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Sundance NEXT Lineup: The Speculation Ends

Yesterday, the Sundance Film Festival released the final list of films to be included in their 2010 edition, which will run Jan. 21-31. That batch included the lineup of films in their newly created NEXT section, a part of the festival that, according to Sundance, aims to spotlight “innovative and original work in low- and no-budget filmmaking.”

That announcement of the actual films in NEXT ended the speculation I started back in September about whether or not Sundance was going to embrace an “underground” aesthetic in their choice of films for next year. In my original post about NEXT, I was really zeroing in on two words in Sundance’s description of the section: “innovative” and “no-budget.” While I haven’t seen any of the films chosen for NEXT, just from their descriptions, to me they don’t sound particularly “underground” as I had been hoping they might.

Not that that’s a bad thing. I’m not making any value judgments about Sundance or the films in regards to NEXT. “Underground” does not automatically equal “good;” just as “not underground” doesn’t automatically equal “not good.” I’m just curious, especially now that the films have been announced, just what Sundance considers “innovative,” since that’s the word they continue to use to push NEXT.

There are eight films in NEXT. Going by just their one sentence synopses on the Sundance site, six of them sound like romantic comedies and two are about Muslims having cultural identity crises. There isn’t much else info on these films on the web, which I’ve listed below with their Sundance descriptions. All of the films are World Premieres, so they haven’t screened at other festivals, so there are no reviews or reports on them yet. Plus, of the eight, only three have promotional websites and only two have trailers: Bilal’s Stand and New Low.

It’s also not easy, or even possible, to find the budget for these films to see what Sundance considers low and no-budget. But, of the eight films, six are definitely the feature directing debut by the filmmakers. (One is a second film and another one I can’t find any info on.) Plus, the only recognizable name actor in any of the films is Dax Shepard who stars in Katie Aselton’s The Freebie. Shepard has starred in Hollywood comedies like Baby Mama, Employee of the Month and Idiocracy.

Here’s the list of films in the NEXT section. Descriptions come from the festival press release:

Armless, dir. Habib Azar (Screenwriter: Kyle Jarrow). In this off-kilter comedy, a woman comes to terms with her husband’s strange secret. Cast: Daniel London, Janel Moloney, Keith Powell, Laurie Kennedy, Matt Walton. World Premiere

Bass Ackwards, dir. Linas Phillips (Screenwriter: Linas Phillips). After ending a disastrous affair with a married woman, a man embarks on a lyrical, strange and comedic cross-country journey in a modified VW bus. Cast: Linas Philips, Davie-Blue, Jim Fletcher, Paul Lazar. World Premiere

Bilal’s Stand, dir. Sultan Sharrief (Screenwriter: Sultan Sharrief). Bilal, a Muslim high school senior in Detroit juggles his dysfunctional family, their taxi stand, and an ice carving contest in his secret attempt to land a college scholarship. Cast: Julian Gant. World Premiere

The Freebie, dir. Katie Aselton (Screenwriter: Katie Aselton). A young married couple decides to give each other one night with someone else. Cast: Dax Shepard, Katie Aselton. World Premiere

Homewrecker, dir. Todd Barnes and Brad Barnes (Screenwriters: Todd Barnes, Brad Barnes, Sophie Goodhart). The last romantic in New York City is an ex-con locksmith on work release. Cast: Ana Reeder, Anslem Richardson, Stephen Rannazzisi. World Premiere

New Low, dir. Adam Bowers. A neurotic twentysomething struggles to figure out which girl he really belongs with: the best one he’s ever known, or the worst. Cast: Adam Bowers, Jayme Ratzer, Toby Turner, Valerie Jones. World Premiere

One Too Many Mornings, dir. Michael Mohan (Screenwriters: Anthony Deptula, Michael Mohan, Stephen Hale). Two damaged young men recover their high school friendship by awkwardly revealing to each other just how messed up they’ve become. Cast: Anthony Deptula, Stephen Hale, Tina Kapousis. World Premiere

The Taqwacores, dir. Eyad Zahra (Screenwriter: Michael Muhammad Knight). When a Pakistani-Muslim engineering student moves into a house with punk Muslims of all stripes in Buffalo, New York, his ideologies are challenged to the core. Cast: Noureen DeWulf, Dominic Rains, Rasika Mathur, Tony Yalda, Anne Marie Leighton. World Premiere


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