CineLife’s Top Twenty Movies at Sundance pt. 4

The final entry into the 2017 Sundance Film Festival article. Be sure to see the previous articles here. Part 1. Part 2. Part3.

Step (U.S. Documentary Competition)
Director: Amanda Lipitz

Insiders have talked this up as a strong contender for the Audience Award. The film has a focus on female empowerment and solidarity, which perhaps no-so-coincidentally, will debut on the day of the Sundance Women’s march Saturday. Director Amanda Lipitz is a Tony Award winning producer for The Humans and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Scott Rudin is Executive Producer with Dan Cogan and Geralyn Dreyfous of Impact Partners. “In other words,” noted an insider, “These people know how to put on a show…”

Step follows the senior year of a girls’ high school step team in inner-city Baltimore is documented, as they try to become the first in their families to attend college. The girls strive to make their dancing a success against the backdrop of social unrest in their troubled city.


Water & Power: A California Heist (U.S. Documentary Competition)
Director: Marina Zenovich
Featuring: Jay Famiglietti

Marina Zenovich’s 2008 Sundance premiere Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired won two Primetime Emmy Awards in non-fiction categories for direction and writing. She has over a dozen directing credits for both movies and television, including the 2013 doc Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic and series, Art in Progress.

Her latest takes a look at California’s convoluted water system, where notorious water barons find ways to structure a state-engineered system to their own advantage. This examination into their centers of power shows small farmers and everyday citizens facing drought and a new, debilitating groundwater crisis.


Dayveon (NEXT)
Director: Amman Abbasi

Arkansas-based filmmaker Amman Abbasi counts professional titles that include director, editor, producer and composer. Filmmaker magazine listed him among the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” to watch in 2016. He has released multiple EPs independently and collaborated with his brother as The Abbasi Brothers. He has also composed music for documentaries Voices for Justice, The Wall and Warrior Champions. Dayveon is his first feature. The film counts veterans David Gordon Green, Lisa Muskat and James Schamus among its producers. Schamus also produced Kitty Green’s Casting JonBenet, which is debuting in Sundance’s U.S. Documentary Competition.

Abbasi’s feature follows 13 year-old Dayveon, who in the wake of his brother’s death, spends the sweltering summer days roaming his rural Arkansas town. When he falls in with a local gang, he becomes drawn to the camaraderie and violence of their world.


Person to Person (NEXT)
Writer/director: Dustin Guy Defa
Cast: Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, Philip Baker Hall

Insiders describe Person to Person as a low key New York comedy that is “very endearing and charming.” The feature is also a rarity these days in that it was shot on film. Writer-director Dustin Guy Defa has appeared in front of the camera on TV and the big screen, and has directed a number of short films, including the short-form version of Person to Person, which screened at Sundance in 2014 and later won a Special Jury Award at SXSW. The feature stars Michael Cera, a veteran actor of Hollywood and indie titles as well as Broad City actress, Abbi Jacobson.

In Person to Person, a record collector hustles for a big score while his heartbroken roommate tries to erase a terrible mistake, a teen bears witness to her best friend’s new relationship and a rookie reporter, alongside her demanding supervisor, chase the clues of a murder case involving a life-weary clock shop owner.


L.A. Times (NEXT)
Writer/director: Michelle Morgan
Cast: Michelle Morgan, Dree Hemingway, Jorma Taccone, Kentucker Audley, Margarita Levieva, Adam Shapiro

No, it’s not the newspaper. L.A. Times director Michelle Morgan has made appearances in movies and TV including CSI: Miami and American Dreams. She directed her short, K.I.T., which screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and is making her return with her first feature. Morgan also stars in the film along with Jorma Taccone, a frequent writer and director for Saturday Night Live, along with Dree Hemingway, daughter of Mariel Hemingway, who starred in Listen Up Philip (2014) and Live Cargo (2016).

In the comedy set in Los Angeles, a group of sophisticated thirty somethings try to determine whether ideal happiness exists in coupledom or if the perfectly suited couple is actually just an urban myth.