Sundance and NHK Honor International Work
by Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks
Among the new dramatic competition films that debuted on the first day of screenings yesterday was a Sundance Institute and NHK backed project, "The Mudge Boy," Michael Burke's first feature which picks up where his award-winning short, "Fishbelly White", leaves off. The film stars Emile Hirsch ("The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys") as a teenager in rural Vermont coming to terms with the death of his mother (and also keeping a chicken as a pet).
Burke's "Boy" was a Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab project that won the Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award on its way to securing funding. It is executive produced by Stanley Tucci and comes to Sundance via Showtime's new low-budget film production initiative. Tucci, an advisor to Burke at the Sundance Lab, loved the script and approached the director to try and help move the project forward. He later brought the script to the film's producers.
"The Mudge Boy," Burke explained following yesterday's jammed Eccles screening, started with the character of Duncan Mudge, "a kid with no agenda." "We figure out who he is and then we send him out into the world," Burke said. He added that further fest plans for the film are currently pending.
Recipients of this year's Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards, who will be honored at the festival's closing ceremony, will each receive a $10,000 prize and an NHK broadcast guarantee. The winners this year are Yesim Ustaoglu's "Waiting for the Clouds from Europe"; Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll's "Whisky from Latin America"; Michael Kang's "The Motel" from the United States; and Mai Tominaga's "100% Pure Wool" from Japan. Jurors for this year's prize included Darren Aronofsky, Hector Babenco, Tim Blake Nelson, Jill Sprecher, Toshio Endo, Kazuo Kuroi, and Shunichi Nagasaki.
"This Award was created to support new independent voices in the international film community," commented Sundance's Robert Redford in a prepared statement. "As our world continues to change, we must ensure that these voices continue to be heard, and the stories that teach us so much about our world continue to be shared."
The prize, established in 1996, has also honored Walter Salles' "Central Station," Lucrecia Martel's "La Cienaga," and Chris Eyre's "Smoke Signals," among others.
Park City police jumped into action Friday morning as the gang from the Sundance film, "Quattro Noza," peeled out in the parking lot prior to their screening at the Library Center. The digital feature, directed by Joey Curtis, is the story of youth, violence, and romance in Southern California' s subculture of hot rods and illegal street racing. Such action isn't normal in Utah evidently. "They were burning out," said Jeff Welker, a venue worker. Apparently, the kindergarten teachers next door to the theater were not impressed with the antics and the attention it had garnered from their students. The police arrived to end the auto mayhem, telling the film's reps that they need to be informed before such stunts.
"If I had a nickel for every time I got the cops called on me, I'd be so rich," Curtis told indieWIRE. Curtis said that he has had his own license suspended six times, but he kept driving (sans permission) so that he could keep his old job delivering Chinese food. The "Quattro Noza" posse seemed comfortable with the drill of identifying themselves. At a photo shoot around their cars after the screening, the group were asked for their names and all promptly whipped out their California driver's licenses. The group traveled to Park City on a road trip, but this was apparently their first police run-in of the journey.