One of my favorite things to do when the annual festivals start rolling out their film slate is to comb through the descriptions and see what jumps out at me. Of the 2015 Sundance slate, there are plenty of interesting movies headed our way, but these are the debuts that (for me) scream something new and different.
Crystal Moselle’s directorial debut is a documentary about the Angulo brothers, six boys ranging from 13 to 20, who were kept isolated in a lower east side Manhattan apartment their entire lives (up to the point of this film). With movies as their only connection to the outside world, the boys understandably become obsessed, and entertain themselves by recreating the stories they’ve watched (like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The Dark Knight). The filmmaker met the Angulo sons right as they were being introduced to the outside world, after one had finally escaped and made a friend. She explores the family, and what effect their extreme upbringing has had on the brothers. Starring Mukunda, Bhagavan, Jagadisa, Krsna, Narayana, and Govinda Angulo.
Last Days in the Desert
Directed and written by Rodrigo García (Blue, Mother and Child); Ewan McGregor is Jesus…and the devil? Garcia imagines Christ’s last days fasting and praying in the desert, as the devil plays terrible mind games with god’s son. Co-starring Ciarán Hinds, Ayelet Zurer and Tye Sheridan.
The Forbidden Room
Directed and written by Guy Maddin (The Saddest Music in the World, My Winnipeg), co-directed by Evan Johnson; described as a “Russian nesting doll of a film.” As best I can discern, it involves a haunted submarine crew running out of oxygen, and is filled with dreams, ghosts, bathing, a battalion of child soldiers, a surgeon, pancakes, bananas, seances and captivity. Starring Charlotte Rampling, Caroline Dhavernas, Udo Kier, Roy Dupuis, Mathieu Amalric, Geraldine Chaplin and Clara Furey.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Marielle Heller’s directorial debut, based on (so, not wholly original) Phoebe Gloeckner’s unique (semi-autobiographical) graphic novel about her life as a young artist growing up in 1970’s San Francisco. The daughter of an illustrator, and surrounded by many underground comic writers, Gloeckner’s youthful experiences play out through neglected 15-year-old Minnie (Bel Powley), whose unfiltered world was dominated by sex, drugs, and having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. (One of Gloeckner’s works was banned from a California library for being “a how-to book for pedophiles.”) Also starring, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni and Austin Lyon.
I Am Michael
Justin Kelly’s feature debut, screenplay written by Kelly and based on the true story featured in a New York Times article . James Franco (I know — get over it!) stars as gay activist and Young Gay America magazine co-founder Michael Glatze, who — following a health scare — turned to Christianity, renounced his homosexuality, and became a pastor. Co-starring Zachary Quinto as Michael’s boyfriend, and Daryl Hannah, Emma Roberts and Charlie Carver.
Sundance runs from January 22 - February 1, 2015.