Altman's "Cookie's Fortune" to Open '99 Sundance Film
Festival; Competition and Spectrum Lineups Unveiled
by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE
The countdown to next month’s Sundance Film Festival begins in earnest this
week as organizers unveil the documentary competition, dramatic
competition, and American Spectrum lineups. The festival, which runs
January 21 – 31, 1999 will open with the world premiere of “Cookie’s
Fortune” by Robert Altman.
Sixteen doc and sixteen narrative features will screen in competition in
Park City, while 18 films will be shown in the American Spectrum section.
Additional lineups, including the Festival’s Premiere and World Cinema
selections are set to be announced later this week.
Written by Anne Rapp, “Cookie’s Fortune” is described as a murder-mystery
set in Mississippi. Set to be released next year by October Films, the
movie’s high-profile cast includes Ned Beatty, Glenn Close, Charles Dutton,
Lyle Lovett, Julianne Moore, Patricia Neal, Chris O’Donnell, Liv Tyler and
Courtney B. Vance. It will kick off the Festival on January 21st in Salt
Lake City. Altman returns to Sundance following a tribute in 1991 and the
regional premiere of “Vincent and Theo.” In 1985 the Festival screened
“Secret Honor,” and in 1984, “Streamers” was shown.
In surveying the list of competition and Spectrum films, a number of
notable movies jump off the page, and in talking with a few of the
filmmakers last night, the importance of this festival to American
filmmaking community is underscored.
Returning to Sundance with his second feature is filmmaker Chris Smith,
whose documentary “American Movie” will screen in competition. Smith’s
first feature “American Job” showed at Sundance in 1996. Clips of his new
film screened on John Pierson’s IFC TV show, “Split Screen,” and the film
is being produced by Michael Stipe and Jim McKay’s C-Hundred Film Corp.
Among other Sundance vets is documentarian Doug Block, with “Home Page.”
The film, produced by Block, Jane Weiner and Esther Robinson, showed this
fall at the IFFM. Block co-produced two Sundance award-winning
documentaries, the 1993 film “Silverlake Life: The View from Here” and the
1995 film, “Jupiter’s Wife.” Academy award winner Jessica Yu is also
returning to Sundance, with her new feature-length work, “The Living
Museum.” Meanwhile, preparing for her first trip to Sundance is
documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, with her new film, “American Hollow” —
a year-in-the- life look at an impoverished family living in Eastern
Kentucky. The HBO-produced documentary was shot by Nick Doob, one of the
cinematographers on Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker’s 1993 film, “The War
room.” Reached last night, Kennedy told indieWIRE that while she doubted
at times that her film would be accepted at Sundance, she literally
screamed when the call came from programmer Rebecca Yeldham last week.
Looking ahead, Kennedy added that she will be relying on new company
partner Liz Garbus for guidance on navigating the festival — Garbus and
Jonathan Stack won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize last year for the “The
In the dramatic competition, producing team Robin O’Hara and FILMMAKER
Magazine Editor Scott Macaulay are back, following Tom Noonan’s 1994
Dramatic Grand Jury prize winner, “What Happened Was” and his 1995 festival
competition follow-up, “The Wife.” O’Hara and Macaulay produced Frank
Whaley’s 1999 entry, “Joe The King,” featuring Val Kilmer , Ethan Hawke,
John Leguizamo, and Camryn Manheim. Notably screening in competition is
Jim Fall’s “Trick,” starring Christian Campbell and J.P. Pitoc — the Good
Machine film was Associate Produced by indiefilm rep Bob Hawk who took a
year off of his duties as a Sundance selection committee advisor to work on
the movie. Also in the competition is Tod Williams’ Toronto Film Festival
premiere, “The Adventures of Sebastian Cole.” The film was nabbed at the
Festival by Paramount Classics. Also set with distribution is “Three
Seasons,” directed by Tony Bui. The October Films‘ financed feature was
produced by Joana Vicente and Jason Kliot at Open City Films. Vicente and
Kliot co-produced Todd Solondz’ 1996 Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner,
“Welcome to the Dollhouse.” In a conversation with indieWIRE last night,
Vicente and Kliot commented, “While we were in the burning heat of Saigon
filming ‘Three Seasons’ — under really difficult conditions — one thing
that kept us going was the possibility that we might someday be able to
freeze our asses off at Sundance. To us, that was heaven.” And echoing
feelings that undoubtedly represent many selected filmmakers, they added,
“Every filmmaker hopes their film will be accepted at Sundance, we are
proud, excited, and frankly, relieved.”
In the American Spectrum, David Riker’s powerful dramatic feature, “La
Ciudad,” will screen. The movie, which garnered significant buzz at the
Toronto Film Festival, recently screened at the Latino Film Festival in Los
Angeles and is headed to Cuba later this week for the Havana Film Festival.
In a conversation with indieWIRE last night, Riker quietly reflected on the
journey he has already taken with the acclaimed movie and mused on the
inclusion of the film in the Festival. Speculating that the film is likely
a rare foreign-language entry in the Spectrum, Riker stated, “I am excited
to the extent that Sundance represents the core of American independent
film — it means a great deal that this film had been included — I feel
lucky.” Also screening in the Spectrum is David Moreton’s “Edge of
Seventeen” which was a consistent award-winner at numerous gay and lesbian
film festivals this summer and Andrew Shea’s “The Corndog Man” which showed
at the 1998 IFFM. Another festival favorite and IFFM entry was Cauleen
Smith’s “Drylongso (Ordinary) — the movie screened at the 1998 Hamptons
Film Festival and debuted at the Film Arts Foundation Festival in November,
it has also screened at the IFP‘s Independent’s Night Series in New York.
In a conversation with indieWIRE last night Smith sounded a bit overwhelmed
by the good news, explaining that she is “completely shocked.” She went on
to relate her own experience about finding out that the film was in the
Festival. Arriving home to her Hollywood, CA apartment last week she
discovered a message on her answering machine. Convinced that the call was
to let her down easy, she did not call back. When she received a long
acceptance FAX from the Festival the next morning she began screaming. A
neighbor quickly came by to see if she was OK, but too emotionally consumed
to relate the news, she began to cry. Smith plans to make the trip to Park
City with friends and a new script that she hopes to direct.
114 feature films will screen at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival — 69 are
World Premieres, 8 are North American Premieres and 16 are U.S. Premieres.
Entries in the Premieres, World Cinema, Frontiers, Midnight, and Native
Visions sections will be unveiled later this week. The annual
Piper-Heidsieck Tribute to Independent Vision is also set to be announced
this week. A total of 58 short films will be screened — the lineup is
expected next week.
>> The Festival competition lineups are available at Park City Central.