Honor roll: Sundance Film Festival—Dramatic

Each of these films has been nominated for a Sundance Film Festival—Dramatic. They are ranked by honors received.

Film:Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire

Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire

Lee Daniels

Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is a high-school girl with nothing working in her favor. She is pregnant with her father’s child—for the second time. She can’t read or write, and her schoolmates tease her for being fat. Her home life is a horror, ruled by a mother (Mo’Nique) who keeps her imprisoned both emotionally and physically. Precious’s instincts tell her one thing: if she’s ever going to break from the chains of ignorance, she will have to dig deeply into her own resources.

Don’t be misled—Precious is not a film wallowing in the stillness of depression; instead, it vibrates with the kind of energy derived only from anger and hope. The entire cast are amazing; they carry out a firestorm of raw emotion. Daniels has drawn from them inimitable performances that will rivet you to your seat and leave you too shocked to breathe. If you passed Precious on the street, you probably wouldn’t notice her. But when her story is revealed, as Daniels does in this courageous film, you are left with an indelible image of a young woman who—with creativity, humor, and ferocity—finds the strength to turn her life around.

Film:Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Benh Zeitlin

Hushpuppy, an intrepid six-year-old girl, lives with her father, Wink, in “the Bathtub,” a southern Delta community at the edge of the world. Wink’s tough love prepares her for the unraveling of the universe; for a time when he’s no longer there to protect her. When Wink contracts a mysterious illness, nature flies out of whack—temperatures rise, and the ice caps melt, unleashing an army of prehistoric creatures called aurochs. With the waters rising, the aurochs coming, and Wink’s health fading, Hushpuppy goes in search of her lost mother.

Hushpuppy is not just the film’s heroine; she’s its soul. Beasts of the Southern Wild exists entirely in its own universe: mythological, anthropological, folkloric, and apocalyptic. Benh Zeitlin’s first feature (a Sundance Institute Feature Film Program project) employs a cast of nonactors—reflecting its grassroots production—to fiercely portray the bond between father and daughter in a world where only the strong survive. Standing defiantly at the end of the world, Hushpuppy affirms the dignity of telling their own story: that they were once there…

Film:Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone

Debra Granik

Deep in the Ozark Mountains, clans live by a code of conduct that no one dares defy—until an intrepid teenage girl has no other choice. When Ree Dolly’s crystal-meth-making father skips bail and goes missing, her family home is on the line. Unless she finds him, she and her young siblings and disabled mother face destitution. In a heroic quest, Ree traverses the county to confront her kin, break their silent collusion, and bring her father home.

With thrilling tension, Winter’s Bone depicts an archetypal rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood. Only this time, the young warrior is a girl. As our heroine braves immoveable obstacles, she redefines the notion of family loyalty and, in the process, discovers her own power. The spare precision of Debra Granik’s direction is effortlessly profound. Stunningly genuine performances and exquisite visual details capture the textures and rhythms of a world where the mythic and the naturalistic intermingle.

Film:Blood Simple

Blood Simple

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

The debut film of director Joel Coen and his brother-producer Ethan Coen, 1983’s Blood Simple is grisly comic noir that marries the feverish toughness of pulp thrillers with the ghoulishness of even pulpier horror. (Imagine the novels of Jim Thompson somehow fused with the comic tabloid Weird Tales, and you get the idea.) The story concerns a Texas bar owner (Dan Hedaya) who hires a seedy private detective (M. Emmett Walsh) to follow his cheating wife (Frances McDormand in her first film appearance), and then kill her and her lover (John Getz). The…

Film:Maria Full of Grace

Maria Full of Grace

Joshua Marston

(Drama) Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino), a bright, spirited 17-year old, lives with three generations of her family in a cramped house in rural Colombia. Desperate to leave her job stripping thorns from flowers in a rose plantation, Maria accepts a lucrative offer to transport packets of heroin—which she must swallow—to the United States. The ruthless world of international drug trafficking proves to be more than Maria bargained for as she becomes ultimately entangled with both drug cartels and immigration officials. The dramatic thriller builds toward a conclusion so powerful and revealing it could only be based on a thousand true stories.

Film:Fruitvale (2013)

Fruitvale

Ryan Coogler

Oscar Grant was a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who loved his friends, was generous to strangers, and had a hard time telling the truth to the mother of his beautiful daughter. He was scared and courageous and charming and raw, and as human as the community he was part of. That community paid attention to him, shouted on his behalf, and filmed him with their cell phones when BART officers, who were strong, intimidated, and acting in the way they thought they were supposed to behave around people like Oscar, shot him in cold blood at the Fruitvale subway stop on New Year’s Day in 2009.

Director Ryan Coogler makes an extraordinary directorial debut with this soulful account of the real-life event that horrified the nation. Featuring radiant performances by Melonie Diaz and Michael B. Jordan as Grant, a young man whose eyes were an open window into his soul, Fruitvale offers a barometer reading on the state of humanity in American society today.

Film:Like Crazy

Like Crazy

Drake Doremus

Like Crazy is a film from and about the heart. Jacob, an American, and Anna, who is British, meet at college in Los Angeles and fall madly in love. It’s the purest kind of romance—they’re each other’s first significant attachment. When Anna returns to London, the couple is forced into a long-distance relationship. Their perfect love is tested, and youth, trust, and geography become their biggest enemies.

Taking a complete tonal departure from his last film, Douchebag, which screened at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, cowriter/director Drake Doremus poetically reveals the intimate details and daily struggles of Jacob and Anna’s love affair as it stretches between time and distance and changes course. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones are enthralling in their sweetness and honesty as the young couple. An original, contemplative look at first love, Like Crazy strikes a universal chord as it explores the bittersweet beauty and impermanence of relationships.

Film:Frozen River

Frozen River

Courtney Hunt

Two days before Christmas in rural upstate New York, Ray Eddy’s husband has left her in an impossible situation—not only is he gone, but he has gambled away all of the family’s meager savings. Ray’s single wage at the Yankee One Dollar Store can’t make the house payment, and the situation forces Ray to feed her two sons popcorn and Tang every day. When Ray strikes out to search for her husband, she encounters Lila Littlewolf, a tough, street-smart Mohawk woman who is dealing with her own struggle to make ends meet. But Lila has found a way to do it—smuggling illegal immigrants into the States. The tribal elders disapprove and attempt to stop Lila by forbidding anyone to sell her a car. Ray has a car, and although the two women don’t trust each other, they team up and share Ray’s Dodge Spirit to make a run across the frozen St. Lawrence River.

Courtney Hunt’s remarkable and deeply emotional first feature is a realistic look at the world of human smuggling and…[more]

Film:Padre Nuestro

Padre Nuestro

Christopher Zalla

Fleeing a pack of henchman on the Mexican side of the border, Juan hops a truck transporting illegals from Mexico to New York City. En route he befriends Pedro, an innocent from central Mexico who is headed to New York to seek his rich restaurateur father, Diego. Pedro shows Juan a sealed letter that his mother, now dead, has given him—an introduction to the father he never knew. When the truck pulls into New York City, Pedro wakes to find both his belongings and his new friend gone without a trace. He is cast onto the street and stumbles around, lost in an unknown city. Juan, meanwhile, shows up at Diego's door with the letter, claiming to be his long-lost son, Pedro.

Film:Quinceañera

Quinceañera

Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Quinceañera is a look at what happens when teenage sexuality, age-old rituals, and real estate prices collide. It is a reinvention of Kitchen Sink drama, fueled by the racial, class, and sexual tensions of a Latino neighborhood in transition.

Magdalena (Emily Rios) is the daughter of a Mexican-American family who runs a storefront church in Echo Park, Los Angeles. With her fifteenth-birthday approaching, all she can think about is her boyfriend, her Quinceañera dress, and the Hummer Limo she hopes will carry her on her special day. But a few months before the celebration, Magdalena falls pregnant. As the elaborate preparations for her Quinceañera proceed, it is only a matter of time before her religious father finds out and rejects her.

Forced out of her home, Magdalena moves in with great-great uncle Tomas (Chalo Gonzalez), an old man who makes his living selling champurrado (a Mexican hot drink) in the street. Already living with him is Carlos (Jesse Garcia), Magdalena’s cousin,…[more]

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