With 12 of this year’s Oscar nominations coming from Sundance films from the 2014 festival, the currency of Robert Redford’s competition has rarely felt higher.
This year’s edition, the festival’s 31st, is most notable for its substantial showing from Australians, several of whom feature in films running in the festival’s official competition.
The festival results come in on January 31. Here’s the Australian contingent:
Strangerland (Australia/Ireland, 111 minutes)
Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes star as a couple pushed to the brink, in this thriller-cum-psychological drama from actor-turned-filmmaker Kim Farrant. Hugo Weaving co-stars as the local copper trying to help locate the couple’s missing children, amidst the stifling heat and a dust storm looming eerily on the horizon. Set in the remote bush town of Nathgari, in central western New South Wales, Farrant’s feature debut comes loaded with anticipation and expectation. One of three Australian features in official competition at Sundance.
Sam Klemke’s Time Machine (Australia, 94 minutes)
Nearly 40 years after beginning his bizarre quest, American Sam Klemke’s home movies document a life seemingly thoroughly ordinary, as the world spins at an ever-faster rate around him. Over 500 hours of footage has been whittled down into this feature-length examination of one man’s life in front of the home video camera. Sundance alumni Matthew Bate (Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure) hails from South Australian collective Closer Productions, which last year produced filmmaker Sophie Hyde’s award-winning oddity 52 Tuesdays. Bate’s new film plays in the festival’s experimental New Frontier section.
Partisan (Australia, 98 minutes)
French star Vincent Cassel stars as the head of commune, whose young son is increasingly discovering he has a mind of his own. Australian director Ariel Kleiman marks his feature debut (his acclaimed short Deeper than Yesterday premiered at Sundance in 2011), with this intriguing and, at times, sinister proposition. Partisan is not Cassel’s Australian debut – he starred in Birthday Girl, in 2001, opposite Nicole Kidman.
Z is for Zachariah (USA, 95 minutes)
Sundance favourite Craig Zobel (Compliance) continues his exploration of human being’s behaving badly under testing conditions, in this love triangle thriller set in a post-apocalyptic future. Aussie bombshell Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) plays the object of the men’s affections, with Star Trek’s Chris Pine and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) battling it out over the brunette.
Slow West (UK/New Zealand, 84 minutes)
Ben Mendelsohn continues his self-professed “purple patch” in this period western, alongside Michael Fassbender, about a mournful man who stumbles upon a mysterious drifter. Between them, they must then evade a bloodthirsty bounty hunter, with only one thing on his mind. Directed by Scottish filmmaker John Maclean (formerly a member of the Beta Band), Slow West promises to evoke the classic American western, reworked in a suitably fresh fashion. Maclean’s Sundance debut should deliver handsomely.
Mississippi Grind (USA, 108 minutes)
The second showing for Ben Mendelsohn, and his first lead role in a US picture. On typically top form, he plays an oily gambler, on the run and living on a prayer, with Ryan Reynolds providing an unlikely sidekick. The pair head south to New Orleans to try and make a fast buck (and hopefully not blow it all along the way).
Glassland (Ireland, 93 minutes)
Aussie Toni Collette pulls out the stops, for what could be a career-defining turn as a dangerously alcoholic mother whose luck may just be about to run out. Set amidst the grim projects of public housing, her son must face some tough decision in assessing what is best for his mother – whether she likes it or not.
Results (USA, 105 minutes)
Guy Pearce heads up a great cast in this droll comedy in which gym and fitness take centre stage. Kevin Corrigan stars as a wealthy customer, whose life quickly becomes inextricably linked with that of the gym owner (Pearce) and his attractive trainer (Cobie Smulders). Director Andrew Bujalski’s acclaimed Computer Chess premiered at Sundance in 2013.