Close Up

The major new independent films to see at Sundance London 2016
By Lewis Firth | Film+TV | 2 May 2016

Still, Goat (2016)

Top image: Still, ‘Goat’ (2016)

Sundance London is back, and features a killer line-up of new titles. Running in June, the festival will continue its trend of underlining some fresher-than-fresh thespians, directors and tales from the independent sphere.

First launched in 2012 by Robert Redford as an offshoot to the Sundance Film Festival: both iterations have become synonymous with notching the best and brightest within the film industry. Boundaries are pushed and audiences are moved. What it primarily does is give independent filmmakers, and budding new artists, a global plinth to showcase their work(s), hopefully gain global distribution, or to just allow audiences to experience new methods of connection through film and its narratives.

It’s a mega list, so we’ve plucked out a few gems from the programme that caught our attention…

Goat (2016) dir. Andrew Neel

Fraternities are the focus — Phi Sigma Mu! –and their violent enrolment practices. Protagonist Brad (Ben Schnetzer) applies to become a member of one after being encouraged by his older brother, Brett Lander (Nick Jonas). Not a good environment to be in considering the former was brutally attacked prior to his application. Physical and psychological attacks are imposed on the newbies, with Brad and his roommate enduring trials of torture to ‘become a man’. Also starring James Franco and Virginia Gardner, Goat is an intensely exhilerating watch.

Indignation (2016) dir. James Schamus

Logan Lerman goes from strength to strength, knocking out audiences in recent flicks like Perks of Being a Wallflower (19 awards and 46 nominations) and Fury (five award-wins and 17 nominations). Indignation is marked to be as impactful: Lerman plays Marcus Messner, a student attending college in 1951 to avoid being drafted for the then-current Korean War. Messner’s atheism proves problematic among the ardently religious beliefs and programs at his college. An idealistic and indignant Messner tries to oppose the imposed dutifulness and decipher a viable path from an unavoidable cultural crossroad.


Indignant Productions Inc./Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Tallulah (2016) dir. Sian Heder

Tallulah is an interesting example: it’s been bought by Netflix to stream to its multi-million user base. For any Sundance film, that’s huge. New audiences will benefit. Ellen Page plays Tallulah, a drifter aimlessly driving around the country with her boyfriend, Nico (Evan Jonigkeit), dumpster diving, stealing from strangers and using the gas-station credit card Nico got from his mother for fuel. Then she meets Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard), and everything changes when Tallulah decides to kidnap Carolyn’s baby girl, neglected by from her wealthy, trainwreck mother.

Challenging social conventions, this emotional roller coaster builds throughout and carries a heavy impact.


David Newsom/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Morris from America (2016) dir. Chad Hartigan

13-year-old Morris’ life is switched and flipped on its head when he has to move to Germany: new people, new culture — new trials of being a teen. Overt racism and his first love are some of the many tests this hip-hop-loving American will have to face.

Navigate the tricky trials and tribulations of adolescence is no mean feat, and this coming-of-age film takes a wholly unique angle when approaching this life stage we are all very familiar with.

Sean McElwee/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Author: The JT LeRoy Story (2016) dir. Jeff Feuerzeiq

JT LeRoy was a character devised by a middle-aged phone-sex operator, Laura Albert, and was dubbed as the ‘literary hoax of the century’ after an investigative journalist from the New York Times dug deep enough to find out the truth back in 2006. LeRoy began rubbing shoulders with the likes of Courtney Love and Bono after writing two acclaimed novels. Albert’s androgynous friend, Savannah Knoop, posed as LeRoy at events, all while being directed behind the scenes by Albert.

Award-winning director, Jeff Feuerzeig, managed to get Albert to tell her side of things, tracing the story of the woman who never existed.

Jeff Feuerzeig/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Weiner (2016) dir. Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg

“I have this virtually unlimited ability to fuck things up,” Anthony Weiner said, during his catastrophic 2014 New York City mayoral campaign.

“Why are you letting us film this?” a filmmaker responded.

With unrestricted access to Anthony Weiner’s New York City mayoral campaign, directors Josh Kreigman and Elyse Steinberg followed the candidate throughout the race; the documentary, however, would be more aptly described as an observation of self-inflicted public and political pain, rather than a behind-the-scenes record of a campaign. Weiner is the winner of the US Grand Jury Prize, which is a pretty decent reason to go watch it.

Brnice Eveno/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Life (2016) dir. Roger Ross Williams

Owen Suskind is autistic: isolation was a normal irregularity for him as he could not speak for years. Roger Ross Williams, who wrote and directed the film, follows Suskind as he reconnects with family and friends by escaping from his uncommunicative state; tethering himself to Disney’s stories and characters enabled such a feat.

Incredibly moving, this insight into the complexities of one boy’s attempts to take control of his autism reveals heartwarming conclusions.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance London takes place 2-5 June. Register for Festival and VIP Passes today. Priority booking for Picturehouse Members opens on Friday 6 May and general sales open on Monday 9 May. Visit for more information.


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