Here are the 2016 Sundance Film Festival front-runners

Randi Mattox

The 2016 Sundance Film Festival is in full swing. Sundance Film Festival is perhaps the most important event of the year for upcoming films and filmmakers. The festival has a great reputation for providing unknown artists with a way into the exclusive film industry. 

For those film buffs that are unable to travel to Utah and attend the festival, they are always eagerly awaiting to see what independent films will break through the mold into mainstream cinema. Although Sundance Film Festival has not come to an end yet, some films and filmmakers are already establishing themselves as strong contenders for awards. 


One film expected to gain huge success long after the festival is over is “The Birth of a Nation.” Written, directed and starring Nate Parker, “The Birth of a Nation” is a biographical film about an African-American slave who leads a slave rebellion in Southampton, Virginia, in 1831. “The Birth of a Nation” is a real account of a slave’s bravery and has been praised for its historic accuracy. This film instantly became a crowd favorite after it first screened at Sundance Film Festival on January 25. Variety Magazine reported that the film “received the most enthusiastic standing ovation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival so far.”

Also receiving recognition is “Eat That Question- Frank Zappa in His Own Words.” Writer and director Thorsten Schütte created this documentary in celebration of the acclaimed musician, comedian and composer Frank Zappa. The title, “Eat That Question- Frank Zappa in His Own Words,” is true to the documentary’s purpose and delivery of Zappa’s life the way he perceived it. Schütte compiled a rare collection of T.V. appearances, news reports and interviews into 90 minutes of Zappa at his finest. Judging by the already cult-like following of Zappa and his music, this film is bound to be a success. 

Claimed by IndieWire as the “best documentary about a political campaign ever made,” “Weiner” is also receiving much admiration at Sundance Film Festival. “Weiner” provides audiences with a behind-the-scenes look at former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner’s scandal-filled attempt to become the mayor of New York in 2013. This film gives viewers the chance to see first-hand how all of the headlines they read in 2013 came to be. Some festival goers leave “Weiner” feeling as disgusted as ever towards Weiner’s political downfall and others experience sympathy for a man who has yet to own up to his mistakes. Regardless, “Weiner” is drumming up just as much rave and controversy as the actual Weiner scandal did. It is a clear front-runner for awards.

Perhaps the weirdest and most talked about film to premiere at Sundance Film Festival so far this year is “Swiss Army Man,” a movie about a man who rides a farting corpse across the ocean. Starring Daniel Radcliff and Paul Dano, “Swiss Army Man” has received mixed reviews. It definitely displays an acquired taste of humor. “Swiss Army Man’s” success lies in the fact that Radcliff and Dano, two of the most acclaimed young actors in the industry, fulfill the leading roles. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. Will “Swiss Army Man” only remain popular among Radcliff and Dano fans or will its unique style and genre stand for itself? If one thing is for sure, Sundance Film Festival is the ideal place to test the waters with a movie as bizarre as this one. 

And as expected, the film adaption of Jane Austen’s “Love and Friendship” is putting all of the other time period movies to shame. Starring Kate Beckinsale, “Love and Friendship” remains true to Austen’s story about a widow who hides out at her in-laws estate while the rumors about her dalliances die down. If the obvious approval from the audience is not enough to propel “Love and Friendship” into success, the offer from Amazon and Roadside Attractions to purchase the film for $2 million will. “Love and Friendship” will debut in theatres this summer.

Sundance Film Festival ends on January 31. 

Collegian Reporter Randi Mattox can be reached at or on Twitter @randimattox.