16 Must-See Documentaries At The 2015 Sundance Film Festival

16 Must-See Documentaries At This Year's Sundance

On Tuesday, HuffPost Entertainment previewed the Sundance Film Festival's impressive lineup, but we omitted the documentaries because, frankly, there are so many excellent titles that deserve your attention. Films about the Church of Scientology, Tig Notaro, Kurt Cobain, campus rapes and urban fashion could follow in the footsteps of such recent Sundance successes as "The Invisible War," "The Cove," "Man on Wire" and "Super Size Me." Here are the buzziest docs on this year's roster:

Directed by Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York

When Tig Notaro first incorporated cancer into her stand-up acts in 2012, she became an overnight sensation. This film picks up as Notaro recovers from her mother's death and a life-threatening medical procedure, always looking to humor as an antidote.
"Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief"
Directed by Alex Gibey

Lawrence Wright's 2013 book "Going Clear" exposed the list of women (including Katie Holmes) allegedly lured by the Church of Scientology for auditions to become Tom Cruise's wife. That same book is the source of an already controversial documentary from Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney ("Taxi to the Dark Side," "The Armstrong Lie"). HBO, which produced the movie, had about 160 lawyers look at it, but Scientology officials have attacked its contents nonetheless. We're in.
"The Hunting Ground"
Directed by Kirby Dick

This timely exploration of campus rapes points to the institutional cover-ups, legal hoop-jumping and victim-blaming that exists at universities of all sizes. From the director of the Oscar-nominated "The Invisible War," the film follows undergraduate rape survivors as they seek justice and attempt to move on from the atrocities they endured.
"The Amina Profile"
Directed by Sophie Deraspe

Amina Arraf became a star blogger when her online Montreal girlfriend encouraged her to launch A Gay Girl in Damascus. This film explores the global hunt that ensued after Arraf was kidnapped when Syria entered the Arab Spring in 2011.
"Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck"
Directed by Brett Morgen

Following the Nirvana frontman from his Washington childhood to blinding international fame, this documentary from the director of "The Kid Stays in the Picture" is the first authorized portrait of the grunge-rock god.
"Fresh Dressed"
Directed by Sacha Jenkins

Pharrell Williams, Damon Dash, Karl Kani, Kanye West, Nas, Andre Leon Talley and a host of others are on hand for this exploration of the symbiosis that runs through hip-hop and fashion. Sacha Jenkins turns to the roots of urban street-wear to chronicle everything from Kangol hats and graffiti jackets to the music that inspired such regalia.
"Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon"
Directed by Douglas Tirola

The National Lampoon's rise from irreverent counterculture magazine to heralded comedic brand is chronicled with archival footage and nostalgia for a time when Gilda Radner, John Belushi and Chevy Chase were at the forefront of American humor.
"Pervert Park"
Directed by Frida Barkfors and Lasse Barkfors

Sex offenders damned to a life of public shame can reintegrate themselves into society thanks to places like the run-down trailer park at the center of this film, which explores the hard truths that plague repentant perpetrators of such heinous acts.
"Prophet's Prey"
Directed by Amy Berg

In 2012, private investigator Sam Brower, with the help of "Into the Wild" author Jon Krakauer, published his account of the events that led to to the conviction of Mormon polygamist Warren Jeffs. This documentary, from the director of "Deliver Us from Evil" and "West of Memphis," explores the deranged leader's allegations of underage marriages and sexual abuse.
"Listen to Me, Marlon"
Directed by Stevan Riley

"Listen to Me, Marlon" is a Marlon Brando documentary told exclusively from the perspective of Marlon Brando. No talking heads, just never-before-seen archival footage from the late actor's private library, as presented by the director of "Blue Blood" and James Bond doc "Everything or Nothing."
"The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution"
Directed by Stanley Nelson

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense made an indelible and controversial mark on the civil-rights movement of the 1960s and '70s. Using archival footage and interviews with former members, celebrated documentarian Stanley Nelson ("Freedom Riders," "Jonestown") looks back at the group's polarizing attempt to enact a new version of the American Dream.
"Larry Kramer In Love and Anger"
Directed by Jean Carlomusto

Divisive gay activist Larry Kramer returned to the spotlight last year with HBO's adaptation of his iconic play, "The Normal Heart." Now he's the subject of a documentary that aims to weave together the many realms of Kramer's history, from founding AIDS support groups in the '80s to the abrasive tactics that made him such a polarizing figure within the gay community.
"Best of Enemies"
Directed by Robert Gorgon and Morgan Neville

The American public was riveted by ABC News' unprecedented 1968 debates between conservative author William F. Buckley Jr. and leftist figurehead Gore Vidal. Their television appearances were like the birth of reality programming: unscripted, vitriolic must-see TV. Oscar winner Morgan Neville, who directed the Sundance hit "20 Feet from Stardom," joins Robert Gordon to dissect what the two leading thinkers' interactions did for American rhetoric.
"Finders Keepers"
Directed by Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel

A bargain hunter discovers a severed foot inside a used grill he purchases at an auction, becoming a minor media sensation in the process -- until the owner of the foot comes calling for his missing appendage.
"Cartel Land"
Directed by Matthew Heineman

A violent drug cartel has been wrecking the Mexican state of Michoacán and oozing across the Arizona border for years. The producer of the 2009 documentary "Our Time," Matthew Heineman trains his camera on two small uprisings attempting to stymie the Mexican drug wars as they affect the respective regions.
"3 1/2 Minutes"
Directed by Marc Silver

Jordan Davis and three friends stopped at a convenience store on Black Friday 2012; there, a white man named Michael Dunn harangued the black teenagers for loudly playing music in their car. The two exchanged words, then Dunn fired 10 bullets, killing Davis. Dunn's trial becomes the backbone of this timely documentary, which explores Florida's dicey self-defense laws and what Davis' parents experienced as their son's media circus escalated.

The Sundance Film Festival takes place Jan. 22-Feb. 1. Check out the full lineup.

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Before You Go

Mark Ruffalo

Sundance 2014

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