Independent Visions

For those who can’t afford a trip to Park City in Utah in January, the folk at the Sundance Film Festival hit on a smart move. Bring the best of the fest to London for a four-day taster. After initial teething troubles, when it was stuck out at the 02 in North Greenwich, the festival has found a good home at the plush Picturehouse Central these past years.

Amongst the highlights for 2018, Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, which followed its Sundance premiere with a successful play at Cannes in Director’s Fortnight. Granik’s last movie Winter’s Bone was the film that launched Jennifer Lawrence, and she similarly unearths a fine talent here – New Zealand-born actress Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, who more than holds her own opposite experienced star Ben Foster.

Loosely based on a true story, Leave No Trace follows a father and his daughter, who are caught sleeping in a Portland national park. Foster’s Will is a former military man, who has taken to selling his PTSD meds so he and his young offspring Tom (McKenzie) can live off-the-grid. What follows is a heartbreaking story as Will and Tom try and reintegrate into society, a process far more difficult for him than her.

One of the hottest titles to come out of Sundance was Ari Aster’s Hereditary, which stars Toni Collette. The Australian actress undoubtedly has fond memories of Sundance – it’s here where Little Miss Sunshine was launched – and Hereditary came away from the festival with similar buzz. Like Sunshine, it’s a family story, albeit one that requires nerves of steel on the part of the audience as it explores a world of psychological terror.

Another to look out for is Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which picked up the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year. Here Chloë Grace Moretz plays the titular high-school student who caught with another girl on Prom Night. The result? She is sent to God’s Promise, a conversion therapy centre for teens “struggling with same-sex attraction.” Marking just her second feature, it shows Akhavan as a major talent in the making.

Other events include a special screening of Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, starring Ethan Hawke as a troubled preacher. Idris Elba’s directorial debut Yardie, a Jamaican gangster picture, also receives its British premiere, whilst several filmmakers will also be on hand for on stage events. Amongst them Granik, Akhavan and Jennifer Fox, whose narrative debut The Tale opens the festival, will join together to about their careers – a do not miss event.

Sundance London runs from 31 May to 3 June. For more details, click here.

James Mottram

1. Yardie. Panorama 2018. GBR 2018. by: Idris Elba. Shantol Jackson. © STUDIOCANAL