People travel from every corner of the globe to be among the first to see what the festival’s curators have determined are the best independent narrative and documentary films, selected from nearly 11,000 submissions. – Pat Mitchell, Producer
Each year the KC Film and Missouri Film Offices go to Sundance Film Festival to network, host a party and support Missouri and KC connected films that screen at Sundance or Slamdance. In 2017, there are at least 16 films that are MO and KS connected. If you are going to Park City this year, consider adding these films to your ticket wish-list. And if not, it’s great to know that we have Midwest ties at one of the biggest and most prestigious festivals of the year.
#1 BRAD CUTS LOOSE | Writer/Director: Christopher Good
Summary: Brad, an uptight office drone, seemingly discovers the perfect vehicle for letting off steam when an advertisement for a business catering to his innermost desires pops up one morning on his computer. Brad’s subsequent visit to the business and encounter with its receptionist Janine, however, don’t quite go as planned. (via IMDB)
Connection: Writer/Director Christopher Good, Producer Andreina Byrne, Cinematographer Jeremy Osbern and Sound Mixer Danny Bowersox are from the Greater Kansas City area. Their work is can be seen in film, music videos, commercials and webseries. This is the third year that Jeremy Osbern will have a film at the Slamdance.
BRAD CUTS LOOSE is in Shorts Block 3 at Slamdance Film Festival, January 20-26 in Park City, Utah.
#2 COLOSSAL | Writer/Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Summary: Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a hard partying New York scene girl who is thrust into crisis when her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), grows sick of her antics and kicks her out of their apartment. With no other options, she moves back to her hometown and quickly regresses, drinking every night until last call and accepting a job at a bar owned by her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). One day she wakes up and blurrily finds out that Seoul was terrorized by a giant creature the night before. Eventually, Gloria begins to suspect her own drunken actions are bizarrely connected to the monster rampaging in South Korea. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: Jason Sudeikis, the co-star of this quirky film along with the talented Anne Hathaway, is one of our favorite hometown stars. He comes back to KC every year for Big Slick to raise money for Children’s Mercy Hospital.
COLASSAL – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#3 FUN MOM DINNER | Writer: Julie Yaeger Rudd, Director: Althea Jones
Summary: At some point, Emily stopped being “Emily”—high-powered lawyer, strong woman, sexual being—and became, simply, “Mom.” It’s like, her kids and husband are great, but there’s got to be more to life than diapers, play dates, and fingerpaint, right? RIGHT?!?
When some of the other moms at school propose a Chardonnay-soaked night out, Emily is IN. She even drags her reluctant friend Kate along for the ride. But what starts as gossip and tapas quickly turns into a night that these ladies will never forget (even though they’re all super duper high).
Deftly infusing zany hijinks with real feeling, director Alethea Jones and writer Julie Rudd deliver a riotous comedy that spares no rods and spoils no children. The titular moms (Katie Aselton, Toni Collette, Molly Shannon, and Bridget Everett) make a truly formidable ensemble, dispensing dick jokes and tearful revelations with equal aplomb. Together, they prove that “mom” is more than a dirty word—it’s a badge of honor. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: Writer Julie Yaeger Rudd is a part of KC’s beloved Rudd family. She and Paul Rudd have been married since 2003 and have two children. Julie is a former publicist. Another connection in this ensemble cast is Bridget Everett, originally from Manhattan, Kansas. Bridget is in another Sundance film, PATTY CAKE$.
FUN MOM DINNER – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#4 NOVITIATE | Writer/Director: Margaret Betts
Summary: Spanning the early 1950s through the mid-’60s, this coming-of-age story is about a young girl’s first love. In this case, her first love is God. Raised by a deeply caring, non-religious mother, Cathleen is drawn to the heady mysticism of the lives of Catholic nuns and their undying romantic devotion to their chosen husband, Jesus Christ. She enrolls in a training program with The Sisters of Blessed Rose, a cloistered convent. As Cathleen progresses from the postulant to the novitiate levels of her tutelage, her faith is challenged by the harsh, often inhumane realities of being a nun, just as Pope John XXIII’s announcement of the Second Vatican Council threatens to alter the course of nuns’ lives forever.
Writer/director Maggie Betts is a filmmaker to watch. Propelled by exceptional performances from Margaret Qualley as Cathleen, Julianne Nicholson as her mother, and Melissa Leo as the Reverend Mother, Betts has
crafted an uncanny journey of a young woman in a rarefied world on the brink of extinction. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: Dianna Agron, best known as Quinn Fabray in the Fox comedy series GLEE, is connected to KC by her father who works in the hospitality industry for Hyatt. Dianna was also a member of the 2014 Big Slick celebrity charity weekend raising money for Children’s Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City.
NOVITIATE – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#5 MARJORIE PRIME | Writer/Director: Michael Almeyerada
Summary: Eighty-six-year-old Marjorie spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband. With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s “Prime” relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop ever diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past.
Built around exceptional performances from a veteran cast and shot with the intimate rhythm of mortality, Marjorie Prime shines a light on an often-obscured corner in the world of artificial intelligence and its interactions with death. Bringing us robustly into the future, Michael Almereyda’s poetic film forces us to face the question—If we had the opportunity, how would we choose to rebuild the past, and what would we decide to forget? (via Sundance.org)
Connection: John Hamm, known for AMC’s Mad Men and many other television and film credits, hails from St. Louis, Missouri. He is also a regular celebrity presence at the Kansas City Big Slick charity weekend annually. Another connection is director and screenwriter of MARJORIE PRIME, Michael Almereyda is from Overland Park, KS. He is known for his modern-day version of HAMLET starring Ethan Hawke. Another area connection is the star of the film, Lois Smith, who hails from Topeka, Kansas. You may recognize her from TWISTER (1996) or the 2016 film THE NICE GUYS.
MARJORIE PRIME – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#6 ROXANNE, ROXANNE | Writer/Director: Michael Larnell
Summary: In 1984, Lolita Shanté Gooden was just another 14-year-old living in New York’s Queensbridge projects. When she famously laid down the lyrics to “Roxanne’s Revenge”—an underground answer rap to U.T.F.O.’s popular single “Roxanne, Roxanne”—she sparked one of the earliest and most significant beefs in hip-hop history, establishing herself as a feared battle emcee in a genre on the verge of worldwide recognition. With fame firmly in her grasp, Roxanne Shanté was still just a teenager with the weight of the world on her shoulders, hustling to provide for her family while defending herself from the perils of life in the projects.
In director Michael Larnell’s follow-up to his debut feature, CRONIES (2015 Sundance Film Festival), newcomer Chanté Adams delivers a mic-dropping
performance as the embodiment of the legendary Roxanne Shanté, backed by a stellar supporting cast featuring Nia Long and Mahershala Ali. Larnell’s passion for the story shines through in this honest and emotional portrayal of a young girl grappling with the pitfalls of fame in the face of overwhelming adversity. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: St. Louis native, Michael Larnell, was still a film student when Spike Lee took him under his wing and became an executive producer on Larnell’s thesis film, CRONIES, which made it into Sundance’s NEXT program known for launching the careers of young filmmakers.
ROXANNE ROXANNE – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#7- 8 XX | Directors: St. Vincent, Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vuckovic
Summary: Gather round if you dare for four murderous tales of supernatural frights, predatory thrills, profound anxiety, and Gothic decay in the first all-female-driven horror anthology film. Audacious new works from some of the genre’s most promising voices—Annie Clark (better known to fans as St. Vincent), Karyn Kusama (THE INVITATION, GIRLFIGHT), Roxanne Benjamin (SOUTHBOUND), and Jovanka Vuckovic (former editor of Rue Morgue magazine)—bring forth a study in the proper unspooling of dread for your viewing pleasure.
Framed around innovative animator Sofia Carrillo’s haunting tableaus, these modern myths range from Vuckovic’s reverent control of grotesque elegance to Clark’s deliciously macabre sense of comic timing, Benjamin’s skillful
powers of tonal transformation, and Kusama’s authorial grasp of simmering psychological fear. Vigorously challenging a stagnant status quo within the industry, this collection of tightly coiled short films by some of horror’s most influential women offer a refreshing jolt to the senses. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: Independent film director, Karyn Kusama, was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. She is known her film, GIRLFIGHT, that won the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award and shared the Grand Jury Prize at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. Karyn is involved in another Sundance film. She is among the filmmakers interviewed in 78/52 along with Guillermo del Toro, Bret Easton Ellis, Eli Roth, Peter Bogdanovich and more. They discuss the shower scene in Hitchcock’s PSYCHO filmed in 78 set-ups and 52 cuts changed the art of cinema forever.
Summary: Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice, WHOSE STREETS? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson uprising. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of St. Louis, Missouri. Grief, long-standing racial tensions and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy.
Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the country come together as freedom fighters. As the national guard descends on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, these young community members become the torchbearers of a new resistance.
Filmmakers Sabaah Jordan and Damon Davis know this story because they are the story. WHOSE STREETS? is a powerful battle cry from a generation fighting, not for their civil rights, but for the right to live. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: Ferguson, Missouri is the town where the fatal police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Micheal Brown took place. Subsequent grief, unrest, outrage and protests spawned a nationwide spotlight on the relationship between law enforcement and the African-American community. Co-director Damon Davis, from St. Louis, is an artist, activist and runs record label FarFetched.
WHOSE STREETS? – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#10 WALKING OUT | Directors: Alex Smith, Andrew Smith
Summary: Fourteen-year-old David reluctantly travels from his comfortable Texas home to rural Montana for his annual visit with his brooding, off-the-grid father, Cal, who has planned the boy’s first big game hunt. As the pair ascends into the wilderness, Cal tries to connect with David by recounting the story of his own first kill, on his last hunting trip with his now long-dead father. After their trip is disrupted by a chance encounter with a grizzly bear, a wounded Cal realizes they must both rely on David’s strength and resilience to survive.
Big Sky–born co-writers and directors Alex and Andrew Smith (returning to the Festival for the first time since 2002’s THE SLAUGHTER RULE) exquisitely capture not only the awe-inspiring beauty of Montana’s landscape, but also the emotional realities of life isolated within it. Matt Bomer, as a steely father aching to be known by his son, delivers a searing performance, matched by teen actor Josh Wiggins’s impressive work as the stubborn boy striving to earn his father’s respect—and to save his life. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: Matt Bomer was born and raised in Webster Groves, Missouri a suburb of St. Louis. Matt won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for THE NORMAL HEART (2014). He’s known for the USA series White Collar, THE NICE GUYS, MAGIC MIKE and MAGIC MIKE XXL.
WALKING OUT – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#11 THE DISCOVERY | Writer/Director: Charlie McDowell, Co-Writer: Justin Lader
Summary: What would you do if there was proof of an afterlife? The answer to this question is rivetingly explored in The Discovery, where world-renowned physicist Doctor Thomas Harber (Robert Redford) is able to
scientifically prove the existence of an afterlife—but with dire consequences. His estranged son, Will (Jason Segel), tries to confront the situation by returning to the New England–esque island where he grew up. He crosses paths with Isla (Rooney Mara), who’s returning to the island for mysterious reasons of her own. The tale unfolds over the ensuing days as the regret of past choices forces these lost characters to reflect on how they’ve gotten to where they are.
Director/co-writer Charlie McDowell (2014’s THE ONE I LOVE) returns to the Festival with another metaphysical thriller that uses a fascinating premise as a launching point to explore complex issues in a deftly absorbing fashion. Enlisting a world-class cast who use their unique qualities to infuse humor and humanity, THE DISCOVERY plays to both the head and the heart. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: Kansas City-connection is cast-member Riley Keough who co-starred in Andrea Arnold’s AMERICAN HONEY (2016) partially filmed in Kansas City in 2015. Conner Ratliff is also in the cast. He wrote and starred in the award-winning indie film, LIVING IN MISSOURI (2001). He is an improv comedian with the Upright Citizens Brigade and appeared in the recent Mike Birbiglia comedy DON’T THINK TWICE (2016).
THE DISCOVERY – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#12-14 AUGUST | Writer/Director: Caitlyn Greene
Summary: Deep in Louisiana’s swampland, a woman wakes from a fever dream where it has been August for 16 years. (via Deadline.com)
Connection: University of Kansas alumn Sean R. Smith is a finishing editor/colorist on this short Slamdance film. He lives in NYC and works at Technicolor Postworks. In addition Sean has worked on two Sundance films – THE BIG SICK (#13) and THE YELLOW BIRDS (#14).
AUGUST (#12) world premiere is at Slamdance Film Festival, January 22-23 in Park City, Utah. CLICK HERE FOR DATES AND TIMES.
THE BIG SICK (#13) – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
THE YELLOW BIRDS (#14) – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#15 L.A. TIMES | Writer/Director: Michelle Morgan
Summary: Annette might be judgmental, critical, and a total perfectionist—but only of the most charming variety. When she suddenly perceives that her relationship with her boyfriend, Elliot, is inferior to all the happy coupledom she sees among her friends, she decides they need to break up. Launched into the LA dating scene, where film industry jobs, old school bars, and elitist consumerism are the norm, Annette begins to realize that maybe meeting some cool new guy isn’t going to lead her to personal fulfillment. When unsettling revelations about her friends and their “ideal” relationships surface, Annette is further forced to reexamine her theories.
In this aesthetically pleasing world created by writer/director/lead actor Michelle Morgan (whose short film K.I.T. played at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival), L.A. Times is a contemporary comedy of manners where West Coast meets Whit Stillman, and sweetness rules over cynicism. Morgan delights in language—witticisms and pithy observations roll off the tongues of her endearing characters who, despite their seemingly perfectly curated lives, manage to complicate things in the most human of ways. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: The co-producer of L.A. Times, Alix Madigan was also a producer on the film WINTER’S BONE (2010) starring Jennifer Lawrence. WINTER’S BONE was filmed in Missouri.
L.A. TIMES – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#16 A GHOST STORY | Writer/Director: David Lowery
Summary: Lauded filmmaker David Lowery, last at the Festival with the lyrical AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (2013), reunites with his collaborators for a haunted tale like no other—one conceived in secret and fueled by the spirit of pure, creative expression.
Lowery’s meticulously sparse narrative contemplates a spectral figure who was once a man (Casey Affleck). Prematurely taken from this Earth, he makes his way toward his former home, where he is fated to remain forevermore. Shrouded in a white sheet, he observes the lament of his grief-stricken lover (Rooney Mara). Bearing unseen witness to her pain, the wisp stands sentry for years to come, interacting only with time as it hurtles further and further forward, the remnants of his humanity quietly evaporating.
Making full use of his singular abilities as a visual storyteller and finely tuned
craftsman, Lowery boldly returns with an enriching experiment in micro-cinema that gorgeously defies categorization. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: Cinematographer Andrew Dros Palermo, who was also the cinematographer for the award-winning Missouri documentary RICH HILL (2014) is from the capital of Missouri, Jefferson City.
A GHOST STORY – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#17 DEIDRA AND LANEY ROB A TRAIN | Director: Sydney Freeland
Summary: Deidra Tanner is a whip-smart high school senior who sells answers to chemistry tests to save up for college, all the while helping her mother raise her stubborn little sister, Laney, and her brother, Jet. It’s more than your average teenager can handle, but Deidra runs a tight ship—that is, until Mom blows a mental gasket at her retail job and throws a high-end TV on the pavement. When Deidra realizes that jail time is ironically proving to be a healthy and therapeutic break from single parent life for her mom, her life is derailed. When she conjures up the will to face her new circumstances, Deidra focuses her talents on the train tracks in her own backyard.
Returning director, Sydney Freeland (Drunktown’s Finest, 2014 Sundance Film Festival) creates comedic alchemy with rising stars Ashleigh Murray (Deidra) and Rachel Crow (Laney) in this zany lemons-to-lemonade romp through kids facing tough times. Fiercely spirited, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train buoyantly flips the script on a world that keeps kids living across the tracks
down on their luck. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: The actress playing the lead Deidra, Ashleigh Murray, was born in Kansas City. Ashleigh also stars as Josie McCoy (aka Josie and the Pussycats) in the upcoming CW television series Riverdale, a show loosely based on the Archie comics.
DEIDRA AND LANEY ROB A TRAIN – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
#18 PERSON TO PERSON | Director: Dustin Guy Defa
Summary: During a single day in New York City, a variety of characters grapple with the mundane, the unexpected, and the larger questions permeating their lives. An investigative reporter struggles with her first day on the job, despite help from her misguided boss; a rebellious teen attempts to balance her feminist ideals with other desires; and a young man seeks to reconcile with his ex-girlfriend, even as her brother threatens revenge. Meanwhile, an avid music lover traverses the city in search of a rare record for his vinyl collection.
Dustin Guy Defa’s hotly anticipated second feature is a playful ode to the analog, the unassuming, and to New York itself. Shot entirely in 16mm, Person to Person effortlessly humanizes its characters, invoking an earnest realism in the performances of its ensemble cast: Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, Tavi Gevinson, Philip Baker Hall, George Sample III, and Bene Coopersmith, who came to prominence in Defa’s short film of the same name (2014 Sundance Film Festival). Defa once again demonstrates his aptitude for honest storytelling as he explores the absurdity and challenges of forging human connections. (via Sundance.org)
Connection: Two of the producers, Jon Read and Allison Rose Carter, on the indie feature shot in Kansas City, AMERICAN HONEY, are part of the producing team for this Sundance film.
PERSON TO PERSON – CLICK HERE for dates and times at Sundance Film Festival
Last year we posted a Q&A blog with Kansas City-area talent involved in Sundance and Slamdance. Here is a link to that blog!
Please tell KC Film know if you know of any other Missouri or Kansas connected films screening in the 2017 Sundance or Slamdance Film Festivals.
Good luck to all of the MO & KS connected films in competition!