Sundance announces feature film slate

Jolie, Wishaw, Riseborough and Affleck among star names

by Amber Wilkinson

Toni Colette in Dream Horse
Toni Colette in Dream Horse Photo: Kerry Brown/Courtesy of Sundance Institute
The Sundance Film Festival maintained its commitment to diversity as it announced the 118 feature films that will play at 2020's edition, which runs from January 23 to February 2.

Of all the films announced, 44 per cent are directed by one or more women (up from 40 per cent last year), 34 per cent by one or more filmmakers of colour (down two per cent year on year) and 15 per cent by one or more LGBTQ+ directors (up two per cent).

The festival - which marks the final edition with John Cooper at the artistic director helm - will carry films from 27 countries and 44 first-time feature filmmakers.

Cooper said: “The programme this year, my last as director, is a celebration: of art and artists, yes, but also of the community that makes the annual pilgrimage to Park City to see the most exciting new work being made today. Watching this group expand and thrive over the years has been exhilarating and wildly rewarding. Our 2020 Festival's lively and visionary crop of artists has a contagious passion, and I can't wait to watch the world meet their work."

There's plenty of British talent across the line-up. Aneil Kara's Surge - the story of a bank robber who goes on a journey of self-liberation through London - stars Ben Wishaw and will premiere in the World Competition section, along with Zeina Durra's Luxor, which stars festival regular Andrea Riseborough as a British aid worker trying to reconcile the choices of her past.

Riseborough also stars in UK/Canadian co-production Possessor, the latest film from Brandon Cronenberg, a science-fiction tale of brain implants gone wrong that sees a woman's mind become trapped in the body of a man.

The Day One films include the latest from British documentarian Jerry Rothwell, whose The Reason I Jump is based on the book by Naoki Higashida and explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world.

British names in the hot ticket Premieres section of the festival include Welsh director Euros Lyn (Torchwood, Last Tango In Halifax), whose Dream Horse, starring Toni Colette and Damian Lewis, sees a cleaner and bartender decide on a whim to breed a race horse in her Welsh village. Mamma Mia director Phyllida Lloyd will also present her latest film, Herself, the story of a woman aiming to build a home for her daughters from scratch and starring Clare Dunne and Harriet Walter.

On Chesil Beach director Dominic Cooke also brings his latest to the Premieres section, Ironbark, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the true story of British spy Greville Wynne, who formed an unlikely partnership in a bid to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. British actress Romola Garai, meanwhile, makes her feature directing debut in the Midnight section with Amulet, about a homeless ex-soldier who experiences sinister goings on after he is offered a place to stay at a decaying house, inhabited by a young woman and her dying mother. Also in Midnight, is Remi Weekes' His House, which sees a young refugee couple make a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, but then struggle to adjust to their new life in a small English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface.

There are plenty of films featuring international names heading to Park City, Utah, including Angelina Jolie, who stars alongside David Oyelowo and Michael Caine in Brenda Chapman's Come Away, and Ben Affleck and Anne Hathaway, who star in Dee Rees' The Last Thing He Wanted. Julianne Moore, who starred in festival Day One film After The Wedding this year, returns as feminist Gloria Steinem alongside Alicia Vikander and Bette Midler in Julie Taymor's The Glorias.

Green Book star Viggo Mortensen also makes his directorial debut with Falling, the festival's Closing Night film, which sees two world collide when an 80-year-old independent farmer travels to Los Angeles for an indefinite stay with his son's family. Olivia and Anthony Hopkins, meanwhile, star in The Father, directed by Florian Zeller and Glenn Close also heads to town with Rodrigo Garcia's tale of opioid addiction Four Good Days.

Among other familiar directorial names are Martha Macy May Marlene director Sean Durkin, Beasts Of The Southern Wild helmer Benh Zeitlin and Madeleine's Madeleine director Josephine Decker. Durkin, after several years of producing, returns with UK co-production The Nest, starring Jude Law as an entrepreneur who finds his marriage in trouble after returning to England, while Zeitlin reimagines the story of Peter Pan in Wendy and Decker brings her biopic Shirley, which stars Elisabeth Moss as the Gothic author Shirley Jackson.

Robert Redford, president and founder of Sundance Institute, said: “Independent artists create and enrich global culture. Their art, which we’re proud to present, can entertain – and much more: it can, illuminate, agitate, and empower. This year’s Festival is full of films that showcase myriad ways for stories to drive change, across hearts, minds, and societies.”

Keri Putnam, executive director of Sundance Institute, added: "At this year's Festival, we’ll explore the theme of “imagined futures," inside the theatres and in the conversations sparked by the work we are presenting. We believe diverse stories from independent artists around the world open us up to new perspectives and possibilities – at a time when fresh thinking and dialogue is urgently needed.”

We'll be bringing full details of the programme soon and you can read our coverage from previous Sundance editions here.

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