Another Sundance Film Festival has come and gone. We’re likely to never hear about some of the films that played there again. But that’s not the norm; 80 percent of the movies that play the fest get sold. Already, there’s been talk of bidding wars between distributors over some of the hottest titles at the fest. You might recognize some of the names already: Dope. Me & Earl & the Dying Girl. Going Clear. The End of the Tour. But at Sundance 2015, we saw a few films that might have received less attention. But we believe they deserve all the love they can get. Here’s a few movies to keep an eye on in 2015.
This supremely odd, immensely quotable documentary chronicles the battle between two North Carolina men over a severed foot. Whose foot it is, how it came to be severed, and why they were fighting over it is best left for you to find out when you watch the film. Far from a piece of hicksploitation, Finders Keepers does not look down on its quirky characters, but instead embraces their zany antics, and might even make you care about them.
We’ve already done a bit to hype you up for this ultra-low-budget story of a sex worker hunting down her cheating boyfriend. But it should be stated again that whenever this film hits theaters, you should seek it out. It may be shot on on iPhone, but it looks gorgeous, and more to the point, it’s hilarious and sometimes surprisingly warm and humane. Plus it’s a great L.A. movie, in which you can practically smell the streets of Hollywood.
Highly likely to be the most difficult watch of the year, this documentary features a community of sex offenders in Florida telling their stories. All of them have dark pasts, most of which include their own histories of abuse, illustrating how their crimes are part of an ugly, self-perpetuating cycle. This description probably makes the film sound unappetizing, but there’s no way to sugarcoat it. It’s simply something that must be seen, because it’s a subject that doesn’t receive enough attention.
This film won the Audience Award in the NEXT category at Sundance, but the fact that the jury didn’t give it a special citation for its actors boggles us. Christopher Abbott, best known as one of the stars of Girls during the first two seasons of the show, makes an astonishing lead turn as a young man barely holding himself together in the wake of his father’s death while at the same time helping his mother, who’s also about to die. The mother is expertly played by Cynthia Nixon. Really, everyone in this movie is on point. It’s an avalanche of raw emotion, the kind of stuff that should get Oscar nominations but never does.
The Russian Woodpecker
This film won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Documentary category, but we’re still highlighting it because it’s the kind of movie that could easily drop off the map. This idiosyncratic conspiracy thriller follows a Ukrainian actor/director/playwright/artist who believes he’s uncovered the true cause of the Chernobyl disaster. And this isn’t just a character study about a colorful dude. The movie treats his theory seriously, because the craziest thing of all is that it’s really convincing. Hopefully this film will get a chance at a good release, so that you can see it and judge his ideas for yourself.
This is a messy film, but that messiness is part of what makes it so endearing. But more to the point, this is one of the movies that has (so far) come out of Sundance without finding a distributor. And that didn’t sit right with us, as we believe that there’s an audience out there for it. The ‘80s-set story of an international group of teens of Korean descent brought together for a Summer camp in Seoul so that they can learn what it means to “be Korean,” Seoul Searching has humor, romance, and drama in equal measure. It took writer/director Benson Lee over 16 years to put together and the film features a talented cast of mostly unknowns. It’s the kind of effort that should be rewarded.