Sundance Spotlight Section Highlights Quality Indie Cinema Coming Soon



The 2016 Sundance Film Festival is underway in Park City Utah as well as satellite venues in Ogden and Salt Lake City. With over a 150 movies screening during the 11-day span, most movies are world premieres seeking to gain distribution and attention from the industry. Additionally, some studios highlight some of their best programming that traveled the film festival circuit.

Typically known as Special Presentations at other film festivals (or SXSW’s Festival Favorites), these showcase other movies that have caused commotion at other festivals seeking to gain momentum in buzz before they are released during the next couple of months (typically post-Oscar season, but before summer blockbuster season).

Hotly discussed movies from Cannes that have traveled the film festival circuit such as Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan, and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster are trying to continue momentum in Park City before opening later this year. The following are movies screening in the Sundance Spotlight category that I’ve viewed at other film festivals.

Cemetery of Splendor

Cemetery Of SplendorAuteur filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who’s had a few Thai films win awards at Cannes including the infamous Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. His latest, about a hospital volunteer taking care of a solider whose hallucinations confuse reality, is hypnotic and meditative. Cinematographer Diego Garcia frames the camera that captures captivating long shots. Weerasethakul fans will admire his trademark slow pace style, but general audiences and even art house fans might feel left out. Seek out this one for a truly unique experience.

Embrace of the Serpent

Embrace of the SerpentThis current Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee rolls out across the States next month, which re-introduces itself with cinephiles now attuned to Columbia’s officially selection since its surprise and welcoming nomination. Filmmaker Cero Guerra’s masterfully poetic and lushly poignant Embrace of the Serpent is set simultaneously between 1909 and 1940 with a hallucinatic mood. Partially filmed alongside the Amazon River, the stunning black and white palettes sooth audiences amongst the backdrop of harsh critiques on the realities of colonialism.


RamsIceland’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar Rams failed to even be short-listed for the final eligible nine, which is the Academy’s loss of this off beat dark comedy. This darkly comic tale about two rural brothers (Gummi and Kiddi) overcoming a splintered relationship during a harsh and tragic winter won the Un Certain Regard at Cannes. Many quieter and subtle moments linger including eccentric gags and tough choices that left me somber but somewhat joyful. Director Grimar Hakonarson infuses dark comedic elements amongst a character study on isolation and the splendor of confronting old wounds.


Viva was a small sensation with the Telluride Film Festival audience. I’m confident if the festival had an audience award, it (or current Oscar frontrunner Spotlight) would’ve won. Executive produced by Benicio del Toro, Paddy Breathnach tells the story about Jesus, a rising star in Havana’s drag queen scene reunited with estranged father, an accomplished boxer. They couldn’t be farther apart in life, career, and worlds. Ireland’s officially entry into the Best Foreign Oscar category didn’t advance from the final nine movies to score a very worthy nomination. Regardless, it serves swifts gut punches of emotional satisfaction about discovering yourself, embracing individualism, and the devotion of family which resonates well after the closing credits.


All four movies will open in limited release in theaters sometimes during the next few months.


About Kenny Miles

who has written 309 posts on The Movie Blog

Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion for interacting with moviegoers (something most movie pundits lack) as a pollster for the market research company CinemaScore and working as floor staff/special events coordinator in the film community. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.