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CDN Films @ Sundance

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Sundance marquee, image,

CDN Films @ Sundance
by Staff



(December 9, 2019 – Toronto, ON) — The nonprofit Sundance Institute has announced a large slate of new independent feature films selected to screen across all categories for the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and a few Canadian films have been included. The Sundance Film Festival is the Sundance Institute’s flagship public program and is widely regarded as the largest American independent film festival. This year it will run from January 23 to February 2, 2020 in Park City, Utah. Last year’s attendance numbers saw more than 120,000 people and 1,300 accredited press show up for the 10 day festival. More than 2,000 volunteers were needed to keep things running smoothly.



Based on their announcement, there are seven broad categories. Canadian films show up in four of them. The first is the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, which houses twelve films from emerging filmmaking talents around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include The Souvenir, The Guilty, Monos, Yardie, The Nile Hilton Incident and Second Mother.


Brandon Cronenberg, director,
One of the twelve is Possessor, a Canada/United Kingdom co-production which sees Director and screenwriter Brandon Cronenberg following closely in his father’s footsteps. Possessor is a sci-fi feature that sees Tasva Vos (Andrea Riseborough), a corporate agent who uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies, which drives them to commit assassinations for the benefit of the company. Other cast includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Abbott, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean. Canadian cast members include Kaniehtiio Horn, Rossif Sutherland, Christopher Jacot, Raoul Bhaneja and Deragh Campbell.Producers are Niv Fichman, Andrew Starke, Kevin Krikst and Fraser Ash. The first screening of Possesssor will be a World Premiere. Elevation Pictures is Canadian distributor but no theatrical release date has been announced.

Twelve documentaries have been selected for the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include Honeyland, Sea of Shadows, Shirkers, This is Home, Last Men in Aleppo and Hooligan Sparrow.

Influence is a South Africa/Canada co-production from Directors and Screenwriters Diana Neille and Richard Poplak. Produced by Bob Moore and Neil Brandt, Influence is one of the first two documentary projects that received production support through Hot Docs Partners. The film charts the recent advancements in weaponized communication by investigating the rise and fall of the world’s most notorious public relations and reputation management firm: the British multinational Bell Pottinger. This is a World Premiere for Influence.

Other films will also have premieres at Sundance, but not in competition. Premieres is the name of the section that provides a showcase for some of the most highly anticipated narrative films of the coming year. Films that have premiered in this category in recent years include The Report, Late Night, The Big Sick and Call Me By Your Name.

Viggo Mortensen, actor,
Viggo Mortensen at the 2012 Genie Awards. Photo by Ralph Lucas for Northernstars.ca

There are two Canadian co-pros in the Premieres section, including Falling, a Canada/United Kingdom/Denmark production from Viggo Mortensen, who takes Director and Screenwriter credits for this film, stepping behind the camera for a feature produced by Mortensen, Daniel Bekerman and Chris Curling. Short synopsis: When 80-year-old independent farmer Willis travels to Los Angeles for an indefinite stay with son John and his family, two very different worlds collide. Mentally declining, Willis’ abrasiveness is both caustic and funny, bringing old wounds from the past and years of mutual mistrust to the surface. The cast includes Lance Henriksen, Terry Chen, Sverrir Gudnason, Hannah Gross, Laura Linney and Viggo Mortensen, who costarred in the 2018 award-winning feature Green Book. Falling will have its World Premiere on the closing night of Sundance 2020.

The Nest is a United Kingdom/Canada production shot in England and Toronto. Sean Durkin is Director and Screenwriter. Produced by Ed Guiney, Derrin Schlesinger, Rose Garnett, Sean Durkin, Amy Jackson and Christina Piovesan, in The Nest we meet charismatic entrepreneur Rory, who relocates his family to England with dreams of profiting from booming 1980’s London. But as his wife Allison struggles to adapt, and the promise of a lucrative new beginning starts to unravel, the couple have to face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage. Cast includes Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Charlie Shotwell and Oona Roche. The Nest is from Element Pictures, the Irish film production group behind Room, which was shot in Toronto. The Nest will have its World Premiere at Sundance.

There is one Canadian film in the Documentary Premieres section. A section that in recent years
screened films like include Ask Dr. Ruth, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, RBG, An Inconvenient Sequel and The Hunting Ground.

The Go-Go’s is a U.S.A./Ireland,/Canada co-pro from Director Alison Ellwood. As the first all-female band to play their instruments, write their songs and have a No. 1 album, The Go-Go’s made history. Underpinned by candid testimonies, this film chronicles the meteoric rise to fame of a band born in the LA punk scene who became a pop phenomenon. Produced by Trevor Birney, Corey Russell and Eimhear O’Neill, the cast includes Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, Jane Wiedlin. The Go-Go’s is also a World Premiere screening.



Other sections at Sundance are Midnight, Spotlight and Kids, and we may have missed something but we were unable to find any Canadian or Canadian co-productions in these categories. As mentioned, the Sundance Film Festival runs from January 23 to February 2, 2020. Find more information about Sundance 2020 online.