The Sundance Film Festival has always helped define actors and directors or redefine those who choose to expand their resumes. As the film festival draws to a close, here are the Lucky 13 (in alphabetical order) who have caught new or renewed buzz after their films debuted in recent days:
Katie Aselton, actress/director – Black Rock
Aselton received acting buzz ahead of Sundance for her role in Black Rock and she’s getting more now as the director of this island thriller. Black Rock is Aselton’s second helmer following The Freebie which debuted at the 2010 Sundance. She broke out (along with husband Mark Duplass) at the 2005 Sundance with an acting role in The Puffy Chair.
Malik Bendjelloul, director – Searching For Sugar Man
Sony Classics picked up this first time feature filmmaker’s pic out of Sundance. The Swede previously directed a number of short documentaries about music icons including Madonna, Elton John, Bjork, Sting, Rod Stewart, and Kraftwerk. He returns to music with his latest about two South Africans who try to find their unlikely 1970s-era music hero, rock’n’ roller Rodriguez.
Antonio Campos, director – Simon Killer
Campos knows this latest film, his second feature as director, will divide audiences and that’s fine with him. He’s part of the filmmaking team Borderline Films which brought Martha Marcy May Marlene to Sundance last year. (Campos was a producer.) Borderline has a first-look pact with Fox Searchlight so more films from him are a given.
Paul Dano, actor – For Ellen
Directed by So Yong Kim, Paul Dano has been going to Sundance since his initial 2001 breakout in Michael Cuesta’s L.I.E. (He was nominated for Best Debut Performance at the Independent Spirit Awards.) He won more attention five years later with Little Miss Sunshine here. Since then he’s been seen in There Will Be Blood, Taking Woodstock, a voice in Where The Wild Things Are, Meek’s Cutoff and more. But Sundance is where Dano is receiving renewed attention in the small title For Ellen. (He’s also an executive producer.) Dano “carries the film” as a struggling musician fighting for custody of his young daughter.
Mark Duplass, actor – Your Sister’s Sister and Safety Not Guaranteed
In addition to acting, Duplass writes, directs and produces. The joke is that he’s the “Sundance It Girl” with three films here. He wrote the screenplay for Katie Aselton’s Blackrock and produced the film with brother Jay Duplass. As an actor, Mark has won insider praise for his roles in the remaining pair: as a grieving slacker in In Your Sister’s Sister and a person being chased by journalists over time travel in Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s a long way from both Duplasses first coming to Sundance back in 2005 with The Puffy Chair.
Ava DuVernay, director – Middle of Nowhere
Publicist, writer, director, consultant, producer, Ava DuVernay is a film/TV vet as well as founder of the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement. Now she is catching renewed buzz for her competition film Middle Of Nowhere about a woman who drops out of medical school to deal with her husband’s 8-year prison sentence. Her doc This Is The Life won at the 2008 Toronto ReelWorld Film Festival.
Isla Fisher, actress – Bachelorette
Directed by Leslye Headland, Fisher was handed a juicy role in this dark indie tale of three friends on the eve of a BFF’s nuptials. Isla plays a mess: sniffing, drinking and smoking anything in sight. But her character’s antics were the source of many laughs at the film’s premiere Monday night. Her career has run the gamut in TV and film but hasn’t been box office so maybe she should stick to her specialty credentials.
Leslye Headland, writer/director – Bachelorette
Her plays have caused a stir Off Broadway all based on the Seven Deadly Sins. She kicked them off with Cinephilia (lust) followed by Bachelorette (gluttony) now morphed into the film starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan which debuted at Sundance Monday. Her next play Assistance (greed) is set to open in New York soon. Her seven deadly may all make it to the screen.
Terence Nance, director – An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty – He’s a student of visual arts at NYU and channels his creativity in mixed-media installations, music, performance, and film. Still he does not like just the label ‘filmmaker’ for now. Insiders ahead of Sundance said it would be a hidden gem. Set in NYC, the film is a stunning tour de force that combines narrative, documentary, animation and music to explore the ups and downs of a couple’s young relationship. Nance may prove a real filmmaking talent.
Jamie Travis, director – For A Good Time Call…
Most indie filmmakers just hope to get to Sundance. But for first-time Canadian filmmaker Jamie Travis, Focus Features picked up
his film the other day despite stiff odds. Travis isn’t quite a novice though with a number of shorts under his belt and retrospectives of his work in cities in the U.S. and Europe.
Quvenzhané Wallis, actress – The Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Like Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) last year, Quvenzhané may be a very unlikely actress to assume the “breakout” mantle at this Sundance but many say she has. Remarkable because the 6-year-old was found in a remote Louisiana bayou where the film would eventually film. “She’s a micro-force of nature,” director Benh Zeitlin told the Eccles Theatre audience following the film’s world premiere. Wallis, now 8, was intro’ed on stage and created her own Sundance moment by yelling out, “My name’s Quvenzhané Wallis and I like to party!”
Mark Webber actor/writer/director – The End Of Love
Certainly no acting newcomer, he’s winning high praise for his role which he wrote and directed. Sundance vets have called his performance “amazing”. But giving him a run for his money is his son Isaac who plays his on-screen son in the film. A veteran of 35 films from a wide range of directors including Woody Allen, Todd Solondz, Jim Jarmusch, Thomas Vinterberg, and Lars von Trier, Webber is also hitting the Sundance pavement with roles in Save The Date and For A Good Time, Call…
Benh Zeitlin, director – Beasts Of The Southern Wild
It’s not a bad thing to have your film get consistent positive buzz after debuting on the first full day of the festival. It certainly attracts attention. Zeitlin and his Court 13 independent filmmaking army have enjoyed Sundance’s spotlight this year for a film many have praised for its originality and performance. Zeitlin and his group believe in a more horizontal approach to filmmaking. This is his first feature after writing and directing three shorts beginning in 2006. Fox Searchlight picked up the film this week.