BBC Culture

Ten films to look out for at Sundance

  • Boyhood

    A last-minute addition to the Sundance line-up, this is a movie with an epic sweep: director Richard Linklater started filming the family drama 12 years ago. The Before Sunrise director has been shooting scenes for the film with his regular collaborator Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette every year since 2002, telling the story of a divorced couple raising their young son (Ellar Coltrane). Coltrane grows up before our eyes; Hawke has described Boyhood as “a little bit like timelapse photography of a human being”. (PR)

  • Frank

    With Maggie Gyllenhaal in a bowl haircut and Michael Fassbender wearing a giant fake head, no-one can accuse this film of Hollywood beauty worship. Best known for his grittier roles, the star of Shame and 12 Years A Slave plays cult British comedy character Frank Sidebottom, an eccentric who had a number of pop music hits during the 1970s and 1980s. Frank is loosely based on the experiences of journalist Jon Ronson, who co-wrote the script and was a member of Sidebottom’s band. According to Ronson, Frank is "a fictional story inspired by great outsider musicians like Frank Sidebottom, Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart". (Madman Entertainment)

  • Camp X-Ray

    Despite dressing down as a Guantanamo Bay guard, actress Kristen Stewart has been described as “sultry and intense” in her latest role. Camp X-Ray follows a young woman recently assigned to the detention camp who finds herself befriending an inmate. Director Peter Sattler told the Hollywood Reporter: "What if a movie could be about Guantanamo Bay without focusing on the 100 miles of fence line and, instead, focused on the smaller details? The microscopic view instead of a grand scale. Not Zero Dark Thirty but an intimate look at a world." (Gotham Group)

  • Ida

    Appearing in Sundance’s Spotlight section, this feature from award-winning director Pawel Pawlikowski (Last Resort, My Summer of Love) is the first he has made in his native Poland. Artfully composed, it tells the story of an orphan raised in a convent (played by Agata Trzebuchowska) who discovers a dark family secret dating back to Poland’s occupation by the Nazis. Despite covering Catholicism, Communism and the Holocaust, Ida is an intimate portrait with a light touch. (Music Box Films)

  • Happy Christmas

    Just as Joe Swanberg’s violent thriller about a fetish photographer (24 Exposures) gets a limited US release, an entirely different offering from the prolific director premieres at Sundance. A festive comedy about a young woman who moves in with her brother and his family, Happy Christmas stars Anna Kendrick (from Swanberg’s rom-com Drinking Buddies) and Girls creator Lena Dunham. (PR)

  • God's Pocket

    John Slattery – the actor who plays smooth-talking Roger Sterling in Mad Men – makes his feature film directorial debut with this drama based on a novel by Pete Dexter (who penned the source for The Paperboy and Wild Bill). Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Mickey, a blue-collar worker who tries to cover up his stepson’s death in a construction accident. The cast includes John Turturro, Richard Jenkins and Mad Men co-star Christina Hendricks. (Park Pictures)

  • 20,000 Days On Earth

    So many singers feature in documentaries at this year’s Sundance that the line-up is worthy of a music festival. A band from the Broadway musical Fela! will be playing to support a documentary about the afrobeat performer Fela Kuti, while Belle & Sebastian – whose frontman Stuart Murdoch directed the film God Help The Girl – are also performing a gig. Australian singer Nick Cave hasn’t announced a date, but a documentary about him will have its premiere on Monday. Directed by artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, who first worked with Cave on his 2008 single Dig! Lazarus Dig!, the film follows a fictional day in the life of the Bad Seeds frontman – including a drive around the seaside city of Brighton in the UK with Kylie Minogue. (Madman Entertainment)

  • Fishing Without Nets

    Proving you can do a pirate movie without Johnny Depp, this is a docudrama that won the Jury prize as a short film at Sundance two years ago. Since extended to feature length, Fishing Without Nets offers an alternative to the Hollywood treatment of the subject. Filmed on a freighter off the coast of Kenya with refugees from Somalia as the actors, it follows a hijacking from the point of view of the pirates. Approaching the high-seas high stakes of Captain Phillips from the other side, it’s been labelled “action art-house” by director Cutter Hodierne. (Think Media Studios)

  • The Trip To Italy

    After a busy 2013, Steve Coogan (Philomena, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa) joins fellow British comedian Rob Brydon for a follow-up to the pair’s 2010 odyssey The Trip. A film version of the TV series directed by Michael Winterbottom, this gastronomic tour of Italy takes them in the footsteps of the Romantic poets while bantering about Batman’s vocal register and the virtue of sequels. (IFC)

  • Life Itself

    Pulitzer Prize-winning American film critic Roger Ebert died last year after a long battle with cancer: this feature documentary is based in part on his 2011 memoir and was shot during the last four months of his life. Directed by Steve James – whose 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams was nominated for an Oscar – it steers clear of canonising Ebert, revealing his struggles with alcohol and conflict with fellow critic Gene Siskel. Ebert's widow Chaz is waiting until the Sundance premiere to watch the film in its entirety. (Film Rites)