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Sundance Film Festival London announces 2017 programme

Beatriz at Dinner

Preview by Jack Foley

SUNDANCE Institute and Picturehouse have announced the programme of feature films, short films and panel discussions for the 2017 Sundance Film Festival: London.

Taking place between June 1 and 4, 2017, at Picturehouse Central, the festival will present 14 feature films direct from this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, USA, selected for London by the Sundance Institute programming team in collaboration with Picturehouse.

As previously announced, the festival will open with the International premiere of Miguel Arteta’s Beatriz at Dinner (pictured), and will close four days later with the UK premiere of David Lowery’s critically acclaimed A Ghost Story, starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.

Continuing the focus of the four previous London editions on presenting new work by emerging and established independent filmmakers, the 2017 festival will also include a short film programme with 15 shorts, including a strand dedicated to new UK shorts.

The films collectively received sven awards when they premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, including the Audience Award: US Dramatic (Crown Heights) and Audience Award: US Documentary (Chasing Coral).

For the first time, the programme will include a ‘Surprise Film’ screening which promises festivalgoers an exclusive chance to catch an audience hit from this year’s festival in Park City.

Additionally, the Sundance Film Festival: London will introduce an Audience Favourite award for 2017, giving festivalgoers the chance to vote for their favourite features, with the winner announced at the close of the festival.

The Special Events programme comprises three panel events and an ‘In Conversation’ event with renowned guests, providing incredible insights into the filmmaking process.

The ‘Independent Film Trumps Reality’ panel will examine independent filmmaking in the current political climate, involving directors at the festival whose films have gained a new level of currency in the age of Trump, while the ‘On Collaboration: Documentary Practices and Process’ panel (presented by Dropbox) will explore the themes of diversity, accessibility and progress in documentary, and the short filmmaker panel ‘Art vs. Stepping Stone’ (presented in association with London Short Film Festival) will pose the question, Are shorts simply a stepping stone or do they sustain a filmmaker throughout a career?

Acclaimed director David Lowery, whose highly anticipated film A Ghost Story will close the festival, will participate in an ‘In Conversation’ event (presented in association with Empire magazine), which will be followed by a special screening of his earlier feature, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

A full list of additional filmmakers and special guests expected to attend will be announced closer to the festival.

Robert Redford, President & Founder of Sundance Institute, said: “As we head into our fifth festival in London, we remain committed to introducing new American independent films to audiences around the world.

“Our success in the UK is a reflection of the enormous creativity of independent artists and the stories they tell, as well as the curious and adventurous audiences who have made us feel right at home in the heart of London.”

John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, added: “The films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival: London show us the very human sides of issues, people and places both intimately familiar and entirely unknown.

“The range of characters and approaches – all told from independent perspectives – allows us to see the funny and the serious, the scary and the comforting, the urgent and the timeless in our world today.”

Festival passes are on sale now – find out more at picturehouses.com/sundance.

Priority booking for Picturehouse Members and Passholders is open now. Individual tickets go on sale from 9.30am on Tuesday, May 2.

Feature film programme

Beatriz at Dinner (Director: Miguel Arteta, Screenwriter: Mike White)
Beatriz, an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a health practitioner. Doug Strutt is a cutthroat, self-satisfied billionaire. When these two opposites meet at a dinner party, their worlds collide and neither will ever be the same.

Principal cast: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Chloë Sevigny, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, Connie Britton

International premiere

The Big Sick (Director: Michael Showalter, Screenwriters: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani)
Based on the real-life courtship: Pakistan-born comedian Kumail and grad student Emily fall in love, but they struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail must navigate the crisis with her parents and the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart.

Principal cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher

International premiere. Presented in association with Time Out.

Bitch (Director/Screenwriter: Marianna Palka)
A woman snaps under crushing life pressures and assumes the psyche of a vicious dog. Her philandering, absentee husband is forced to become reacquainted with his four children and sister-in-law as they attempt to keep the family together during this bizarre crisis.

Principal cast: Jason Ritter, Jaime King, Marianna Palka, Brighton Sharbino, Rio Mangini, Kingston Foster

International premiere

Bushwick (Directors: Cary Murnion, Jonathan Millot, Screenwriters: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick)
Lucy emerges from a Brooklyn subway to find that her neighbourhood is under attack by black-clad military soldiers. An ex-Marine corpsman, Stupe, reluctantly helps her fight for survival through a civil war, as Texas attempts to secede from the United States of America.

Principal cast: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow, Angelic Zambrana, Jeremie Harris, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Arturo Castro

UK premiere

Chasing Coral (Director: Jeff Orlowski)
Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers, and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world. (Documentary)

Special preview screening
Winner of the Audience Award: U.S. Documentary

Crown Heights (Director/Screenwriter: Matt Ruskin)
When Colin Warner is wrongfully convicted of murder, his best friend, Carl King, devotes his life to proving Colin’s innocence. Adapted from This American Life, this is the incredible true story of their harrowing quest for justice.

Principal cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, Natalie Paul, Bill Camp, Nestor Carbonell, Amari Cheatom

International premiere
Winner of Audience Award: US Dramatic

Dina (Directors: Dan Sickles, Antonio Santini)
An eccentric suburban woman and a Walmart door greeter navigate their evolving relationship in this unconventional love story. (Documentary)

Special preview screening
Winner of the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary

A Ghost Story (Director/screenwriter: David Lowery)
This is the story of a ghost and the house he haunts.

Principal cast: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham, Sonia Acevedo, Rob Zabrecky, Liz Franke

UK premiere

Icarus (Director: Bryan Fogel)
When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death, and Olympic Gold – exposing the biggest scandal in sports history. (Documentary)

UK premiere
Winner of U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: The Orwell Award

The Incredible Jessica James (Director/Screenwriter: Jim Strouse)
Jessica James, an aspiring NYC playwright, is struggling to get over a recent breakup. She sees a light at the end of the tunnel when she meets the recently divorced Boone. Together, they discover how to make it through the tough times while realizing they like each other – a lot.

Principal cast: Jessica Williams, Chris O’Dowd, Lakeith Stanfield, Noël Wells

European premiere

Marjorie Prime (Director/Screenwriter: Michael Almereyda)
In the near future – a time of artificial intelligence – 86-year-old Marjorie has a handsome new companion who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance?

Principal cast: Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Tim Robbins

UK premiere
Winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize

Walking Out (Directors/Screenwriters: Alex Smith, Adam Smith)
A teenager journeys to Montana to hunt big game with his estranged father. The two struggle to connect, until a brutal encounter in the heart of the wilderness changes everything.

Principal cast: Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins, Bill Pullman, Alex Neustaedter, Lily Gladstone

European premiere

Wilson (Director: Craig Johnson, Screenwriter: Daniel Clowes)
Wilson, a lonely, neurotic, and hilariously honest middle-aged misanthrope, reunites with his estranged wife and gets a shot at happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter he has never met. In his uniquely outrageous and slightly twisted way, he sets out to connect with her.

Principal cast: Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer, Cheryl Hines

UK premiere

Surprise film!
For the first time this year the Sundance Film Festival: London will feature a surprise film. We can’t say too much, but it was a favourite among audiences in Utah, and with just one screening this will be among the hottest of the hot tickets. The title will be revealed only when the opening credits roll. Don’t miss out.