Jane Schoenbrun on Jan 16, 2017 Filmmaker Magazine
The 2017 Sundance Film Festival is just a few days away, and with it begins a new cycle of stressing out about all of the movies that I haven’t been able to see yet.
Hollywood operates on a very fixed theatrical schedule — leftovers dumped wholesale at the beginning of the year (I’m looking at you, Bye Bye Man), CGI franchises dominating the summer calendar, and Oscar bait rolling out from October on.
Meanwhile, the landscape for smaller-budget but more adventurous films here in the States has developed its own windowing: the majority of American art films will premiere at festivals between now and May. First, Sundance will set the tone with an onslaught of new work, and then Rotterdam, Berlin, True/False, SXSW, Tribeca, and the Maryland Film Festival will follow with (even) less commercial stuff that slipped through the Sundance programming cracks.
From there, many great American films will undoubtedly continue to premiere as the year draws on. But these films will grow bigger in budget and scope. Starting in May, festivals like Cannes and Toronto will offer a smattering of new work from our most beloved and established American auteurs, the filmmakers who have enough established cred to make personal films at big budgets.
This list culls together the American films that I’m most fervently anticipating in 2017. I’m also looking forward to catching a number of 2016 festival films that I’ve not yet had a chance to see (including James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch, Theo Anthony’s Ratfilm, and Xander Robin’s Are We Not Cats), but for the sake of continuity I’m only including films here that have not yet premiered anywhere. The ones that remain completely open books.
There are also undoubtedly many other gems out there that I’ve not yet heard of, waiting to be discovered in some lucky festival programmer’s Vimeo queue. I look forward to chasing as many of these hidden gems down as possible with a truly nerdy fervor.
But for now, here are 50 films I have heard of, that I cannot wait to see. Descriptions are taken from various published sources and are linked.
40. My Life is a Soundtrack (Margarita Jimeno)
What It’s About: “A renowned artist who undergoes a spiritual awakening after a failed show.” (Source)
Why It’s Included: This hybrid narrative/documentary film won the 2016 US in Progress award at the Champs-Elysées Film Festival.