The Utah-based Sundance Institute has announced the lineup for its annual film festival. A premier destination for debut directors, Sundance has launched beloved and highly successful indies like “Clerks,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Whiplash,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Get Out,” “The Big Sick,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Minari,” and “CODA.” 2022’s fest hosted the premieres of “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” “Emily the Criminal,” “Resurrection,” “Nanny,” and “Living” (an Oscar play for Bill Nighy, who is currently ranked fourth in our combined Best Actor odds). More than any other film festival, the Park City event is a place of discovery, so it’s tough to predict what will break out. Still, it’s always fun to try! Here are six Sundance premieres that could be conversation-starters throughout 2023:
“All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt”
“All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt” depicts the life of an African-American woman across multiple decades in Mississippi. The first promotional image suggests a lyrical memory piece that blends the sensibilities of Terrence Malick and Barry Jenkins. The acclaimed “Moonlight” director is actually producing the film in conjunction with A24, which was a winning formula for Metacritic’s highest-rated of 2022, “Aftersun.” The biggest reason to be excited is the involvement of Sheila Atim, who, alongside co-star Lashana Lynch, gave one of this year’s most badass performances in “The Woman King.” Perhaps “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt” will provide her the moment Paul Mescal is presently enjoying for “Aftersun.”
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Alice Englert (“Them That Follow,” “You Won’t Be Alone,” “Top of the Lake” season 2) acts in and directs “Bad Behaviour,” a dark comedy about a woman (Jennifer Connelly) who suffers a mental breakdown at a retreat presided over by an enigmatic guru (Ben Whishaw). Based on star power alone, “Bad Behaviour” is positioned to be among the event’s more viewed films.
A Liberian refugee (Cynthia Erivo) struggles to survive on a Greek island but finds comfort in a friendship she strikes up with an American tour guide (Alia Shawkat). The single shot we have from the drama has a certain awards-caliber gravitas, and Erivo’s already broken through at the Academy Awards with her Best Actress nomination for “Harriet.” Could this be the Sundance performance that goes all the way in 2023? “Drift,” adapted from the novel “A Marker to Measure Drift” by Alexander Maksik (who co-writes the screenplay), is Singaporean director Anthony Chen’s English-language debut.
Anne Hathaway and Thomasin McKenzie headline the ‘60s-era, Boston-set “Eileen.” An ostracized young woman (McKenzie) befriends a charming new colleague (Hathaway) at the prison where she works. The camaraderie takes a sinister turn when McKenzie’s character is co-opted into hiding evidence of a crime. The film is directed by William Oldroyd, whose “Lady Macbeth” revealed a major talent in Florence Pugh. McKenzie has already given acclaimed performances in “Leave No Trace” and “Last Night in Soho” but could enter an exciting new phase of her career after this dark psychological drama that reads like a blend of “Carol,” “Notes on a Scandal,” and “Shutter Island.” The film is shot by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Ari Wegner, who Oldroyd worked with on “Lady Macbeth.”
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“CODA” star Emilia Jones is returning to Sundance this January with two films, one of which is this father-daughter dramedy set in San Francisco during the 1970s and ‘80s (the other is “Cat Person”). Scoot McNairy plays Jones’ openly gay dad, and the two make a great pairing on paper. “Fairyland,” based on a 2013 memoir by Alysia Abbott, will be one of the fest’s in-person exclusives.
After her sister disappears, a Native American hustler (Lily Gladstone) takes care of her niece and tries to prevent the girl’s father (Shea Wigham) from separating them. Director Erica Tremblay is probably known best for her work writing and directing FX’s “Reservation Dogs.” “Fancy Dance” sounds like it will comment on contemporary Native life in a similarly caustic fashion. Gladstone is predicted to compete in Best Supporting Actress next year for Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” so attention paid to that performance will certainly rub off on this one. Plus, the movie, which sounds of a piece with the films of Sean Baker (“The Florida Project,” “Red Rocket”) and the Safdies (“Good Time,” “Uncut Gems”), could just be good enough to generate its own buzz.
Brandon Cronenberg’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to the ultra-violent “Possessor,” which premiered at Sundance 2020, dropped its first trailer the day after 2023’s roster was unveiled. The movie will likely be one of the festival’s hottest tickets. “Infinity Pool” follows a wealthy couple’s (Alexander Skarsgård and Cleopatra Coleman) holiday in the fictional state of Li Tolqa, which becomes increasingly twisted after a hit-and-run. “Infinity Pool” promises to be another visceral sci-fi head trip. Mia Goth (“X,” “Pearl”) co-stars.
Between “Creed III” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” 2023 is going to be a huge year for “Devotion” star Jonathan Majors. It’s possible his most acclaimed turn, though, will be in “Magazine Dreams,” a character study in the vein of Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler.” The movie’s sole promotional image suggests an edgy, stylized psychological drama. This is Elijah Bynum’s second film after “Hot Summer Nights” (Timothée Chalamet and Maika Monroe). Majors is joined by Hayley Bennett, Taylour Paige, and Harriet Sansom Harris.
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“Run Rabbit Run”
The impulse with any socially relevant thriller premiering at Sundance is to ask whether it’s the next “Get Out,” especially since that bet paid off in the case of Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman.” The question will likely be floated about “Run Rabbit Run,” a horror centered on a distressed fertility doctor played by Sarah Snook. This could be the “Succession” star’s breakthrough film role.
“You Hurt My Feelings”
Writer-director Nicole Holofcener (“Friends With Money,” “Please Give”) reunites with her “Enough Said” star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for A24 comedy “You Hurt My Feelings.” The film, about a writer (Louis-Dreyfus) who questions her life and career after overhearing her husband’s (Tobias Menzies) critical take on a new book, sounds like it has the elemental resonance of Ruben Östlund’s “Force Majeure.” Holofcener excels at the kind of quietly subversive adult comedy that we haven’t gotten much of since perhaps 2019’s “Gloria Bell.” Whether “You Hurt My Feelings” goes to a streamer or theatrical exhibitor, it’ll be great seeing Louis-Dreyfus lead a film again.
The Sundance Film Festival will be held January 19 – 29, 2023. For a full lineup of features click here.
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