Earlier in the weekend a Sundance programmer introduced a film in the festival’s Next section by saying, “It is the best section of the festival where we show the coolest movies.” That was born out on Sunday night at the world premiere of the Next title “Lemon,” the tartly sweet feature debut for director Janicza Bravo.
Bravo won the festival’s short film grand jury prize with her “Gregory Go Boom” in 2014 and directed an episode of the Golden Globe winning television show “Atlanta.” Before the screening of “Lemon,” Sundance director of programming Trevor Groth introduced Bravo by calling her work “so audacious, so visionary” and adding, “I feel like she should already be a household name. It’s shocking to me that this is her first feature.”
Introducing the film, Bravo said, “I can’t believe this is happening. Hell’s bells. I could … my pants and it would totally be fine, I wouldn’t mind it at all. I’ve wanted this for so long. I really want to say something magical and special right now, but I felt breezy all day and I suddenly feel not breezy at all.
Kristen Stewart knows the kind of thoughts people are going to have about her directorial debut. And she’s not especially concerned with them.
“I wasn’t fearful in confronting what this was about,” the star said of her new work, a short film titled “Come Swim.” “I mean, I put a relationship right in the middle of it.”
Stewart's fame these days comes primarily from two areas: her relationships, which draw the interest of tens of millions of people, and her studiously independent film work, which garners the ticket sales of, well, somewhat fewer.
The Sundance Film Festival’s early days may have been overshadowed by the one-two punch of Friday’s presidential inauguration and Saturday’s women’s marches, but this 33rd annual edition has slowly but surely roused itself to life. The festival laid claim to its first major crowd-pleaser on Friday with the world premiere of director Michael Showalter’s “The Big Sick,” an effortlessly funny and charming romance that subtly deepens into a moving portrait of cross-cultural, cross-generational bonds.
Acquired by Amazon Studios for $12 million after a heated bidding war, “The Big Sick” is drawn from the life of “Silicon Valley” actor Kumail Nanjiani, who stars as a younger (but present-day) version of himself. A Pakistani American man struggling to succeed as a stand-up comic in Chicago, Kumail has a very public meet-cute with a friendly heckler named Emily (Zoe Kazan). And so begins a relationship marked by startling emotional highs and lows, but mostly by a generous stream of laughter — and while Kumail may be a professional in that department, he wisely doesn’t monopolize the jokes, as Emily’s spiky sense of humor both matches and complements his own. (Nanjiani co-wrote the script with Emily V. Gordon, his wife.)
The involvement of producer Judd Apatow can be seen in the roundedness of the characterizations and the pleasing messiness of the movie’s emotional texture. But Nanjiani’s immigrant identity opens up an entirely new dimension of the Apatovian universe for him to colonize. In the movie, Kumail is too scared to break the news about his white girlfriend to his strict Muslim parents, who only want him to settle down with a nice Pakistani American girl.
One of Sundance’s stated goals is to increase diversity both at its festival and its talent-incubating labs.
That effort received a boost Sunday when the organization announced that the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation would lend financial support the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Intensive program.
The Intensive program offers a two-day workshop to a number of screenwriters from underrepresented communities, and also works with the Diversity Initiative. The grant has been set up for two years; the amount of the donation was not disclosed.
Grammy-winning disc jockey, producer and songwriter Diplo comments on the lack of celebrity culture in Cuba, where he performed for the Sundance documentary, "Give Me Future." Video by Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times
Grammy-winning disc jockey, producer and songwriter Diplo comments on the lack of celebrity culture in Cuba, where he performed for the Sundance documentary "Give Me Future. Video by Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times
Not long into "The Big Sick," the new film produced by Judd Apatow, the lead character makes a choice one rarely sees in a mainstream U.S. comedy.
A young Pakistani Muslim visiting his parents for dinner tells them he's going downstairs to pray, per their wishes. Then he heads to the basement, takes out a prayer mat, sets a timer for 5 minutes and does everything but pray before returning upstairs when the clock runs out.
Many comedies — and certainly many comedies under Apatow's guiding hand — would play the scene for maximum (and likely raunchy) laughs. (In many comedies the lead character wouldn’t be a Pakistani Muslim either, but that’s another matter.) Yet a more serious tone percolates here. The son has given up tradition, but hardly happily, and there’s something a little touching, even sad, about him having to conceal his choice.