Our first major glimpse of next year's indie darlings is here, thanks to the newly unveiled lineup for the Sundance Film Festival. Among the offerings for U.S. competition at next year's fest are the first feature film directed by "Mad Men" star John Slattery, a big-screen return from Lena Dunham and the reliable presence of festival-circuit favorites like John Hawkes and director Joe Swanberg ("Drinking Buddies," "LOL").
The competition is also lathered with genre flicks, from the horrific "Cold in July" and "Life After Beth" to the dramedy trappings of "The Skeleton Twins," which stars Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson and Ty Burrell. Still, A-listers like Kristen Stewart, Anne Hathaway, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Aaron Paul are among the featured players, so we can count on the festival to maintain its usual confluence of obscure movies with ever-popular stars.
Here are the 16 movies screening in the U.S. competition. All are receiving their world premieres at Sundance.
Director and screenwriter: Peter Sattler
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Payman Maadi, Lane Garrison, J.J. Soria, John Carroll Lynch
A young woman is stationed as a guard in Guantanamo Bay, where she forms an unlikely friendship with one of the detainees.
"Cold in July"
Director: Jim Mickle; Screenwriters: Jim Mickle, Nick Damici
Cast: Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell
After killing a home intruder, a small town Texas man's life unravels into a dark underworld of corruption and violence.
"Dear White People"
Director and screenwriter: Justin Simien
Cast: Tyler Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon Bell
Four black students attend an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over an “African American” themed party thrown by white students. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in postracial America while weaving a story about forging one's unique path in the world.
"Fishing Without Nets"
Director: Cutter Hodierne; Screenwriters: Cutter Hodierne, John Hibey, David Burkman
Cast: Abdikani Muktar, Abdi Siad, Abduwhali Faarah, Abdikhadir Hassan, Reda Kateb, Idil Ibrahim
A story of pirates in Somalia told from the perspective of a struggling, young Somali fisherman.
Director: John Slattery; Screenwriters: John Slattery, Alex Metcalf
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro
When Mickey's stepson Leon is killed in a construction "accident," Mickey tries to bury the bad news with the body. But when the boy's mother demands the truth, Mickey finds himself stuck between a body he can’t bury, a wife he can’t please, and a debt he can’t pay.
Director and screenwriter: Joe Swanberg
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg.
After a breakup with her boyfriend, a young woman moves in with her older brother, his wife, and their 2-year-old son.
Director and screenwriter: Kat Candler
Cast: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins, Deke Garner, Jonny Mars, Walt Roberts
When motocross and heavy metal obsessed, 13-year-old Jacob's delinquent behavior forces CPS to place his little brother Wes with his aunt, Jacob and his emotionally absent father must finally take responsibility for their actions and each other in order to bring Wes home.
"Infinitely Polar Bear"
Director and screenwriter: Maya Forbes
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide
A manic-depressive mess of a father tries to win back his wife by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters, who don't make the overwhelming task any easier.
"Jamie Marks is Dead"
Director and screenwriter: Carter Smith
Cast: Cameron Monaghan, Noah Silver, Morgan Saylor, Judy Greer, Madisen Beaty, Liv Tyler
No one seemed to care about Jamie Marks until after his death. Hoping to find the love and friendship he never had in life, Jamie’s ghost visits former classmate Adam McCormick, drawing him into the bleak world between the living and the dead.
"Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter"
Director: David Zellner; Screenwriters: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
Cast: Rinko Kikuchi
A lonely Japanese woman becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried in a fictional film is, in fact, real. Abandoning her structured life in Tokyo for the frozen Minnesota wilderness, she embarks on an impulsive quest to search for her lost mythical fortune.
"Life After Beth"
Director and screenwriter: Jeff Baena
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser
Zach is devastated by the unexpected death of his girlfriend, Beth. When she mysteriously returns, he gets a second chance at love. Soon his whole world turns upside down.
Director: Jeff Preiss, Screenwriters: Amy Albany, Topper Lilien
Cast: John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Flea
Based on Amy Jo Albany's memoir, Low Down explores her heart-wrenching journey to adulthood while being raised by her father, bebop pianist Joe Albany, as he teeters between incarceration and addiction in the urban decay and waning bohemia of Hollywood in the 1970s.
"The Skeleton Twins"
Director: Craig Johnson; Screenwriters: Craig Johnson, Mark Heyman
Cast: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook, Joanna Gleason
Estranged twins Maggie and Milo coincidentally cheat death on the same day, prompting them to reunite and confront the reasons their lives went so wrong. As the twins' reunion reinvigorates them, they realize the key to fixing their lives may just lie in repairing their relationship.
Director: Mona Fastvold; Screenwriters: Mona Fastvold, Brady Corbet
Cast: Gitte Witt, Christopher Abbott, Brady Corbet, Stephanie Ellis
A young couple, Kaia and Andrew, are renovating Kaia´s secluded family estate. Their lives are violently interrupted when unexpected guests arrive. The Sleepwalker chronicles the unraveling of the lives of four disparate characters as it transcends genre conventions and narrative contrivance to reveal something much more disturbing.
Director and screenwriter: Kate Barker-Froyland
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn, Mary Steenburgen, Ben Rosenfield
Estranged from her family, Franny returns home when an accident leaves her brother comatose. Retracing his life as an aspiring musician, she tracks down his favorite musician, James Forester. Against the backdrop of Brooklyn’s music scene, Franny and James develop an unexpected relationship and face the realities of their lives.
Director and screenwriter: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller, JK Simmons
Under the direction of a ruthless instructor, a talented young drummer begins to pursue perfection at any cost, even his humanity.