With the announcement of the Sundance competition on Wednesday, the documentary program — as usual — is newsworthy: 16 nonfiction films representing some of the most respected filmmakers of the form. As with past Sundance docs, there is a real chance to influence the national discussion on important topics, ranging from American healthcare to nuclear power. I'll never forget trailing Al Gore through the snowy parking lot at the Library before the premiere of "An Inconvenient Truth" some years back. Docs can make a difference, and nowhere is that more apparent than at Sundance.
While at this point I can't say which of the films will pop out of next January's fest, I can already detect some trends: Not surprisingly, there seems to be a number of films dealing with the plight of America's lower and middle class, from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's "Detropia," which looks at Detroit's economic woes to Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke's "ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare," to Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson "Finding North," which examines America's hunger crisis.
There's also Lauren Greenfield's "The Queen of Versailles," which looks at the struggles of a wealthy couple's timeshare empire and the foreclosure of their sprawling house, and "We're Not Broke," Karin Hayes and Victoria Bruce's look at the laid-off and economically disgruntled, taking their frustration to the streets.
If Occupy Wall Street seems to be fading from the public consciousness, here are a handful of films that can put those issues back to the forefront of the national discussion. Let's hope so.