This year's Sundance makes it way to London from the 1st to 4th of June for its annual mini festival of the main event's highlights. 14 feature films from the festival will be screened over the weekend alongside a series of shorts from U.S. and U.K. filmmakers. We've selected five of the best to catch.
Beatriz at Dinner
Director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Mike White have a knack for making the cinema going experience totally awks. Way back in 2000, they debuted Chuck & Buck at Sundance, an offbeat comedy about a sweet but emotionally immature man who stalks his former best friend and childhood fuck buddy (hence his memorable nursery rhyme 'Chuck and Buck and suck and fuck'). Beatriz at Dinner is not quite as envelope pushing as that, but is as likely to make you squirm. The premise sees a new age health practitioner from Mexico (Beatriz, played by Salma Hayek) meet the quintessential American tycoon (Doug, played by John Lithgow) over a dinner party. He initially mistakes her for the help, she recognises him from somewhere. As the wine flows and Beatriz's tongue loosens, two very different cultures clash over the courses. With support from Chloë Sevigny and Transparent stars Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass, this ensemble piece dines out on Trump-era politics.
The Big Sick
Judd Apatow continues to nurture comedy talent from small to big screen, producing Silicon Valley's Kumail Nanjiani new comedy based on his real life love life. The Big Sick starts with Nanjiani -- who stars as himself -- struggling to make it work as a stand-up comic while, as a Pakistani American, also circumventing his parents' attempts to marry him off. When he meets American girl Emily (Zoe Kazan) at a show, they instantly click, but their relationship falters when she finds out he hasn't told his family about dating a white woman. We're in familiar alt-romcom territory here alright, but The Big Sick is a fresh take on the genre.
Bitch screened in the Midnight section at Sundance and aptly so; it is the stuff of privileged male nightmares. Inspired by a real life case study, Bitch is about a suburban housewife Jill who takes on the identity of a wild dog. It's a bizarre premise from which to frame this fiercely feminist satire, but writer, director and star Marianna Palka handles her material with some style, allowing the idea to tear into the idea of the nuclear family and rip it to shreds. But it's Jill's husband, a cheater who abdicates any responsibility of child-rearing to his clearly unstable wife, who has to come to grapple with the new reality.
Adapted from a This American Life podcast episode, Crown Heights tells the true story of Colin Warner, a young black man imprisoned for a 1980 murder he didn't commit. A Trinidadian immigrant in Brooklyn, Warner was convicted on the strength of one witness testimony, who recanted while still on the stand. He was still sent down for 20 years while his friend Carl King campaigned for his freedom. Winner of an audience award at Sundance, Crown Heights is a strong companion piece to Ava DuVernay's documentary on young, black incarceration 13th. It's also a reminder of the depressingly familiar story of police injustice against the black community.
The Incredible Jessica James
Jessica Williams is a force to be reckoned with. The youngest ever correspondent to join U.S. satire The Daily Show, she was also, at 22, the first black woman to do so. Last year she left the show for a development deal with Comedy Central for a half-hour scripted series pilot. The Incredible Jessica James has the feel of that, a cross between Girls and Broad City, following a young, self-assured playwright in New York who is struggling with a recent break-up. All the reviews out of Sundance heaped praise on James' central performance; the film has been snapped up by Netflix to stream exclusively later in the year (and presumably try to win James over to working with it).
Sundance Film Festival London is on from 1 - 4 June. Tickets here.
Text Colin Crummy