Your Literary Guide to the Sundance Film Festival
André Aciman, Alejandro Zambra, Nikolai Leskov, J.D. Salinger and more
The largest independent film festival in the US kicks off tomorrow in Park City, Utah. As every year, 2017 brings a crop of literary adaptations to the big screen, including adaptations of works by André Aciman, Alejandro Zambra, Nikolai Leskov, Daniel Clowes, a biopic of J.D. Salinger, a short film that questions Shakespeare’s racial politics, and more. If you’re lucky enough to be in Park City this week, here’s your literary agenda. If, like the rest of us, you’ll be stuck at home, consider it a list of Sundance-approved literary films to look forward to in the year ahead.
Based on: David Quammen’s 1980 short story “Walking Out” from Blood Line: Stories of Fathers & Sons
Directors and Screenwriters: Alex Smith, Andrew Smith
Starring: Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins, Bill Pullman, Alex Neustaedter, Lily Gladstone
Sundance Logline: “A teenager journeys to Montana to hunt big game with his estranged father. The two struggle to connect, until a brutal encounter in the heart of the wilderness changes everything.”
The Yellow Birds
Based on: Kevin Powers’s The Yellow Birds, winner of the 2012 Guardian First Book Award and the 2013 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, and finalist for the 2012 National Book Award.
Director: Alexandre Moors
Screenwriters: David Lowery, R.F.I. Porto
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Jack Huston, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Patric, Toni Collette, Jennifer Aniston
Sundance Logline: “Two young men enlist in the army and are deployed to fight in the Iraq War. After an unthinkable tragedy, a returning soldier struggles to balance his promise of silence with the truth and a mourning mother’s search for peace.”
Based on: German writer Helene Hegemann’s 2010 debut novel Axolotl Roadkill, which she published at 17, and which sparked a plagiarism controversy.
Director and Screenwriter: Helene Hegemann herself
Starring: Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Arly Jover, Mavie Hörbiger, Laura Tonke, Hans Löw, Bernhard Schütz
Sundance Logline: “Mifti, age 16, lives in Berlin with a cast of characters including her half-siblings; their rich, self-involved father; and her junkie friend Ophelia. As she mourns her recently deceased mother, she begins to develop an obsession with Alice, an enigmatic and much older white-collar criminal.”
Based on: Melanie Joosten’s 2011 debut of the same name.
Director: Cate Shortland
Screenwriter: Shaun Grant
Starring: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt
Sundance Logline: “A passionate holiday romance takes an unexpected and sinister turn when an Australian photographer wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.”
Based on: Alejandro Zambra’s 2015 short story “Family Life,” which is (arguably) the best story in My Documents.
Directors: Alicia Scherson, Cristián Jiménez
Screenwriter: Alejandro Zambra himself
Starring: Jorge Becker, Gabriela Arancibia, Blanca Lewin, Cristián Carvajal
Sundance Logline: “While house-sitting for a distant cousin, a lonely man fabricates the existence of a vindictive ex-wife withholding his daughter, in order to gain the sympathy of the single mother he has just met.”
Sueño en otro idioma (I Dream in Another Language)
Based on: Well, okay, nothing—but this is a film about language, which makes it literary enough for our purposes here.
Director: Ernesto Contreras
Screenwriter: Carlos Contreras
Starring: Fernando Álvarez Rebeil, Eligio Meléndez, Manuel Poncelis, Fátima Molina, Juan Pablo de Santiago, Hoze Meléndez
Sundance Logline: “The last two speakers of a millennia-old language haven’t spoken in 50 years, when a young linguist tries to bring them together. Yet hidden in the past, in the heart of the jungle, lies a secret concerning the fate of the Zikril language.”
Before I Fall
Based on: Lauren Oliver’s 2010 YA novel of the same name.
Director: Ry Russo-Young
Screenwriter: Maria Maggenti
Starring: : Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, Elena Kampouris, Diego Boneta
Sundance Logline: “Samantha Kingston has everything. Then, everything changes. After one fateful night, she wakes up with no future at all. Trapped into reliving the same day over and over, she begins to question just how perfect her life really was.”
Call Me By Your Name
Based on: André Aciman’s beautiful 2007 novel of the same name.
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Screenwriters: James Ivory, Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois
Sundance Logline: “The sensitive and cultivated Elio, only child of the American-Italian-French Perlman family, is facing another lazy summer at his parents’ villa in the beautiful and languid Italian countryside when Oliver, an academic who has come to help with Elio’s father’s research, arrives.”
Based on: Jordan Harrison’s 2014 play of the same name, which was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the winner of the 2016 Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding New American Play.
Director and Screenwriter: Michael Almereyda
Starring: Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Tim Robbins
Sundance Logline: “In the near future—a time of artificial intelligence—86-year-old Marjorie has a handsome new companion who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance?”
Based on: Hillary Jordan’s 2008 debut novel of the same name.
Director: Dee Rees
Screenwriters: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund
Sundance Logline: “In the post-World War II South, two families are pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape as they simultaneously fight the battle at home and the battle abroad. This epic pioneer story is about friendship, heritage, and the unending struggle for and against the land.”
Rebel in the Rye
Based on: Kenneth Slawenski’s bestselling 2010 biography of J.D. Salinger, J.D. Salinger: A Life
Director and Screenwriter: Danny Strong (aka Jonathan)
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Kevin Spacey, Sarah Paulson, Zoey Deutch, Hope Davis, Victor Garber
Sundance Logline: “This portrait of the life and mind of reclusive author J.D. Salinger goes from the bloody front lines of World War II to his early rejections and the PTSD-fueled writer’s block that led to his iconic novel, The Catcher in the Rye.”
Based on: Daniel Clowes’s 2010 graphic novel of the same name.
Director: Craig Johnson
Screenwriter: Daniel Clowes
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer
Sundance Logline: “Wilson, a lonely, neurotic, and hilariously honest middle-aged misanthrope, reunites with his estranged wife and gets a shot at happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter he has never met. In his uniquely outrageous and slightly twisted way, he sets out to connect with her.”
Based on: Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, originally published in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s magazine Epoch.
Director: William Oldroyd
Screenwriter: Alice Birch
Starring: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank
Sundance Logline: “Rural England, 1865: Katherine is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man and his unforgiving family. When she embarks on a passionate affair with a stableman from the estate, the force unleashed inside her is so powerful that she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.”
Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry
Based on: The life and writings of Wendell Berry.
Directors: Laura Dunn, Jef Sewell
Sundance Logline: “This cinematic portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture is seen through the mind’s eye of farmer and writer Wendell Berry.”
Based on: Lissa Evans’s 2009 novel Their Finest Hour and a Half.
Director: Lone Scherfig
Screenwriter: Gaby Chiappe
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Jake Lacy, Jeremy Irons
Sundance Logline: “During the 1940 London Blitz, untried screenwriter Catrin struggles to find her voice amid war, as she and a makeshift cast work under fire to create a film to lift the nation’s spirits—and inspire America to join the war.”
I Love Dick (first three episodes)
Based on: Chris Kraus’s 1997 novel of the same name.
Directors: Jill Soloway, Andrea Arnold, Kimberly Peirce, Jim Frohna
Executive Producers: Jill Soloway, Sarah Gubbins, Andrea Sperling, Victor Hsu
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Hahn, Griffin Dunne, Lily Mojekwu, Roberta Colindrez, India Menuez
Sundance Logline: “Chris and Sylvere, a married couple in the intellectual community of Marfa, Texas, become obsessed with a charismatic artist named Dick. What follows is the unraveling of a marriage, the deification of a reluctant messiah, and the awakening of the female gaze.”
My Life as a Zucchini
Based on: Autobiographie d’une Courgette by Gilles Paris.
Director: Claude Barras
Screenwriter: Céline Sciamma
Starring: Will Forte, Nick Offerman, Ellen Page, Amy Sedaris, Erick Abbate, Romy Beckman
Sundance Logline: “After his mother’s death, Zucchini is befriended by a police officer, Raymond, who accompanies him to a foster home filled with other orphans his age. There, with the help of his newfound friends, Zucchini eventually learns to trust and love as he searches for a new family of his own.”
Dear Mr. Shakespeare (short)
Based on: Othello—but it’s a response, and not really an adaptation. You can watch the whole thing here.
Director: Shola Amoo
Sundance Logline: “An exploration of Shakespeare’s intentions when writing Othello explores the play’s racial themes in historical and contemporary settings, and draws wider parallels between immigration and blackness in the UK today.”