Park City: 13 Breakthroughs from Sundance 2015

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Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (director, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Photograph by Anne Marie Fox

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Photograph by Anne Marie Fox

During the last 15 minutes of an 8:30 AM showing of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the predominant sound at the Prospector Theater was sobbing. Although the film is based on Jesse Andrews’ novel, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon drew upon his feelings about the death of his own father, to whom he dedicates the film, for a departure both in genre and scope from his debut horror flick, The Town that Dreaded Sundown. Gomez-Rejon, who has had a long career as assistant and second unit director for the likes of Martin Scorsese and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, strews his film with visual treats ranging from stop-motion animation to humorous reenactments of iconic films. Winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award this year after selling to Fox Searchlight for the astronomical amount of $12 million, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and its director are coming off the most successful Sundance 2015 appearance by a long margin. – C. A.

Marielle Heller (writer and director, The Diary of a Teenage Girl)

Marielle Heller. Photograph by Sam Emerson

Marielle Heller. Photograph by Sam Emerson

Adapted from Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel of the same name, Marielle Heller’s debut feature was eight years in the making (including one full year spent convincing Gloeckner to sell her the theatrical rights). In Diary of a Teenage Girl, Heller mixes a lively dose of animation into the live-action world of Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley), a 15-year-old growing up in counterculture San Francisco, enjoying a sexual awakening in the form of an affair with her mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård). Potentially sensitive subject matter is artfully and delicately handled by Heller, who also acts (she has credits in A Walk Amongst the Tombstones and MacGruber); she delves into 1970s teenage-girlhood in all its humor, ickiness, and exhilaration. – Lara Colocino

 

Jerry Henry (cinematographer, City of Gold)

A aerial photography still from City of Gold. Photograph by Jerry Henry

A aerial photography still from City of Gold. Photograph by Jerry Henry

Co-DP Jerry Henry is the not-so-secret weapon of Laura Gabbert’s documentary City of Gold, a film that boasts cinematography as charismatic and eloquent as its own subject, food critic Jonathan Gold. Employing both drone-controlled GoPro aerial photography and sweeping, slow-motion street-level pans, Henry (who shares the credit with Goro Toshima) takes in the full measure of L.A.’s gritty radiance. Never has a man waiting at a stoplight looked so majestic. The visuals aren’t aesthetics for aesthetics’ sake, though—Henry’s cinematography builds a language that, like Gold’s, renders the immensity of the city comprehensible for a fleeting moment: his camera rises above the valley and dips down along the L.A. river, an alien, intimate visitor from above. It even captures the romance (yes) of traffic. – K. L.

 

Crystal Moselle (director, The Wolfpack)

Crystal Moselle. Photograph by Eoin Macmanus

Crystal Moselle. Photograph by Eoin Macmanus

The startling documentary The Wolfpack is 34-year-old Crystal Moselle’s first real claim to big-screen fame; the New Yorker’s previous work has been largely in the commercial realm. The Wolfpack takes for its subject the cult-like Angulo family (dad Oscar, mom Susanne, a young daughter, and the eponymous band of six brothers) who spend their whole lives, save a few days a year, inside a Lower Manhattan apartment. Moselle, funded by the Tribeca Film Institute during her five-year production cycle, gains a remarkable amount of trust within the brood—not just amongst the shy, sweet-natured brothers, but their gentle, cautious mother and inherently suspicious father. She treats a provocative, difficult-to-watch subject (involving complicated issues of abuse) sans commentary, patiently letting her belief-defying story unfold itself. – K. L.

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