Prime Sundance Festival

(Above: Cate Blanchett, playing one of 13 characters in ‘Manifesto’)

Weren’t able to make it to Sundance last year?

No problem. Amazon Prime is offering the next best thing.

Subscribers can now watch 15 films that were official selections at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

The movies are presented via the Amazon Video Direct Film Festival Stars (FFS) program. The program is designed for films that screened at festivals but didn’t secure theatrical distribution or are looking for a second life after theatrical release.

The titles greatly fortify Amazon Prime’s independent cinema library. Leading the list are Manifesto starring Cate Blanchett; the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize winner Marjorie Prime; and Free and Easy, which got a Special Jury Award for Cinematic Vision.

“We launched the Film Festival Stars Program at Sundance earlier this year because we heard from our customers they love watching independent films,” said Eric Orme, head of Amazon Video Direct. “So far in 2017, FFS has secured the streaming rights to 76 feature films.”

The 15 films include:

Manifesto – “Cate Blanchett portrays 13 distinct characters in vignettes that incorporate timeless manifestos—among them a school teacher, a puppeteer, a newsreader, a factory worker and a homeless man. Director Julian Rosefeldt draws on the writings of futurists, dadaists, supremacists, situationists, and other artist groups, and the musings of individual artists, architects, dancers and filmmakers to create Manifesto.”

Marjorie Prime – “Set in the near future, Michael Almereyda’s sci-fi pic Marjorie Prime, is based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play exploring memory, identity, love and loss. 86-year-old Marjorie has a handsome new companion who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance?” The film stars Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins.

Free And Easy –“When a traveling soap salesman arrives in a desolate Chinese town, a crime occurs, and sets the strange residents against each other with tragicomic results.”

500 Years – “From a historic genocide trial to the ousting of a president, director Pamela Yates tells the sweeping story of mounting resistance in Guatemala through the eyes of the majority indigenous Mayan population, who now stand poised to reimagine their society.”

Axolotl Overkill – “Sixteen-year-old Mifti is a beautiful and reckless young girl. Her mother is dead, and her wealthy, eccentric father is too self-absorbed to be responsible for her.” Mifti “strikes up a friendship with Ophelia, an actress, and together they test the limits through Berlin nightlife and extreme partying.”

Don’t Swallow My Heart, Alligator Girl! –Joca, a 13-year-old Brazilian boy, seeks to win the love of Basano La Tatuada, a Paraguayan indigenous girl.

Family Life – “A young man spends a few weeks housekeeping for a relatively distant relative and enjoys taking over the comfort of their lives in Santiago. Soon, he meets a cute neighbor and starts pretending for his personal benefit.”

Machines – Winner of the Sundance Jury Award for Excellence in Cinematography, this is “an intimate, observantly portrayal of the rhythm of life and work in a gigantic textile factory in Gujarat, India.”

Motherland – Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award, the film “set at one of the world’s largest and busiest maternity hospitals in the Philippines…follows three women as they navigate through the severe conditions of giving birth there.”

Plastic China – This film “captures a plaintive sense of the human casualties from unfettered global consumerism.”

Pop Aye – Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for screenwriting, Pop Aye presents a “chance encounter” between a “disenchanted architect” and “his long-lost elephant on the streets of Bangkok.”

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World – Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling, Rumble is a “documentary about the role of Native Americans in contemporary music history.” The film “features some of the greatest music stars of our time—Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, and Randy Castillo.”

Sueño en otro idioma (I Dream in Another Language) – In this winner of the World Dramatic Audience Award, “a linguist arrives in a small jungle settlement hoping to record a conversation between two elderly men, the last two remaining speakers of the Zikril language. Unfortunately for him, the men are feuding and haven’t spoken to each other in 50 years.”

The Good Postman – In “a poor and sleepy hamlet” on the eastern edge of Bulgaria, bordering Turkey, the good postman is a “gentle and taciturn candidate” for local office who observes “an endless train of Syrian refugees bound for Europe” passing nearby.

World Without End (No Reported Incidents) – Filmmaker Jem Cohen “takes a camera (16mm film, and more recently, video) and walks on the street like a modern-day Walker Evans, capturing images of people and landscapes in our smallest moments.”

Prime members can stream the Sundance selections at amazon.com/primevideo or via the Amazon Prime Video app for connected TVs and other devices.

Amazon Prime costs $99 annually, with a free 30-day trial.

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About Larry Greenberg

A former local beat reporter and film critic, co-founder Lawrence Greenberg has more than 25 years’ experience as a writer and public relations executive.

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