Search - Still 1

Search (NEXT)

So people my age are making movies that are getting into Sundance, which is making me feel really old. But if any 25-year-old is going to be at the festival, I’m glad it’s someone like Aneesh Chaganty and not another privileged post-grad whining about his “problems.” As Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov tries to get his “screenmovie” manifesto to catch on, Chaganty arrives at Sundance with what will hopefully set a new standard for the way films capture our lives inside of screens. We spend so much – in my case, too much – time on them, and it’s about time films capture that accurately so that future generations can understand what’s going on in the digital realm.

Can’t make it to Sundance? Watch this at home: Search is Chaganty’s feature debut, but as a filmmaker at Google, he’s made many commercials you’ll likely recognize. In these spots, he’s already probing visual representations of the screen experience in ways that are both cheeky and sentimental. His “Free Up Space” ad for Google Photos is probably the most iconic, but to really see how Chaganty uses technology to depict technology, take a look at “Seeds,” a spot he shot entirely with Google Glass. (Available for free on YouTube)


Piercing (Midnight)

The team at Borderline has quietly been making some of this decade’s most riveting indie cinema – Martha Marcy May Marlene, James White, Christine – and recently began producing works by filmmakers they find interesting. One such protégé is Nicolas Pesce, who’s back at Sundance with his sophomore feature. He’s enlisted Borderline favorite Christopher Abbott as his leading man, a contract killer who falls into a twisted evening with a call girl played by Mia Wasikowska. The description promises a blend of horror, comedy and neo-noir – quite the combination.

Can’t make it to Sundance? Watch this at home: Pesce seems to be making a big step up in experimenting with his register in Piercing; his debut The Eyes of My Mother, a Sundance 2016 premiere, is a precisely controlled tone poem of a film. The film runs a slender 76 minutes, but Pesce packs in enough chills and squirms for a movie twice its length. This dark tale of a lonely girl on a secluded farm with some grotesque attractions is the stuff of nightmares. (Available for free to Netflix subscribers)

sundance 2018 bisbee

Bisbee ’17 (U.S. Documentary Competition)

If you hear “documentary” and just think of Ken Burns, then you need to check out the work Robert Greene is doing to push the boundaries of the form. He blurs the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction as well as recreation and reality, examining the ways two seemingly oppositional forms can exist within the documentary framework. Bisbee ’17 zeroes in on a century-old mass deportation in Arizona, an event which Greene allows the townspeople to assist in the restaging from their own subjective stories. The result is sure to be a can’t-miss piece of political cinema, most likely by being the antithesis of all the formulaic “movies we need right now” dominating the headlines.

Can’t make it to Sundance? Watch this at home: Greene’s last directorial effort, Kate Plays Christine, was one of two projects at Sundance 2016 that tried to make sense of the on-air suicide of a local news anchor, Christine Chubbuck. Alongside actress Kate Lyn Sheil, Greene attempts to understand her through the lens of performance – how an actor comes to understand such a baffling figure from the inside out. It’s a fascinating process to observe at the level of both performer and character. (Available for free t0 Fandor subscribers and to rent through iTunes)

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