Today and tomorrow seemingly the entire filmmaking world will be flying to Salt Lake City and then on to Park City, Utah, where the annual Sundance Film Festival kicks off this weekend. As usual, the 10-day festival is an opportunity to catch the biggest indie hits of the future before they're even picked up for distribution, allowing media types like us to both get a head start on the year in film and obnoxiously say "Yeah, I knew about her before she was big." This year's Sundance lineup boasts plenty of stars, both rising and established, but the real game is in finding the diamonds in the rough that nobody is looking at now but everyone will be talking about when the festival is over two weeks from now.
It's possible to arrive at Sundance a complete newcomer, but not likely; much more common is the actor/writer/director/producer who had a hit at another festival or even at Sundance, establishing a track record that makes their latest film a must-see. And this year marks the return of a lot of people who have had very recent successes at Sundance, prize winners or breakout stars now returning to the festival that made their name not long ago. Below are five people returning to Sundance this year with films worth watching. Don't forget to look at the bottom of this post to other Sundance preview pieces from other sites that are also attending. And come back to Cinema Blend throughout the next 10 days for all the Sundance coverage you could possibly need!
Antonio Campos Writer/Director, Simon Killer
As the producer of Martha Marcy May Marlene, and cofounder of Borderline Films along with Martha director Sean Durkin and fellow producer Josh Mond, Campos was everywhere at last year's film festival, boasting one of the most buzzed-about films of the year. Now Campos is returning with his second feature after 2008's Afterschool, this one starring Brady Corbet as a recent college graduate who falls for a prostitute during a trip to Paris. Campos will probably be joined again by his Borderline Films cohort, marking all three of them once again as the promising young faces of American independent film.
Brit Marling Actor, Arbitrage
The best movie Marling had at last year's festival, The Sound of My Voice, has yet to be released, but Marling's other Sundance hit from last year, Another Earth, was released last summer by Fox Searchlight, with a marketing campaign that focused heavily on Marling herself. She's spent the last year auditioning for high-profile roles and putting together her next writing-acting project, The East. But she's also returning to the place that made her famous with a role in Arbitrage, a thriller about a hedge-fund manager trying to cover up deep-seated fraud. The film isn't likely to make Marling quite as hot a topic as she was last year, but it'll keep her in the conversation as she launches what's looking like a bright career.
Lee Toland Krieger Director, Celeste and Jesse Forever
In 2010 Adam Scott was greeted with a surprise Independent Spirit nomination for his villainous role in The Vicious Kind, a film by Lee Toland Krieger that had debuted the year before at Sundance. Now Krieger is back with a lighter and much starrier film, adapting the script that Rashida Jones and Will McCormack wrote about a young couple remaining friends even as they go through divorce. With Jones starring alongside Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina and other biggish names, Krieger is likely to get even more attention this time around-- everyone loves a good Sundance comedy, and Celeste and Jesse looks like one to watch.
Josh Radnor Writer/Actor/Director, Liberal Arts
When the How I Met Your Mother star traveled to Sundance with his debut feature happythankyoumoreplease in 2010, it seemed like an easy punchline-- until the film won the Audience Award and became one of the festival's more beloved successes. Having proven himself, Radnor is back this year with Liberal Arts, in which he also stars opposite last year's Sundance It Girl Elizabeth Olsen, as a 30-something guy who falls for a 19-year-old college student. The subject matter sounds a little trickier than the largely bright and shiny happythankyoumoreplease, and with How I Met Your Mother seemingly winding toward its conclusion, Radnor will probably be using the festival to establish himself as a legitimate indie director with a lot more to offer than you can see on a CBS sitcom.
John Hawkes Actor, The Surrogate
It's almost hard to imagine Sundance without John Hawkes, at least these few years. Playing small but memorable roles in two breakout hits in a row, Winter's Bone and Martha Marcy May Marlene, Hawkes suddenly became the face of actors doing their best work in indie films that debut in the snowy wilds of Park City. This year he's finally being handed a lead role, starring in The Surrogate as man who lives inside an iron lung but decides, at 36 years old, he's ready to lose his virginity anyway. If the past two years are any indication everyone will immediately be talking about Hawkes in the performance, marking another impressive step forward in a career that only seems to be going up.