The Sundance Film Festival comes splashing into Park City, Utah today, jam-packed with what is shaping up to be some pretty interesting films this go ’round. This is where filmmakers, who’ve worked painstakingly hard on their projects, go to finally showcase their work and hopefully pique the interest of buyers.
Last year, director Rick Famuyiwa was one of the darlings of Sundance when his film Dope became one of the biggest deals by far. Dope sold for $7 million in minimum guarantee, with a $15 million P&A (prints and advertising budget). It also sparked a bidding war between The Weinstein Company, A24 and Fox Searchlight, and Focus, which ran through the night and into the next day. With this year’s lineup, there’s bound to be another success story in the works.
Here are some of the films you should be looking out for.
Morris from America
This coming-of-age misadventure revolves around a 13-year-old African-American boy named Morris, and his relationship with his father, Curtis, during the transitional period of adolescence. Complicating matters, they are new residents of Heidelberg, Germany—a city of rich history but little diversity. Morris falls in love with a local German girl named Katrin, and their tumultuous connection takes him on a journey that ends in self-discovery and a new dynamic to his relationship with Curtis. It stars Craig Robinson and newcomer Markees Christmas.
Southside With You
Ever wonder how our POTUS and FLOTUS got together? Well, Southside With You is your film. It follows Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson through the early days, as they began to fall in love way back in 1989. Southside With You takes plenty of poetic license to tell the story of true-life events. It stars Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers as the future Obamas.
The Birth of a Nation
Based on true events, this film tells the long-awaited story of Nat Turner, the American-born slave who would lead the most successful slave rebellion in American history. Parker offers a trifecta with Birth of a Nation, as he wrote, directed and stars in the picture. The Birth of a Nation also stars Gabrielle Union, Roger Guenveur Smith, Aja Naomi King (How to Get Away With Murder) and Aunjanue Ellis (Quantico).
Take a trip into the fierce world of voguing battles in the Kiki scene of New York City. This documentary film collaboration between gatekeeper Twiggy Pucci Garçon and Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordenö gives exclusive access into this high stakes world, where tough competitions act as a gateway into the daily lives of LGBT youth of color in NYC.
Maya Angelou and Still I Rise
This documentary film celebrates iconic poet Maya Angelou by weaving her words with rare and intimate archival photographs and videos. From her upbringing in the Depression-era South to her swinging soirées with Malcolm X in Ghana to her inaugural speech for President Bill Clinton, And Still I Rise features interviews with Dr. Angelou in all of the charm and wit that made us cherish her.
Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall
Director Spike Lee amasses plenty of archival footage, interviews with contemporary talents and family members, and Michael Jackson’s own words and images to document the early stages of his iconic rise to stardom. The documentary allows audiences to travel with Michael as he gets his start at Motown, then moves to CBS Records and cultivates a relationship with legendary producer Quincy Jones. Directed and produced by Spike Lee.
Miles Ahead marks the feature directorial debut of Don Cheadle, the long-awaited biopic of the legendary jazzman Miles Davis. The Oscar-nominated Cheadle not only stars, but is also credited as co-writer, director.
How to Tell You’re a Douchebag
How to Tell You’re a Douchebag is a fresh new super-sexy comedy delivered with a twist for a generation addicted to their screens and social media accounts. First-time feature director Tahir Jetter intelligently retools old rom-com formulas to give us this smart, meaningful tale of a misogynist who falls in love.
OJ: Made in America
The producers of ESPN’s 30 for 30 tell the story of one of the most infamous sports legends in America, O. J. Simpson. OJ: Made in America will explore how Simpson’s rise and fall centered on two of America’s greatest fixations—race and celebrity.
United Shades of America
CNN’s newest original series follows political comedian W. Kamau Bell as he explores America’s racial stereotypes and lifestyles. Putting himself into some extremely awkward situations, Kamau travels to Harrison, Arkansas, a charming Southern town that happens to have a thriving chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
—Crystal Shaw King