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PARK CITY '09 | Sundance Sets Slate: 64 Films To Compete In Park City

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire December 3, 2008 at 9:0AM

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The full competition lineups for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival are included below]
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[EDITOR'S NOTE: The full competition lineups for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival are included below]

Films with emotion, movies with global themes and international collaboration, and activist documentaries are among the roster of 64 competition features set for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, January 15 - 25th in Utah. Announced today, the competition lineups include a mix of new and established filmmakers. Combined with the non-competition films that will be announced tomorrow, the 2009 Sundance Film Festival feature film linenup will include a whopping 91 world premieres among the 118 titles. The roster of short films will be unveiled next week.

Among the films in the American documentary competition are Doug Pray's "Art & Copy" about advertising, Joe Berlinger's "Crude" about an environmental catastrophe in the Amazon, R.J. Cutler's "The September Issue" about Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour, Tom DiCillo's "When You're Strange" about The Doors, and Ondi Timoner's "We Live in Public" about web pioneer Josh Harris. While in the U.S. dramatic competition are Cruz Angeles' "Don't Let Me Drown" about Latino teens, Lee Daniels' "Push" adapted from the acclaimed novel, Cary Fukunaga's "Sin Nombre" about a Mexican teen gang, Ross Katz' "Taking Chance" about the real story of a military escort who takes a Marine's body back home to Wyoming, and Lynn Shelton's comedy "Humpday," described as the story of "a straight male bonding gone a little too far."

Organizers selected the domestic and international competition entries from the the 3,661 features submitted this year, a slight increase over last year when submissions jumped significantly.

A scene from Lynn Shelton's "Humpday." Image courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival.

"The numbers are pretty much the same [as last year], which is the good news," noted Sundance Film Festival programming director John Cooper in a conversation with indieWIRE. "The independent film community is happy and healthy, which is the good news," he quipped during a call that he and festival director Geoff Gilmore conducted with indieWIRE. Despite concerns that the economic climate might hurt film production, Sundance organizers continue to see a rich array of work.

One thing noticeable to both Gilmore and Cooper is a geographic diversity in much of the work, both in terms of the range of movies from various parts of the U.S. and including international projects that transcend borders. "We don't break down [submissions] by region," Gilmore explained, "[But] we did notice getting work from places we're not used to seeing. There's work from areas of Middle America that are avant-garde such as 'Stay the Same Never Change' [Frontier section, directed by Laurel Nakadate], which you'd think was out of New York or San Francisco..."

Continuing on the topic of a "universality" of independent filmmaking, Gilmore added, "This idea of globalization of subjects is all over the place in this festival. A film like 'Sergio' [U.S. documentary competition] which examines the role of the U.N. in Iraq is a U.S. film funded by Europe and the U.S. with an American director [Greg Barker]. There's also [environmental doc] 'The Cove,' shot in Japan with American funding." Gilmore went on to cite Sundance '09 titles "Big River Man" and "The Glass House" [both in the World Cinema doc competition] as other examples of films sharing common international threads.

You'll have an international topic by an American filmmaker with American and international co-production... Traditional lines of demarcation are either permeable or fading away in categorizing this work," said Gilmore.

"The independent film community has really embraced emotion in their storytelling," Cooper added, pointing out another thread shared by various films in the lineup. "The festival used to be very cerebral, and it still is to some degree, but this time there is also a lot more feeling," added Gilmore. Another theme making a big showing, according to Gilmore and Cooper, are romantic films with a twist. "A whole new generation of filmmakers are [revisiting] the genre," said Gilmore offering up Nicolas Jasenovec's U.S. dramatic competition film "Paper Heart," Jay DiPietro's "Peter and Vandy" (U.S. dramatic competition) and Australian director Adam Elliot's "Mary and Max" (premieres section) as examples.

A scene from Cruz Angeles' "Don't Let Me Drown." Image courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival.

Talking about the logistics at this year's Sundance, Gilmore and Cooper said that the festival will be adding a new venue, called the Temple Theater, at a synagogue about five minutes from the main area of Park City heading toward the main highway. The 250-seat venue, which boasts ample parking and a cafe, will be the new home for the American doc competition films. Additionally, to directly combat guerrilla marketers who have overun the fest in recent years, organizers will take over the Village at the Lift on Lower Main Street - which will now be dubbed Sundance at the Lift - and be used for press junkets and parties, as they try to usurp the marketing prowess of those infamous "branding houses" and swag sites.

Asked if the economy, now officially in recession, has impacted the festival's operations this year, Gilmore said ticket sales were doing well - in fact sold out in many package categories - but said there may still yet be some kind of impact. Added Cooper, "I don't think we've felt it yet, but I'm sure we will. I'm just in denial now."


[Below descriptions are provided by the Sundance Film Festival]

The films screening in Documentary Competition are:

Art & Copy (Director: Doug Pray; Screenwriter: Timothy J. Sexton)--Rare interviews with the most influential advertising creative minds of our age illustrate the wide-reaching effect advertising and creativity have on modern culture. World Premiere

Boy Interrupted (Director: Dana Perry)-- An intimate look at the life, mental illness and death of a young man told from the point of view of the filmmaker: his mother. World Premiere

The Cove (Director: Louie Psihoyos; Screenwriter: Mark Monroe)--Dolphins are dying, whales are disappearing, and the oceans are growing sick. The horrors of a secret cove nestled off a small, coastal village in Japan are revealed by a group of activists led by Ric O'Barry, the man behind Flipper. World Premiere

Crude (Director: Joe Berlinger)--The inside story of the "Amazon Chernobyl" case in the rainforest of Ecuador, the largest oil-related environmental lawsuit in the world. World Premiere

Dirt the Movie (Directors: Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow)--The story of the relationship between humans and dirt, Dirt The Movie humorously details how humans are rapidly destroying the last natural resource on earth. World Premiere

The General (El General) (Director: Natalia Almada)--As great-granddaughter of Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles, one of Mexico's most controversial revolutionary figures, filmmaker Natalia Almada paints an intimate portrait of Mexico. World Premiere

Good Hair (Director: Jeff Stilson)--Comedian Chris Rock turns documentary filmmaker when he sets out to examine the culture of African-American hair and hairstyles. World Premiere

Over the Hills and Far Away (Director: Michel Scott)--Over the Hills and Far Away chronicles the journey of the Isaacson family as they travel through Mongolia in search of a mysterious shaman they believe can heal their autistic son. World Premiere

The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court (Director: Pamela Yates)--A battle of monumental proportions unfolds as International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo faces down warlords, genocidal dictators and world superpowers in bringing perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice. World Premiere

Reporter (Director: Eric Daniel Metzgar)--Set in Africa, this documentary chronicles, in verite fashion, the haunting, physically grueling and shocking voyage of Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, Nicholas Kristof. World Premiere

The September Issue (Director: R.J. Cutler)--With unprecedented access, director R.J. Cutler and his crew shot for nine months as they captured Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and her team preparing the 2007 Vogue September issue, widely accepted as the "fashion bible" for the year's trends. World Premiere

Sergio (Director: Greg Barker)--Sergio examines the role of the United Nations and the international community through the life and experiences of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights, including interviews with those who knew and worked with him over the course of his extraordinary career. World Premiere

Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech (Director: Liz Garbus)--An exploration of the history and current state of free speech in America narrated by the filmmaker's father, First Amendment attorney Martin Garbus. World Premiere

We Live in Public (Director: Ondi Timoner)--We Live in Public is the story of the Internet's revolutionary impact on human interaction as told through the eyes of maverick web pioneer, Josh Harris and his transgressive art project that shocked New York. World Premiere

When You're Strange (Director: Tom DiCillo)--The first feature documentary about The Doors, When You're Strange enters the dark and dangerous world of one of America's most influential bands using only footage shot between 1966 and 1971. World Premiere

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (Directors: Sarah Kunstler and Emily Kunstler)--With clients including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and the Chicago 10, the late civil rights attorney William Kunstler was one of the most famous lawyers of the 20th century. Filmmakers Emily and Sarah Kunstler explore their father's life from movement hero to "the most hated lawyer in America." World Premiere


The films screening in Dramatic Competition are:

Adam (Director and Screenwriter: Max Mayer)--A strange and lyrical love story between a somewhat socially dysfunctional young man and the woman of his dreams. Cast: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison. World Premiere

Amreeka (Director and Screenwriter: Cherien Dabis)--When a divorced Palestinian woman and her teenage son move to rural Illinois at the outset of the Iraq war, they find their new lives replete with challenges. Cast: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Yussuf Abu-Warda, Alia Shawkat. World Premiere.

Arlen Faber (Director and Screenwriter: John Hindman)--A reclusive author of a groundbreaking spiritual book awakens to new truths when two strangers enter his life. Cast: Jeff Daniels, Lauren Graham, Lou Pucci, Olivia Thirlby. World Premiere

Big Fan (Director and Screenwriter: Robert Siegel)--The world of a parking garage attendant who happens to be the New York Giants' biggest fan is turned upside down after an altercation with his favorite player. Cast: Patton Oswalt, Michael Rapaport, Kevin Corrigan, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Matt Servitto. World Premiere.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Director and Screenwriter: John Krasinski)--When her boyfriend leaves with little explanation, a doctoral candidate in anthropology tries to remedy her heartache by interviewing men about their behavior. Cast: Julianne Nicholson, John Krasinski, Timothy Hutton, Dominic Cooper, Christopher Meloni, Rashida Jones. World Premiere

Cold Souls (Director and Screenwrtier: Sophie Barthes)--In the midst of an existential crisis, a famous American actor explores soul extraction as a relief from the burdens of daily life. Cast: Paul Giamatti, Dina Korzun, David Strathairn, Emily Watson, Lauren Ambrose, Oksana Lada. World Premiere

Dare (Director: Adam Salky; Screenwriter: David Brind)--Three very different teenagers discover that, even in the safe world of a suburban prep school, no one is who she or he appears to be. Cast: Emmy Rossum, Zach Gilford, Ashley Springer, Ana Gasteyer, Alan Cumming, Sandra Bernhard, Rooney Mara. World Premiere

Don't Let Me Drown (Director: Cruz Angeles; Screenwriters: Cruz Angeles and Maria Topete)--Two Latino teens whose lives are affected by the attack on the World Trade Center discover that love is the only thing that keeps them from drowning. Cast: E.J. Bonilla, Gleendilys Inoa, Damian Alcazar, Ricardo Chavira, Gina Torres. World Premiere

The Greatest (Director and Screenwriter: Shana Feste)-- After the tragic loss of their teenage son, a family is again thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a young woman. Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Carey Mulligan, Johnny Simmons, Aaron Johnson, Zoe Kravitz. World Premiere.

Humpday (Director and Screenwriter: Lynn Shelton)--A farcical comedy about straight male bonding gone a little too far. Cast: Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore, Lynn Shelton, Trina Willard. World Premiere.

Paper Heart (Director: Nicolas Jasenovec)--Even though performer Charlyne Yi doesn't believe in love, she bravely embarks on a quest to discover its true nature--a journey that takes on surprising urgency when she meets unlikely fellow traveler, actor Michael Cera. Cast: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Nicolas Jasenovec, Jake Johnson. World Premiere.

Peter and Vandy (Director and Screenwriter: Jay DiPietro)--Juxtaposing a couple's romantic beginnings with the twisted-manipulative-regular couple they have become, Peter and Vandy is a contemporary Manhattan love story with no beginning and no end. Cast: Jess Weixler, Jason Ritter, Jesse L. Martin, Tracie Thoms. World Premiere

Push (Director and Screenwriter: Lee Daniels)--Based on the acclaimed, best-selling novel by Sapphire, Push is the redemptive story of Precious Jones, a young girl in Harlem struggling to overcome tremendous obstacles and discover her own voice. Cast: Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mo'Nique Imes, Lenny Kravitz. World Premiere

Sin Nombre/U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Cary Fukunaga)--The film tells the story of Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), a teenager living in Honduras, and hungering for a brighter future. A reunion with her long-estranged father gives Sayra her only real option – emigrating with her father and her uncle into Mexico and then the United States, where her father now has a new family. World Premiere

Taking Chance (Director: Ross Katz; Screenwriters: Ross Katz, Michael Strobl)--Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming. Cast: Tom Aldredge, Sherman Alpert, Nicholas Art, Kevin Bacon, Blanche Baker. World Premiere

Toe to Toe (Director and Screenwriter: Emily Abt)--The story of an inter-racial friendship put to the test by the intense pressures of a competitive Washington, D.C. prep school. Cast: Sonequa Martin, Louisa Krause, Silvestre Rasuk, Anwan Glover, Gaius Charles. World Premiere


Films screening in World Cinema Documentary Competition are:

211:Anna / Italy (Directors:Paolo Serbandini & Giovanna Massimetti)--The story of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and human rights activist who risked her life to report the truth about the Chechen conflict and President Vladimir Putin. World Premiere

Afghan Star / Afghanistan/UK (Director: Havana Marking)--After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan: millions are watching and voting for their favorite singer. This film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing. North American Premiere

Big River Man / USA (Director: John Maringouin)--An overweight, wine-swilling Slovenian world-record-holding endurance swimmer resolves to brave the mighty Amazon--in nothing but a Speedo(R). World Premiere

Burma VJ / Denmark (Director: Anders Oestergaard)--In September 2007, Burmese journalists risking life imprisonment to report from inside their sealed-off country are suddenly thrown onto the global stage as their pocket camera images of the Saffron Revolution make headlines everywhere. North American Premiere

The End of the Line / UK (Director: Rupert Murray)--Based on the book by journalist Charles Clover, The End of the Line reveals the devastating effect that global overfishing is having on fish stocks and the health of our oceans. World Premiere

The Glass House / USA (Director: Hamid Rahmanian)--The Glass House follows four teenage girls striving to overcome drug addiction, abandonment and abuse by attending a rehabilitation center in Tehran. North American Premiere

Kimjongilia / France/USA (Director: N.C. Heikin)--Defectors from North Korea finally speak out about the terrifying reality of their lives--and escapes. World Premiere

Let's Make Money /Austria/China/South Africa/Spain/Switzerland/U.S.A. (Director: Erwin Wagenhofer)--From the factories of India, to financial markets in Singapore, to massive housing developments in Spain and offshore banks in Jersey, Let's Make Money reveals complex and shocking workings of global money flow. North American Premiere

Nollywood Babylon / Canada (Directors: Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal)--Welcome to the wacky world of Nollywood, Nigeria's bustling home-grown movie industry. U.S. Premiere

Old Partner / South Korea (Director: Chung-ryoul Lee)--A humble octogenarian farmer lives out his final days with his spitfire wife and his loyal old ox in the Korean countryside. World Premiere

Prom Night in Mississippi / Canada (Director: Paul Saltzman)--When a small-town Mississippi high school resolves to hold its first integrated senior prom, strong emotions fly and traditions are challenged to their core. World Premiere

The Queen and I (Drottningen och jag) /Sweden (Director: Nahid Persson Sarvestani)-- Swedish filmmaker Sarvestani, an Iranian exile who helped overthrow the Shah's regime in 1979, confronts her own assumptions and complex truths about Iran when she enters the life of the Shah's widow. World Premiere

Quest for Honor / Kurdistan / USA (Director: Mary Ann Bruni)--A former teacher and tireless activist works with local lawmen, Kurdish government agencies and her colleagues to investigate and eradicate honor killings in the tribal regions of Kurdistan. World Premiere

Rough Aunties / UK (Director: Kim Longinotto)--Fearless, feisty and unwavering, the 'Rough Aunties' protect and care for the abused, neglected and forgotten children of Durban, South Africa. North American Premiere

Thriller in Manila / UK (Director: John Dower)--A tale of betrayal stoked by the racial politics of 1970s America, Thriller in Manila chronicles the most intense and bitter sporting rivalry ever: the 1975 final match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. World Premiere

Tibet in Song / USA (Director: Ngawang Choephel)--Through the story of Tibetan music, this film depicts the determined efforts of Tibetan people, both in Tibet and in exile, to preserve their unique cultural identity. Choephel served six years of an 18-year prison sentence for filming in Tibet. World Premiere


Films screening in World Cinema Dramatic Competition are:

Before Tomorrow (Le Jour Avant Lendemain) / Canada (Directors: Madeline Piujuq & Marie-Helene Cousineau)--A wise old woman fights to survive impossible circumstances with her young grandson in the Canadian arctic. Cast: Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Paul-Dylan Ivalu, Madeline Piujuq Ivalu, Mary Qulitalik, Tumasie Sivuarapik. U.S. Premiere

Bronson / UK (Director: Nicolas Winding Refn; Screenwriter: Brock Norman Brock)--Bronson traces the transformation of Mickey Peterson into Britain's most notorious, dangerous, and charismatic prisoner, Charles Bronson. Cast: Tom Hardy. World Premiere

Carmo, Hit the Road / Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Murilo Pasta)-- A lonely, handicapped smuggler and a beautiful girl embark on a reckless ride through a South American border landscape. Cast: Mariana Loureiro, Fele Martinez,Seu Jorge. World Premiere

The Clone Returns (Kuron Wa Kokyo-Wo Mezasu) / Japan (Director and Screenwriter: Kanji Nakajima) --A Japanese astronaut who dies during a mission is subsequently resurrected as a clone and returns to his childhood home. Cast: Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Eri Ishida, Hiromi Nagasaku. North American Premiere

Dada's Dance / China (Director: Zhang Yuan; Screenwriter: Li Xiaofeng)--Dada is a flirtatious young woman who lives with her mother in a small town. Having to fend off the constant advances of her mother's boyfriend who tells her she is adopted, she undertakes a journey in search of her birth mother. Cast: Li Xinyun, Li Xiaofeng, Gai Ge, Chen Jun. World Premiere

An Education / UK (Director: Lone Scherfig; Screenwriter: Nick Hornby)--In the early 60s, a sharp 16-year-old with sights set on Oxford meets a handsome older man whose sophistication enraptures and sidetracks both her and her parents. Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson. World Premiere

Five Minutes of Heaven / UK / (Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel; Screenwriter: Guy Hibbert)--Two men from the same town but from different sides of the Irish political divide discover that the past is never dead--in fact it isn't even past. Cast: Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca. World Premiere

A French Gigolo (Cliente) / France (Director and Screenwriter: Josiane Balasko)--An attractive, successful 50-something woman regularly treats herself to the sexual services of young men selected on Internet sites. When one particular escort becomes a habit, the relationship gets a bit more complicated. Cast: Nathalie Baye, Eric Caravaca, Isabelle Carre, Josiane Balasko. World Premiere

Heart of Time (Corazon Del Tiempo) / Mexico (Director and Screenwriter: Alberto Cortes)--In La Esperanza de San Pedro, Chiapas, in the midst of the Zapatista struggle, a young woman makes serious waves when she falls in love with a revolutionary fighter from the mountains. Cast: Rocio Barrios. North American Premiere

Louise-Michel / France (Directors: Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern)--When a French factory is abruptly closed by its corrupt management, a group of disgruntled female workers pool their paltry compensation money and hire a hit man to knock off the corrupt executive behind the closure. Cast: Yolande Moreau, Bouli Lanners. North American Premiere

Lulu and Jimi / Germany (Director: Oskar Roehler)--Bright garish colors, rock and roll and wild dance numbers mark this road movie about lovers fleeing from the evil powers of a 1950s deeply bigoted German society. Cast: Jennifer Decker, Ray Fearon, Katrin SaB, Rolf Zacher, Udo Kier. World Premiere

The Maid (La Nana) / Chile (Director and Screenwriter: Sebastian Silva)--When her mistress brings on another servant to help with the chores, a bitter and introverted maid wreaks havoc on the household. Cast: Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedon, Mariana Loyola, Alejandro Goic, Andrea Garcia-Huidobro. North American Premiere

One Day in a Life (Un Altro Pianeta) / Italy (Director and Screenwriter: Stefano Tummolini)-- One languid summer day, a man heads to the beach in search of sunshine and bit of peace, but finds himself tangled up in the dramas of an eclectic group of nearby sunbathers. Cast: Antonio Merone, Lucia Mascino. World Premiere

Unmade Beds / UK (Director and Screenwriter: Alexis Dos Santos)--Two young foreigners find romance in the vibrant, artistic underground of London's East End. Cast: Deborah Francois, Fernando Tielve. World Premiere

Victoria Day/Canada (Director and Screenwriter: David Bezmozgis)--Over the course of one week in 1988, the search for a missing teammate, parental expectations, a burgeoning sexual awakening and the rock concert of the century all threaten to jolt a sixteen year old into adulthood. Cast: Mark Rendall, Sergiy Kotelenets, Nataliya Alyexeyenko, Holly Deveaux, John Mavrogiannis. World Premiere

Zion and His Brother (Zion Ve-Achiv) / France / Israel (Director and Screenwriter: Eran Merav) The disappearance of a young boy sends a wedge between two teenage brothers whose loyalty had been unshakeable, in this gritty story of a working class Tel Aviv single-parent family. Cast: Reuven Badalov, Ronit Elkabetz, Tzahi Grad. World Premiere

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