U.S. Dramatic competition:
“Band Aid” • Actor Zoe Lister-Jones (star of TV’s “Life in Pieces”) makes her debut as a writer and director, playing half of an unhappily married couple who try to save their marriage by forming a rock band and turning their fights into songs. Also starring Adam Pally and Fred Armisen.
“Beach Rats” • Writer-director Eliza Hittman follows up her debut “It Felt Like Love” (SFF ’13) with this drama centering on Frankie (Harris Dickinson), who wastes the summer snorting oxy and stringing on a girl — until a family tragedy and a series of gay encounters on a cruising beach has him struggling to reconcile his desires.
“Brigsby Bear” • “Saturday Night Live” star Kyle Mooney co-wrote (with Kevin Costello) and stars in this filmed-in-Salt Lake City comedy, as a guy whose life changes radically when his favorite children’s TV show abruptly ends. Dave McCary directs a cast that includes Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins.
“Burning Sands” • A fraternity pledge sees the intensifying violence of Hell Week, and must choose between speaking up or honoring the code of silence in this drama, directed by Gerald McMurray, who co-wrote with Christine Berg. The cast includes Trevor Jackson, Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Tosin Cole, DeRon Horton and Trevante Rhodes.
“Crown Heights” • Writer-director Matt Ruskin dramatizes a true crime drama, taken from a “This American Life” story, in which Colin Warner (Keith Stanfield) is wrongfully convicted of murder — prompting his best friend, Carl King (Nnamdi Asomugha) to devote his life to prove Colin’s innocence. Also starring Natalie Paul, Bill Camp, Nestor Carbonell and Amari Cheatom.
“Golden Exits” • A young foreign girl disrupts the emotional balances of two families in Brooklyn, in this drama written and directed by writer-director Alex Ross Perry (“Listen Up Philip,” SFF ’15). The cast is led by Emily Browning, Adam Horovitz, Mary-Louise Parker, Lily Rabe, Jason Schwartzman and Chloë Sevigny.
“The Hero” • Sam Elliott stars as Lee, a onetime Western film icon who now lives comfortably, doing commercial voice-overs and smoking pot — until he gets unexpected news and has a chance meeting with a sardonic comic (Laura Prepon) that has him thinking anew about his future. Director Brett Haley (“I’ll See You in My Dreams,” SFF’15) co-wrote the script with Marc Basch. Also starring Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman and Katherine Ross.
“I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” • Actor Macon Blair (“Blue Ruin,” SFF ’14) makes his writing and directing debut with this crime story, in which a depressed woman (Melanie Lynskey) teams with her obnoxious neighbor to track down the thieves who broke into her home, only to find themselves out of their depth against the criminals. Also starring Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy and Devon Graye. (A Day One film, to screen on the festival’s opening night, Jan. 19.)
“Ingrid Goes West” • Aubrey Plaza stars as an unstable woman who moves to L.A. in hopes of befriending the Instagram lifestyle blogger (Elizabeth Olsen) with whom she’s become obsessed. Director Matt Spicer co-wrote this comedy-drama with David Branson Smith; the cast includes O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell and Billy Magnussen.
“Landline” • Director Gillian Robespierre (“Obvious Child,” SFF ’14), co-writing with Elisabeth Holm, helms this comedy set in 1990s New York, in which a teen (Abby Quinn) learns her father (John Turturro) is having an affair — the first of many family secrets revealed. Also starring Jenny Slate, Edie Falco Jay Duplass and Finn Wittrock.
“Novitiate” • Writer-director Maggie Betts follows a nun-in-training (Margaret Qualley) as she deals with faith, sexuality and the changes in the Catholic Church during the Vatican II era. Also starring Melissa Leo, Julianne Nicholson, Dianna Agron and Morgan Saylor.
“Patti Cake$” • Danielle Macdonald stars as Patricia Dombrowski, an aspiring New Jersey rapper — with the aliases Killa P and Pattie Cake$ — seeking glory in a world of strip malls and strip clubs. Written and directed by Geremy Jasper.
“Roxanne Roxanne” • Writer-director Michael Larnell (“Cronies,” SFF ’15) tells the story of hip-hop legend Roxanne Shanté (played by Chanté Adams), from hustling the streets at 14 to becoming the most feared battle emcee in the early-’80s New York rap scene. Also starring Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) and Nia Long.
“To the Bone” • TV showrunner Marti Noxon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “UnReal”) makes her feature writing and directing debut with this drama about a 20-year-old (Lily Collins) who enters a group recovery home to deal with her severe anorexia, where she and the other residents — aided by an unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves) — go on a funny, harrowing journey to embrace life. Also starring Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, Alex Sharp, Liana Liberato.
“Walking Out” • Twin brother writer-directors Alex and Andrew Smith adapt David Quammen’s short story of an estranged father (Matt Bomer) and son (Josh Wiggins) who must rely on each other when they are attacked by a grizzly bear in the Montana wilderness. Also starring Bill Pullman, Alex Neustaedter and Lily Gladstone.
“The Yellow Birds” • Director Alexandre Moors (“Blue Caprice,” SFF ’13) and screenwriter David Lowery adapt Kevin Powers’ war novel, about two young soldiers during the Gulf War — and what happens when one (Alden Ehrenreich) returns home and the other (Tye Sheridan) doesn’t. Also starring Jack Huston, Jason Patric, Toni Collette and Jennifer Aniston.
U.S. Documentary competition:
“Casting JonBenet” • (U.S./Australia) Director Kitty Green examines the unsolved death of JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old beauty queen and the focus of the world’s most sensational child murder case, through 15 months of responses, reflections and performances from the Ramseys’ Colorado hometown.
“Chasing Coral” • Director Jeff Orlowski follows up his environmental documentary “Chasing Ice” (SFF ’12) by following divers, photographers and scientists into the ocean to discover why coral reefs are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. (Part of Sundance’s New Climate initiative.)
“City of Ghosts” • Director Matthew Heineman (“Cartel Land,” SFF ’15) follows the work of the Syrian opposition group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, anonymous citizen journalists standing up to ISIS.
“Dina” • Directors Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini tell the unconventional love story of an eccentric suburbanite and a Walmart door greeter.
“Dolores” • Peter Bratt (“La Mission,” SFF ’09) directs this biography of Dolores Huerta, who bucked gender conventions in the 1950s by co-founding, with Cesar Chavez, the United Farmworkers Union.
“The Force” • Director Pete Nicks’ cinema-verité look inside the troubled Oakland Police Department, struggling with federal pressure to reform, an explosive scandal, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Icarus” • After a chance meeting with a Russian scientist, director Bryan Fogel’s investigation of sports doping takes a turn toward geopolitical intrigue — in a story that involves dirty urine, unexplained death, Olympic gold and the biggest scandal in sports history.
“The New Radical” • British and American millennial radicals take on the system using technology, in this documentary by director Adam Bhala Lough (“The Carter,” SFF ’09).
“Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press” • Director Brian Knappenberger (“The Internet’s Own Boy,” SFF ’14) chronicles wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media, examining privacy rights vs. freedom of the press and how big money can silence the news.
“Quest” • Filmed over 10 years, director Jonathan Olshefski paints a verité portrait of a North Philadelphia family and the home music studio that became a creative sanctuary, through good times and tragedy.
“Step” • Director Amanda Lipitz follows members of the Step Team of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, an inner-city high school graduating its first senior class, giving hope to girls preparing to be the first in their families to go to college.
“Strong Island” • (U.S./Denmark) Director Yance Ford looks at the violent death of her brother, the havoc his death brought to her family, and how the judicial system let the killer go free.
“Trophy” • The industries of big-game hunting, breeding and wildlife conservation, in the United States and Africa, are examined in this in-depth documentary, directed by Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau. (Part of Sundance’s New Climate initiative.)
“Unrest” • Director Jennifer Brea chronicles her own medical history — of being bedridden at 28 by an illness doctors said was “all in her head” — and that of four other families dealing with an orphaned disease, myalgic encephalomyelitis (or “chronic fatigue syndrome”).
“Water & Power: A California Heist” • Marina Zenovich, who directed “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” (SFF ’08), returns with a story that seems taken from Polanski’s “Chinatown”: A look at California’s complex water system, where water barons find ways to structure a state-engineered system to their own advantage while small farmers and everyday people deal with drought and a groundwater crisis. (Part of Sundance’s New Climate initiative.)
“Whose Streets?” • Billed as “a people’s documentary,” this account of the uprising in Ferguson, Mo., after the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown — directed by Sabaah Folayan and co-directed by Damon Davis — is told by the people who lived it. (A Day One film, to screen on the festival’s opening night, Jan. 19.)
World Cinema Dramatic competition:
“Axolotl Overkill” • (Germany) In writer-director Helene Hegemann’s drama, Mifti (Jasna Fritzi Bauer) is a 16-year-old living in Berlin with her half-siblings, their rich and self-involved father, and her junkie friend Ophelia — when she becomes obsessed with Alice (Arly Jover), an enigmatic white-collar criminal.
“Berlin Syndrome” • (Australia) A photographer (Teresa Palmer) on holiday in Germany has a one-night stand with a guy (Max Reimelt), but wakes up to find he has locked her in an apartment, in a thriller is directed by Cate Shortland and written by Shaun Grant.
“Carpinteros (Woodpeckers)” • (Dominican Republic) A surreptitious romance blossoms in the Dominican Republic’s Najayo Prison in writer-director José María Cabral’s drama, as Julián (Jean Jean) and Yanelly (Judith Rodriguez Perez) communicate through sign language without the guards’ knowledge.
“Don’t Swallow My Heart, Alligator Girl!” • (Brazil/Netherlands/France/Paraguay) Joca (Eduardo Macedo) A 13-year-old Brazilian boy, falls in love with an indigenous Paraguayan girl (Adeli Gonzales), and must face the region’s war-torn past and the secrets of his motorcycle-riding older brother, Fernando (Cauã Reymond). Written and directed by Felipe Bragança.
“Family Life” • (Chile) A lonely man, house-sitting for his cousin, tries to gain sympathy of a single mother by inventing a story that he has a vengeful ex-wife who is withholding custody of their daughter. Christián Jiménez and Alicia Scherson direct this comedy-drama, written by Alejandro Zambra.
“Free and Easy” • (Hong Kong) In this comedy — directed by Jun Geng, who co-wrote with Yuhua Feng and Bing Liu — a traveling soap salesman arrives in a remote Chinese town. Then a crime occurs, and the residents are at each other’s throats.
“My Happy Family” • (Georgia) Three generations live under one roof in a Tbilisi family, until Manana, 52, shocks everyone by declaring she will move out of her parents’ house and live alone. Writer Nana Ekvtimishvili co-directs this drama with Simon Gross, billed collectively as Nana & Simon.
“God’s Own Country” • (U.K.) In writer-director Francis Lee’s drama, Yorkshire sheep farmer Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) finds his usual routine — binge drinking and casual sex — disrupted by the arrival of Gheorghe (Alex Secareanu), a Romanian immigrant employed for the lambing season. Also stars Ian Hart and Gemma Jones.
“The Nile Hilton Incident” • (Sweden) Set just before Egypt’s 2011 revolution, writer-director Tarik Saleh’s thriller follows a Cairo police detective (Fares Fares) as he investigates the murder of a singer — and finds the trail leading to the country’s ruling elite, close to the President’s inner circle.
“Pop Aye” • (Singapore/Thailand) An architect (Thaneth Warakulnukroh) encounters his long-lost elephant in a Bangkok street, and together they journey across Thailand to find the farm where they grew up together, in a drama directed and written by Kirsten Tan. (A Day One film, to screen on the festival’s opening night, Jan. 19.)
“Sueño en otra idioma (I Dream in Another Language)” • (Mexico) A young linguist tries to bring together the last two speakers of Zikril, a millennia-old language, but the two haven’t spoken to each other in 50 years, because of a secret hidden in the heart of the jungle. This drama, with fantasy elements, is directed by Ernesto Contreras and written by Carlos Contreras.
“The Wound” • (South Africa) Xolani, a lonely factory worker, goes into the mountains to initiate the teen boys in his community into manhood. But when one defiant boy discovers Xolani’s long-buried secret, the worker’s existence begins to unravel. John Trengove directs this drama, which he co-wrote with Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bengu.
World Cinema Documentary competition:
“The Good Postman” • (Finland/Bulgaria) A mail carrier in a small Bulgarian village runs for mayor, on a platform to welcome Syrian refugees to bring life to the dying town, in director Tonislav Hristov’s documentary.
“In Loco Parentis” • (Ireland/Spain) Directors Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane track a year at Ireland’s last primary-age boarding school, where John and Amanda Leyden teach Latin, English, maths and guitar — hewing to the mantra of “Reading! ‘Rithmetic! Rock ‘n’ roll!” for nearly 50 years, but now facing the prospect of retirement.
“It’s Not Yet Dark” • (Ireland) Simon Fitzmaurice, a young Irish filmmaker with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) who directs an award-winning feature film by using eye-movement technology, is profiled in Frankie Fenton’s documentary, inspired by Fitzmaurice’s memoir.
“Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower” • Joe Piscatella directs this profile of Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong teen who protested the Chinese Communist Party’s rescinding on autonomy promises by rallying thousands of schoolkids to occupy the streets — thus becoming one of China’s most notorious dissidents.
“Last Men in Aleppo” • (Denmark) Khalid, Subhi and Mahmoud are founding members of The White Helmets, ordinary citizens helping save people from the rubble of Aleppo, Syria — where they experience daily life, death, struggle and triumph after five years of war. Directed by Feras Fayyad and Steen Johannessen.
“Machines” • (India/Germany/Finland) Director Rahul Jain takes viewers inside the rhythms of life and work at a massive textile factory in Gujarat, India — a place of dehumanizing physical labor and intense hardship. (Part of Sundance’s New Climate initiative.)
“Motherland” • (U.S./Philippines) • Director Ramona Diaz looks inside the planet’s busiest maternity hospital, in one of the world’s poorest and most populous countries, The Philippines — where poor women deal with the results of their nation’s reproductive health policy and conservative Catholic politics.
“Plastic China” • (China) Yi-Jie, age 11, works with her parents in a recycling facility, where Kun is the foreman — both dreaming of a better life — in director Jiu-liang Wang’s up-close-and-personal look at global consumption and culture. (Part of Sundance’s New Climate initiative.)
“Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World” • (Canada) Director Catherine Bainbridge tells a missing chapter in the history of rock ‘n’ roll: The contributions of Native Americans to pop culture, including such stars as Jimi Hendrix, Robbie Robertson, Rita Coolidge and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
“Tokyo Idols” • (U.K./Canada) Japan’s fascination with girl bands and the cultural obsession with young female sexuality is explored in director Kyoko Miyake’s documentary, which follows an aspiring pop singer and her fans.
“Winnie” • (France) Director Pascale Lamche profiles South African icon Winnie Mandela, focusing on how she fought on the front lines against apartheid while her husband Nelson languished in jail — and how society came to label him a saint and her a sinner.
“The Workers Cup” • (U.K.) The African and Asian migrant workers building Qatar’s facilities for the 2022 World Cup compete in their own soccer tournament, as chronicled by director Adam Sobel. (A Day One film, to screen on the festival’s opening night, Jan. 19.)
“Columbus” • Critic-turned-filmmaker Kogonada directs this tale of two people in a Midwestern town — Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), living with her mother (Michelle Forbes), a recovering addict; and Jin (John Cho), visiting from the other side of the world to attend to his dying father — who find solace in each other and the surrounding architecture. Parker Posey and Rory Culkin also star.
“Dayveon” • Devin Blackmon plays the title character, a 13-year-old in an Arkansas town who falls in with a local gang. Directed by Amman Abbasi, who co-wrote with Steven Reneau. (A Day One film, to screen on the festival’s opening night, Jan. 19.)
“Deidra & Laney Rob a Train” • When their mom goes to jail, teen sisters (Ashleigh Murray, Rachel Crow) rob trains to support their family. Filmed in Utah by director Sydney Freeland (“Drunktown’s Finest,” SFF ’14), and written by Shelby Farrell; the cast includes Tim Blake Nelson and Sasheer Zamata.
“A Ghost Story” • The outside world just learned last week of the existence of this haunted-house movie, made by writer-director David Lowery just after he wrapped “Pete’s Dragon.” Lowery reunites with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, stars of his debut “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (SFF’13).
“Gook” • Brothers Eli (Justin Chon, the film’s writer-director) and Daniel (David So) team up with Kamilla (Simone Baker), an 11-year-old girl, to defend the brothers’ struggling women’s shoe store on the first day of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
“L.A. Times” • Michelle Morgan directed, wrote and stars in this modern comedy of manners, as thirtysomethings seek that possibly mythical creation: The perfectly suited couple.
“Lemon” • Comedian Brett Gelman (who co-wrote with the film’s director, Janicza Bravo) stars as an unemployed actor whose life starts to unravel when his blind girlfriend (Judy Greer) leaves him. Also starring Michael Cera, Nia Long, Shiri Appleby, Fred Melamed, Megan Mullally, Gillian Jacobs and Jeff Garlin.
“Menashe” • A widower (Menashe Lustig) in Brooklyn’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community battles for custody of his son, in a drama performed entirely in Yiddish. Director Joshua Z Weinstein co-wrote with Alex Lipschultz and Musa Syeed.
“Person to Person” • Utah native Dustin Guy Defa writes and directs this drama, a day in the life of several New York characters: A record collector hustling for a big score, a heartbroken roommate, a teen watching her best friend’s new relationship, and a rookie reporter and her supervisor following the clues of a murder case involving a life-weary clock shop owner. The cast includes Abbi Jacobson (“Broad City”), Michael Cera, Tavi Gevinson and Philip Baker Hall.
“Thoroughbred” • Two teen girls (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’s” Olivia Cooke and “The Witch’s” Anya Taylor-Joy) rekindle their unlikely relationship, learning that neither is who they appear to be — and that a murder might solve both their problems. Cory Finley writes and directs this thriller, which also stars the late Anton Yelchin.