Verge At Sundance Film Festival: London

Over the past couple of days, Verge have been lucky enough to have covered the Sundance Film Festival: London, watching and celebrating the best of Independent Filmmaking! For those who are fortunate enough to be attending this year, check our guide and recommendations for this year’s festival!

From Thursday 1st-Sunday 4th June, Picturehouse Central opens its doors to Sundance Film Festival: London, bringing cinema fans both the International and UK premieres of the films from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival: Utah.

Sundance: London will open with the international Premiere of Beatriz At Dinner, starring Salma Hayek and directed by Miguel Arteta, a comedy about a health practitioner who is invited into a dinner party hosted by some of her most successful, but in-humane, clients. Beatriz At Dinner is an eerily appropriate sign-of-the-times film and is the perfect way to kick off the festival, before closing with the UK Premiere of David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. The festival will present 14 feature films as well as a short film programme showing 15 short films including a strand dedicated to new UK short films.

For more information on the full line-up at this years Sundance Film Festival: London, click here

For anyone lucky enough to be going this year, Sundance: London will also be hosting a Special Events Programme comprising of three panel events and a special ‘In Conversation’ event which will give festival-goers and amazing opportunity to learn more about the filmmaking process.

And if that isn’t enough, for the first time ever at Sundance: London, festival goers will have an exclusive chance to see the ‘Surprise Screening’ of one of the hit releases from this year’s festival in Park City as well as having the chance to vote for their favourite film in the Audience Favourite Award which will be presented at the end of the festival!

It really is an exciting opportunity for film fans to go an enjoy some of the best films from The Sundance Film Festival: Utah and for anyone who is going, we have compiled a list of our recommendations for anyone struggling to decide what to watch!

Verge Recommends:

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Dina: A wonderful documentary following the life of Dina Buno and her fiancé Scott Levin in the build up to their wedding day. Both Dina and Scott suffer from Aspergers syndrome and the film shows how the pair deal with their excitement, nerves, anxiety and in Dina’s case, past traumas as they look forward to their special day. Despite the film dealing with some very sensitive, upsetting and distressing issues, Dina is surprisingly funny and upbeat with a heartwarming message and an excellent soundtrack throughout. Directors Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles deserve great credit for the way they have handled this subject, at no point exposing any of the talent to any ridicule and instead beautifully documenting their love for each other. Keep an eye out for their brilliantly awkward chat about sex on the beach and the devastating revelation about Dina’s past.
Rating: 4/5
Directed by Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles
Released by DogWoof

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The Big Sick: Based on the true courtship of the co-writers Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick is a romantic dramatic comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Aspiring stand-up comedian and Uber driver Kumail meets medical student Emily at one of his shows and a romance begins. However, due to Kamail’s family’s strict religious beliefs and their desire for him to marry a Pakistani woman, Kamail calls things off just as their relationship begins to get serious. When Emily is taken to hospital with a sudden life-threatening illness, Kamail spends time with Emily’s family, barely leaving their side in their time of need and soon realises the mistakes he has made. Co-Produced by the legendary Judd Apatow, this film has all the traditional Apatow trademarks; sweet, funny and slightly too long. Director Michael Showalter delivers a very funny but touching film that perfectly deals with the cultural differences and challenges that Kumail and Emily face. There are excellent performances from all four of the main cast, with Showalter delicately mastering the fine line between comedy and tragedy. From the funny dinner table scenes to the realisation of Kumail being cut out of the family and Emily’s life threatening illness, The Big Sick is a sweet and charming film that deals with the issues of family, success and rejection.
Rating: 4/5
Directed by Michael Showalter
Released by Amazon Studios and Lionsgate

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

An explosive action film that gets you on the edge of your seat from the first minute. When soldiers from the South of America attack the area of Bushwick, New York, in the hope to establish themselves as an independent nation, student Lucy (Brittany Snow) and ex-Marine Stupe (Dave Bautista) and the locals of Bushwick face a fight for their lives as they look to escape. Starring Brittany Snow and Dave Bautista, this brutal and fast paced action thriller is the perfect anecdote for some of the festival’s slower films. Co-directors Jonathan Millott and Cary Murnion have produced a funny, gory, explosive and visually brilliant film with some amazing work going into the action sequences to make them look like one continuous take. In fact, most of the film is shot in this style and keeps the audience on edge and totally engaged through a fairly simple storyline. Despite the film losing some of its earlier pace and it’s unjustified need to add to the story- Father John’s weird cameo has done well not to find itself on the cutting room floor, Bushwick is certainly something different for festivalgoers to enjoy, especially if you enjoy fingers being blown off and flesh wounds!
Rating 3.5/5
Directed by Jonathan Millott and Cary Murnion

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The Incredible Jessica James:
The funniest film of the festival! A romantic comedy about a playwright Jessica James (Jessica Williams) living in Bushwick, New York, who is frustrated at her lack of progress in the industry that she loves whilst struggling to get over her ex-boyfriend. After a truly awkward of Tinder date, Jessica meets up with newly divorced Boone (Chris O’Dowd) who encounters much more than he bargained for after their first ‘honest’ date. As both Jessica and Boone are struggling to cut their ex partners out of their lives, they decide to take the massive step in unfollowing their own ex’s social media pages whilst agreeing to update each other on each others ex’s movements. This film is a brilliant new romantic comedy for the modern day, with Instagram and social media playing a huge part in the set up, asking the question ‘is it possible to truly get over someone in this day and age of social media?’. The chemistry and performances of Williams and O’Dowd are lovely to watch as are the performances of Noël Wells as Tasha and Lakeith Stanfield (making his second appearance at Sundance:London also starring as Colin Warner in Crown Heights) as Damon. Tasha and Damon both provide weight, personality and comedy to the film, from in-depth discussions of sex toys to falling off the window ledge after a fairly ill-thought out suicide plan. Directed by Jim Strouse, The Incredible Jessica James deals with the themes of rejection, childhood, honesty and the modern world in a clever and fun way. Some of the most relatable moments of the film come from the innocence of the children that Jessica teaches at her theatre group as they’re taught to open up their minds and follow their dreams, which will surely resonate with any audience.
Rating: 4/5
Directed by Jim Strouse
Released by Netflix

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Whilst making a documentary about the effects of blood doping in cycling, filmmaker Bryan Fogel accidentally uncovers a much deeper story with a worldwide effect, when his doping specialist Dr Grigory Rodchenkov finds himself at the centre of a worldwide doping scandal, culminating in the banning of the 2016 Russian Olympic Team. Following a German documentary on Dr Rodchenkov, he flies to tell LA to confide in Fogel and subsequently sells his story to the New York Times as his story becomes the biggest drug scandal in Olympic history. This incredible film really does feel like it’s an achievement of a lifetime and the consequences of this film hammer home that documentaries like Icarus do not come around often. It is an exceptional documentary that carries such an important and hard-hitting subject matter and it deals with it in such an open way that is surprisingly easy to follow. A world class film that will surprise more than a few!
Rating: 5/5
Directed by Bryan Fogel
Released by Netflix and CineTel Films

Beatriz at Dinner
Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Beatriz At Dinner:
Salma Hayek stars in this awkward and brilliant dark comedy about a Mexican health therapist who stays for a dinner party at one of her clients house, before realising the truth behind their success and their combined wealth. The film deals with many of the cultural issues that a lot of people in the USA (and the rest of the world) are facing today; oppression, racism and the terrible truth that the rich continue to get richer by demolishing the poorer people in their society along the way. The script is superb, written by Mike White and Director Miguel Arteta delivers a film that feels completely natural, in the both the worst and best way possible. The building of tension is beautifully done and the awkward comedy from all the cast is superb. Connie Britton, Chloë Sevigny, Jay Duplas and Amy Landecker are all fantastic and somehow make you laugh guilt-free at their ignorance and John Lithgow, playing brutish property mogul Doug Strutt perfectly. The way White and Arteta have dealt with this controversial and sad storyline makes Beatriz At Dinner the perfect film open Sundance: London.
Rating: 4.5/5
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Released by Roadside Attractions, FilmNation Entertainment and Elevation Pictures

Verge would like to thank all the staff at Picturehouse Central and Sundance:London for their wonderful help and hospitality and wishes festival-goers a fantastic festival!

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