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2019-12-17 14:22:14
Sundance Unveils their 2020 Lineup


Sundance Unveils Female-Powered Lineup Featuring Taylor Swift, Gloria Steinem, Abortion Road Trip Drama

The indie festival, which is close to achieving its goal of gender parity, will debut films that center on a Russell Simmons rape accuser, Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the opioid crisis, among many others.

As Sundance director John Cooper’s 11-year run at the helm of the indie film festival comes to a close, he is going out with a bang. With a nod to what he dubs “youth’s role in activism,” Cooper has packed the 2020 fest lineup with a slew of hot-button films that cover everything from an abortion road-trip drama to high school gun control efforts.

Cooper, who will step down after the 35th incarnation of the festival wraps and segue to the newly created role of emeritus director, has filled his final slate with such films as Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always​, which revolves around a pair of teen girls in rural Pennsylvania who hit the road to cross state lines when one is faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and Kim A. Snyder’s documentary Us Kids​, which tracks the survivors of a Parkland, Florida, school shooting and the birth of a youth gun control movement. Both films are playing in competition.

“I think my generation was more like, 'Fuck them, we’re going to have our anarchist world.' These kids are getting involved and they’re driven and they’re not taking no for an answer,” says Cooper. “I think that’s optimistic, but it’s also reflected in the films that we’re seeing. Young people standing up for their own ideas and their own ideals.”

Among the 118 films that will screen across 10 major categories are Julie Taymor’s The Glorias, featuring Alicia Vikander, Julianne Moore and Steinem herself as the trailblazing feminist at varying ages, as well as Lana Wilson's doc Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, which delves into the pop icon’s transformation from apolitical star into someone willing to harness the full power of her voice. And Barack and Michelle Obama will be represented by Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht’s doc Crip Camp​, about a 1970s summer camp for disabled teens (the Obamas’ Higher Ground banner produced the film).

Steinem is expected to attend the premiere of The Glorias, while the former president and first lady's attendance is to be determined. “They are excited that the film is in the festival, I know that much,” says Sundance programming director Kim Yutani.

Unlike other high-profile film festivals, Sundance is close to reaching its goal of gender parity. This year’s lineup features 118 full-length films, representing 27 countries and 44 first-time feature filmmakers. Of the 65 directors in the four competition categories, comprising 56 films, 46 percent are women, 38 percent are people of color and 12 percent are LGBTQ+.

The Robert Redford-founded fest often embraces and reflects current events, and the upcoming edition will be no exception with a slate that includes Rodrigo Garcia’s Four Good Days​ (Glenn Close stars as the mother of an opioid-addicted daughter), Bryan Fogel’s doc The Dissident​ (about the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi) and an untitled Kirby Dick-Amy Ziering doc​, which chronicles the plight of a former hip-hop executive who accused one of the most powerful men in the music industry of rape (though the film’s logline is vague, the music mogul is said to be Russell Simmons).

Given the number of discussion-worthy pics on display, Cooper says the festival is encouraging civic engagement in a more significant way than in past years. For the first time, Sundance is programming extended Q&As in an effort to foster dialogue not just about the filmmaking process but broader issues tackled in any given film, particularly narrative features.

As was the case for the 2019 edition, the most commercial films of the coming fest will screen in the premieres section, namely Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s Downhill (starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell), the Benedict Cumberbatch Soviet-era drama Ironbark, Miranda July’s Kajillionaire​ (led by Evan Rachel Wood), the Margot Robbie-produced Carey Mulligan-starrer Promising Young Woman and the serial killer drama Lost Girls, documentarian Liz Garbus' narrative feature debut​. And though Sundance also hosts a robust acquisitions market, many of the hottest titles are already spoken for, including Downhill (Fox Searchlight) and Taylor Swift: Miss Americana and Lost Girls (both Netflix). Kajillionaire was poised to be distributed by Annapurna/United Artists, but it is now being sold by UTA.

Sundance 2020 will also see the return of directors who enjoyed breakout career moments at the festival in the past, including Dee Rees (The Last Thing He Wanted​, starring Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe and Rosie Perez), Justin Simien’s horror satire Bad Hair and Benh Zeitlin’s Wendy​, which offers a twist on the classic story of Peter Pan. But the event known for discoveries should produce several in this year’s U.S. and world competition sections.

“The fact that there are only two returning filmmakers to competition is significant,” Yutani notes. “We always want to be the place where we are launching people’s careers.”

Although buzzy titles abound, Cooper says there won’t be anything that will court major controversy, as was the case at Sundance 2019.

“There is no Michael Jackson film this year. Not like last year with Leaving Neverland. That was truly controversial,” he says. “But there will be films that will shock people and change their perception.”

The 2020 edition of the fest is set to run Jan. 23-Feb. 2 in and around Park City.

Over the coming days, Sundance will roll out the lineups for its shorts, indie episodic and new frontier sections.

Click here for a list of films confirmed for the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

 
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