Getting Excited for Sundance 2020!

January 14, 2020 Jeff Goldsmith

Sundance is a week away and I cannot wait to bask in the glory of this year’s fantastic lineup.


I will be attending, tweeting (as @yogoldsmith and @Backstory_Mag) and reviewing films from the fest so make sure to stay tuned here and via social media for further coverage!

The one priority I have each year is to experience all films in the US Dramatic category because this is the category eligible for the Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.

First off, two of the films that go to the top of my list in US Dramtic, have female writers as their protagonists! The 40-Year-Old Version by writer-director Radha Blank features a down on her luck playwright who decides to reinvent herself at 40 as a rapper. The second film with a female writer-protagonist is Shirley which is director Josephine Drekker’s film based on Sarah Gubbins script of Susan Scarff Merrell’s novel showing us what happens when a young couple moves in with author/novelist Shirley Jackson and her college professor husband. On the surface it seems to have a very Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe vibe which has me quite eager to see it.

Save Yourselves by co-writer/directors Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson is a comedy about a couple that disconnects their phones to reconnect with each other – completely oblivious as the planet is under attack!

Zola is apparently the first film ever made from a twitter thread and a epic 148-tweet thread at that. Co-written and directed by Janicza Bravo it chronicles a woman’s journey from Detroit to Florida in pursuit of a career as a stripper and of course things go pretty haywire.

In the World Cinema Dramatic Competition category writer-director Brandon Cronenberg (yes, son of David) brings us Possessor which stars Jennifer Jason Leigh who uses brain-implants to take over other people’s bodies and make them into assassins. When something goes wrong and she becomes trapped in a dangerous man’s body—the question becomes—will she ever make it out? All I can say is that I hope while seeing all the U.S. Dramatics that I can make it into this film!

The Premiere section:

Downhill co-written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (with Jesse Armstrong as a co-writer as well) is a remake of 2014’s Swiss film Force Majeure which chronicles the aftermath of a family deciding how they feel when the father cowardly runs away from them during a test avalanche that momentarily seemed to threaten their lives, which were never actually in danger. Starring Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus this is going to be a hilarious film that you won’t have to wait long to see since it hits theaters on Valentine’s Day.

Sundance alumni are strong this year as Kajillionaire marks the return to the fest by writer-director Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know) with her first film after 10 years. She has one heck of a unique voice I can’t wait to see how it’s evolved during her haitus! Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) also returns to Sundance with his version of the Peter Pan tale Wendy, co-written with Eliza Zeitlin (which in the spirit of Peter Pan might actually be his sister, but I’m kinda just guessing here). Also Dee Rees (Mudbound) returns to Sundance with an adaptation of Joan Didion’s novel The Last Thing He Wanted which tells of a DC journalists blurring of ethical boundaries.

In the Midnight section while it’s somewhat unclear what writer-director Justin Semien (Dear White Pepole) has in store for us with his film Bad Hair it seems like the concept of a young woman whose hair has a mind of its own certainly has the potential to be campy and hilarious. I’m also really looking forward to Scare Me which focuses on a couple, Fred & Fanny, as they tell each other scary stories during a power outage. When it appears Fanny just might be a better storyteller than Fred—we realize he’s now experiencing his biggest fear.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I plan to see and I hope you’ll follow my travels on social media and via reviews here at Backstory!

For your reading pleasure, Sundance has released their full lineup of programming and you should make sure to check it out here!

Festival passes are available for purchase now and public tickets go on sale January 21st 2020 – so check out the films you want to see, pick some backups and you’ll be prepared to grab your tickets!