Issues of inclusion, diversity and abuse of power run through the Sundance Film Festival’s choices for its 2018 feature films programs. All told, 110 feature films have been selected for the 10-day festival that opens Jan. 18 in Park City, Utah.
Among the films chosen for the high-profile Premieres section are Brad Anderson’s “Beirut” starring Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike; Ben Lewin’s “The Catcher Was a Spy” featuring Paul Rudd; Joshua Marston’s “Come Sunday” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor; David Zellner and Nathan Zellner’s “Damsel” with Robert Pattinson, and Gus Van Sant’s “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.”
Also among the premieres is Jesse Peretz’s “Juliet, Naked” starring Rose Byrne and Claire McCarthy’s “Ophelia” with Daisy Ridley. “Winter’s Bone” filmmaker Debra Granik returns to the festival with what currently is billed as the “Untitled Debra Granik Project.”
The festival’s director of programming, Trevor Groth, said that many of the titles in the U.S. Dramatic Competition feature complicated, rich female lead performances, with Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Kindergarten Teacher,” Chloë Sevigny in “Lizzie,” Chloë Grace Moretz in “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” Andrea Riseborough in “Nancy,” Laura Dern in “The Tale” and Carey Mulligan in “Wildlife.”
A number of other competition titles include African-American performers in the lead, including Jason Mitchell in “Tyrel,” Lakeith Stanfield in “Sorry to Bother You,” Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Jeffrey Wright in “Monster,” John David Washington in “Monsters and Men” and Daveed Diggs in “Blindspotting.”
The documentary category features profiles of Jane Fonda (“Jane Fonda in Five Acts”), Gloria Allred (“Seeing Allred”), Joan Jett (“Bad Reputation”), Fred Rogers (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor”), Hal Ashby (“Hal”), Robin Williams (“Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind”) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“RBG.”)
The Documentary Premieres section also includes Amy Adrion’s “Half the Picture” on gender equality in Hollywood and the ongoing struggles of female filmmakers within the industry.
“We’ve been talking about how independent film is progressing so quickly,” said festival director John Cooper, noting changes both in technology and content. “There is a certain kind of awareness and acceptance and almost a demand for stories from alternative points of view in America. And that feels like an asset to us.”
As for the evolving revelations of sexual harassment and abuse within the entertainment industry, Cooper said the festival is still exploring ways to address the issue, including a code of conduct that had long applied to staff and volunteers being expanded to include the whole festival population.
“I feel a responsibility to have community around this,” he said.