Mia Wasikowska in ‘Judy and Punch’ (Photo: Ben King)
A record six Australian feature films will screen at the Sundance Film Festival, with Animals, Judy and Punch, Little Monsters, Top End Wedding and I Am Mother having their world premieres in the Utah-based festival, which runs from January 24 – February 3.
In addition, Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale will have its North American premiere after winning the special jury prize and the Marcello Mastroianni award for best new young performer for Baykali Ganambar at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
That surpasses the previous record of five in 1997. Sundance has been a great launching pad for Australian productions including David Michod’s Animal Kingdom in 2010 (World Cinema Jury Prize), Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek in 2005, Scott Hicks’ Shine in 1996, Kitty Green’s Casting JonBenet (2017) and Nash Edgerton’s Mr Inbetween (2018).
“The six films selected by Sundance display the array of stories Australians now tell and the demand for our screen content internationally,” said Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason.
“The fact that all the films revolve around central female characters, and half of the films are directed by women, is a milestone for the Australian industry. Change is coming – slowly, but surely.”
Directed by Mirrah Foulkes and starring Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman, Judy and Punch will compete in World Cinema Dramatic. Foulkes said of the selection: “I owe a huge thank you to my enormously hard working cast and crew and everyone who invested in the film. Sundance holds some pretty special memories for me, many of Blue-Tongue Films’ work has screened at the festival over the years and the festival has been formative to the careers of many of my peers.”
Miranda Tapsell, who co-wrote, produced and stars in Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding, said: “It’s been a labour of love for me and having the opportunity to showcase the Northern Territory to an international audience, through a different lens, at such a prestigious festival, makes this such a rewarding experience. I’m so proud of this film and the people that were part of it.”
‘Animals’ (Photo: Bernard Walsh)
Sophie Hyde, who won the Sundance directing award: World Cinema Dramatic for 52 Tuesdays in 2014, returns with Animals, an Australian/Irish co-production.
“Making this film has been such a pleasure – from the development, helping Emma [Jane Unsworth] adapt her own novel, through the shoot in Dublin with our glorious cast and international team, and right through our Australian post,” Hyde said. “I am delighted to be returning with this fierce and beautiful story of friendship and competing desires.”
Abe Forythe’s Little Monsters features an international cast including Lupita Nyong’o (Black Panther), Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast) and Australia’s Alexander England (Alien: Covenant).
Forsythe said: “A lot of people worked very hard bringing this logistically punishing story to life. I’m so happy that everyone’s work will be premiered at a festival I’ve always dreamed of attending.”
Grant Sputore’s I Am Mother is a sci-fi thriller about a teenage girl who is raised underground by a robot “Mother,” starring Hilary Swank, newcomer Clara Rugaard, a former Disney Channel star in Denmark, and Rose Byrne. It had a work-in-progress screening at the Adelaide Film Festival.
Closer Productions Pty Ltd
Director Sophie Hyde
Writer Emma Jane Unsworth
Producers Sarah Brocklehurst, Rebecca Summerton, Cormac Fox, Sophie Hyde
Australian Distributor Bonsai Films
International Sales Cornerstone Films
Synopsis After a decade of partying, Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler’s (Alia Shawkat) friendship is strained by Laura’s new love and her focus on her novel. A snapshot of a modern woman with competing desires, at once a celebration of female friendship and an examination of the choices we make when facing a crossroads
Production credit: Official Australian/Irish Co-production by Closer Productions. Principal production investment from Screen Australia and the Irish Film Board. Financed with support from Adelaide Film Festival and South Australian Film Corporation.
I Am Mother
Mother Film Holdings Pty Ltd
Director Grant Sputore
Writer Michael Lloyd Green
Producers Timothy White, Kelvin Munro
Co-Producers Anna Vincent, Michael Lloyd Green
Executive Producers Terry Dougas, Paris Kasidokostas-Latsis, Jean-Luc Di Fanti, Grant Sputore, Philip Wade, Bryce Menzies and John Wade
Australian Distributor Studiocanal
USA Sales Endeavor Content
International Sales Mister Smith Entertainment
Synopsis In the wake of humanity’s extinction, a teenage girl (Clara Rugaard) is raised by a robot (voiced by Rose Byrne) designed to repopulate the earth. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger (Hilary Swank) arrives with alarming news.
Production credit The Penguin Empire and Southern Light Films production. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with South Australian Film Corporation and Screenwest. Financed with support from Adelaide Film Festival.
Judy and Punch
Seaside Productions Pty Ltd
Director / Writer Mirrah Foulkes
Producers Michele Bennett, Nash Edgerton, Danny Gabai
Executive Producers Eddy Moretti, Vincent Landay, Natalie Farrey, Jennifer Semler
Australian Distributor Madman Entertainment
US Sales Endeavor Content
International Sales Cornerstone Films
Synopsis Seaside (nowhere near the sea), puppeteers Judy and Punch are trying to resurrect their marionette show in an anarchic town on the brink of mob rule. Stars Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman.
Production Credit: A Seaside Productions film. Principal production investment from Vice Studios and Screen Australia, in association with Film Victoria. Financed with support from Create NSW.
Lupita Nyong’o in ‘Little Monsters.’
Made Up Stories Pty Ltd
Director / Writer Abe Forsythe
Producers Jodi Matterson, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky, Keith Calder, Jessica Calder
Executive Producer Jeanne Snow
Australian Distributor Universal
International Sales Protagonist
Synopsis A film dedicated to all the kindergarten teachers who motivate children to learn, instil them with confidence and stop them from being devoured by zombies. Stars Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad and Alexander England.
Production Credit: Made Up Stories. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with Snoot Entertainment. Financed with support from Create NSW.
Causeway Films HQ Pty Ltd and Made Up Stories Pty Ltd
Writer/Director Jennifer Kent
Producers Kristina Ceyton, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky, Jennifer Kent
Australian Distributor: Transmission
US Sales Endeavor Content
International Sales: FilmNation
Synopsis Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman (Aisling Franciosi), chases a British officer (Sam Claflin) through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.
Production Credit: A Causeway Films and Made Up Stories production. Principal production investment from Screen Australia in association with Bron Creative. Financed with support from Screen Tasmania, South Australian Film Corporation and the Adelaide Film Festival.
Miranda Tapsell in ‘Top End Wedding’
Top End Wedding
Goalpost Pictures Australia
Director Wayne Blair
Writers Joshua Tyler, Miranda Tapsell
Producers Rosemary Blight, Kylie du Fresne, Kate Croser
Executive Producers Ben Grant, Glen Condie
Australian Distributor eOne Films
International Sales Films Boutique
Synopsis Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and Ned (Gwilym Lee) are engaged, they are in love, and they have just ten days to find Lauren’s mother who has gone AWOL somewhere in the remote far north of Australia, reunite her parents and pull off their dream wedding.
Production Credit: A Goalpost Pictures Australia production in association with Tapsell, Tyler & Condie and Kojo Entertainment. Principal production investment from Screen Australia. Financed with support from South Australian Film Corporation with Adelaide Film Festival. Supported by Tourism NT.