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Movie gems from Sundance Film Festival 

Words: Nora O’Donnell
Photos: Courtesy of Sundance Institute 

Netflix and Amazon shelled out big bucks to acquire the biggest hits at Sundance

This year at Sundance, there were fierce bidding wars over the festival’s most talked about films. Amazon and Netflix plunked down serious cash to acquire titles—and some of them are already getting buzz for next year’s Oscar race. Here are two films you should look out for in 2017.

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The Big Sick

This dramatic comedy directed by Michael Showalter is based on the real-life courtship of actor-comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon. It’s a breakout role for Nanjiani, who you might recognize as Dinesh from HBO’s Silicon Valley. Here, the standup comedian gets to show off his acting chops thanks to a hilarious but heartfelt script, which he wrote with Gordon. When Emily (played by actress Zoe Kazan, opposite Nanjiani as himself) comes down with a mysterious illness, Kumail has to face the ordeal with her parents, Beth and Terry (expertly played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), while also juggling the expectations of his traditional Pakistani parents.

At Sundance, audiences raved about the film, which led to several studios duking it out for the distribution rights. Amazon Studios came out on top, offering $12 million. Before appearing on Amazon’s platform, The Big Sick will hit theaters in limited release on June 23 with a wide expansion on July 14. 

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Powerfully directed by Dee Rees, this intense drama tells the story of two soldiers (Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund) returning home to Mississippi after WWII. The two men, one black and one white, form a friendship amidst the segregation of the deep south and must face the racial tension that grows between their families. What happens as a result is both powerful and painful—and will punch audiences right in the gut. It’s not lighthearted viewing, but the film also sends a strong message, even a hopeful one.

Netflix splurged on the film, dropping $12.5 million for the rights, which made it the biggest purchase at the festival. No word yet on when it will be available in theaters or available for streaming, but there’s a good chance it will come out in the fall when other Oscar contenders typically hit theaters. 

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