Every year, silver-screen stars from around the world travel to the midwest to debut their latest independent film performances.
In the mountains of Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival welcomes hopefuls looking to get their work to the masses through notoriety by production companies like Paramount Pictures and streaming outlets like Netflix.
This year, the competition was stiff. Filmmakers strived to achieve critical acclaim similar to films such as “Winter’s Bone” and “Little Miss Sunshine” — both of which seeing Sundance debuts in years prior.
Luckily for moviegoers, filmmakers did not hold back, making for one unique year in film. The following Sundance films are what movie buffs should keep an eye on:
Birth Of A Nation
Directed by Nate Parker
Starring Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union
This film discusses topics of racism, religion and the definition of unity through the story of African-American slave Nat Turner. Since its initial debut, the film has received Sundance’s Top Prize and has been acquired by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million.
Directed by Andrew Neel
Starring Nick Jonas, Virginia Gardner, Ben Schnetzer
The fraternity-centered drama produced by James Franco tests the lengths frat brothers will go for one another. After debuting at Sundance, the film was sold to Paramount Pictures.
Morris From America
Directed by Chad Hartigan
Starring Craig Robinson, Carla Juri, Markees Christmas
The film takes audiences through the life of an African-American 13-year-old boy living in Germany. At Sundance, Hartigan took the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and sold the film to A24, who has plans for U.S. distribution within the year.
Directed by Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
Starring Anthony Weiner
A glimpse inside the political campaign of notorious mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner along with an overview of the current political landscape. Think “House of Cards,” but real. The film won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize and was acquired for theatrical distribution by IFC Films.
Directed by Clea DuVall
Starring Melanie Lynskey, Cobie Smulders, Natasha Lyonne
A slightly comedic taste of what a marriage intervention would entail between four couples. Lynskey was honored at Sundance with the Special Jury Award for her individual performance in the flick. DuVall’s directorial debut was sold to Paramount Pictures for $2.5 million.
First Girl I Loved
Directed by Kerem Sanga
Starring Brianna Hildebrand, Pamela Adlon, Dylan Gelula
One of the only romantic films to debut at the 2016 festival, this film tells the story of adolescent love and the questioning of one’s sexuality. Sanga, the film’s director, walked away with Sundance’s NEXT Audience Award.
Directed by John Krasinski
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Krisinski, Anna Kendrick
A matriarch is diagnosed with a brain tumor, forcing her New York City graphic novelist son to return home to face the dysfunctional life he left behind. The film received an unheard of standing ovation by audience members after its Sundance screening. Sony Pictures Classics has since acquired the film for U.S. and Asia distribution deals.
Swiss Army Man
Directed by Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe
The most controversial film to hit the screen this year about a man who rides a farting corpse through the ocean. The film puzzled critics, even as its directors were awarded at Sundance. A24 has acquired the film’s rights.
Frank & Lola
Directed by Matthew M. Ross
Starring Imogen Poots, Michael Shannon, Justin Long
The ultra-dark love story depicts what happens when a Las Vegas love affair goes awry. The star-studded film was sold to Universal Pictures for $2 million.
The Fundamentals Of Caring
Directed by Rob Burnett
Starring Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, Paul Rudd
Based on the Jonathan Envison novel, “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving,” the film offers an unfiltered look at life as a caretaker for a disabled teen. Netflix acquired it in a pre-festival pick up.