NEW YORK (AP) – A documentary on Taylor Swift will kick off the next Sundance Film Festival, where new films including the Will Ferrell-Julia Louis Dreyfus remake of the Swedish film â€œForce Majeure” and Benh Zeitlin’s long-awaited follow-up to â€œBeasts of the Southern Wild” are set to premiere.
Programmers for the preeminent showcase for independent cinema, founded by Robert Redford and set annually in the mountains of Park City, Utah, announced the lion share of the lineup for its 2020 edition on Wednesday. The lineup of 118 feature-length films, culled from a record 15,100 submissions, come from 27 countries, includes 44 first-time filmmakers and is among the most diverse in the festival’s 37-year history. In the four competition categories, 46% of the directors are women, 38% are people of color and 12% are LGBTQ.
The coming Sundance, set for Jan. 23-Feb. 2, follows a 2019 festival that saw big-pocketed streaming services set off an avalanche of high-priced acquisitions, some of which notably fizzled at the box office. Amazon paid large sums for â€œLate Nightâ€ and â€œThe Reportâ€ but neither made much of a dent in theaters; Amazon is now shrinking its exclusive theatrical window for some releases. Warner Bros.’ paid $15 million for the Bruce Springsteen-infused coming-of-age tale â€œBlinded by the Light,” but it failed to catch on.
The biggest hit to emerge from last year’s crop was Lulu Wang’s â€œThe Farewell,â€ which has grossed $17.7 million for A24. It’s been one of the bright spots in a trying marketplace this year for indie film. Still, Sundance, where movies like â€œGet Out,” â€œLittle Miss Sunshineâ€ and â€œThe Big Sickâ€ first debuted, remains the premier factory for breakout hits. Lately, that’s increasingly meant documentaries, too, including â€œRBG,â€ â€œWon’t You Be My Neighbor?â€ and, from this year’s Sundance, â€œApollo 11.”
Sure to add extra frenzy this year is Lana Wilson’s â€œTaylor Swift: Miss Americana,â€ which the festival describes as â€œa raw and emotionally revealing look at one of the most iconic artists of our time during a transformational period in her life.”
Netflix has acquired the film and plans to release it in early 2020. It is also set to distribute seven more, including new films from â€œMudboundâ€ filmmaker Dee Rees and the fictional debut of â€œWhat Happened, Miss Simoneâ€ director Liz Garbus – an early sign that Netflix will play a prominent role in this year’s Sundance.
Apple, too, has already gotten in on the act, a year after making its first acquisition at Sundance (“Hala”). On Monday, it picked up a high-profile documentary headed to Park City: Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick’s untitled film about a former music executive grappling with the decision to go public with a story of sexual assault by a notable figure in the music industry. Oprah Winfrey is an executive producer.
â€œThis yearâ€™s festival is full of films that showcase myriad ways for stories to drive change, across hearts, minds, and societies,” Redford, president and founder of the Sundance Institute, said in a statement.
Among the films debuting in Sundance’s Premieres section is Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s â€œDownhill,â€ the English-language remake of Ruben Ostlund’s â€œForce Majeure,â€ starring Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell as a couple whose relationship is altered after they escape an avalanche.
Zeitlin will unveil â€œWendy,â€ a â€œPeter Panâ€-inspired adventure shot in the West Indies. It’s his first movie since his Oscar-nominated debut, â€œBeasts of the Southern Wild,” a sensation at 2012’s Sundance.
Also on tap for are Rees’ Joan Didion adaptation â€œThe Last Thing He Wanted,” with Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck; Michael Almereyda’s Nikola Tesla biopic â€œTesla,â€ starring Ethan Hawke as the engineer-inventor; Florian Zeller’s â€œThe Father,â€ with Anthony Hopkins as an aged man who moves to Paris, co-starring Olivia Colman; and Garbus’ debut â€œLost Girls,” a missing-child drama with Amy Ryan and Thomasin McKenzie.
Other notables include Julie Taymor’s nontraditional Gloria Steinem biopic, with Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Bette Midler and Janelle Monae; Justin Simien’s horror satire â€œBad Hairâ€; Dominic Cooke’s Cuban Missile Crisis drama â€œIronbark,” with Benedict Cumberbatch; Emerald Fennell’s â€œPromising Young Woman,” a revenge tale led by Carey Mulligan; Sean Durkin’s ’80s-set marriage tale â€œThe Nest,” with Jude Law and Carrie Coon; Josephine Decker’s Shirley Jackson biopic â€œShirley,â€ starring Elisabeth Moss as the â€œThe Lotteryâ€ author; Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut â€œFalling”; and Miranda July’s â€œKajillionaire.”
Other documentaries coming to Sundance include Ron Howard’s â€œRebuilding Paradise,â€ about the aftermath of the devastating 2018 California wildfire; â€œThe Fight,â€ about the ACLU’s legal battles with President Donald Trump; the Deepwater Horizon oil spill expose â€œThe Cost of Silenceâ€; and Kim A. Snyder’s â€œUs Kids,” about the teenage survivors of Parkland, Florida.
This will be the last Sundance overseen by its longtime director, John Cooper. He is stepping down next year to take on the role of emeritus director.
â€œâ€‹The program this year, my last as director, is a celebration: of art and artists, yes, but also of the community that makes the annual pilgrimage to Park City to see the most exciting new work being made today,” said Cooper.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP