If the Sundance Film Festival is about anything, it’s about the directors. Careers are made in Park City with the right combination of talent, content, context and reception. Look at what happened in 2012 with Beasts Of The Southern Wild. Benh Zeitlin’s feature directorial debut seemed to come out of nowhere to win the festival’s Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic films. Now the fantasy drama is nominated for multiple Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. No predictions of course, but here’s five directors worth watching at Sundance this year.
Related: Mike Fleming’s Sundance 2013 Preview
David Lowery, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: Lowery is actually a triple threat this Sundance. The Texan has the outlaw Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck starrer, which he directed and wrote, at the festival; Pit Stop, which he co-wrote, in the NEXT sidebar; and Upstream Color, on which he was one of the editors. Not bad for a guy who’s directorial feature debut St. Nick got rejected by Sundance back in 2009. Then again, Lowery’s short Pioneer won the Grand Jury Prize in 2011, so 2013 could really be his year.
Lake Bell, In A World…: The UTA-repped actress made her Sundance debut back in 2011 with her short Worst Enemy. This year she’s back and bigger and in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Bell, who has been a regular on shows such as Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital, HBO’s How To Make It In America and Boston Legal, directed, wrote, co-produced and stars in the comedy about a stymied vocal coach. In this age, that’s a noise worth listening to.
James Ponsoldt, The Spectacular Now: A Sundance veteran, Ponsoldt’s debut feature Off The Black premiered at the festival in 2006 and his sophomore effort Smashed won a Special Jury Prize last year. Now, reunited with Smashed actress Elizabeth Winstead and working with (500) Days Of Summer screenwriters Scott Neustandter and Michael H. Weber on the adaptation of Tim Tharp’s award-winning coming-of-age novel, the UTA- and Brillstein-repped Ponsoldt is back in competition. Fox 2000 certainly think so — yesterday it picked Ponsoldt to adapt and direct a feature film version of Julianna Baggott’s novel Pure. Getting your first studio-directing gig on the festival’s opening day is a nice way to start your Sundance.
Jerusha Hess, Austenland: Based on Shannon Hale’s novel about an obsessed Jane Austen fan’s visit to a theme park based on the famous author, Austenland marks the directorial debut from the co-writer and costume designer of Napoleon Dynamite. Selected for the U.S. Dramatic competition, the comedy stars Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour and Bret McKenzie and is produced by The Twilight Saga author Stephenie Meyer’s Fickle Fish Films. Word is distributors are ready to make a deal fast.
Freida Mock, Anita: If you can get a ticket to see any of the four Sundace screenings of the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker’s look at the 1991 testimony of Anita Hill, you are one of the lucky few. Sold out well in advance, the world premiere of Mock’s 85-minute analysis of Hill’s role in Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings and the issues it raised has staked its claim as the docu to beat.