When Lulu Wang’s The Farewell premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in January, the praise was near-unanimous. A tragicomic drama rooted in its writer-director’s own real-life experiences, it begins with the words: “Based on an actual lie.”
The film sees a young Chinese-American woman, Billi (Awkwafina), return to China when her beloved grandmother, Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao), is given a terminal diagnosis. There, she struggles with her family’s decision to keep Grandma in the dark about what’s happening, while they promptly schedule a wedding for Billi’s cousin – so that everyone can be together one final time before Nai Nai’s imminent deterioration.
While keeping loved ones unaware of their serious illnesses is apparently common practice in China, doing so presents difficulties for Billi when it comes to making sense of her grief. Although born in China, she moved to the United States with her parents when she was still very young; with this ‘lie’, the cultural divide is laid bare…
Full interview for HUCK
Returning for its fifth instalment (and second in a row at the lavish Picturehouse Central), the team behind this year’s Sundance London gave British audiences a flavour of the American indie scene of 2017. As well as bringing together UK, European or international premieres of various buzzy titles that made their initial bow at the main Sundance Film Festival back in January, this year also offered big screen revivals of some past Sundance premieres of note (Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape among them) and the first instance of a surprise film (Patti Cake$, out on general release this autumn), as well as the usual shorts programme and filmmaker talks.
This year’s main lineup was a mixed bag quality-wise, and it certainly didn’t look great that only one of the 14 premiering features (Marianna Palka’s Bitch) was directed by a woman – last year had three, including closing film Tallulah. That said, the strongest titles were very strong, and there was definitely variety to the stories and filmmaking styles on display. The Skinny caught the vast majority of this year’s feature lineup, so here’s an unranked top five of some of the most notable or distinctive films on offer, some of which will be arriving in UK cinemas or on services like Netflix and Amazon Prime soon…
Full feature for The Skinny
Crown Heights was one of the most buzzed-about films to get picked up by Amazon at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s hardly surprising, given the horrific case of real-life injustice at the centre of its story. Colin Warner (played in the film by Lakeith Stanfield), a Trinidadian, New York-based man, was convicted in the early 1980s for a murder he had absolutely no part in, with almost nothing in the way of evidence, even with the actual guilty party apprehended and also sentenced. Warner got 15 years to life, and was only released after 21 years thanks to the efforts of his friend on the outside, Carl King (played in the film by former NFL player Nnamdi Asomugha), who devoted his life to exposing the shoddiness of the initial case that sent Warner away.
Although Crown Heights is currently in search of a UK theatrical distributor, it’s screening at Sundance London this weekend. We sit down with Matt Ruskin – who wrote, directed and co-produced the film – to discuss bringing a 21-year spanning story to the screen, how his subjects feel about the finished film, his experience with Amazon, and the orange elephant in the room that is the Trump administration…
Full interview for VODzilla.co
After taking a year off in 2015, the team behind Sundance London returned this year to give UK audiences a snapshot of what’s cooking on the American indie scene, with the lavish Picturehouse Central acting as the festival’s new hub for UK or European premieres of some of the buzziest titles to have emerged from Sundance in January. Here’s an unranked top five of our highlights of what we did manage to catch, some of which will be arriving in UK cinemas soon…
Full feature for The Skinny
This piece was originally published at Sound On Sight, which is no longer active. The below is an edit from 7 May 2018.
The feature debut of writer-director Sara Colangelo, Little Accidents is an intense small-town drama that premiered to positive notices at the 2014 instalment of the Sundance Film Festival, and is now seeing a release one year on. Starring Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Lofland, Josh Lucas and Chloë Sevigny, it concerns several players in a town recently devastated by a fatal mining accident. There’s Amos (Holbrook), the sole survivor of the accident that killed ten of his colleagues; Owen (Lofland), whose father was one of those who perished; Bill (Lucas), a mining company executive whose role in the accident has made his family a target of contempt for the town’s anger and sorrow; and Diane (Banks), Bill’s mostly housebound wife, who finds herself drifting away from her partner, and not just because their teenage son has gone missing.
In the week leading up to the film’s debut in American cinemas, Colangelo was kind enough to speak to Sound On Sight about the story’s roots, her cinematic inspirations and intentions, and her experience with the Sundance Institute’s famed Screenwriters and Directors Labs. Continue reading The Place Beyond the Mines: Writer-director Sara Colangelo on ‘Little Accidents’