A film still from Skate Kitchen by Crystal Moselle.
(Courtesy of Sundance Institute, photo by Ryan Parilla)

Skate Kitchen
Crystal Moselle won the grand jury prize at Sundance in 2015 for her shocking, Lower East Side-set documentary The Wolfpack. Skate Kitchen finds Moselle moving into the narrative space with another study of New York City misfits: an all-girl skateboarding crew. After she met the real-life skate squad on the subway, Moselle teamed up with the teenage women to develop a fictional story script surrounding their lives. The result is an immersive, dynamic coming of age centered around Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), a Long Island native whose initiation into the Skate Kitchen gang launches a summer of downtown debauchery and newfound camaraderie.
Critical Response: Variety says the “young women are mesmerizing to watch”; Hollywood Reporter says the script “often surprises, hinting at trauma that never arrives”; it’s “one of the more positive depictions of millennial community-building in recent cinema,” per IndieWire.
Distributor: Seeking distribution

From Three Identical Strangers. (Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival)

Three Identical Strangers
It was one of the strangest and most heartwarming news stories of the early 1980s: three identical triplets, separated at birth and given to different adoptive parents, serendipitously reunited at age 19. This thrilling documentary looks back at the brothers’ separate upbringings and the media frenzy that followed their bizarre reunion. (After the three brothers moved to Manhattan, the New York Post followed them around like celebrities.) The story takes a sinister turn halfway through when the brothers learn that their division at birth was actually part of a secret psychology experiment testing the influence of nature versus nurture. Director Tim Wardle relates the chilling story through a combination of interviews, stylized reenactments, and archival material, accumulating a complex and compelling investigation of parenting, brotherhood, and the questionable ethics behind human case studies.
Critical Response: The Wrap calls it “a documentary that plays like a nerve-jangling thriller”; Birth. Movies. Death. says the subject matter “helps elevate Three Identical Strangers above just a very special episode of 48 Hours”; Collider calls it “shocking, thrilling, and wildly entertaining, but it’s also incredibly moving.”
Distributor: Sold to Neon
Award: Special Jury Award for Storytelling

(Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Madeline’s Madeline
Perhaps the most innovative movie to play at this year’s festival, this is an abstract portrait of teenage theater student Madeline (newcomer Helena Howard) who uses her turbulent relationship with her mother (Miranda July) as fodder for her experimental theater work. Molly Parker brilliantly plays the theater troupe director, Regina, whose concern for Madeline begins to verge on manipulative obsession. Writer-director Josephine Decker breaks new grounds with this original narrative, pioneering a wholly new cinematic language as she emulates Madeline’s manic-depressive state through a jarring yet mesmerizing avant-garde aesthetic and soundscape.
Critical Response: The Village Voice‘s critic thinks it’s “the best thing I saw at Sundance this year”; the New Yorker singles out the “matters of appearance, culture, history, and identity that run throughout the film with no simple expressions and no easy resolutions”; IndieWire calls the film “a dazzling hall of mirrors that reflects upon itself until every plot point becomes a commentary on Decker’s process.”
Distributor: Seeking distribution

(Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Crime + Punishment
This sharp and timely documentary follows the work of the NYPD12, a group of minority whistleblower officers uncovering racial discrimination within the New York Police Department. Using secret recordings and officer testimony, director Stephen Maing probes and exposes the bias and injustice baked into the department and the policies it enforces.
Critical Response: Hollywood Reporter notes the director-cinematographer’s apparent “unprecedented, fly-on-the-wall access”; The Playlist opines that the film “isn’t without hope, but it anchors that hope to the unflattering realities of American policing”; rogerebert.com feels there could have been “15-20 minutes of tightening throughout.”
Distributor: Seeking distribution
Award: Special Jury Award for Social Impact

Still from Studio 54 by Matt Tyrnauer. (Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Studio 54
Memories of all yesterday’s parties frame this portrait of the famed Studio 54, a hub of disco-era debauchery. Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary traces the disco’s rise and fall through the stories of Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, who ran the club during its late-‘70s zenith. Foregrounding sex, drugs, and socialites, the film is a treat for anyone curious about what lay beyond Studio 54’s notorious velvet rope.
Critical Response: Variety enjoys the “indelible portrait of the nightclub that became the apotheosis of the disco era: the freedom, the excess, the aristocracy, the pulsating pop glory”; Hollywood Reporter called it “a meaty and transporting portrait that will play well” with young and old alike.
Distributor: Seeking distribution

(Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Hearts Beat Loud
Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons star as father-daughter Brooklynites in this indie comedy directed by Brett Haley. The duo live in Red Hook where Offerman’s character Fred owns a struggling record store and cowrites songs with his daughter Sam (Clemons). The summer before Sam is set to start UCLA, a song that Frank and Sam recorded together hits it big on Spotify, leaving Sam to make a difficult choice: fulfill her dad’s dreams by pursuing a musical career with him, or head off to college as planned?
Critical Response: Collider feels the film “isn’t really interested in challenging its audience as much as it’s just trying to tell a nice dramedy, which is a respectable goal”; RogerEbert.com thinks it “not only portrays the joy of expression but how much great emotional weight one can find when we see people we care about express themselves so beautifully”; Variety says it proves Clemons is “the real deal.”
Distributor: Sold to Gunpowder & Sky