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​the films making waves at sundance

A doc about US race relations, a Scientology expose and a transgender tale shot entirely on an iPhone 5s make impact

by Colin Crummy
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Jan 28 2015, 11:10am

Still from Mistress America

It's not just a nice getaway in Utah; Sundance Film Festival is the spot where distributors pick up films for the year ahead. Fox Searchlight has snapped up Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, for $12m. That makes this YA novel adaptation the highest Sundance sale ever, ahead of Little Miss Sunshine's $10m price tag.

Still from Going Clear

The biggest controversy has been documentarian Alex Gibney's Scientology takedown, Going Clear. Based on Lawrence Wright's expose, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief has created a huge stir at Sundance, not least for its suggestion that the cult's best-known adherents - Tom Cruise and John Travolta - should be held accountable for its alleged abuse of power.

The most raved about performance so far may well be Jason Segel's turn as novelist David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour. Segel's casting as the late, great American author caused much derision but the performance has been widely praised; Variety going as far to suggest Segel could be a good bet for the Oscars. That's the Oscars 2016, people.

Still from The End of the Tour

As innovations go, using an iPhone 5s to make a movie about two transgender prostitutes working the streets of contemporary LA, sounds like a brave one to showcase at Sundance rather than in your bedroom on iMovie. But Sean Baker's Tangerine, shot on three iPhone 5s phones, has its own kind of rare beauty.

Elsewhere, Mistress America, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's screwball comedy set in Manhattan picked up four star reviews. Lena Dunham debuted her HBO documentary on the artist behind her childhood literary heroine Eloise. And one of the most pressing films to come from the festival was 3 ½ Minutes, Marc Silver's widely praised, timely documentary about race relations and gun violence in the US.

Sundance runs until 1 February.