’s never experienced. For the first time, she feels acceptance and support from other girls. However, she soon learns the complexity of friendship when she befriends a boy from a rival group of skaters.
We the Animals
(Director: Jeremiah Zagar; screenwriters: Dan Kitrosser & Jeremiah Zagar) – Us three, brothers, kings inseparable. Manny, Joel, and Jonah tear their way through childhood. Their Ma and Paps have a volatile love that makes and unmakes the family many times over, leaving the boys fending for themselves. As their parents rip at one another, Manny and Joel ultimately harden and grow into versions of their father. With the triumvirate fractured, Jonah—the youngest, the dreamer—becomes increasingly aware of his desperate need to escape. Driven to the edge, Jonah embraces an imagined world all his own.
(Director: Daryl Wein; screenwriters: Daryl Wein & Vivian Bang) – Recently single, Korean-born LA artist Sophia devotes herself to her public performance art, whether it’s a provocative Korean perspective in the park on the LA Riots or face planting into cheesy puffs for Instagram. To pay the bills, she does odd jobs on TaskRabbit. When a filmmaker reaches out to discuss an acting role in his film, she is excited to explore the opportunity, only to realize he can’t distinguish between her art and her real-life identity. Meanwhile, when a stranger makes Sophia late for a TaskRabbit gig, she loses her temper with her, only to run into her repeatedly and discover a strong connection. Sophia develops feelings for her, but it’s unclear if her love is reciprocated.