The Sundance Film Festival is one of the more recognized stops on the film festival circuit, a status that often sees it as the place for movies to make their North American and World premieres. With a number of intriguing and high-quality pictures screening over the course of the event, not every film that plays at the festival ends up securing a distribution deal. Here are ten films from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival that ended the event without a distributor, but ones we hope will make it to a general audience at some point, be it via theatres, instant streaming, VOD, or other means. The list is in alphabetical order.
1) 52 Tuesdays
The story of transgendered and transsexual individuals is one that movies and television have yet to explore thoroughly, with some notable exceptions. Thus, any story looking at such individuals, and the impact their decision has on their immediate friends and family, piques one’s attention based on the subject matter alone. However, 52 Tuesdays also has the unique feat of staying true to its title, as director Sophie Hyde shot the film every Tuesday over the course of a year. Giving the project an air of chronological authenticity only adds to its appeal, and adds to our hope that this film finds a distributor and makes its way to audiences before long.
Stories of American twentysomethings trying to find their place in the world has been a frequent topic in recent stories on both the big and small screen. On the surface, it may appear that Appropriate Behavior is more of the same; however, what sets it apart is the unique perspective it presents. Telling the story of a queer Iranian-American woman trying to reconcile all facets of her life makes this a rarity in the cinematic landscape, and it’s this viewpoint that filmmaker Desiree Akhavan brings to her feature debut. The freshness of Appropriate Behavior’s story makes it one worth seeing, and hopefully gets an opportunity to tell that story to non-festival audiences before long.
3) Camp X-Ray
While Kristen Stewart’s career has come to be defined in recent years by the commercially successful Twilight franchise, fans of the actress are aware of her ability to deliver when given challenging roles. A desire to see her return to more complex roles has only increased with her absence from the big screen since 2012. Seemingly interested herself in returning to the roles which characterised the early phase of her career, Camp X-Ray sees Stewart takes on the lead of a soldier stationed at Guantanamo Bay who befriends an inmate. Hopefully this film makes it to a platform for non-festival audiences, allowing both new and old fans of hers to see a different side of the actress’ onscreen capabilities.
Movies about race relations in America are always a tricky proposition, even more so when it comes to modern race relations. However, it remains an important issue, particularly when black individuals weigh in on the subject, with alone makes filmmaker Justin Simien’s debut feature one that should be commercially available, to add to the discourse if nothing else. However, Dear White People isn’t a dour rebuke on the subject; rather, Simien uses satire to illuminate the lingering problems with race relations, presenting numerous perspectives along the way. It’s the handling of the subject matter, along with the potential for an exciting new voice in the field, that gives us hope that Dear White People lands a distributor soon.
Over the past few years, Farsi-language cinema has seen a resurgence on the world stage, with 2011’s A Separation most notably going on to win the Foreign film Oscar. However, genre fare in the language has been light, and it is in this area that A Girl Walks Alone at Night enters. Classified as a vampire Western, with a love story at its core, the movie appears particularly fascinating regardless of its language, and worth seeing to see what filmmaker Ana Lily Amanpour brings in her feature filmmaking debut. Hopefully a distributor shall ensure this intriguing film does not stay hidden from the public for long.
A fascination with movies is something many film fans can identify with, as the internet is filled with endless discussions about numerous cinematic mysteries, from the briefcase in Pulp Fiction to the ending of Taxi Driver. The story of someone thus fascinated with such a film, and the possibility of it being true, thus has the potential to be a compelling story. Centred around the Coen Brothers classic Fargo, the presence of Rinko Kikuchi in the titular role only adds to the film’s appeal, as she has proven her ability to perform well in offbeat roles before. This film has the potential to be uniquely entertaining, if nothing else, and hopefully it manages to make its way to a non-festival audience.
One of the more enigmatic figures in filmmaking today is French auteur Leos Carax, whose 2012 feature Holy Motors was touted by many in the worldwide film fan community as the best of the year. Having made only six feature films in the past 30 years, not much is known about the filmmaker’s process and personality, something documentarian Tessa Louise-Salomé digs into with this feature. The opportunity to learn more about what makes someone like Carax tick, what his collaborators such as frequent leading man Denis Lavant think of him, and how he comes up with and implements his unique cinematic vision is an exciting one, and hopefully it’s an opportunity that the film community gets outside of the festival circuit.
Domestic violence is an issue that plagues numerous individuals, regardless of where in the world they live, or what time period. The perspective of domestic abuse victims, however, is one that is rarely seen, as the victims often recede into the shadows rather than face questions over behaviour that seems illogical to those with an outside view of their situation. In Private Violence, however, it is this perspective that documentarian Cynthia Hill brings to the fore, and the necessity of such voices to have a public forum makes this film one worth getting a distribution deal. The more people see this, the better their understanding of the matter would be, and hopefully the opportunity to do so will be present in the near future.
9) Rich Hill
As a country, America is filled with a large number of small towns, many of whose inhabitants live in conditions and face problems starkly different from those of big city residents. The exploration of this often unseen side of America is nearly always a fascinating one, even more so during a time filled with uncertainty. Taking a look at the modern day inhabitants of a town with a population under 2000 people thus already makes Rich Hill worth a look. The fact that the documentary walked away with Sundance’s US Grand Jury Prize only adds to the appeal, and it is bound to help secure a distribution deal, giving those who cannot catch it on the festival circuit a chance to see the film.
As one half of the singing duo Flight of the Conchords, Jemaine Clement has proven his comedic capability to great acclaim. Thus, his involvement in any new comedy automatically garners interest, but What We Do In the Shadows goes further than that. Clement makes co-directing debut, and works on co-writing only his second feature along with starring in the film, and it’s his heavy involvement in the project that really shows promise. Working with a member of Flight of the Conchords writing and directing team Taika Waititi, and riffing on vampires who want to be hip, this feature sounds particularly fascinating, and hopefully it secures a distributor and gets to the public, so it can be measured against its potential.
Of course, these are just some of the films that haven’t found distribution from the Sundance Film Festival. Features such as Steve James’ Roger Ebert memoir Life Itself, David Wain’s They Came Together, and Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard also fall in that category, but they are unlikely to remain without a distributor for long. In addition, many promising features such as the horror comedy Cooties and the Lynn Shelton feature Laggies have managed to secure distribution, while others such as Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and Gareth Evans’ The Raid 2 premiered at the festival with distribution already in place. With these films set to be accessible to the general public sooner rather than later, the possibility of the aforementioned films joining them in theatres is a massively enticing one, and hopefully comes to fruition.
– Deepayan Sengupta