Austin Filmmakers Announced for Sundance

Several local filmmakers chosen to compete at Sundance 2017

The annual announcement of the next crop of competition films slated for the Sundance Film Festival held in January always indicates that a new year is on the horizon. And I know a great many of us are ready to chuck off the dastardly 2016 and try our luck with a new calendar year.

Walking Out

Held every January in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival offers the first overall glimpse of the indie film horizon for the coming year. It’s here at the start of every year that you can first spot some special gems like Manchester by the Sea (opening in Austin this weekend) that are sure to be big award contenders come the end of the year. Also, it’s become customary in recent years to always find works by Austin filmmakers among the initial announcements of chosen films. By this measure, 2017 is off to a great start.

UT lecturer and Michener Center for Writers graduate Alex Smith and his brother Andrew Smith (Winter in the Blood and The Slaughter Rule) have been nominated for their film Walking Out, which stars Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins (star of Kat Candler’s Hellion), Bill Pullman, Alex Neustaedter, and Lily Gladstone (who was the breakout star of Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women this year). The tagline for the film by the writer/director brother duo reads: “A father and son struggle to connect on any level until a brutal encounter with a predator in the heart of the wilderness leaves them both seriously injured. If they are to survive, the boy must carry his father to safety.”

Austin resident Macon Blair became known to fans through gripping performances in Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and Green Room. Now he shifts to the director’s chair for I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, which will be shown in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Blair also wrote the screenplay for the film, whose description follows: “When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves, alongside her obnoxious neighbor. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals. The film stars Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, and Jane Levy.

Nominated in the World Cinema Documentary Competition is Motherland by UT lecturer Ramona Diaz, whose previous docs include Imelda and Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey. Her new film documents “the planet's busiest maternity hospital … located in one of its poorest and most populous countries: the Philippines. There, poor women face devastating consequences as their country struggles with reproductive health policy and the politics of conservative Catholic ideologies.”

Also among the U.S. Dramatic Competition is The Yellow Birds, directed by Alexandre Moors, with a screenplay by Dallasite David Lowery. The film is inspired by the novel of the same title by Michener Center alum Kevin Powers. The Gulf War-set drama stars Tye Sheridan, Jack Huston, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Patric, Toni Collette, and Jennifer Aniston. The prolific Lowery also will have a film he both wrote and directed in the festival’s Next section. Titled A Ghost Story, the film was shot on the QT this summer in Dallas and reunites the stars of Lowery’s breakout film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. A former Austin resident, Lowery has always credited the Austin Film Society Grants for his start as a director. See here for the entire announcement.

Best wishes to all.

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More Sundance Film Festival 2017
Austinites Win Big at Sundance
Austinites Win Big at Sundance
Filmmakers Macon Blair and Ramona Diaz score prizes at festival

Marjorie Baumgarten, Jan. 30, 2017

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Sundance Film Festival 2017, Sundance, Alex Smith, Andrew Smith, Walking Out, Macon Blair, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Ramona Diaz, Motherland, The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers, David Lowery, A Ghost Story, Michener Center for Writers

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