Sundance Film Festival 2016: 8 films tipped to follow in the footsteps of Brooklyn, Boyhood and Whiplash

Films that debut at Sundance with no buzz whatsoever often go on to earn Oscar nominations and wins

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The Independent Culture

When and where is Sundance held?

Sundance takes place annually in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and the Sundance Resort in Utah, United States. This year’s festival runs from 21 to 31 January.

What is the point of it?

Sundance showcases exciting new work from independent filmmakers around the world. There are competitive sections for feature-length and short dramatic and documentary films, as well as out-of-competition sections.

When did it all begin?

It all kicked off in the summer of 1978 as part of a bid to attract more filmmakers to Utah. Sterling Van Wagenen, John Earle and Cirina Hampton Catania founded it while actor and Utah resident Robert Redford was the inaugural chairman. Films featured in the first Sundance, known then as the US Film Festival, included A Streetcar Named Desire, Deliverance and Midnight Cowboy.

Only independent. US-made films were allowed to participate. There were panel discussions with filmmakers and a showcase of projects by those working outside of Hollywood. 

Why was it named Sundance?

The festival was given its current name in 1991 after Redford’s character The Sundance Kid from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Why should I take interest in it?

Sundance has proved a crucial platform for many notable filmmakers, including Quentin Tarantino, David O Russell, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Thomas Anderson. The likes of Reservoir Dogs, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Saw, Donnie Darko, Little Miss Sunshine, Before Sunrise and The Blair Witch Project have garnered wider attention after premiering at Sundance.

Furthermore, films that debut at the festival with no buzz whatsoever often go on to earn Oscar nominations and wins, such as Whiplash, Boyhood and Brooklyn, while multiple movies are picked up by distributors there.

What films should I watch out for?

Little Men

Love is Strange’s Ira Sachs brings us Little Men, about two high school boys who find their friendship tested when their parents begin fiercely arguing over rent. Growing up is once again the theme here, the title being the giveaway, along with class and the gentrification of Brooklyn. Promising.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople


Boy director Taika Waititi returns with a road comedy and coming of age drama starring Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. The story follows “city kid” Ricky who moves in with a new foster family in the New Zealand countryside, before tragedy strikes and he goes on the run with Uncle Hec. Branded outlaws in a national manhunt, they must face their options together. Expect to laugh and cry in equal parts.

Certain Women

Women take centre stage for once, not as wives and girlfriends, but as fascinating, complex human beings in their own right. Kelly Reichardt wins flavour of the month.



This could finally prove ‘the big one’ for Logan Lerman, who takes the lead in former Focus Features chief James Schamus’ directorial debut. Based on Philip Roth’s 2008 novel of the same name, Indignation could prove a seriously hard-hitting weepie. 

The Birth of a Nation

The topical #OscarsSoWhite fiasco could be a thing of the past come next year’s ceremony if Nate Parker excels as writer, director and star of his film about Nat Turner, who led the biggest slave rebellion in US history.



Rebecca Hall takes the title role in this thriller about the 29-year-old Florida TV reporter who suffers a “dissolution of self” while battling to succeed as an ambitious woman in the Seventies and ends up committing suicide during a live broadcast. 

Swiss Army Man

Intriguing if only for its bizarre premise: a homeless man befriends a dead body washed up on his island home and “together they go on a surreal journey to get home”. Daniel Radcliffe stars, in a film that couldn’t sound much further from Hogwarts.

Manchester by the Sea


Kenneth Lonergan has made just two films in fifteen years but both have been highly acclaimed. The story follows a Boston handyman who becomes guardian to his 16-year-old nephew. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams star.