Sundance’s competition, where films like “Whiplash,” “The Birth of a Nation” and “Blackfish” were first seen, can be a little solemn. Not so with Mr. Jasper’s entry, a comedic drama about a New Jersey woman named Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$. She’s “a big girl with big dreams of rap superstardom,” according to Sundance materials. The Australian actress Danielle Macdonald plays the lead. Mr. Jasper has never directed a feature film before, but he is well-known on the music video circuit, having directed videos for acts like Florence and the Machine.
The Yellow Birds
Director: Alexandre Moors
Adapted from a novel by Kevin Powers, this is a searing antiwar drama about “kids who go to war too young and get destroyed,” Mr. Cooper said. The cast is filled with fast-rising young stars, including Tye Sheridan (“Mud,” “X-Men: Apocalypse”) and Alden Ehrenreich, who was recently cast as the young Han Solo in a coming “Star Wars” movie. Also appearing in a supporting role is Jennifer Aniston, reuniting with Mark Canton, a producer of “Cake,” which brought her awards attention in 2014.
Director: Amanda Lipitz
There are other flashy documentaries in the competition lineup, including Bryan Fogel’s “Icarus,” an exposé about Russian doping in sports, and Brian Knappenberger’s “Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and the Trials of a Free Press.” But something about “Step” has audience-award winner written all over it: Ms. Lipitz documents the senior year of a girls’ high school step team in inner-city Baltimore, capturing moments of hope against a backdrop of social unrest.
Directors: Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis
Speaking of social unrest, this “unflinching” documentary — given a high-profile slot on the festival’s opening night — examines the violence in Ferguson, Mo., in the summer of 2014, when a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. “Ferguson has, of course, been documented by the national news media, but you realize in watching this film that a lot of information has been filtered out,” said Trevor Groth, Sundance’s director of programming. “Our understanding is incomplete.”
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