Sundance Unveils Spotlight and Park City at Midnight Lineups

Jose Haro
'Aloft'

Making the trek to Utah for the 31st incarnation of the indie festival is the Jennifer Connelly-Cillian Murphy drama 'Aloft'

The Sundance Film Festival has unveiled its Spotlight and Park City at Midnight lineups. Among the films making the trek to Utah for the 31st incarnation of the indie festival is the Jennifer Connelly-Cillian Murphy drama Aloft, Eli Roth’s horror film Knock Knock, with Keanu Reeves, and the period drama '71, led by Unbroken star Jack O'Connell.

The news comes a day after Sundance revealed its competition slate, with such films as the postapocalyptic thriller Z for Zachariah starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie and Chris Pine, as well as The D Train, featuring a cast led by former producing partners Jack Black and Mike White.

Last year’s Spotlight and Park City at Midnight lineups boasted films featuring stars such as Jesse Eisenberg, Tom Hardy, Mia Wasikowska and Elijah Wood. This year’s batch of films contains equally recognizable faces like Connelly, Reeves, up-and-comer O’Connell and the 99 Homes cast of Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon and Laura Dern.

Still, horror films typically rely on concept over cast, and this year’s Park City at Midnight crop features plenty of high-concept projects, like Hellions, about a Halloween night from hell complete with malevolent trick-or-treaters, and the unlikely hybrid horror-doc The Nightmare, which follows eight participants — not actors — with sleep paralysis.

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“This year's Park City at Midnight selections have much to offer genre enthusiasts,” Sundance director of programming Trevor Groth said. “With everything from futuristic fantasies to paranormal nightmares, it's an all-out trip to the cinematic edge.”

The Festival, which takes place Jan. 22-Feb. 1 in and around Park City, also announced its New Frontier lineup, which will feature Jenni Olson’s The Royal Road, a quasi-documentary that tackles Spanish colonization of California and the Mexican American War (Olson and Tony Kushner narrate). New Frontier’s mandate is to “champion films that expand, experiment with and explode traditional storytelling.”

A complete list of Spotlight, Park City at Midnight and New Frontier titles follows.

SPOTLIGHT

6 Desires: DH Lawrence and Sardinia/ United Kingdom, Italy (Director: Mark Cousins) — In winter 1921, DH Lawrence and his wife journeyed to Sardinia, and he chronicled their experiences in Sea and Sardinia. Now, Mark Cousins retraces Lawrence’s footsteps. The film is conceived partly as a letter to Lawrence — or “Bert” — a detail that’s typical of the film’s inviting sense of conversational intimacy. International Premiere

'71/ United Kingdom (Director: Yann Demange, Screenwriter: Gregory Burke) — ‘71 takes place over a single night in the life of a young British soldier accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, he must survive the night alone and find his way to safety. Cast: Jack O'Connell, Paul Anderson, Richard Dormer, Sean Harris, Barry Keoghan, Martin McCann.

99 Homes/ U.S.A. (Director: Ramin Bahrani, Screenwriters: Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi, Bahareh Azimi) — A father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real-estate broker who's the source of his frustration. Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Tim Guinee, Cullen Moss, J.D. Evermore.

Aloft/ Spain, France, Canada (Director and screenwriter: Claudia Llosa) — Aloft tells the story of a struggling mother, Nana, and her evolution to becoming a renowned healer. When a young artist tracks down Nana's son 20 years after she abandoned him, she sets in motion an encounter between the two that will bring the meaning of their lives into question. Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy, Mélanie Laurent, William Shimell. North American Premiere

Eden/ France (Director: Mia Hansen-Løve, Screenwriters: Mia Hansen-Løve, Sven Hansen-Løve) — Mia Hansen-Løve's electronic-dance-music epic follows the rise and fall of a DJ (based on her brother, Sven, a contemporary of Daft Punk) who gets into the rave scene in 1994 and spends the next 20 years navigating the French club scene. Cast: Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Greta Gerwig, Brady Corbet, Arsinee Khanjian, Vincent Macaigne.

Girlhood/ France (Director and screenwriter: Céline Sciamma) — Oppressed by her family, dead-end school prospects, and the boys law in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, dress, and quits school to be accepted in the gang, hoping to find a way to freedom. Cast: Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh, Mariétou Touré, Idrissa Diabaté, Simina Soumaré.

The Tribe/ Ukraine (Director and screenwriter: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy) — Set at a Ukrainian boarding school for the deaf, the film’s narrative unfolds purely through sign language without a need for employing subtitles or voiceover, resulting in a unique, never-before-seen cinematic experience that engages the audience on a new level. Cast: Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy, Alexander Dsiadevich.

White God/ Hungary (Director: Kornél Mundruczó, Screenwriters: Kata Wéber, Kornél Mundruczó, Viktória Petrányi) — When young Lili is forced to give up her beloved dog, Hagen, because its mixed-breed heritage is deemed “unfit” by The State, she and the dog begin a dangerous journey back towards each other. Cast: Zsófia Psotta, Sandor Zsótér, Szabolcs Thuróczy, Lili Monori, László Gálffi, Lili Horváth. U.S. Premiere

Wild Tales/Argentina, Spain (Director and screenwriter: Damián Szifrón) — Inequality, injustice, and the demands of the world cause stress and depression for many people. Some of them, however, explode. This is a movie about those people. Vulnerable in the face of an unpredictable reality, the characters of Wild Tales cross the thin line dividing civilization and barbarism. Cast: Ricardo Darín, Julieta Zyberberg, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Darío Grandinetti, Erica Rivas, Oscar Martínez.

PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT

From horror flicks to comedies to works that defy any genre, these unruly films will keep you edge-seated and wide awake.

Cop Car/ U.S.A. (Director: Jon Watts, Screenwriters: Christopher D. Ford, Jon Watts) —Two 10-year-old boys steal an abandoned cop car. Cast: Kevin Bacon, James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford, Shea Whigham, Camryn Manheim.World Premiere

The Hallow/ Ireland, United Kingdom (Director: Corin Hardy, Screenwriters: Corin Hardy, Felipe Marino) —When a London-based conservationist is sent to Ireland to survey an area of ancient forest believed by the superstitious locals to be hallowed ground, he unwittingly disturbs a horde of terrifying beings and must fight to protect his family. Cast: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Michael Smiley.World Premiere

Hellions/ Canada (Director: Bruce McDonald, Screenwriter: Pascal Trottier) —Teenage Dora Vogel must survive a Halloween night from hell when malevolent trick-or-treaters come knocking at her door. Cast: Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland, Rachel Wilson, Peter DaCunha, Luke Bilyk.World Premiere

It Follows/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Robert Mitchell) —After a strange sexual encounter, a teenager finds herself haunted by nightmarish visions and the inescapable sense that something is after her. Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe.

Knock Knock/ U.S.A. (Director: Eli Roth, Screenwriters: Eli Roth, Nicolas Lopez, Guillermo Amoedo) —Two beautiful young girls walk into a married man's life and turn a wild fantasy into his worst nightmare. Cast: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana De Armas, Aaron Burns, Ignacia Allamand, Colleen Camp.World Premiere

The Nightmare/ U.S.A. (Director: Rodney Ascher) —A documentary-horror film exploring the phenomenon of sleep paralysis through the eyes of eight people. They (and a surprisingly large number of others) often find themselves trapped between the sleeping and awake realms, unable to move but aware of their surroundings while subject to disturbing sights and sounds.World Premiere

Reversal/ U.S.A. (Director: J.M Cravioto, Screenwriters: Rock Shaink, Keith Kjornes) —A gritty psychological thriller about a young woman chained in a basement of a sexual predator and manages to escape. However, right when she has a chance for freedom, she unravels a hard truth and decides to turn the tables on her captor. Cast: Tina Ivlev, Richard Tyson, Bianca Malinowski. World Premiere

Turbo Kid/ Canada, New Zealand (Directors: Anouk Whissell, Francois Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissell, Screenwriters: Anouk Whissell, Francois Simard, Yoann-Karl Whissell) —In a post-apocalyptic future, The Kid, an orphaned outcast, meets a mysterious girl. They become friends until Zeus, the sadistic leader of the Wasteland, kidnaps her. The Kid must face his fears, and journey to rid the Wastelandof evil and save the girl. Cast: Chambers Munro, Leboeuf Laurence, Ironside Michael, Jeffery Aaron, Wright Edwin. World Premiere

NEW FRONTIER FILMS

The Forbidden Room/ Canada (Directors: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Screenwriters: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Robert Kotyk) —A submarine crew, a feared pack of forest bandits, a famous surgeon, and a battalion of child soldiers all get more than they bargained for as they wend their way toward progressive ideas on life and love. Cast: Geraldine Chaplin, Caroline Dhavernas, Roy Dupuis, Udo Kier, Charlotte Rampling, Karine Vanasse. World Premiere

Liveforever/ Colombia, Mexico (Director: Carlos Moreno, Screenwriters: Alberto Ferreras, Alonso Torres, Carlos Moreno) ­—Driven by the music and dancing she finds along the way, a teenager leaves home willing to try anything her provocative and tolerant city has to offer, even if she burns out in the process. Inspired by the best-selling novel "Que viva la música"by Andres Caicedo. Cast: Paulina Davila, Alejandra Avila, Luis Arrieta, Juan Pablo Barragan, Nelson Camayo, Christian Tappan. World Premiere

The Royal Road/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jenni Olson) —This cinematic essay, a defense of remembering, offers up a primer on the Spanish colonization of California and the Mexican American War alongside intimate reflections on nostalgia, butch identity and Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo — all against a contemplative backdrop of 16mm urban California landscapes. Cast: Jenni Olson, Tony Kushner. World Premiere

Sam Klemke's Time Machine/ Australia (Director: Matthew Bate)—Sam Klemke has filmed and narrated 50 years of his life, creating a strange and intimate portrait of what it means to be human. World Premiere

Station to Station/ U.S.A. (Director: Doug Aitken) —Station to Station is composed of 60 individual one-minute films featuring different artists, musicians, places, and perspectives. This revolutionary feature-length film reveals a larger narrative about modern creativity. World Premiere

Things of the Aimless Wanderer/ Rwanda, United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Kivu Ruhorahoza) —A white man meets a black girl, then she disappears. The white man tries to understand what happened to her while also trying to finish a travelogue. Things of the Aimless Wanderer is a film about the sensitive topic of relations between “locals” and Westerners, about paranoia, mistrust, and misunderstandings. Cast: Justin Mullikin, Grace Nikuze, Ramadhan Bizimana, Eliane Umuhire, Wesley Ruzibiza, Matt Ray Brown. World Premiere

NEW FRONTIER INSTALLATIONS

1979 Revolution Game

Artists: Navid Khonsari, Vassiliki Khonsari

1979 Revolution Gamepresents an innovative approach to non-fiction storytelling. Designed to engage players with an immersive "on the ground" experience of the Iranian Revolution, the game integrates an emotionally impactful narrative with interactive moral choices and intuitive touchscreen gameplay while remaining true to history.

Assent

Artist: Oscar Raby

This immersive documentary uses virtual reality technology to put the user in the footsteps of Director Oscar Raby's father, who in 1973 was a 22-year-old army officer stationed in the north of Chile, on the day when the Caravan of Death came to his regiment.

Birdly

Artist: Max Rheiner

Flying is one of the oldest dreams of humankind. Birdly is an experiment to capture this dream, to simulate the experience of being a bird from a first-person perspective. This embodiment is conducted through a full-body virtual reality setup.

Dérive

Artist: François Quévillon

This interactive installation uses the audience’s body motions and positions to explore 3-D reconstructions of urban and naturalspaces that are transformed according to live environmental data, including meteorological and astronomical phenomena.

Evolution of Verse

Artist: Chris Milk

Chris Milk, working with visual effects powerhouse Digital Domain and virtual reality production company VRSE.works, has created this photo-realistic CGI-rendered 3-D virtual reality film that takes the viewer on a journey from beginning to new beginning.

Kaiju Fury!

Artist: Ian Hunter

A dark energy experiment leads to a devastating attack by monstrous Kaiju, and you are standing at ground zero — all in 360-degree, stereoscopic 3-D cinematic virtual reality. You will "be there" as the beasts lay waste to a crumbling city and humanity makes its last stand. Cast: Susie Abromeit, Bill Lippincott, Daniel Martin, Brian Dodge, Vincient Chiantelli​.

Paradise

Artist: Pleix

Paradise is certainly not paradisiacal if you look at it through our eyes. But neither is it totally devoid of humor, melancholy and absurdity. Perhaps it is first and foremost life as it is, and then a touch exaggerated in the digital overdrive.

Perspective; Chapter I: The Party

Artists: Rose Troche, Morris May

A young college woman attends a party with the intention of shedding her "shy girl" persona. At the same party, a young man is after a similar reinvention. They meet, drink, and misinterpreted signals turn into things that cannot be undone. Virtual reality simulators let viewers experience both characters. Cast: Tabitha Morella, Caleb Thomas, Zachary Zagoria, Anna Grace Barlow.

Possibilia

Artists: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Possibiliais a multi-layered narrative experience from acclaimed directing duo the Daniels. The story of two quarreling lovers splits exponentially into more and more possible worlds as their relationship unravels. Cast: Alex Karpovsky, Zoe Jarman.

Project Syria

Artist: Nonny de la Peña

More than one million children have fled Syria and news reports indicate children are being specifically targeted in the violence. By combining pioneering virtual reality technologies with audio and video captured during a real event, audiences feel transported to the powerful scene, becoming witnesses as the intense tragedy unfolds.

The VR works of Felix & Paul

Artists: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël

Felix & Paul’s groundbreaking live-action virtual reality experiences range from independent documentary to fictional work with major Hollywood studios and stars. These experiences let viewers sit in the room with musicians making music, roam the Mongolian plains with yak herders, and experience an encounter with the afterlife​.

Way to Go

Artist: Vincent Morisset

It is a walk in the woods. It is an astonishing online and virtual reality interactive experience, a restless panorama, a mixture of hand-made animation, 360-degree video capture, music, dreaming, and code; but mostly it is a walk in the woods, c'mon!

Zero Point

Artist: Danfung Dennis

Zero Point, a 3-D and 360-degree documentary for the Oculus Rift headset, creates an entirely new digital dimension. From combat training simulations at the Department of Defense to research labs at Stanford to indie game developers and hackers, this immersive experience highlights the future of virtual reality.

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Email: Tatiana.Siegel@THR.com
Twitter: @TatianaSiegel27

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