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Annie’s Picks from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival

Watching new movies long before they’ve found distribution deals and are released to the public is all in day’s work for Annie in her moonlighting gig as a board member for the Berkshire International Film Festival. This year, she again traveled to Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival, where she sat in on a week’s worth of the latest and (sometimes) greatest in documentary, drama, and comedy.

For Annie, the documentaries were the stars of the festival. Among those that killed it were:

Meru, a gorgeously shot doc about three elite American mountain climbers who repeatedly take on India’s treacherous Mount Meru in the search for record-breaking, achieve-the-impossible glory . . . at a tremendous cost. This film picked up the Audience Award at Sundance for good reason.

Meru

 

Cartel Land, a frank portrayal of vigilante organizations in Mexico and Arizona that seek to protect against the organized crime and drug trafficking that the countries’ governments can’t—or won’t—crack down on.

How to Change the World. This documentary, the story of Greenpeace, as told through archive footage, audio recordings, and photos, plus the logs and diaries of the late journalist Bob Hunter, was one of Annie’s top picks at Sundance 2015. It’s a stirring, provocative look at activism and how people who want to change the world put their plans into action.

How to Change the World

 

Larry Kramer In Love & Anger, which chronicles the poignant and often controversial story of the influential playwright and AIDS activist through his media appearances, his own amateur footage, and director Jean Carlomusto’s new footage.

The Mask You Live In, a powerful examination of the “man up” expectations and stereotypes our culture places on men and boys. Told through the personal stories of a variety of men, the film documents the damage that an insistence on hypermasculinity can cause, and our need for a new approach to male identity.

The Mask You Live In

 

Bob and the Trees, from French-born, Berkshire-based director Diego Ongaro, which tracks 50-something-year-old everyman farmer Bob, who ends up embroiled in an unexpected quagmire after purchasing a wood lot that looks like the perfect investment opportunity.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of National Lampoon is an in-depth look at the rise and spectacular crash of counterculture classic National Lampoon. Not only is it a terrific film, but it’s a great comedy primer for anyone who wasn’t alive to witness the magazine’s most revolutionary, ROFL moments.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead

 

Among the dramas at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Annie noticed a “bad parenting in the ’70s” theme typified by Diary of a Teenage Girl. This movie features the intriguing Bel Powley as an introverted, sad teenager who gets involved with the sketchy boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård) of her flighty, negligent mother (Kristen Wiig). Meanwhile, Ethan Hawke stars in Ten Thousand Saints as a drug dealer trying to reconnect with the pothead son he abandoned (by caroline). Annie was more partial to a non-parenting drama Mistress America. This second collaboration from director Noah Baumbach and actress Greta Gerwig showcases Greta in the mold of her 2012 Frances Ha character (also directed by Noah), as an uncertain, lonely soul navigating grown-up experiences that don’t live up to expectations.

Mistress America

Stay tuned for more details on some of these movies, coming later this year.

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