As I look back on my “Sundance Documentaries People Will Be Talking About” column from last January, I realize this is my equivalent to other bloggers’ annual “Most Anticipated Movies of [the Coming Year]” list. Partly because to preview the docs playing at Sundance is usually to preview the docs we’ll be seeing in theaters in the next twelve months, as well as to spot some of what will contend for the Oscar in the following year. And partly because in retrospect I similarly had high hopes for films that didn’t really meet expectations.
However, those disappointments aren’t so much of a critical nature, the way Green Lantern and The Hangover Part II might look in hindsight with a glance at movie previews from a year ago. They’re films that either were great but unfortunately weren’t talked about enough (How to Die in Oregon; Resurrect Dead; If a Tree Falls) or weren’t as popular at the box office as I envisioned (Project Nim; The Bengali Detective; Life in a Day). Also, like other bloggers comparing their year-end “Best of” list with their year-start anticipated list, I see a few titles I didn’t include in my 2011 Sundance preview that took me by surprise (Senna; We Were Here; Hell and Back Again) and even ended up on my own “Best of” list — in fact nine Sundance ‘11 titles made my list of Top 20 docs of the year.
What will be this year’s big doc sensations? I can’t be sure, especially since we’re still more than a week away from Opening Night and I’ve only heard minimal buzz on some titles and haven’t yet seen a single one. So far I can only recommend one doc playing Park City this month, the Slamdance dairy farm doc The First Season, but while this terrific verite exploration of generation and restoration among a family and its cows is worth seeing, it isn’t really fodder for huge discussions. More provocative Slamdance offerings should be the child boxing film Buffalo Girls, the transgender teen prostitute film Kelly, the amateur porn doc Danland, the ALS grafitti artist profile Getting Up: The TEMPT ONE Story and the Anonymous profile We Are Legion: The Story of the Hactivists (pictured above).
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