“The Crash Reel”
Frequent Sundance presence Lucy Walker (“Devil’s Playground,” 2002; “Waste Land,” 2010) returns with a new documentary about the exhilaration and peril of extreme sports. She builds her story around champion snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who suffered a severe brain injury while training to take on Shaun White at the 2010 Winter Olympics – on a Park City mountain, of all places. Despite the film’s potentially maudlin subject matter, Walker may have delivered her most crowd-pleasing experience, as the joy of the athletes’ risk-taking shines through loads of vérité footage even as danger surrounds them. [Jay A. Fernandez]
One of two films returning Chilean writer-director Sebastian Silva has in the program (the other is the Park City at Midnight selection “Magic Magic”), “Crystal Fairy” follows an obnoxious American traveling through Chile who picks up a “radical spirit” named Crystal Fairy and takes the woman along on his quest to sample a rare hallucinogen. The film promises to show a very different performance from Michael Cera as the insensitive protagonist (Cera also stars in “Magic Magic”). But we’re eager to see any new work from Silva, whose arresting drama “The Maid” took the world cinema grand jury prize at Sundance in 2009. [Jay A. Fernandez]
"Cutie and the Boxer"
Five years in the works, "Cutie and the Boxer" marks the directorial debut of promising New York-based documentary filmmaker Zachary Heinzerling, who was selected as one of 25 filmmakers for the New York Film Festival's Emerging Visions program back in 2011. The intimate sounding doc profiles Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, married Japanese artists living in New York who have been together for 40 years. At the film's outset, Ushio and Noriko are in the midst of preparing a joint exhibit. Using the event as a springboard, Heinzerling delves into the couple's surprising back-story to reveal a look at the sacrifices Noriko made to further Ushio's career. [Nigel M. Smith]
Ryan Coogler's feature-length debut revolves around a twentysomething Bay Area resident over the course of an increasingly problematic New Year's Eve in 2008, when virtually every bit of good the young man tries to do goes wrong. The story promises a gradual descent into chaos within a constrained setting rooted in a single likable guy. That's a good starting point for an actor's showcase, which "Fruitvale" might be: It stars "Chronicle" star Michael B. Jordan alongside Octavia Spencer and several others. [Eric Kohn]