The 2019 edition of the Sundance Film Festival kicks off next week, and our team is spotlighting the most highly anticipated films that will be screened at this year’s gathering. With a record-breaking 14,259 film submissions from 152 countries around the world, the festival had a wide range of films to choose from, and with its selection of 112 feature length films from 33 countries, there’s no doubt that the Sundance Film Festival is poised to capture the diverse scope of filmmaking today.
Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Competition could be the most competitive contest at the festival this year. With a couple world premieres and household name casts and producers, there’s no doubt that everyone will have eyes on this competition. From the Shia LeBeouf and Lucas Hedges starring Honey Boy, to the Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer and Tim Roth vehicle Luce, take a look at the top films expected to make a splash in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.
Directed by Julius Onah (The Cloverfield Paradox, The Girl Is in Trouble), Luce tells the story of a married couple that is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their son, adopted from war-torn Eritrea, after an alarming discovery by a high school teacher threatens his status as an all-star student. Kelvin Harrison Jr. plays the teenager and former child soldier whose image is challenged by Octavia Spencer’s character after his views on political violence come to light.
Onah has described how important this story is to him to Deadline: “Luce has become an incredibly personal story to me, which I am thrilled to bring to life with my amazing collaborators at Dream Factory Group and our exceptional cast. My hope is this film will spark conversation on some of the most pressing issues affecting American culture today.” With such a star-studded, award winning cast, Luce is bound to earn praise from critics and audiences alike.
Shia LeBeouf and Lucas Hedges (Manchester By The Sea, Ladybird) team up for director Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy, a story that follows a child star and his ex-rodeo clown father face their stormy past through time and cinema. Written by LeBeouf, the film will be making its world premiere at Sundance, and was additionally produced by Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, and Anita Gou, amongst numerous others. LeBeouf is taking on the role of father James Lort, and based on early images from the film, this character is guaranteed to be one that LeBeouf has never taken on before.
The film also features alternative-R&B singer FKA Twigs, Maika Monroe (It Follows, Labor Day), Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place, Wonder), Martin Star (Knocked Up, Silicon Valley), and other notable supporting actors. The story is close to Shia as he based it around his own father and relationship with his Dad. Keep your eyes peeled on the reviews following this film’s world premiere.
Director and screenwriter Lulu Wang (Posthumous, Touch) helms The Farewell, a story following a headstrong Chinese-American woman who returns to China after her grandmother is given a terminal diagnosis. Crazy Rich Asian and Oceans Eight’s Awkwafina, Tzi Ma (The Man In The High Castle, Dante’s Peak), and Diana Lin (Feng liu jing ming fei, Shang jie) headline the film.
What makes The Farewell interesting is main character Billi struggling with her family’s decision to keep their Grandma in the dark about her own illness as they all stage an impromptu wedding to see her one last time. The project was filmed both in the United States and in China, and was produced by a number of notable names including Marc Turtletaub (Little Miss Sunshine, Safety Not Guaranteed), Peter Saraf (Adaptation, The Kings of Summer), and Anita Guo (To the Bone, Transformers: Age of Extinction), amongst numerous others.