With the announcement of the festival's out-of-competition Premieres and Documentary Premieres line-ups Monday, Sundance programmers are drawing a serious line between its competition offerings and its more high-profile sections. This is not an accident.
"Last year, the distinction between the Premiere category and the dramatic competition was not clear," admits programming director Trevor Groth. "So this year I was hoping to find some films that made that a little clearer, and I’m very happy to say that this year those films came in."
So among the dramatic Premieres line-up are returning heavyweights Richard Linklater ("Before Midnight"), Michael Polish ("Big Sur"), Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Don Jon’s Addiction"), Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling ("The East"), David Gordon Green ("Prince Avalanche") and Jane Campion ("Top of the Lake"). Drake Doremus also returns with "Breathe In," his follow-up to his 2011 grand jury prize-winning drama "Like Crazy."
Lucy Walker's "The Crash Reel," about traumatic brain injury in sports; Alex Gibney's "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks"; Alison Ellwood's "History of the Eagles," about the bestselling "Hotel California" rockers; Sebastian Junger's "Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington"; and Barbara Kopple's "Running From Crazy," in which Mariel Hemingway investigates her family's history of mental illness, anchor the Documentary Premieres program.
The Sundance programming staff -- or, really, the filmmakers -- also must have had a bit of sex on the brain.
While death and war and religious cults have bubbled up as dominant preoccupations in recent fests, 2013 may go down as the year Sundance took its pants off. In addition to James Franco’s New Frontier oddity "Interior. Leather Bar." and Christina Voros's Park City at Midnight documentary "kink," the dramatic Premieres category will feature the Michael Winterbottom-directed "The Look of Love," about British porn publisher Paul Raymond, and "Lovelace," with Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman directing Amanda Seyfried as the titular "Deep Throat" star.
"We noticed that a lot of the films were particularly immediate and very fearless this year," says festival director John Cooper. "In a lot of our films, the filmmakers are not afraid to delve into the complex nature of sexual relationships in our society. It's been coming for a while, but it's coming more to fruition, and we're seeing it in the line-up this year for sure."
"I’ve always been surprised how afraid people have been to explore sexuality in film," adds Groth. "This year the dam burst a little bit and people went further with it — a lot of it from the female perspective. Which is very exciting for us because it opens up a whole new realm of storytelling that we hadn't seen before."
Including recent changes in the program, the Sundance line-up now includes 115 features, 101 of which are world premieres. All 29 titles in the Premieres section are world premieres.
The Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 17-27, 2013.
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