What better way for an indie film buff to start the year than the Sundance Film festival? It’s the Mecca of filmmaking that breaks rules, bends genres and tells you that film fests, and not the Oscars are the real repository of great cinema. Let’s take a look at the 10 titles that generated the most buzz and will no doubt end up as some of the most significant films of the year.
Director Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank chronicles the bizarre real life story of musician Chris Sievy (played by Michael Fassbender) who wears a large mask and turns into an alter ego named Frank Sidebottom. As per the reviews, Frank is a funny, warm and insightful debate on an artist’s dependence on someone other than himself to find inspiration.
After Another Earth three years ago, director Mike Cahill and his writer-star Brit Marling are back with a new science fiction drama I Origins that delves into the conflict between science and religion. Michael Pitt plays an atheist PhD student who falls for a deeply religious girl. Cahill entangles the viewer in the dramatic beats of their conflicting personalities, before throwing in a scientific breakthrough that sends both characters questioning their own ideologies.
David and Nathan Zellner’s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter stars Rinko Kikuchi in a rather unusual plot. In the film, Kumiko watches the Coen Brothers’ film Fargo on TV and goes on a quest to find the fictional buried treasure from the movie. It’s acclaimed as a strange but touching character study of disillusionment and the fine lines that the title card ‘based on a true story’ crosses in motion pictures.
Exactly a year ago Aaron Swartz — the internet hero who operated Reddit and compiled data for all of us, facing 35 years of jail — committed suicide. He was 26. The internet paid a tribute to Swartz but no one ‘away from the keyboard’ knows who he is. This could change now, thanks to director Brian Knappenberger’s The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz which records the young prodigy’s heartbreaking rise and fall.
Andrew Rossi’s documentary Ivory Tower takes an introspective gander at one of the most important problems of modern America — the exorbitant college fees that forces students to repay loans over 15-20 years. The system is deeply flawed seeing as most kids either don’t receive higher education or are forever struggling with debt, affecting the society and the economy of the country.
Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett had put a new spin on the home invasion genre in You’re Next a couple of years ago. Their latest project is even more visceral and interesting. The Guest is a mixture of a David Cronenberg movie in the ‘90s and a John Carpenter movie in the ‘80s and walks the tight rope between a dark comedy and a mystery thriller, with a heavy dose of violence and unpredictability.
Possibly the most adored film at Sundance, Roger Ebert’s biography Life Itself has been acclaimed as a sensitive and moving ode to the most famous film critic of our generation.
Reviewing a biography of a film critic at a film festival seems a tad indulgent but the film chronicles even the darker shades of Ebert’s life instead of just mindlessly worshipping the man.
While last year’s A Touch of Sin delved into China’s social stigmas, Web Junkie takes us through the unsettling addiction of the Chinese to the internet. The problem has risen to the levels of a national crisis and the country has set up ‘rehabilitation camps’ to forcibly get adults and even young children away from the internet.
While making Before Sunset and Before Midnight, Richard Linklater had been shooting a radical project over the course of more than a decade. The project, titled Boyhood, is a film that follows a child who grows up over a course of twelve years from 2001 to 2013. It’s a technique that’s been done before in Michael Apted’s Up series but never before in a feature film of this scale.
Ana Lilly Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Alone at Night got the internet buzzing when its eerie, atmospheric teaser hit YouTube a couple of weeks ago. The film is a rarity on many levels — it’s a black and white Iranian vampire film noir directed by a woman. As per the reviews the film, it forges new ground in the vampire genre and is an insightful commentary on Iranian culture.
The Raid 2 was by far the most anticipated Sundance film and it delivered in bucket loads seeing as the acclaim is through the roof. Director Gareth Evans has taken the best parts of the original film and pumped some seriously high dosage of adrenaline into the sequel. We should be thankful that we’ll get to see it this April.
Mihir fadnavis is a film critic and certified movie geek who has consumed more movies than meals