PARK CITY 2002: A Drop in Submissions as Sundance Announces Core Narrative and Dramatic Lineups; Gilmore and Cooper Discuss Choices
by Eugene Hernandez and Anthony Kaufman/indieWIRE
>> Sundance Stories, Dramatic Diversity Amidst Original Entries
(indieWIRE/11.27.01) — It’s not going to be easy to top Sundance 2001, the
year many attendees hailed as a high point in the Park City festival’s
recent history. With dramatic competition entries like “In the Bedroom” (now
a solid Oscar contender), “Memento” (the year’s indie box-office hit) and
“Donnie Darko” (a critical breakthrough) having unspooled in the snow last
year, it’s going to take a near miracle to reach the same cinematic heights
Aesthetically speaking, it’s a feat that Sundance programmers seem anxious
to achieve. “There is real originality to this work,” Sundance Film Festival
Co-Director Geoff Gilmore told indieWIRE yesterday in a conversation about
the upcoming Festival (running January 10 – 2002 in Utah). “It is very promising for the future of independent cinema,” he added, indicating that the dramatic competition includes work that “comes from the ‘Pi‘ and ‘Memento‘ schools of filmmaking — work that has edge to it, that pushes the limits aesthetically and otherwise.” Concluding the thought, he added, “Every film in competition pushes the
Programmers were met with less narrative entries than usual this year, a
drop from what Gilmore calls last year’s “plateau” and Sundance’s first
decline in submissions in seven years according to Gilmore. 750 dramatic
features were submitted to the Festival, a drop from the 860 last
year. However, the Festival saw an increase in foreign films and movies that
it considered for the Premiere section. (Those sections will be unveiled in
Wednesday’s edition of indieWIRE).
The narrative features run the usual Sundance gamut from mini-major to
no-name independent. Attendees, not to mention distributors, will surely
have their sights on several new works from familiar faces premiering in the
Festival’s dramatic competition. Finn Taylor (“Dream with the Fishes“)
returns with the paranoid thriller “Cherish,” starring Robin Tunney. Steven Shainberg (“Hit Me,” “The Prom“) directs the sadomasochistic comedy, “Secretary,” starring Maggie Glynnhall and produced by Double A Films, who will also present Jill Sprecher‘s “Thirteen Conversations about One Thing” in the new American Showcase sidebar. Yet alongside some familiar names are a number of filmmakers who are on the tips of many tongues today for the first time.
“This year there are more people that no one has ever heard of,” Gilmore interjected during the conversation with indieWIRE.
This element of discovery is one that is clearly on the minds of organizers,
who have decided to slightly tweak their own American Spectrum section.
While the pared down Spectrum lineup will be devoted to fresh faces, the new
American Showcase section will serve as an outlet for more established
filmmakers, many with Sundance roots.
“The Spectrum was meant to be a place that films could be discovered,”
Gilmore explained, adding that this will be preserved. American Showcase, by
contrast, will offer “significant works by people that have significant
careers,” according to Gilmore. Among the films in this section are Todd
Solondz (“Storytelling“) who won the Grand Jury Prize for “Welcome to the Dollhouse” in 1996 and Lynn Hershman Leeson (“Teknolust“), last here in 1998 with “Conceiving Ada.” The five movies in the section will show each
afternoon during the week.
Screening in the scaled down American Spectrum section (with only 11
features), there’s the directorial debut of acclaimed Native American author
and “Smoke Signals” screenwriter Sherman Alexie, “The Business of
Narrative work from Latino and Asian-American directors deserves highlighting
this year, with a number of noteworthy projects to be found within the
Sundance lineup. “This year there is a lot of Latino production that is really
high quality,” Gilmore said, adding, “The Latino work and Asian work in the
competition is very significant.”
Among them, “Real Women Have Curves,” from Patricia Cardoso (“The Kingdom of Heaven“) is produced by HBO and stars Lupe Ontiveros (who also appears in “Storytelling“); the competition movie was written by Josefina Lopez and Sundance vet George LaVoo (producer of “Getting to Know You“). The other Latino competition feature is Eric Eason‘s “Manito,” featuring Panchito Gomez and Manuel Cabral. In the American Showcase section, John Leguizamo stars in Bigel/Mailer Films‘ “Empire,” directed by Franc Reyes. Victor Nunez and Miguel Arteta are among the established Latino directors whose work will be included in the Festival’s Premiere section, to be announced tomorrow, according to Gilmore.
Asian directors are present in significant numbers. Justin Lin (who
co-wrote, directed and edited “Shopping for Fangs“) competes with his second
feature “Better Luck Tomorrow,” about an Asian American Ivy League-bound
teen. Bertha Bay-Sa Pan‘s “Face,” starring Bai Ling (“The Wedding Banquet“) and hip hop artist Treach (“Naughty by Nature“), chronicles three generations of Chinese women in America. “Face” was written by Pan and Oren Moverman (“Jesus’ Son“) and is produced by Alexa L. Fogel and Joseph Infantolino of Beech Hill Films (“Our Song“).
Among other movies sure to be on hit lists this year are “Love Liza” from
director Todd Louiso (of “The Fifteen Minute Hamlet” fame), who nabbed
Philip Seymour Hoffman for the black comedy written by Hoffman’s older
brother Gordy, and produced by independent notables Ruth Charny (“The Sleepy Time Gal“) and Chris Hanley (“The Virgin Suicides“). Also one to watch is “XX/XY,” writer-director Austin Chick‘s ménage-a-trois drama starring Mark Ruffalo (“You Can Count on Me“), Kathleen Robinson (“Splendor“) and Aussie actress Maya Stange.
Two digital video films from InDigEnt will also compete, “Personal Velocity” (aka “Enter Fleeing“) from actress-turned-director Rebecca Miller
(“Angela“), a story about three women (Parker Posey, Kyra Segwick, Fairuza Balk) who struggle to escape from restrictive relationships and “Tadpole,” InDigEnt co-founder Gary Winick‘s latest starring Sigourney Weaver and Bebe Neuwirth. Also screening is Peter Mattei‘s Blow Up Pictures DV feature “The End of Love” (formerly “Nine Scenes About Love”), which is playing out of competition in a new “17th slot,” to avoid any conflict of interest, as it was co-produced by Sundance Institute honcho Robert Redford‘s production company. “We feel that it’s a film that belongs in competition,” Gilmore
said. “But we just couldn’t do that.”
Bigwigs such as MGM/UA and Lions Gate also managed to slip into this year’s lineup with, respectively, Tony Abrams and Adam Larson Broder‘s “Pumpkin,” starring Christina Ricci and Brenda Blethyn, and Joe Carnahan‘s “Narc,” with Ray Liotta and Jason Patric. Also, Kasia Adamik, daughter of Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, will screen First Look Pictures‘ “Bark,” with Lisa Kudrow and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Finally, one film in American Spectrum that will arrive in Park City with a
fair amount of awareness is Pete Jones‘ Miramax movie “Stolen Summer.” The winner of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck‘s Project Greenlight competition, Jones’ movie will likely develop an audience next month when HBO begins airing its series on the making of the movie.
>> Nonfiction Forces, Sundance Docs
(indieWIRE/11.27.01) — Always a highlight of the Sundance Film Festival,
this year’s documentaries would appear to offer the same promising roundup
of reel life drama and discovery that Park City attendees have come to
expect. Nonfiction entries were up for 2002, reaching 440, which is 50 more
than last year. In a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday, Festival
Programmer John Cooper indicated that this is most likely a result of the
increased availability and affordability of digital video. The jump also
comes at a time when audiences are especially attuned to examining the
reality of American society in more intense ways.
“The range (of docs) was really good,” Sundance Film Festival Co-Director
Geoff Gilmore explained to indieWIRE yesterday. “(There were) so many
interesting stories it was hard to limit it.”
From sexual abuse to Miss America to Teamsters, the 2002 lineup presents a
varied look at the American landscape from all angles. Except for Lee
Hirsch‘s South African “Amandla! A revolution in four part harmony” and
Kirby Dick (“Sick“) and Amy Ziering Kofman‘s portrait of famous French deconstructionist “Derrida,” all of the films look at some facet of American
Sundance vets outweigh newcomers in the nonfiction selection. Liz Garbus
(award-winner for “The Farm“) returns to prison with “The Execution of Wanda
Jean” and Arthur Dong (“Licensed to Kill“) revisits homophobia with “Family Fundamentals.” Judith Helfand (“A Healthy Baby Girl“) and Alexandra Dickson feel our fascination with “Blue Vinyl” and Whitney Dow and Marco Williams (“Without a Pass,” “In Search of Our Fathers“) look at racism in “Two Towns of Jasper,” an IFP Market premiere.
The directing team behind “Cuba VA: The Challenge of the Next Generation“
Gail Dongin and Vicente Franco return with “Daughter from Danang,” a portrait of an American woman looking for her Vietnamese mother. And
producer of last year’s doc winner, “Long Night’s Journey into Day,” Johnny
Symons comes to the fest with “Daddy and Papa,” an examination of gay
New directors offer an array of intriguing titles: among them, John Walter
and Andrew Moore‘s “How to Draw a Bunny” investigates the disappearance of “the most famous unknown artist in the art world,” Ray Johnson, while Avon Kirkland chronicles “Ralph Ellison: An American Journey.” Kristi Jacobson studies organized labor in “American Standoff” and Rebecca Cammisa and editor Rob Fruchtman meet “Sister Helen,” a woman who becomes a Benedictine nun in the Bronx after her husband and sons are killed.
Other notable docs include Toronto premiere, “Senorita Extraviada,” from
Oscar nominated doc director Lourdes Portillo (“The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo“) and American Spectrum works “Devil’s Playground” from Lucy Walker, about Amish teenagers, and Thomas Allen Harris‘ “That’s My Face,” a poetic journey by the African-American filmmaker.
Narrowing down favorite entries is a process that was especially difficult
in the doc section this year, according to Gilmore and Cooper. “We can’t
take everything that’s good. We just don’t have the space,” Gilmore
implored. “That message doesn’t get out to people.” Continuing he added, “It
ends up having to be a choice, we have to make a choice — there are more
films out there than we could show.”
For the 2002 edition of the Festival, choosing both documentaries and
features was particularly challenging, considering the events of Sept. 11
occurred in the heat of the selection process. Gilmore and the programming
team notably sat out of the IFP Market, catching movies via the submission
process. “Everything that we should have seen (at festivals) got submitted
to us,” Gilmore explained. He added that a number of New York filmmakers
asked for extensions due to the tragedy in Manhattan; the Festival granted
In the end, the Sundance programmers tried to factor out the events of
September 11th when making their choices, but from a larger perspective,
Gilmore admitted that the tragedy had an impact. “Sept 11th makes you think
about what you are doing as an institution,” he explained. “It makes you
rethink what you are doing in terms of your agenda. It didn’t make us change
our agenda, but it makes us reflect on it.”