Two films with Montana ties have been selected by the Sundance Institute for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. “Wildlife” and “Dark Money” both stood out from thousands of submissions, each earning one of only 16 spots in their respective categories: U.S. Dramatic and U.S. Documentary.
“Wildlife.” (Director: Paul Dano. Screenwriters: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan. Producers: Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Oren Moverman, Ann Ruark, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker. Cast: Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp, Jake Gyllenhaal.)
“Wildlife” follows in the footsteps of “Walking Out,” which was selected for the same category in 2017.
In “Wildlife,” based on the novel of the same name by Richard Ford, 1960s Great Falls is the setting for a family crisis in which Joe Brinson, the 16-year-old narrator, watches his parents’ marriage fall apart after his father brings the family to Montana in search of economic opportunity.
This film is Paul Dano’s first film as a director, and he stated to The Guardian: "In Richard’s book I saw myself and many others. I have always wanted to make films — and have always known I would make films about family."
Logistics prevented the crew from going to Great Falls, so Livingston stood in. The streets transformed back to the early 1960s. Local car clubs came out in force to support the project, and a period-correct fire camp was built down the valley.
Great Falls itself has been represented at the festival with other films, however. Alex and Andrew Smith’s first feature, “The Slaughter Rule,” showcased the talents of Ryan Gosling gritting it out on the frozen fields of six-man football, and the otherworldly “Northfork” brought a star-studded cast to the rugged foothills of Augusta. Daryl Hannah’s swim at the Sip and Dip is now the stuff of legend.
“Dark Money” (Director and screenwriter: Kimberly Reed. Producer: Katy Chevigny.)
For the U.S. Documentary category, the hot-button topic of campaign donations detailed in “Dark Money” made the cut. Here’s the description from Sundance:
“’Dark money’ contributions, made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, flood modern American elections — but Montana is showing Washington D.C. how to solve the problem of unlimited anonymous money in politics.”
Montanan Kimberly Reed writes and directs this view on modern politics.
Reed’s previous work also incorporates Montana, with the very personal documentary “Prodigal Sons” featuring a high school reunion in Helena and examining her complicated family dynamics.
It’s hard to explain just how difficult it is to be selected for this festival. Many a producer and director have financed and scheduled their shoots so that a project is finished to make the submission deadline. Entire careers have been made at this festival, and a Sundance premiere is the first step on a long road to a distribution agreement and theatrical premiere.
Sundance says it best: For the 2018 Festival, 110 feature-length films were selected, representing 29 countries and 47 first-time filmmakers. These films were selected from 13,468 submissions. For two Montana films to rise to the top of an incredible list of submissions is truly remarkable.
The Festival hosts screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort, from January 18–28. In 2017, the Festival drew 71,638 attendees.