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As the Sundance Film Festival enters its 31st year, over 45,000 attendees are expected to invade the laid-back ski town of Park City, Utah for the 10-day indie film showcase.

In between the all-night parties and packed swag suites, and of course, some movie screenings, there will be no shortage of starry appearances from movie stars slumming it with the indies and behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing as studios seek the next breakout hit, like last year’s “Whiplash,” now a nominee for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

This year, the little festival Robert Redford founded will feature 123 feature-length films (19 in competition) from 29 countries. For time-strapped festival-goers, here’s WWD’s cheat sheet to 10 films you can’t miss.
 
FILM: “I Smile Back”
CATEGORY: U.S. Dramatic Competition
STARRING: Sarah Silverman and Josh Charles. DIRECTOR: Adam Salky
FEST FLASHBACK: Silverman made jaws drops with a full-frontal shower scene in 2013’s “Take This Waltz” alongside Michelle Williams. Salky made his feature directorial debut, “Dare,” in 2009.
SALES PITCH: Another against-type performance from Silverman, who plays a suburban wife and mother desperately trying to reconcile her SUV-driving, white-picket-fence lifestyle with her dark compulsions.
 
FILM: “Mistress America”
CATEGORY: Premiere
STARRING: Writer-producer-director Noah Baumbach, writer-producer-actor Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke. PRODUCER: Scott Rudin
FEST FLASHBACK: It’s the 10-year anniversary of Baumbach’s sleeper hit, “The Squid and the Whale,” which earned Sundance’s Best Dramatic Direction and Screenwriting awards.
SALES PITCH: In their latest collaboration, Baumbach’s muse-turned-girlfriend, Gerwig, plays a quirky New Yorker who takes in her lonely, college freshman stepsister, played by Kirke. Hijinks — including a cat-stealing scene — ensue. This year, the pressure is off for the indie darlings, as Fox Searchlight snatched up the worldwide rights earlier this month.
 
FILM: “Strangerland”
CATEGORY: World Cinema Dramatic Competition
STARRING:  Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes
FEST FLASHBACK: In 2013, Kidman starred in psychological thriller, “Stoker,” while Fiennes promoted “The Darwin Awards” with Winona Ryder and David Arquette in 2006.
SALES PITCH: Kim Farrant makes her directorial debut with the kind of heavy marital drama that tends to play well at the fest. Kidman and Fiennes play a couple on the brink after their two teenage offspring go missing during a dust storm in the Aussie desert.
DOUBLE DUTY: Fiennes will also appear in Sundance Kids’ “The Games Maker,” about a ten year-old who must find his missing parents after winning an evil game competition.
 
FILM: “I Am Michael”
CATEGORY: Premiere
STAR POWER: James Franco, Emma Roberts, Zachary Quinto
FEST FLASHBACK: Franco, whose work often plays off the perennial is-he-isn’t-he question, collaborated with gay filmmaker Travis Matthews In 2013’s “Interior. Leather Bar.” Roberts made back-to-back appearances at the fest in 2011’s “Homework” and Rashida Jones’ “Celeste and Jesse Forever.”
SALES PITCH: Franco stars as gay-rights activist-turned-minister in Justin’s Kelly’s feature debut.
DOUBLE DUTY: Franco will also star as an accused murderer in “True Story,”  based on the memoir of disgraced New York Times Magazine writer, Michael Finkel.
 
FILM: “Fresh Dressed”
CATEGORY: Documentary Premiere
FEATURING:  Interviews with Pharrell Williams, Damon Dash, Karl Kani, Kanye West and Andre Leon Talley.
PRODUCER: Nasir “Nas” Jones.
FEST FLASHBACK: Jones and West also weighed in on the hip-hop age in Ice T’s 2012 doc, “Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap”
SALES PITCH: From Sacha Jenkins, a look at how “fresh” urban style — think: fat-laced Adidas, Kangol hats and dangerously low-slung XXL jeans — transformed from a fad into a billion-dollar-industry, leaving an indelible mark on culture and fashion.
 
FILM: “Z for Zachariah”
CATEGORY: U.S. Dramatic Competition
STARRING: Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor
FEST FLASHBACK: Director Craig Zobel’s previous fare included “Great Wall of Sound” in 2007 and “Compliance” in 2012.
SALES PITCH: Pine and Ejiofor fight for the affections of Robbie, who takes a brunette turn as the potentially last woman alive in this post-apocalyptic thriller. The buzzed-about indie has already secured distribution with a partnership between Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions.
 
FILM: “Stockholm, Pennsylvania”
CATEGORY: U.S. Dramatic Competition
STARRING: Saoirse Ronan, Cynthia Nixon, Jason Issacs
FEST FLASHBACK: Isaacs starred in 2013’s “Sweetwater” with January Jones and Ed Harris.
SALES PITCH: Nikole Beckwith’s debut feature — based on her play of the same name — stars Ronan as a kidnap victim reuniting with her parents after years in captivity.
DOUBLE DUTY: Ronan, also appears in “Brooklyn,” adapted by Nick Hornby, as a young Irish immigrant in New York during the ‘Fifties, while Nixon stars as the mother of “Girls” alum Christopher Abbott in “James White.”
 
FILM: “What Happened, Miss Simone”
CATEGORY: Documentary Premiere
FEST FLASHBACK: In 1998, director Liz Garbus’ film  “The Farm: Angola, USA” won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize; in 2002, her film about the first black woman to die on death row, “The Execution of Wanda Jean,” debuted; and in 2011, the Academy Award nominee opened the documentary section of the festival with her film, “Bobby Fischer Against the World.”
SALES PITCH: A raw portrait of chanteuse and civil rights activist Nina Simone, brought back to life through archival interviews, rare concert footage, and insight from daughter and Executive Producer, Lisa Simone Kelly. Already slated to appear on Netflix later this year.

FILM: “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
CATEGORY: U.S. Dramatic Competition
STARRING: Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni
FEST FLASHBACK: Wiig scored major indie cred in last year’s “Skeleton Twins” with fellow “SNL” vet, Bill Hader.
SALES PITCH: Based on Phoebe Bloeckner’s graphic novel, Wiig pulls a Silverman and goes dark for her role in Marielle Heller’s coming-of-age tale that combines live action with animation. On-the-rise Brit, Bel Powley, plays an aspiring artist who carries on an illicit affair with – gasp! – her mom’s boyfriend.
DOUBLE DUTY: Wiig also stars in NEXT’s “Nasty Baby” about a gay couple in need of a donor.
 
FILM: “Grandma”
CATEGORY: Premiere
STARRING: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Laverne Cox
FEST FLASHBACK: Way back in 1987, the documentary “Lily Tomlin” offered a  backstage look at the comedian’s now-legendary one-woman Broadway show, “Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.” More recently, Garner appeared in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” in 2011 and “We Are What We Are” in 2013.
LITTLE-KNOWN FACT:  Writer-director Paul Weitz attended in 2000 for an acting role in “Chuck and Buck” alongside his brother, Chris Weitz.
SALES PITCH: The closing-night film stars Tomlin as a curmudgeon on a road trip with her 18-year-old granddaughter.

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