Sundance’s Gilmore Boasts of a Bigger Competition, a New Venue, Better Movies, and a Commitment to Discovery
by Eugene Hernandez
Eyeing a goal of becoming the discovery festival for both American and international cinema, on Monday organizers of the Sundance Film Festival unveiled an ambitious lineup of 60 feature titles screening in four competitive sections. The films, most world premieres and all at least U.S. premieres, will fill juried rosters in the Dramatic, Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic and World Cinema Documentary competitions. To accommodate the changes, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, Geoff Gilmore, announced Monday that planners will unveil a new 700-seat screening venue and an expanded industry office for buyers and sellers.
“I am excited about these competitions,” Gilmore told indieWIRE simply, during an afternoon discussion of the lineup. “It invigorates me.” He added that he is enthused by the overall quality of this year’s roster, with many films featuring discoveries both on screen and behind the camera. “I have never been as excited about a competition that we have had in my 15 years of running this festival.”
The complete list of films, with descriptions and cast info is available in our special Park City area.
In ’05, Submissions Up and Total Features Down
In this year’s lineup are 42 world premieres, 9 North American premieres and 9 U.S. premieres. Programmers received 2,613 feature film submissions, including 1,385 for the U.S. feature film competition and 1,228 international feature submissions. That is an increase from 2004 when 2,485 feature films were submitted, with 1,285 coming from the U.S. and 1,200 from abroad.
Even with the increased awareness for international cinema, the festival’s world cinema program will be smaller; the festival feature roster is down slightly to about 120 features, from nearly 140 last year. The remainder of the festival feature lineup is due to be announced this afternoon (Tuesday) at 5 p.m. ET. The lineup of short films will be unveiled on December 6th.
A new 700-seat venue, a home for the Dramatic Competition screenings at this year’s festival, will join the list of screening sites. It will be located further away from the often jammed Main Street corridor in Park City, near the Eccles. The theater will be housed within the Park City Racquet Club, location of the annual closing night awards ceremony.
Also new for ’05 is the Sundance Industry Office, which will offer a customer service department devoted to the festival’s industry attendees. Finally, the Sundance Online Festival will be beefed up and the site (http://www.sundance.org) will be a gateway to original content, festival shorts and daily festival coverage.
Given the many reports about the higher profile for international cinema, some will question the commitment to the festival’s longstanding focus on American movies.
“I still think we are an American Festival,” Gilmore told indieWIRE, “We are an American festival with a global reach.”
Continuing, Gilmore reiterated that at its core Sundance is the same event. “It s a discovery festival in the sense that you are discovering new talent, new work, and you might be discovering a new national cinema.”
indieWIRE will look more closely at the international lineup of titles in Wednesday’s World Cinema Column, but today we take a first look at the U.S. competition sections. Complete film descriptions and additional info is available on indieWIRE.com.
Sixteen films were selected from the 624 docs submitted for the Documentary Competition at Sundance ’05. “After The Innocence,” about wrongfully convicted men transitioning back into society, is the feature doc debut for Jessica Sanders, an Oscar nominee for her short film “Sing!” in 2001. “The Aristocrats,” directed by comedian Paul Provenza, features a high-profile roster of comedians each telling the same raunchy joke, while “Enron: Rise and Fall” is the first production from HDNet, directed by doc producer Alex Gibney (“Lighting in a Bottle,” “The Trials of Henry Kissinger”). Henry Alex-Rubin (producer of “Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme”) and Dana Adam-Shapiro‘s “Murderball,” the story of a quadriplegic rugby team, comes from ThinkFilm and Cinetic, while “Ring of Fire” marks the second feature doc from publicist and filmmaker Dan Klores and Ron Berger (“The Boys of Second Street Park”). “Twist of Faith” is the new film from Kirby Dick (“Chain Camera,” “Sick: the Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist”) and is currently on the short list for an Oscar nomination. And Eugene Jarecki‘s look at American militarism, in “Why We Fight,” is the new movie from the filmmaker behind “The Trials of Henry Kissinger.”
In the dramatic competition, 16 films were chosen from the 761 submitted this year. Rian Johnson‘s “Brick” marks the directorial debut from the editor of the recent indie film, “May.” Writer Craig Lucas‘ (“The Secret Lives of Dentists”) directorial debut comes from Holedigger Films, its titled “Dying Gaul,” while Scott Coffey‘s directing debut with “Ellie Parker” marks the latest in a longtime collaboration between the actor and actress Naomi Watts. Ira Sachs, at Sundance ’05 with “Forty Shades of Blue,” is known for the previous Sundance title, “The Delta,” while Tim Kirkman‘s “Loggerheads” is the first production from the new partnership of Gill Holland and Lillian Lasalle. Kirkman is known for “Dear Jesse” and “The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me.” John Singleton and Stephanie Allain are partnered as producers on “Hustle & Flow,” the anticipated debut from Singleton’s protégé, Craig Brewer. Steve Buscemi‘s “Lonesome Jim” is an InDigEnt title, while Miranda July‘s “Men and You and Everyone We Know” comes from FilmFour and IFC Films. July participated in the Sundance lab with the project. Marcos Siega‘s “Pretty Persuasion” boasts an all-star cast, and a lengthy, notable list of producers, Sigurjon Sighvatsson (“200 Cigarettes,” “The Real Blonde,” “Canadian Bacon” among them). Noah Baumbach‘s “The Squid and the Whale” features filmmaker Wes Anderson as a producer.
“The sense that I had is that there was an incremental increase in quality in the competition,” Gilmore said, commenting on the lineup, “It’s extraordinarily exciting for us to embrace that.” Continuing he said, “Maybe it is that we have reached another turning point in independent film,” pondering, “A turning point of quality.” He favorably compared this year’s lineup to that of a couple of years ago when the festival showcased “American Splendor,” “Capturing the Friedmans,” “The Station Agent,” and others.”
“Here I am hyping the lineup,” Gilmore paused, noting that in the end, audience reactions are unpredictable. Pausing another moment he added, “Its not that audience’s embrace that I care about, there may be some challenging films, but there is a quality to the art that will divide audiences (and) there are voices that I expect audiences to get excited about.”
[Brian Brooks contributed to this article.]