Sundance Programmer Previews Narrative Films
The programmers for the Sundance Festival who are involved with Narrative film see everything from the premieres, with recognizable stars, to the surprises in the Next section, to the creepy challenges of the Midnight Movies.
We talked to one of those programmers, Heidi Zwicker, on Thursday.
Zwicker is here for her 9th Festival. She estimated that she saw some 400 features and 400 shorts in the past year. We asked her what it takes to be a good programmer.
“The ability to watch just an insane amount of movies and go into every one open to what the movie could be and never getting that fatigue. Always being ready to discover something. I really think its sort of as simple as that.”
One film attracting a lot of attention this year is “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” directed by documentary maker Joe Berlinger with Zac Efron as Ted Bundy. The movie has a local connection, since Bundy’s trail of murder led through Utah in the mid 1970’s.
Zwicker said the story is told from the perspective of Bundy’s girlfriend.
“It’s about their relationship. When you say it’s a movie about Ted Bundy, I think people expect something very grisly and that’s not the kind of movie that it is. We just think that it’s so noteworthy because Zac Efron in this role. I think I had an opinion of who Zac Efron was and he’s so phenomenal as Ted Bundy in this film.”
The movie is not centered on the grisly crimes.
“It portrays how someone could have a relationship with a person and not know anything about their dark side. It really is about how he got along with this woman how she really didn’t know anything. It’s really striking.” KPCW asked Zwicker how Berlinger’s background in documentary influenced the film. “I don’t know that I felt like it was so documentary styled, but I do think his history as a documentary film maker helped him really touch the humanity in these characters. Which makes it feel so real.”
Another notable film in the Premiere section—and also the selection for the Townie Tuesday screening—is called “Late Night.”
“Emma Thompson and also Mindy Kaling who also wrote it. This is a film by Nisha Ganatra it is really fabulous. It is a look into the world of a late-night talk show hosted in the film by Emma Thompson. Mindy Kaling is the first women in the writer’s room ever at this talk show. So, it’s a really interesting play on gender dynamics in the workplace. It’s funny but it’s also really smart and timely. It’s a great one.”
In the Next program, one highlight, she said, is the film “Give Me Liberty.”
“This is a film that I would absolutely say is one of those ones that we saw it and it just felt like a huge discovery. It’s a day in the life of a Detroit man who drives a transport van for people with disabilities, with all sorts of issues with mobility. Over the course of this day you feel so many things. There are moments of it that are really fraught and harrowing and moments of it that are just lovely, moments of human connection. It was something that we were really blown away by and we’re excited to share.”
In the Dramatic Competition, she said the film “The Farewell” is a crowd-pleaser.
“This is just such a lovely film. It’s a film about a family that’s sort of spread all around the world now. They found out that their grandmother who still lives in China has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. They don’t want to tell her because they have a belief that if you know that you’re dying that you’ll die faster, but all the family wants to come back to China to see her. They sort of change an impromptu wedding to bring the whole family back together. It’s a film that—I just love it—it’s a laugh and cry film. It has just such lovely insight in the challenges and the beauty of being in a family. It’s just really absolutely lovely I can’t recommend it highly enough.”
Finally, we asked her to guess what three films will be the big hits out of Sundance.
“I do think the day one film “After the Wedding” with Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore. It’s just a big movie-movie with drama and a family story. I think that’s going to connect with a lot of people. I feel like it’s so hard to guess. Maybe “Blinded by the Light” Gurinder Chadha who made “Bend it like Beckham”. It’s a coming of age story but about a boy in England who falls in love with Bruce Springsteen’s music so it’s just wall-to-wall Bruce Springsteen music and it’s just really infectious but also thoughtful that might be a guess. The third one I’ll say maybe “The Farewell” just because I hope so.”