During the first half of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival (which runs from Jan. 19 to Jan. 29), there was a star-studded women’s march on Park City’s Main Street on Saturday led by Chelsea Handler…and a lot of snow. Last year’s festival gave us The Birth of a Nation, Sing Street, and Manchester by the Sea, but this year has yet to deliver even one comparable definitive breakout (at least not at press time). Still, if you looked hard enough and were willing to brave the elements, there were a handful of titles that movie lovers will be talking about this year. Here are EW’s picks for the five best from the first half of the fest.
Writer-director Dee Rees’ devastating race epic tells the intertwined stories of two families (one white, one black) in 1940s Mississippi and the wars they fight at home and abroad. Mudbound (which was co-written by Virgil Williams) cuts right to the bone and features amazing work from an ensemble that includes Jason Clarke, Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Banks, Jason Mitchell, and Garrett Hedlund.
The Big Sick
Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani walks the tightrope between comedy and tragedy in this autobiographical culture-clash crowd-pleaser about a Pakistani-born stand-up comic and his girlfriend (Zoe Kazan) who falls into a coma. Hilarious, right? It actually is. Directed by Michael Showalter and costarring Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, The Big Sick stirred up this year’s first bidding war and eventually landed with Amazon Studios.
City of Ghosts
Documentary filmmaker Matthew Heineman’s follow-up to 2015’s Oscar-nominated Cartel Land is both timely and urgent, chronicling an inspiring group of anonymous Syrian citizen journalists from the war-ravaged city of Raqqa who risk their lives (and the lives of their families) to stand up to ISIS. Harrowing, haunting, and ultimately hopeful.
An Inconvenient Sequel
More than a decade ago, An Inconvenient Truth was a wake-up call about the threat of global warming. Now we have a new president who’s trying to hit the snooze bar. Al Gore couldn’t have picked a better time for this distressing advocacy doc. Gore’s grayer now and paunchier, too, but he’s tireless and inspiring.
Call Me By Your Name
Director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) casts a beautifully erotic, sensual spell in this coming-of-age story set during a lazy summer in the Italian countryside, where the teenage son (Timothée Chalamet) of an antiquity professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) falls in love with a charismatic visiting academic (Armie Hammer). A knockout.