It’s that time of year again. Yes, the Sundance Film Festival ~ the largest independent film celebration ~ is in full swing in Park City, Utah and I am here with nearly 50,000 other attendees. The air is crisp, the days are bright and we could care less. One doesn’t come to Sundance for a holiday: you’re either here because you support independent films or you’re in the business surrounding them.
For more than 30 years, Robert Redford has introduced some of cinema’s best filmmakers to the world, including Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs), Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies, and Videotape), the Coen brothers (Blood Simple), Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), to name but a few.
Superb Irish films or Irish-backed films have been here too! In the last few years, award-winning Irish/Irish-backed films have included: The Summit, Calvary, Irish Folk Furniture, Frank, and The Last Days of Peter Bergmann.
For the past two years, I have tried to see all the Irish films and report back the news. This year, I am in Park City to do it again. There are five films to see. They include:
Brooklyn – Set on opposite sides of the Atlantic, Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, she departs Ireland for the shores of New York. Her initial bouts of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. Soon, though, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within. Directed by John Crowley. Starring Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and Domhnall Gleeson (Frank). The official trailer has not yet been released. This film will screen in the Premieres section at Sundance. It was produced by Wildgaze Films, Finola Dwyer Productions, Parallel Films and Item 7, was filmed in Wexford, Dublin and Wicklow, and was co-financed by the Irish Film Board.
Glassland – Young Dublin cabdriver, John barely makes ends meet. He shares social housing with his mother, Jean, an alcoholic who is systematically drinking herself to death. Desperate to save his mother, John takes a shady job from the ambiguous criminal element he’s loosely connected to and is forced to make a life changing moral decision. Directed by Gerard Barrett. Starring Toni Collette (Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine), Jack Reynor (What Richard Did and Transformers: Age of Extinction), Will Poulter (Son of Rambow, We’re the Millers), and Michael Smiley (A Field in England, Kill List). This film will screen in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section at Sundance, which only selects 12 films from thousands of entries. It was produced by Element Pictures, was filmed in Dublin, and was produced with support from the Irish Film Board.
Strangerland – New to the remote Australian desert town of Nathgari, Catherine and Matthew Parker’s lives are pushed to the brink when their two teenage children, Tommy and Lily, disappear just before a massive dust storm hits the town. With temperatures rising, and the chances of survival plummeting with each passing day, Catherine and Matthew find themselves pushed to the brink as they struggle to survive the uncertainty of their children’s fate. Directed by Kim Farrant. Starring Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes. The official trailer has not yet been released. This film will also screen in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section at Sundance, which only selects 12 films from thousands of entries. It was produced by Fastnet films and Dragonfly Pictures and was funded by the Irish Film Board, Worldview Entertainment, Screen Australia and Screen NSW.
The Hallow – Deep within the darkness of a secluded forest in rural Ireland dwells an ancient evil. When a conservationist from London moves in with his wife and infant child in order to survey the land for future construction, his actions unwittingly disturb the horde of demonic forces. Alone in a remote wilderness, he must now ensure his family’s survival from their relentless attacks. Directed by Corin Hardy. Starring Joseph Mawle (The Awakening, Game of Thrones) and Bojana Novakovic (Devil, Burning Man). The official trailer has not been released yet, but you can see the unofficial version here (unfortunately, you are forced to watch an advertisement first). This film will screen as part of the Park City at Midnight section at Sundance. It was produced by Occupant Entertainment and Fantastic Films, was filmed on location in Galway, and was funded by Prescience, Altus Media, Hyperion and the Irish Film Board.
The Visit – Imagine an event that has never taken place: mankind’s first encounter with an intelligent life from outer space. Through tantalizing interviews with experts from NASA, United Nations, and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, among many others, this film constructs a chillingly believable scenario of first contact on Earth, beginning with the simplest of questions: Why are you here? How do you think? What do you see in humans that we don’t see in ourselves? Directed by Michael Madsen (Into Eternity). This will screen in the World Documentary Competition section at Sundance. It is co-produced by Venom Films, with support from the Irish Film Board.