Sundance 2015: five highlights from this year's film festival
From a teen porn expose to an interactive game that puts you in the midst of the Iranian Revolution
This year's Sundance Film Festival prompted what The Guardian describes as a "indie gold rush" as distributors flocked to Utah offering up to eight-figure sums for the latest movies. While several traditional independent films and documentaries have won plaudits from critics, there has also been a focus on the role of virtual reality in storytelling. The festival's New Frontier installation has been giving festival-goers the chance to, virtually, stand in someone else's shoes.
Here are some of the highlights of Sundance 2015:
The grand jury prize for best documentary went to The Wolfpack, which followed six brothers who have spent most of their lives isolated from society in their parents' Manhattan flat. Film-maker Crystal Moselle befriended the Angulo brothers on one of their rare visits outdoors and filmed the family inside their home. With a father who believes the outside world is unsafe, the brothers spend much of their time watching films and acting out their favourite scenes. "Not since Grey Gardens has a film invited us into such a strange, barely-functioning home and allowed us to gawk without reservation," says The Guardian's Jordan Hoffman, who gives The Wolfpack five stars. "This is a nosy movie, but it is altogether fascinating."
Rick Famuyiwa's feature film stars three "nerdy" teens obsessed with 90s hip-hop who find themselves lumbered with a backpack full of drugs. American rapper A$AP Rocky makes an appearance, while Forest Whitaker produces and narrates. "Bouncy, with snappy dialog to spare and a great young cast headed by breakout star Shameik Moore, this is a crowd-pleaser from start to finish," says Boyd van Hoeij of Hollywood Reporter. "Unsurprisingly, the film has already sparked something of a bidding war at Sundance."
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
This year's top Sundance prizes went to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the story of two student film-makers who befriend a girl with cancer. It won both the grand jury and US dramatic audience award. Peter Debruge at Variety says anyone who buys a ticket will be expecting to cry but the surprise is the laughter and the "near-constant stream of wise, insightful jokes". This "rousing" adaptation of Jesse Andrews' novel is "destined not only to connect with young audiences in a big way, but also to endure as a touchstone for its generation", he says.
Hot Girls Wanted
Netflix has already acquired this documentary, described by Geoff Berkshire at the Boston Herald as an "intimate and ultimately harrowing peek inside the world of amateur porn". It follows a number of teenage girls seduced by the industry, including their moments of "doubt, discomfort and even fear". Berkshire says it is not "stridently anti-porn" but makes a persuasive case that the girls who choose to enter the industry should do so with their eyes wide open and deserve more protection than they receive. "Filmmakers Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus adopt a slick but respectful approach, shrewdly playing the subject's titillating elements to their advantage," says the Herald. "That could make the pic one of the year's hottest doc titles, a position that the film's considerable substance would duly reward."
1979 Revolution: Black Friday
This interactive video game from Navid Khonsari and Vassiliki Khonsari puts the player in the middle of the Iranian Revolution. It is designed to integrate an "emotional, historically true narrative while giving players the experience of making moral choices under extreme situations as they navigate the streets of an uprising". The BBC notes that it is among the installations at Sundance "trying to show how state-of-the-art moving image technologies can be used to tell stories in very different ways".