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Sundance Film Festival: 7 movies that could make a splash in 2019

The festival usually helps catapult independent films to acclaim, awards and cultural cachet.
Mindy Kaling in Late Night, Adam Driver in The Report, and Elizabeth Holmes apart of The Inventor.
Mindy Kaling in Late Night, Adam Driver in The Report, and Elizabeth Holmes apart of The Inventor.Emily Aragones, Atsushi Nishijima, Drew Kelly / Sundance Institute, Amazon, HBO

Every year around this time, chilly Park City, Utah — the official home of the Sundance Film Festival — heats up in a frenzy of negotiating and dealmaking, as studios scramble to scoop up films from established names and first-time talents. As the 10-day gathering wraps up Sunday, here’s a look at some of the major festival debuts we'll all get a chance to see and chatter about in the year ahead.

“Blinded by the Light”

“Bend It Like Beckham” director Gurinder Chadha revisits the coming-of-age genre with this tale set in the 1980s about a meek British-Pakistani teenager who survives adolescence with the help of Bruce Springsteen’s soaring ballads. The Boss reportedly turned down an invitation to the festival because he did not want to overshadow the premiere of “Blinded by the Light,” named for the first track off his debut studio album.

When you can watch: Warner Bros., which snapped up worldwide distribution rights to the film, was reportedly eyeing a possible summer release.

“The Farewell”

Sundance audiences swooned over this second feature from Chinese-born, American-reared director Lulu Wang. “The Farewell” stars “Crazy Rich Asians” scene-stealer (and rapper) Awkwafina in a dramatic role as a Chinese-American woman whose grandmother is dying of stage-IV lung cancer — a diagnosis kept secret from the proud family matriarch. Wang based the film on a true-life story she first shared on NPR’s “This American Life.”

When you can watch: The indie powerhouse A24 (“Moonlight,” “Eighth Grade”), which acquired worldwide rights, was reportedly considering a summer release.

“The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley”

The prolific documentarian Alex Gibney is known for tough-minded portraits of polarizing names and institutions: Lance Armstrong, Julian Assange, Enron, the Church of Scientology. In his latest film, Gibney charts the stunning rise-and-fall of America’s youngest female billionaire, Elizabeth Holmes, and her disgraced blood-testing company, Theranos. “The Inventor” presents Holmes, who was charged with massive fraud, as an avatar of Silicon Valley’s ills.

When you can watch: HBO, which co-produced the film, plans to air it in March.

“Knock Down the House”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s insurgent congressional campaign is one of four plotlines in Rachel Lears’ spirited look at political outsiders. “Knock Down the House” also follows three working-class women — Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, Paula Jean Swearengin — who challenged the Democratic establishment in the 2018 midterm elections but ultimately came up short. Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise appearance (via Skype) after the premiere screening was reportedly one of the highlights of the festival.

When you can watch: Netflix was reportedly close to picking up the film, but release details were not immediately clear.

“Late Night”

Mindy Kaling scripted this buzzy, crowd-pleasing show business satire about a powerful but disillusioned late-night talk show host (Emma Thompson) who hires a witty chemical plant worker (Kaling) to shake up her all-male writers’ room. “Late Night,” per the critics who saw it, skewers the deeply ingrained prejudices of the professional comedy world with a light and snappy touch.

When you can watch: Amazon reportedly locked up North American rights for $13 million, but release details were not immediately clear.

“Leaving Neverland”

Michael Jackson remains a beloved global brand name, but “Leaving Neverland” could put fresh scrutiny on the late King of Pop. Dan Reed’s four-hour film examines — in thorough and graphic detail — the allegations of two adult men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who claim they were sexually assaulted by the singer for years when they were children. (Jackson, who longed professed his innocence and died in 2009, was acquitted of child molestation charges in 2015.) Jackson’s estate has excoriated the film, calling it a “public lynching."

When you can watch: HBO plans to air it in March.

“The Report”

Scott Z. Burns, a screenwriter best known for his collaborations with director Steven Soderbergh, goes behind the camera for the first time with this exhaustive, detail-oriented docudrama about the U.S. Senate report on George W. Bush-era CIA torture. Adam Driver (Oscar-nominated for his supporting turn in “BlacKkKlansman”) stars as real-life Senate investigator Daniel Jones, and Annette Bening portrays California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

When you can watch: Amazon reportedly secured worldwide rights for $14 million, but release details were not immediately clear.