At Sundance, 12 films vie for international drama prizes

Love a good movie, but want something more original than a typical blockbuster? Look for guidance from the Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the United States and a major platform for emerging filmmakers hoping to connect with audiences and industry professionals.

If you’re interested in the global film scene, the 2017 Sundance Film Festival will be showcasing 12 international dramas covering a wide range of themes, with quirky characters in rich supply. Sundance dedicates its world cinema competitions, which began in 1985, to the discovery of new films and new voices from around the world.

The 2017 festival, which takes place January 19–29 in Park City, Utah, has a strong lineup of international dramas, according to Sundance’s Mia Farrell. She cited several new films by women directors, including Berlin Syndrome — an edgy psychological thriller directed by Australia’s Cate Shortland — and Pop Aye, a road-trip story featuring an unlikely traveling duo of a man and his long-lost elephant, from Singaporean director Kirsten Tan.

Two people looking at each other through prison bars (Sundance Institute)
“Carpinteros (Woodpeckers)” focuses on a newly incarcerated man as he secretly courts a female inmate at a neighboring prison. (Sundance Institute)

Another highlight, said Farrell, is “Carpinteros (Woodpeckers),” a prison drama directed by José María Cabral of the Dominican Republic. In the film, inmates in neighboring men’s and women’s prisons court each other through sign language, finding love and hope in an unlikely setting.

A girl sitting on a countertop in front of a window (Sundance Institute/Photo by Sarah Enticknap)
In “Berlin Syndrome,” Australian tourist Clare is held captive in a disturbed man’s Berlin apartment where she plots her escape. (Sundance Institute)

Films considered for the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance must be world premieres or international premieres (films that have not been screened outside their country of origin), and must have a running time of 50 minutes or more. Awards for the 2017 festival competitions will be announced January 28 in categories ranging from the best dramatic film to directing, acting, screenwriting and design.

The world cinema competition lineup at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival:

  • Germany, Axolotl Overkill, Helene Hegemann, director.
  • Mexico/Netherlands, Sueño en Otro Idioma (I Dream in Another Language), Ernesto Contreras and Carlos Contreras, directors.
  • Singapore/Thailand, Pop Aye, Kirsten Tan, director.
  • Sweden/Germany/Denmark, The Nile Hilton Incident, Tarik Saleh, director.
  • Australia, Berlin Syndrome, Cate Shortland, director.
  • Brazil/Netherlands/France/Paraguay, Don’t Swallow My Heart, Alligator Girl!, Felipe Bragança, director.
  • United Kingdom, God’s Own Country, Francis Lee, director.
  • Dominican Republic, Carpinteros (Woodpeckers), José Maria Cabral, director.
  • Germany/Georgia/France, My Happy Family, Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, directors.
  • Hong Kong, Free and Easy, Jun Geng, director.
  • South Africa/Germany/Netherlands/France, The Wound, John Trengove, director.
  • Chile, Family Life, Alicia Scherson and Cristián Jiménez, directors.