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David Oyelowo Enters The Ring, Spike Lee’s Art House Remake, and Other Sundance Alumni Updates

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David Oyelowo (right) in Middle of Nowhere.

Nate von Zumwalt, Editorial Coordinator

The post-Summer torpor at the box office is well underway, a seasonal trend that has hit studios and filmmakers with increased force in recent years. But our Sundance alumni remain undeterred in their efforts, continuing to invest their talents in several noteworthy projects for the upcoming year—some seemingly more prolific than others, but all warranting attention. Check out what director Spike Lee, actor David Oyelowo, and other alumni have planned for the next year in this edition of Sundance Alumni Updates.

David Oyelowo to Play Sugar Ray Robinson in Biopic

David Oyelowo refuses to rest on his laurels after rapidly procuring roles in a  barrage of high-profile films of late—The Help, Red Tails, The Paperboy, and Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere (2012 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award). Oyelowo, who garnered early notoriety as a stage actor, will also appear in the forthcoming Lincoln, from seminal director Steven Spielberg. Most recently, the Oxford, England native agreed to play legendary boxer Sugar Ray Robinson in a biopic  that was conceptualized on the set of Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Read more at Deadline.

Spike Lee Set to Remake Oldboy with Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen

Is there more treacherous terrain in cinema than the over frequented region of “remakes”? After all, the impetus for a remake is owed directly to the success of the original, meaning there is likely a proud and faithful fan base ready to spew vitriol at the film’s second coming.  I would surmise that for every triumphant attempt at a remake (see: The Departed, Twelve Monkeys) there are roughly 10 cinematic catastrophes like this one, or this one.

The point is, Spike Lee (Red Hook Summer) is already playing from behind with his attempt at a remake of the widely adored South Korean thriller Oldboy, this time starring Josh Brolin and fellow Sundance alum Elizabeth Olsen. Lee took the helm after very early reports had fellow Sundance alum Justin Lin (of Fast and Furious fame) slotted as director. The new Oldboy does have the benefit of I Am Legend scribe Mark Protosevich, and Spike Lee will certainly offer a distinguished and original take on the art-house favorite. Read more at The Los Angeles Times.

Ben Lewin’s Late Career Revival with The Sessions

Director Ben Lewin has been making the media rounds lately after his excellent drama The Sessions (FKA The Surrogate) made its national release last week. Lewin’s 2012 SFF selection stars John Hawkes as a man confined to an iron lung who, at 38, becomes rapt with a previously evasive desire to lose his virginity. Check out Vulture’s sit-down with the captivating director—who, like his semi-autobiographical protagonist, is also a polio survivor—and find out why his late-blooming career and persistence may pay significant dividends come Awards season. Read more at Vulture.

Liza Johnson (The Return) In Production on Her Second Feature, Hateship, Friendship

While not an alumna of the Sundance Film Festival, Liza Johnson is among the many Sundance alumni whose film was supported by one or more of the Institute’s Creative Labs. In this case, Johnson’s 2011 drama and Directors’ Fortnight film (Cannes), The Return, was a featured project at the 2008 Screenwriters and Directors Labs. The film stars Linda Cardellini and Michael Shannon in a viscerally jarring depiction of a mother’s struggle to reintegrate to home life after an extended tour of duty. And while many would perhaps pursue lighter subject matter following such a gripping directorial debut, Johnson is moving forward with another emotionally dense drama set to begin shooting this week, and starring Hailee Steinfeld, Guy Pearce, Nick Nolte, and Kristen Wiig. Read more at THR.

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Sundance Institute Piloting Direct Individual Support for Mediamakers Through the Sundance Institute | Humanities Sustainability Fellowship

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in general, and halted production and distribution for many creatives, the nonfiction field was plagued by issues of sustainability. For several years, sustainability has been an urgent and vigorous topic of study, debate, and organizing, as more and more filmmakers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living solely on the basis of their creative work. 

In Memoriam: Diane Weyermann (1955–2021)

A singular force within the documentary film world with a global reach, Diane Weyermann passed away at age 66 after battling cancer. Over the course of her 30-year career as a funder and an executive, her work elevated the documentary form and expanded its cultural impact.

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