The Top 7 Buzziest News From Sundance 2019
After 34 years, the Sundance Film Festival continues to be one of the most exciting international celebrations of independent film and original storytelling. Nestled in the tiny winter wonderland that is Park City, UT., this year’s movie premieres brought serious star power to Main Street, and from sunup to sundown, the Sundance party never stopped.
In addition to seeing as many films as possible, attendees bounced around to various movie panels, brand activations, gifting suites, day lounges, happy hours, ChefDance pop-ups, and late-night soirees.
With so many events toasting to 2019’s slate of dramatic and documentary features, short films, series, and episodic content, we made a list of the Top 7 buzziest news and moments that came out of this year’s Sundance. From top trends (female directors!), the documentary which left audiences shook, the streaming studio that dropped $41 million in the course of one weekend, and what movie took home the top prize – all the key Sundance takeaways and most exciting news are listed below.
1. Robert Redford’s Basically Retiring
So, who will take over?
At Sundance’s opening day press conference, Robert Redford said, “I think we’re at a point where I can move on to a different place. I don’t think the festival needs an introduction now.”
After being the face of the festival since it began in 1985, and briefly considering then retracting his statement about retiring from acting after his latest film, Old Man and the Gun, the 82-year-old industry veteran appears to be serious about relinquishing his Sundance duties. For the man who never believed the festival would ever be successful, but agreed to be the big name that first put Sundance on the map — the festival has become so popular and successful, it’s no longer dependent on having a famous face attached to bring in talent and big-time buyers — and that’s a pretty incredible shift.
As to the question of who will take over for Redford, we believe the answer is that no one needs to. Sundance has become an independent triumph outside of its founder’s fame.
2. Female Directors Makin’ Moves
While not the case for most Hollywood productions, nearly 45% of the films at Sundance were directed by women. Nisha Ganatra’s Late Night starring Mindy Kaling and Amy Ryan was one of the most hyped films of the festival, Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light sold for a cool $15 million, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell featured Crazy Rich Asians breakout start Awkwafina caused a bidding war, Jennifer Kent wrote, co-produced and directed The Nightingale, and Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema Drama.
3. The Documentary Everyone’s Talking About
Leaving Neverland, directed by Dan Reed, left audiences in shock after watching the four-hour documentary in which James Safechuck and Wade Robson describe in explicit detail the alleged abuse they experienced from pop superstar, Michael Jackson. The Jackson estate put out a statement that the documentary was “tabloid character assassination” and referred to Robson and Safechuck’s testimonies as a “public lynching” with “no truth.”
Amidst the influx of extreme hate mail Reed’s been receiving from Jackson fans, he stands by the doc. While talking with Rolling Stone at Sundance, Reed was perplexed at the fierce reaction against Robson and Safechuck.
“Why do people react that way? Why when two men have come forward saying they were sexually abused as a child, why do we want to shame them? Why do we want to shut them down? Why do we want to silence them? Why do we want to threaten them? I don’t understand.
As to if he can still enjoy the King of Pop’s music, Reed struggles. “Every time I see that “Thriller” clip in the film, I’m like, ‘Wow, this guy is something else.’ Can you continue to enjoy that? It’s kind of cheeky of me, but if your 9-year-old goes to a party and they’re playing Michael Jackson, and the room is full of 9-year-olds, what do you do? How do you feel?’
Premiering on HBO and Channel 4 in the Spring, audiences will be able to decide for themselves.
4. Zac Efron’s Hair
Usually, it’s a woman’s haircut that sends the news buzzing, but “Have you seen Zac Efron’s hair?” was one of the most popular, albeit ridiculous topics among conversations at Sundance. Yes, his platinum blonde hair was a jarring sight, but the former teen heartthrob could shave his head and dye it rainbow colored, and he’d still be a good looking guy. However, perhaps it was more fun to discuss the meaningless topic of than his role as serial killer Ted Bundy in director Joe Berlinger’s in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
5. Amazon Makes Biggest Movie Buys
The streaming giant paid $13 million for the U.S. rights Mindy Kaling’s Late Night, $14 million for director Scott Z. Burn’s political thriller, The Report, starring Adam Driver and another $14 million for the comedy, Brittany Runs a Marathon, directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo. Aside from Amazon, one of the biggest sales was New Line shelling out $15 million for Blinded by the Light; a coming-of-age story set to Bruce Springsteen’s music.
6. Daniel Radcliffe Calls Out Tom Brady & his MAGA Hat
While actor Daniel Radcliffe was in Sundance promoting his film Miracle Workers, he started talking American football in his interview with Variety. Unlike most celebrities, he held nothing back with his thoughts on Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady.
“Who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl?,” Variety asked.
“Rams! Cause, like, the whole world is rooting against the Patriots,” Radcliffe said.
“Should Tom Brady retire?” Variety asked
“No! But he should stop winning things. Take that MAGA hat out your locker,” Radcliffe said. ”I feel like that was the moment we’re all like, ‘Oh, come on, dude!’. We all wanna be, you know, ‘you’re awesome,’ and behind you, and don’t put that in there. So yeah, Rams. But in regards to the Rams actually taking home the Super Bowl trophy, he’s less confident. “I don’t think they’re gonna win, but I want them to.”
As if you couldn’t love Radcliffe even more, his candidness continued a few days later, on Good Morning America, when the Harry Potter star admitted he loved The Bachelor. “I say this to people, and they seem surprised, and I’d also like to say I used to be one of those guys who’s like, ‘Yeah, my girlfriend makes me watch it.’ It’s not. I’m making the choice; it’s me.”
7. Big Prize Winners
After ten days and 121 feature films, the 2019 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony presented 28 prizes for feature filmmaking. Grand Jury Prizes awarded to Clemency (U.S. Dramatic), One Child Nation (U.S. Documentary), Honeyland (World Cinema Documentary) and The Souvenir (World Cinema Dramatic).
For the complete list of winners from each category, click here.