Indie Focus: All Sundance edition from Park City

Jane Fonda discusses the documentary about her life, “Jane Fonda in Five Acts,” with director Susan Lacy at the L.A. Times Studio at Chase Sapphire on Main.

Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

This week’s dispatch is coming to you from the elevated altitude of Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival, where a team of Times journalists are working to bring you the best of what’s happening here online, in print, in photos and videos. This year has seemed a particularly pivotal one for the festival for any number of reasons.

“It’s the mood of change,” festival director John Cooper said as both a sign of a cultural moment and a signal of ongoing changes in the industry.

For anyone looking for a tip sheet of the strongest films as the festival was getting underway, Kenneth Turan’s regular overview is frankly the best place to start. His attention to films across the fest’s different sections simply cannot be matched.


From left, actor Rafael Casal, director Carlos López Estrada and actor Daveed Diggs speak during the "Blindspotting" premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 18, 2018, in Park City, Utah.
(Sonia Recchia / Getty Images )

I also took a look at how Netflix and Amazon have made themselves part of the landscape at Sundance.

As Netflix’s Ian Bricke said, “For the right movie at the right festival at the right time, there is no more impactful or exciting or better way to connect with an audience. A great crowded screening at the Eccles — there’s nothing like it.”

Given that a number of films from Sundance 2017 have been contending in the ongoing awards season, Glenn Whipp wrote about which films from Sundance 2018 we might still be talking about a year from now.


Tre’vell Anderson talked to writer-director Boots Riley about his film “Sorry to Bother You,” which has arguably the most buzz-worthy cast of any film at the festival with Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Steven Yeun, Omari Hardwick and Terry Crews.

The film is a wry cultural commentary enlivened by Riley’s own distinctive sensibility. As Thompson said, “He doesn’t mince words. It’s refreshing to have someone be so incredibly candid. It’s disarming and, oddly, makes you feel safe because you know he’ll tell you the truth.”

And for a story that will publish early in the week, Tre’vell also spoke to actor Kelvin Harrison Jr., who is at the festival with performances in “Monster,” “Monsters and Men” and “Assassination Nation.”


Amy Kaufman attended Saturday’s Respect Rally with keynote speaker Jane Fonda for an on-the-ground dispatch. Last year’s Women’s March has become something of a landmark moment for the festival, and the energy of engagement and activism that it elevated has continued this year.

Tamara Jenkins, center, director of "Private Life," stands with cast members Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn at the premiere of the film on the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, in Park City, Utah.
(Chris Pizzello / Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP )

I spoke to writer-director Tamara Jenkins and performers Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti ahead of the Sundance opening night premiere of “Private Life.” Jenkins’ first feature since 2007’s “The Savages,” the movie is an examination of a marriage and the emotional toll of a woman’s struggles with infertility.

The film feels extremely personal and detailed. As Jenkins said, “Have I been married? Yes. I was very interested in the expression of marriage in the movie, the feeling of what it is. So in terms of Paul and Kathryn, the actors, and our assignment as a team, making it feel lived-in and real was obviously high up on our list.


“I mean, it’s called ‘Private Life,’ so you’re seeing things we don’t necessarily see. I’ve certainly never seen this movie.”

Kenneth Turan also spoke to Jesse Peretz, director of “Juliet, Naked,” starring Ethan Hawke, Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd and adapted from the novel by Nick Hornby.

Peretz talked about Hornby’s supportive, hands-off approach to seeing his work adapted to the screen, saying “He understands that the last thing a film needs is the novelist protecting their original idea. To make an effective film, you may have to, in effect, destroy the novel. If you’re committed to the integrity of the novel, you may make a movie no one wants to see.”

Kenny also spoke with Susan Bay Nimoy about “Eve,” the short she wrote, directed and stars in. Nimoy had not planned on performing in the film but jumped into the role when an actress she had cast decided two days before shooting that she didn’t want to do a nude scene. “I felt, yes, I could do it,” Nimoy said. “I didn’t think twice.”


Paul Rudd and Sienna Miller appear in "The Catcher Was a Spy," by Ben Lewin, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
(Dusan Martinecek / Sundance Institute )

We’ve been shooting video interviews with a handful of talent, with more to come. We’ve had the filmmakers and casts of “Heart Beats Loud,” with Ted Danson, Kiersey Clemons, Sasha Lane, Nick Offerman and Blythe Danner.

Paul Rudd and Ben Lewin stopped by to talk about “The Catcher Was a Spy,” based on the true story of Moe Berg, a professional baseball player who became a spy during World War II.

Bart Layton, Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner and Jared Abrahamson spoke about “American Animals.”


Carlos López Estrada, Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs talked about the Oakland-set “Blindspotting.”

And Jane Fonda and Susan Lacy reflected on the documentary “Jane Fonda in Five Acts.”

Director Susan Lacy and Jane Fonda, from the film, "Jane Fonda in Five Acts," are photographed in the L.A. Times Studio at Chase Sapphire on Main, during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 19, 2018.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times )

And our intrepid photographer Jay L. Clendenin has been hustling many performers and filmmakers through our L.A. Times photo studio.


We’ll have another special mid-week Sundance edition of the newsletter coming soon.

Keep an eye out for updates on future screenings and events by going to

Email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions, and follow me on Twitter @IndieFocus