Sundance 2018 Syllabus: Who Stood Out & What Got Bought

Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
Another season of the Sundance Film Festival has come to a close. Celebrities have packed up their cute-yet-weather-appropriate snow gear and headed off to warmer climes, leaving us with a long list of must-see movies to fill the gap left by the lack of cozy mountain-themed group Instas.
Sundance is usually a good barometer in predicting the cultural tone for the next year. The projects that gain the most traction and generate the most buzz are those we'll be talking about months down the line when they're finally released in theaters. Working under that assumption, it seems safe to say that 2018 will be the year of the woman.
Thirty-seven percent of the 122 films presented at this year's lineup were directed by women, in stark contrast with mainstream Hollywood, where only 4% of the top grossing films can claim a similar distinction. As a result, women's stories made up the core of some of the most exciting, and award-winning films. From documentaries about Gloria Allred and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to feature films about gay conversion therapy and skater girl gangs, all these movies prove that there isn't just one kind of female voice. Our stories are vast, diverse, and wide-ranging — and they all deserve to finally be told.
Click through for some of the standout performances, buzzed about films, and biggest deals of the festival (for a full list of the titles sold, click here). You'll want to know these names once awards season 2019 rolls around.
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1 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
White Rabbit

Vivian Bang is mesmerizing in Daryl Wein's semi-fictionalized film about a struggling artist making ends meet by volunteering her services on TaskRabbit. Bang, who is Korean-American, told Variety that she was drawn to the role partly as a chance to redress misconceptions about Asian-American portrayals in film. "There was a time where it was like all the Asian-Americans in Hollywood were getting extremely angry because there was so much whitewashing — blatant racism in the lack of representation,” she said. “And so that kind of sparked me to be like, ‘Okay, if no one’s going to put me into these stories, then I’m just going to have to create that myself.'”

Director: Daryl Wein
2 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
The Tale

Jennifer Fox's heart-wrenching film about a woman coming to terms with her childhood sexual assault has been hailed as the movie equivalent of the #MeToo movement. Based on Fox's own experience, it was apparently so hard to watch that many people walked out during the screenings.

Director: Jennifer Fox

Bought by: HBO Films acquired the rights for $7 million, the second biggest deal of the festival. It won't be released in theaters, but will premiere on the network this year.
3 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of A24.

Some are calling this the scariest movie to come out of Sundance in years, which would usually put a damper on future prestige awards chances. But this is a post-Get Out world, and Toni Collette's performance as a mother struggling to fight off the ghosts within her own family, is already getting Oscar-buzz.

Director: Ari Aster

Bought by : A24 will release the film in theaters on June 8, 2018.
4 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
Eighth Grade

Fourteen-year-old Elsie Fisher is being hailed as the new breakout star to watch in the wake of her debut performance in Bo Burnham's film about coming of age in the age of Snapchat. Fun fact: Fisher started high school one week after production wrapped.

Director: Bo Burnham

Bought by: A24 will release the film later this year.
5 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
Sorry To Bother You

With a cast boasting the likes of Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Terry Crews, and Steve Yeun, we were rooting for Sorry to Bother You from the get-go. Unsurprisingly, it has blown our expectations out of the water. Hip-hop artist turned first-time director Boots Riley's mix of racial satire, fantasy, and whimsy includes Armie Hammer snorting cocaine in a sarong, so... that's all you really need to know, right?

Director: Boots Riley

Bought by: Annapurna bought the worldwide rights to the film for seven figures.
6 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.

Reviewers have been buzzing about Paul Dano's directorial debut, based on Richard Ford's 1990 novel about an increasingly fractured family in 1960s Montana. Co-written with real-life partner Zoe Kazan, the film is yet another opportunity for Carey Mulligan to shine, after her powerful performance in Mudbound, last year's Sundance darling, now an Oscar-nominated film.

Director: Paul Dano
7 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
Assassination Nation

We so rarely get to see women let loose and give in to their anger onscreen; Assassination Nation breaks those nice girl conventions and sets them on fire. Starring Suki Waterhouse, Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Abra, Bella Thorne, and Bill Skarsgård, the film made waves for its timely subject matter in light of #MeToo and Time's Up. Oh, and it literally takes place in Salem. What was that you were saying about witch hunts?

Director: Sam Levinson

Bought by: Neon and AGBO bought the global rights to the film for $10 million, the biggest deal to come out of this year's lineup.
8 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.

Get ready to see Andrea Riseborough in just about everything this year. She had four films premiere at Sundance, and that's after she blew minds in Black Mirror's "Crocodile," about a woman desperate to stop a past crime from becoming public. This film, however, is the one to watch. Writer-director Christina Choe took home the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for her script about a young woman determined to prove that she's is a long-lost kidnapping victim.

Director: Christina Choe
9 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
Seeing Allred

Gloria Allred has built her career advocating for, and defending women. She represents some of Bill Cosby's accusers, as well as one of the women accusing would-be Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore of sexual assault, and former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, who made claims of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump. Her daughter, Lisa Bloom, briefly represented Harvey Weinstein, then dropped him as a client soon after Allred voiced her disagreement. So, it's not surprising that a documentary highlighting her achievements would gain traction at this year's festival. In fact, Netflix had already signed on to distribute the film even before it screened in Park City, Utah, a clear indicator of its standing.

Director: Sophie Sartain and Roberta Grossman

Bought by: Netflix will release the documentary in early 2018.
10 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.

Robert Pattinson has done everything possible to break away from his Twilight teen idol image, and he's mostly succeeded. But he's still managed to fly under the radar, mostly by starring in movies popular with the indie set, and no one else. If critical acclaim is any indication, this performance, as a man traveling West through the frontier to rescue his would-be lover, might change that.

Director: Nathan and David Zellner
11 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.

I know what you're thinking: Keira Knightley in another period drama? Well, yes. But this one has some very modern undertones. Knightley stars as Colette, a young bride whose semi-autobiographical stories about a woman named Claudine propel their author to international fame. The only problem is, the listed author isn't Colette, but her husband, Willy.

Directed by: Wash Westmoreland

Bought by: One of the only bidding wars at this year's festival pit Sony Pictures Classics, Amazon, and Fox Searchlight against each other in an effort to earn film and distribution rights to this film. In the end, those were purchased by Bleecker Street and 30West, who will release it in theaters.
12 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
Skate Kitchen

Crystal Moselle's movie has been described as the 2018 version of Kids — but for girls. Rachelle Vinberg plays a young woman who falls in with a gang of impossibly cool skater girls, who struggle to break into a still firmly male-dominated space. And yes, this is the Jaden Smith movie you've been hearing about.

Director: Crytal Moselle
13 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The fact that the winner of U.S. Grand Jury Prize in the dramatic category is a film about a young woman forced into undergoing gay conversion therapy after having sex with the prom queen encapsulates the mood dominating this year's festival. Written and directed by women, and starring Sasha Lane, who has been out as bisexual since 2015, it's an example of the diverse array of female stories out there that deserve to be told.

Director: Desiree Akhavan
14 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.

Like Seeing Allred, RBG feels like a documentary tailor-made for the times we find ourselves living in. The second-ever female Supreme Court justice has become somewhat of a pop culture icon in recent years, what with the creation of the Notorious RBG Tumblr (turned book), which sparked a thousand memes, and catchphrases like: "You can't spell truth without Ruth." Betsy West's and Julie Cohen's film takes a step back from the hype, examining Ginsburg's real-life — but no less impressive — achievements.

Director: Betsy West and Julie Cohen

Bought by: CNN holds the U.S. broadcast rights.
15 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
Hearts Beat Loud

Say goodbye to Ron Swanson. Say hello to Nick Offerman, leading man. Offerman's performance, as a Brooklyn dad trying to get his daughter (Kiersey Clemons) to start a band with him before she leaves for college, has been melting the hearts of pretty much every critic in town. It also stars Sundance heroes Toni Colette, and Sasha Lane, in her second genderqueer role of the season.

Director: Brett Haley

Bought by: Gunpowder & Sky will distribute North America. Sony Pictures Worldwide will distribute internationally.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.

Garrett Hedlund earned rave reviews last year for his performance in Dee Rees' Mudbound, as a returning U.S. World War II soldier who befriends a Black man working on his brother's Mississippi farm. This time, he stars as Michael Burden, a Ku Klux Klan member who is taken in by an African-American reverend. The film took home the Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic competition, so get ready for some tears.

Director: Andrew Heckler
17 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.

Hamilton star Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal's screenplay was buzzing even before it premiered, and it hasn't disappointed. Set in Oakland, California, the film tackles issues like friendship, the penal system, and race, against the backdrop of gentrification.

Director: Carlos López Estrada

Bought by: Lionsgate will release the film in theaters this year.
18 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
Night Comes On

We were obsessed with Dominique Fishback when she appeared in HBO's The Deuce, as film-buff sex worker Darlene. She's equally as powerful in Jordana Spiro's directorial debut, in which she plays a young woman released from juvie on her 18th birthday, hell-bent on seeking revenge against her father. The film won the NEXT Innovator Prize at Sundance this year.

Director: Jordana Spiro
19 of 19
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance.
The Kindergarten Teacher

This remake of a 2004 Israeli film stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as a teacher who fixates on her 6-year-old student, believing him to be a prodigy. Her performance has been hailed as one of her best ever, and given who we're talking about, that's saying something.

Director: Sara Colangelo

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