Sundance unveils diverse slate of competition films

Los Angeles — Jenny Slate reunites with her Obvious Child director in the '90s-set Landline, Sam Elliott plays a stoner Western film icon in The Hero, Aubrey Plaza gets serious in Ingrid Goes West, and Jennifer Aniston teams up with the future Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich, in the Gulf War drama The Yellow Birds in some of the films in competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

(A scene in Landmine)

The Sundance Institute on Wednesday unveiled its first batch of films set to premiere at the annual Park City-based Festival founded by Robert Redford, including a new thematic thread of environmentally focused programming.

There were 66 narrative and documentary films selected for the U.S. Competition, the World Competition and the NEXT section, which highlights works from new directors. Breakout hits like Whiplash, Fruitvale Station, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Weiner all premiered in that section in recent years.

At the 2017 Festival, Lily Collins stars in the anorexia drama To the Bone from Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer Marti Noxon; Jason Schwartzman reteams with his Listen Up Philip director Alex Ross Perry in Golden Exits; and Moonlight breakout Trevante Rhodes stars alongside Alfre Woodward in Burning Sands, about violent fraternity hazing.

There's also a new film from Pete's Dragon director David Lowery, A Ghost Story, which brings him back together with his Ain't Them Bodies Saints stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.

(A scene in Hero)

"Eclectic" is the only word to describe the batch for Festival Director John Cooper, who with his team selects films for their originality and who the stories are about.

"What we saw in contrast to the polarizing state we're in in our country is the human side, the whole story of who we are coming through in many, many stories that will be playing at Sundance this year," Cooper said. "We see a lot of inclusion, we see a lot of boldness, we see a lot of places and people in front of the camera and behind the camera."

As with many years, the documentary competitions are stacked with timely explorations of hot-button issues, like policing looked at through the case study of the Oakland Police Department following Ferguson in The Force, and an account of the Ferguson uprising told by the people who were there in "Whose Streets." There will also be documentaries about the Hulk Hogan/Gawker trial and the JonBenet Ramsey case.

"From the passion and chaos of creativity, independent filmmakers make decisions to harness that energy, break new ground and tell their stories," Redford said in a statement. "This year's Festival reflects every step of that journey, and shows how art can engage, provoke and connect people all over the world."

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival runs from 19 - 29 January.

More films will be announced in coming days

(A scene in The Yellow Birds)

(Photos: AP)

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