Sundance 2013 Preview: The Competition Slates

Ryland Aldrich, Festivals Editor


If you've been hanging out around these parts, then you probably know the Sundance Film Festival is just around the corner. We've got our trusty series of previews leading up to Thursday's festival kickoff all queued up. We're starting things out by taking a look at all four of the main competitions: US Dramatic, US Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic, and World Cinema Documentary. Sundance is the festival of discovery and it's always a bit of a guessing game as to which films will break through. God knows how many times we'll hear "...this year's Beasts of the Southern Wild," during the following weeks. We'll take our chances and walk you through a few of the titles that have caught our eye from each section. Who knows, maybe one of these will be this year's Beasts of the Southern Wild.

US Dramatic Competition

AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS
With the odds on favorite to be this year's Beasts of the Southern Wild (okay, I'm done, I swear), director David Lowery has been in the independent film game for a while with both his own projects (St. Nick) and editing and writing credits on a number of acclaimed films. Here, Casey Affleck stars as an outlaw, journeying across Texas to find his family. Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Nate Parker, and Keith Carradine co-star.


AUSTENLAND
Credited as a writer on each of her husband Jared Hess's films (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre, Gentlemen Broncos), this is Jerusha Hess's first turn as director. The film, which stars Keri Russell as a Jane Austen-obsessed tourist, co-stars JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, and Jennifer Coolidge. It's also produced by Stephanie Meyer, made famous (and filthy, filthy rich) by writing the Twilight series.


UPSTREAM COLOR
One of the most anticipated films of the fest is Shane Carruth's long-awaited follow-up to 2004 Sundance hit Primer. There's not much known about movie, although it looks to be a supernatural-tinged existential romance and stars Amy Seimetz alongside Carruth.


EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES
This coming of age drama about a troubled girl and her mysterious (and beautiful) neighbor stars Wuthering Heights's Kaya Scodelario alongside Jessica Biel. This is the second feature from Francesca Gregorini whose Wikipedia page reveals many interesting tidbits, including that she is the stepdaughter of Ringo Starr, her mom was a Bond girl in The Spy Who Loved Me, and her full name is Countess Francesca McKnight Donatella Romana Gregorini di Savignano di Romagna.


IN A WORLD...
Actress Lake Bell's moves on from directing TV's Children's Hospital to this feature debut about a woman who hopes to follow in the footsteps of her trailer voiceover actor father. Bell leads a great cast that includes Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, and Ken Marino.


TOUCHY FEELY
Sundance-fave Lynn Shelton (Humpday, Your Sister's Sister) returns with this story of a massage therapist who fears human touch. It features an all-star cast of Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, and Josh Pais.


THE SPECTACULAR NOW
James Ponsoldt's follow-up to last year's competition film Smashed is this existentialhigh school love story starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Kyle Chandler.


KILL YOUR DARLINGS
John Krokidas makes his feature debut directing Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, and Lizzie Olsen in this tale of a young Allen Ginsberg and the men who would grow up to form the Beat generation.

US Documentary Competition



MANHUNT
Frontline producer Greg Barker directs this look behind the CIA hunt for Bin Laden -- We'll see if the Senate investigates this one too. HBO owns the rights.


NARCO CULTURA
This feature debut doc by Shaul Schwarz examines the Mexican drug cartels influence on Mexican-American youth culture, in particular through the music of narco-corridos, a mix of gangster rap and traditional Mexican banda music.


CITIZEN KOCH
This trip inside Wisconsin GOP politics is most notable because it is the second feature from Carl Deal and Tia Lessin who won this competition and also bagged an Oscar nom for their 2008 Hurricane Katrina documentary Trouble the Water.


99% - THE OCCUPY WALL STREET COLLABORATIVE FILM
This doc by Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read, and Nina Krstic takes us inside the tent cities of the recent OWS movement.

World Cinema Dramatic Competition



CRYSTAL FAIRY
Sebastian Silva's third trip to Sundance (The Maid 2009, Old Cats 2011) finds him with two films in the fest this time around. The first is this odd looking drama that involves Michael Cera, a trip to Chile, and psychedelic drugs.


WHAT THEY DON'T TALK ABOUT WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT LOVE
The second feature from Indonesian director Mouly Surya is this story of teenage love at a high school for the deaf and blind.


METRO MANILA
Sean Ellis nabbed an Oscar nom for his short film Cashback. He later adapted that to a feature and followed it up by directing Lena Headey in Sundance 2008 feature The Broken. His latest follows a rural Filipino family as they transition to big city life in the capital.


THE FUTURE
Alisha Scherson's third feature is this story of a young Chilean girl played by Manuela Martelli who falls for a former Mr. Universe played by Mr. Hobo With a Shotgun himself, Rutger Hauer.

World Cinema Documentary Competition



WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?
What happens when a body turns up in Arizona with a mysterious tattoo reading "Dayani Cristal?" Producer Gael Garcia Bernal and debut director Marc Silver try to unravel the tale in this doc.


PUSSY RIOT - A PUNK PRAYER
Docu-producing veteran Mike Lerner makes his directorial debut with sophomore director Maxim Pozdorovkin who take us behind the headlines of the Russia's recent trial of riot grrrl rockers Pussy Riot.


THE SQUARE
Jehane Noujaim is probably most famous for her Sundance 2004 Al Jazeera doc Control Room. Her latest follows five people during the Egyptian revolution.


THE STUART HALL PROJECT
Visual artist John Akomfrah's follow-up to Sundance 2011 film The Nine Muses is this docu looking at the long career of Britain's foremost radical antinuclear activist.


FALLEN CITY
Last Train Home and China Heavyweights producer Qi Zhao makes his directorial debut with this look at families affected by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.


THE SUMMIT
This potentially fascinating, partly recreated, docu from first time feature director Nick Ryan is the story behind the 2008 K2 climbing disaster that claimed 11 lives on the world's most dangerous mountain.

Join us tomorrow when we'll preview the Premieres and Docu Premieres programs.

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