As many might know, the 2018 Sundance Film Festival began on Jan. 21 in Park City, Utah, and ran through Jan. 28. This year, Sundance showcased 110 independent films from 29 countries spanning multiple genres and categories, including U.S. Dramatic Competition, U.S. Documentary Competition, World Cinema Dramatic Competition and so many more.
Films that have done well at Sundance Film Festival have, for the most part, gone on to do well in movie theaters as well. Movies like “The Big Sick,” “Call Me By Your Name” and “Get Out,” which all premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, have seen success in the mainstream film world, with each film having garnered 2018 Oscar nominations. If past festivals are any indication, these films are only the beginning, and much success can be expected from this year’s lineup.
1. “Eighth Grade”
Directed and written by comedian Bo Burnham, “Eighth Grade” tells the story of a 13-year-old girl named Kayla going through one of the most awkward times of her life: adolescence. I think many can agree that middle school was an awkward and uncomfortable time for almost everyone, something that Burnham captures perfectly through the eyes of his protagonist.
To get through this hump in her life, Kayla posts videos on YouTube that show all of the confidence that is hidden beneath her quirky and nervous early-teenage exterior. The awkward teenage years, especially during that last year of middle school and time right before high school, are something that most likely everyone went through and can relate to. As someone who tries to block out their middle school years, I feel that this film is something I could identify with and hope that it makes its way from Sundance Film Festival to the big screen sometime very soon.
2. “The Tale”
Written and directed by Jennifer Fox, and based on her real life story that first began as a fiction assignment when she was 13 years old, “The Tale” is one of the most prominently relevant films to grace the Sundance screen. The film chronicles the sexual abuse that Fox faced at age 13 at the hands of a much older male authority figure, her running coach, Bill, who was 40 years old.
What began as something that a young Fox first thought was a consensual relationship turns out to be a dark tale of sexual abuse, when Jenny, played by Laura Dern, rereads the writing assignment she turned in at age 13 as an adult. The fact that this movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival during the era of #MeToo makes its impact that much more significant.
Although it may be difficult to watch and comprehend, “The Tale” tells yet another important story of grooming and sexual abuse like the many that have been in the news lately, making it an important film at Sundance this year.
“Blindspotting,” directed by Carlos López Estrada and co-written by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, tells the story of a friendship between a black man and a white man, as well their struggle with the stereotypes that surround them in everyday life. One of the friends, Collin, played by Diggs, has finished serving his time in prison and is in the last three days of his one-year probation for a crime that is not revealed until the end of the film.
During those three days, Collin stays as far away from the cops as he can, as any altercation — no matter how small — might land him back in jail. The film, which has been compared to Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” shares an important message on a topic that has been in the news a lot over the past few years and, if brought to the big screen, is sure to leave audiences speechless. Through the use of rap music and powerful lyrics, “Blindspotting” broaches the topics of police brutality, race relations and the biases that exist even still today.
Written and directed by Andrew Heckler, “Burden” tells the story of a Klansman who falls in love with a single mother that convinces him to abandon his hateful ways and nature, forcing him to confront the truly horrific ideals taught to him through the Ku Klux Klan. When he leaves the Klan, Mike Burden is taken in by an African-American preacher, played by Forest Whitaker, and further shown the error of his ways.
After years of brainwashing, the recovering racist finds it difficult to join a world different from the one that he was brought up in. “Burden” proves that it is not impossible, especially when those ideals are harmful ones built upon bigotry and hatred. This impactful story from Sundance Film Festival shows viewers that no matter how deeply ingrained certain ideals may be in a person’s mind, it’s possible to learn from your past mistakes and move away from them.
5. “Sorry to Bother You”
“Sorry to Bother You” chronicles the life and career of a telemarketer named Cassius Green, as well as the magical key to success that he has discovered. Through satire and comedy, the film broaches the topic of corporate greed within America and the issue of racism, as Green is told to sell more if he puts on a “white accent” for customers.
The film has been compared to Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” which debuted at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, in the way that it deals with the issue of racism. If the success that “Get Out” experienced after making its way into theaters is any indication, then “Sorry to Bother You” will surely follow suit once it hits the big screen.
In the past, the Sundance Film Festival has served as a launching ground for blockbuster success, with many of the films showcased at the festival even becoming nominated for top awards. These films are just a few of the ones being talked about in Utah this year, but if their buzz rings true, viewers can expect history to repeat itself. Hopefully, these films and others will be brought to theaters soon.