The beginning of December is always a pivotal time in the film calendar. Just as awards season is hitting its prime, looking back at the best offerings from the year, filmmakers, industry and seasoned fans await what will be among the most talked about titles the following year with the release of the Sundance Film Festival lineup. Today, the festival, taking place January 20 - 30 in Park City, Ogden and Sundance, UT, unveiled its rosters for the anticipated U.S. Dramatic and Documentary sections as well as the World Dramatic and Documentary sidebars.
The U.S. narrative sections include names familiar at Sundance such as Vera Farmiga ("Higher Ground") and Drake Doremus ("Like Crazy") as well as David Weissman ("We Were Here") in the doc competition along with established names such as Marshall Curry ("If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front") whose 2005 film, "Street Fight" received an Oscar nomination as well as actor Michael Rapaport who went behind the camera for his doc, "Beats, Rhymes and Life."
"Programming the festival is a long hard process," Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper told indieWIRE earlier this week. "The number [of submissions] were up in some areas or about the same in others. In the big picture, there's more diversity of story in ths program than in the past. I think the financial crisis has shaken things up and people are just going for what they want to do."
"The American doc program was the hardest to pare down...which forced them to favor new directors who had not submitted before over trued-and-true Sundance stars who were moved into a new doc program," Anne Thompson writes in Thompson on Hollywood. Cooper told Thompson that many of the films reflected the times and were "topical and urgent," adding that there are a number of faith-based sorty lines both in comedy and drama.
As the hard numbers go, Sundance received 21 less U.S. doc submissions from last year, but the number ticked up by 14 on the international side. The fest received 17 more narrative submissions from the 2010 edition and a much larger 51 more for the World Dramatic Competition. Sundance acknowledged shorts were the bigger surprise. Fifty-one less films were up for consideration from the U.S., but it received a whopping 426 more from around the world. Overall, the festival received 3,812 features and 6,467 shorts, for a grand total of 10,279 - around 3,000 more than last year, and the first time Sundance has surpassed the 10,000 mark, the event told iW.
Operationally, the festival will again offer up multiple opening night films when the festival gets underway January 20th, with one film each from the US dramatic and documentary competitions as well as the World dramatic and doc sections in addition to shorts. The festival also acknowledged that opening the event with multiple films will alleviate the constraints this year with the loss of one of its major venues while it undergoes renovations.
"We don't have the Racquet Club this year, so a lot of the dramatic competition will be in the Library. There's going to be one big shift in terms of events," noted Cooper who added that the festival's art-based New Frontier section, which is relocating to a facility near the Library. "This area should become an inviting compound that is much more inviting for people than its old space in a mall. Shari Frilot did a great job in programming it this year," added Sundance Director of Programming, Trevor Groth.
In a hint about the non-competition titles which will be released Thursday afternoon, Groth said that films appearing in its second annual NEXT section, spotlighting no to low budget films are a real discovery group this year, saying any young agent attending the event should make a bee line to those screenings this year. "[NEXT] is shattering the conventions of what is 'independent film,'" added Groth.
In addition to the competition sections released today, indieWIRE will publish Sundance's non-competition sections tomorrow, including NEXT, its Premieres, Spotlight and Park City at Midnight sections.