It’s been three years since Hollywood touched down in Park City for the Sundance Film Festival, with the 2023 fest offering a hybrid format of both in-person and online attendance after two years of purely digital incarnations. While the virtual festivals still produced major sales — 2021’s CODA being the most noteworthy — the overall market has lagged, with dealmaking continuing into the months after the close of the festival and mid-range deals becoming scarcer. Sellers are particularly excited for the return of in-person premieres, hoping that this will mean a return to urgency, if not a return to all-night bidding wars.
Here are this year’s titles that are sure to entice buyers, whether they are sitting in the Eccles or on their couch at home.
AUM: The Cult at the End of the World
DIRECTORS Ben Braun, Chiaki Yanagimoto
BUZZ The doc, which could satisfy a streamer’s true crime or nonfiction thriller needs, dives into the religious cult behind the 1995 sarin gas attack in a Tokyo subway.
SALES Submarine, Fifth Season
DIRECTOR Susanna Fogel
STARS Emilia Jones, Nicholas Brown
BUZZ The viral The New Yorker story is expanded in this feature about the horrors of modern dating as seen through the relationship between a 20-year-old college student and her 30-something suitor. The film tackles subjects like consent and gendered power dynamics, and will undoubtedly be one of the most talked-about films at the fest.
SALES UTA Independent Film Group, StudioCanal
DIRECTOR William Oldroyd
STARS Anne Hathaway, Thomasin McKenzie
BUZZ The director’s anticipated follow-up to 2016’s Florence Pugh starrer Lady Macbeth is an adaptation of the Ottessa Moshfegh novel about the relationship between a prison counselor (Hathaway) and a young secretary (McKenzie) in 1964 Massachusetts.
SALES WME Independent, Fifth Season
The Eternal Memory
DIRECTOR Maite Alberdi
BUZZ The director behind the Oscar-nominated 2020 doc The Mole Agent is back with a film featuring Augusto, one of Chile’s most prominent cultural commentators, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and Paulina, his partner of 25 years and now caretaker.
SALES UTA Independent Film Group, Submarine
DIRECTOR Chloe Domont
STARS Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Ehrenreich
BUZZ Rian Johnson’s T-Street banner is behind the psychological thriller that follows an ambitious couple, played by Dynevor and Ehrenreich, who go out for the same high-powered finance job to disastrous consequences.
DIRECTOR Andrew Durham
STARS Scott McNairy
BUZZ Based on Alysia Abbott’s 2013 memoir, this period film set in 1970s San Francisco centers on the relationship between a young daughter and a single father (McNairy) who is exploring his art and sexuality all while navigating the challenges of parenting. Sofia Coppola produces.
SALES UTA Independent Film Group, Gersh
Flora and Son
DIRECTOR John Carney
STARS Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eve Hewson
BUZZ Sixteen years after his Once premiered at Sundance (and landed a best original song Oscar), Carney returns with this drama about a single mother who rediscovers her love of music.
SALES WME Independent
Going Varsity in Mariachi
DIRECTORS Alejandra Vasquez, Sam Osborn
BUZZ The best of sports and music documentaries come together in this look at competitive scholastic mariachi, which traces the highs and lows of one South Texas high school and the students’ enigmatic music coach.
SALES Fifth Season
DIRECTORS Bethann Hardison, Frederic Cheng
BUZZ In a Sundance filled with biopics, Invisible Beauty centers on a person that many audiences will be introduced to for the first time: Bethann Hardison, a model turned agent and activist, who fought for diversity in the fashion industry.
SALES Kinetic, Submarine
DIRECTOR Elijah Bynum
STARS Jonathan Majors
BUZZ Majors portrays an amateur bodybuilder who sacrifices his health — both mental and physical — to pursue his dream of superstardom in this Dramatic Competition title that has been compared to Night Crawler.
SALES CAA Media Finance
The Persian Version
DIRECTOR Maryam Keshavarz
STARS Layla Mohammadi
BUZZ With shades of My Big Fat Greek Weddingthis dramedy follows Iranian American New Yorker Leila (Mohammadi), whose life is turned upside down when her extended family descends on NYC for her father’s heart transplant.
SALES UTA Independent Film Group
The Pod Generation
DIRECTOR Sophie Barthes
STARS Emilia Clarke, Chiwetel Ejiofor
BUZZ This sci-fi title, which has already earned buzz as a contender for the fest’s Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize — given to titles that focus on science or technology as a theme (Kogonada’s Colin Farrell starrer After Yang won last year) — takes place in a near future in which pregnancies happen via detachable wombs.
SALES CAA Media Finance
DIRECTOR Randall Park
STARS Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola
BUZZ Fresh Off the Boat star Park makes his feature directing debut with this graphic-novel adaptation about an aspiring Asian American filmmaker in Oakland whose girlfriend moves to New York, leaving him to figure out his life.
SALES WME Independent, UTA Independent Film Group
DIRECTORS Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman
STARS Gordon, Ben Platt, Noah Galvin, Ayo Edebiri, Patti Harrison, Amy Sedaris
BUZZ The ensemble comedy is John Cleese by way of Broadway, set in an upstate New York theater camp where the eccentric staff is trying to keep the camp afloat with the help of the owner’s crypto-bro son.
SALES WME Independent
A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of The News84Media magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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