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12 Best Movies We Saw at Sundance 2016

From Polish mermaid musicals to NYC political-meltdown docs, these had us buzzing at the Utah film festival


We came, we saw, we drank way too much coffee — and we watched movies, lots of them, at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Over the past nine days, Robert Redford's annual celebration of "independent" cinema offered up celebrity-studded quirkiness, social-issue documentaries, genuinely DIY visions, a psychotronic midnight-movie pleasure or two, and the sort of scrappy low-budget features that can become underdog-success stories in the span of a single screening. (Say what you will about Nate Parker's moving, messy-as-hell Nat Turner biopic The Birth of a Nation — it's undeniably a labor of love and undeniably the sort of Sundance discovery movie that keeps folks coming back year after year.)

So, after sifting through the addled memories that accompany the experience of watching four to five films a day over a week-plus span, we're highlighting a dozen of the best movies we saw at Sundance 2016. Political docs and Polish mermaid musicals, black-and-white horror flicks and Boston-based grief dramas, fratboy nightmares and female-bonding character studies — these were the films that had us buzzing in Park City.

Nuts!; Sundance 2016


Once upon a time in American history (1918, to be precise), a man by the name of J.R. Brinkley got the bright idea that impotence could be cured by transplanting goat testicles into human bodies. The only thing crazier than his hypothesis was that people — thousands of them — actually believed him. As illuminating as it is immensely entertaining, Penny Lane's doc uses charming hand-crafted animation to trace how Brinkley ballooned a wacko epiphany into a vast media empire built on nothing but hot air. It's a chronicle of the American dream in action, and the fact that it's all true didn't stop Lane's film from ending with the best twist of this year's fest. DE

Weiner; Sundance 2016


Hardly just an opportunistic snapshot of a celebrity's public implosion, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg's inside look at the spectacular failure of Anthony Weiner's 2013 mayoral campaign in New York is one of the best documentaries ever made about a political scandal. A passionate fighter for the middle class who nuked his career by accidentally tweeting a selfie of his bulge, the indefatigable Weiner is nothing less than a true American tragedy — but this hilarious and humbling portrait rightly sees him as so much more. At once a portrait of media sensationalism, a marriage under fire, and of a city that felt betrayed by its best hope, the movie is so unsparing that when they finally ask Weiner why he let them film him, the disgraced ex-congressman can only shrug. DE

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