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DAILY NEWS: Sundance 2001 Reveals Competition and Spectrum Linueps

DAILY NEWS: Sundance 2001 Reveals Competition and Spectrum Linueps

DAILY NEWS: Sundance 2001 Reveals Competition and Spectrum Linueps

by Eugene Hernandez and Anthony Kaufman/indieWIRE

>> Gilmore Discusses 2001 Festival; Nearly 1,800 Feature Entries Received

(indieWIRE/ 12.5.00) — With little fanfare and much anticipation, the
organizers of the Sundance Film Festival — the leading U. S. showcase of
independent and international cinema — have announced the lineup for their
2001 event. Released at midnight were the official lineups for the Dramatic
and Documentary Competition as well as the American Spectrum sections
(additional feature lineups will be unveiled tomorrow at the same time). Not
surprisingly, Sundance programmers saw a jump in submissions this year, with
a noticeable increase in work created on digital video. In a conversation
with indieWIRE, Festival Co-director Geoff Gilmore discussed the lineup and a
few of this year’s emerging themes.

By the numbers, Sundance programmers received a total of 1,759 feature film
submissions, a jump of more than 100 from last year — 854 were for the
dramatic competition and 390 for documentary. In the World Cinema section,
the Festival received 515 entries, a jump over last year’s 454 entries.
Shorts topped out at 2,489 entries, growing from last year’s 1,978 entries,
while the online film festival received 315 submissions; those lineups will
be announced within the next two weeks.

Calling this year’s lineup, “A program of independent films that is more
eclectic than it used to be,” Gilmore reflected on the continued broadening
definition of independent film. Indie films never used to have three things,
Gilmore offered — big budgets, special effects and big stars. This year,
he explained, they have all of the above.

“What makes independent film independent film is its writing,” Gilmore mused.
“The kind of filmmaking that goes on is still very much defined by script
driven work.”

This year’s lineup runs the gamut, including low-budget digital work, which
saw a spike in submissions. Gilmore indicated that between one-fourth to
one-third of the films in the festival were shot digitally (while last year
no more that 10% were shot on digtial). While filmmakers are still deciding
how they will project their work, a number of notable digital movies will be
screened via High Definition (HD) projectors.

Weighing in with his own thoughts on the lineup, Associate Director of Film
Festival programming John Cooper called the dramatic competition “diverse”
in its varying budgets, styles and storytelling. Cooper and Gilmore, joined
briefly in our conversation by programmer Shari Frilot, singled out
African American work as a noteworthy aspect of this year’s linuep,
represented in the competition by Vanessa Middleton‘s “30 Years to Life” and DeMane Davis and Khari Streeter‘s “Lift,” along with Reggie Rock Blythewood‘s “Dancing in September” in American Spectrum. (Another film by an African American director will be seen in the Premieres line-up).

Notably, according to Gilmore, the types of stories coming from
African American directors is changing, delivering new sorts of stories.
“Filmmakers of color are no longer confined,” he explained.
[Eugene Hernandez]

[Analysis of each Sundance section follows. Complete lineups and
descriptions are available on the indieWIRE website:>]

>> Flashy Dramatic Comp, Returning Vets and Beginners, Too

(indieWIRE/ 12.5.00) — With several Sundance vets, powerhouse companies, and a few newcomers, the 16 films in the 2001 Sundance Dramatic Competition are a flashy set, sure to create the sort of frenzy we’ve all come to expect in Park City every January. A trio of filmmakers will make their second and third appearances at the festival: Christopher Munch (“Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day,” Competition ’96, “The Hours and The Times,” Competition ’92) returns with “Sleepy Time Gal,” a personal drama about a mother and her illegitimate daughter, starring Jacqueline Bisset and Martha Plimpton. Scott McGehee and David Siegel (“Suture,” Competition ’94) will premiere their second film “Deep End,” a thriller starring Tilda Swinton. Also returning is another filmmaking team, DeMane Davis and Khari Streeter (“Black and White and Red All Over,” Competition ’97) with “Lift,” starring Kerry Washington (“Our Song“). Slamdance 1999 winner Christopher Nolan (“Following“) graduates to Sundance competition this year with his international festival hit “Memento,” a time-bending thriller starring Guy Pearce (“L.A. Confidential“) and Carrie Anne-Moss (“The Matrix“).

A couple of films workshopped at the Sundance Institute will be showcased: Screenwriters Lab attendee Patrick Stettner unveils his thriller “The Business of Strangers,” starring Stockard Channing and Julia Stiles and produced by Susan Stover (“Happy Accidents,” “High Art“), described by Filmmaker Magazine as “‘Persona‘ meets ‘Straw Dogs‘;” and perhaps the strangest competition selection, “American Astronaut,” “a musically-driven space western,” written, directed and starring Cory McAbee (see the trailer at

Among companies familiar to Sundance, there’s the Killer Films-produced “Hedwig and The Angry Inch,” directed by and starring John Cameron Mitchell (with distribution already from New Line), and the Good Machine-produced “In the Bedroom,” directed by actor Todd Field (“Eyes Wide Shut“), with Sissy Spacek and Marisa Tomei.

Other high-profile films in the line-up include debuting director Richard Kelly’s “Donny Darko,” from Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films; Timothy Linh Bui’s (brother of Tony Bui) “Green Dragon” from Hollywood company Franchise Pictures‘ new Classics division, with Patrick Swayze and Forest Whitaker, about Vietnamese refugees in California in 1975; and actor Billy Morrisette’s darkly comic “Scotland, P.A.,” a retelling of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” starring James Legros, Maura Tierney, Christopher Walken, Amy Smart, Andy Dick, and Kevin Corrigan, set in the fast food industry. And from Fireworks Pictures comes “The Believer,” written and directed by Henry Bean (screenwriter: “Deep Cover,” “Internal Affairs“), shot by Jim Denault (“Boys Don’t Cry“), and starring Billy Zane as a young Jewish man who becomes a neo-Nazi.

Without the recognizable stars or the big production companies behind them, remaining entries like Michael Cuesta’s dark thriller “L.I.E.,” Billy Wirth’s “Macarthur Park,” Henry Barrial’s “Somebody,” and Vanessa Middleton’s 30-something dramatic comedy “30 Years to Life” may hold the biggest surprises of them all.
[Anthony Kaufman]


>> Sex, Race, and Chickens; Doc Comp Includes New Works from Smith, Maysles, Hegedus

(indieWIRE/ 12.5.00) — From chickens to skateboarders, Marcus Garvey to gay Orthodox Jews, this year’s 16 feature documentary contenders offer something for everyone. And with new works by some of the legends of the non-fiction form, Sundance 2001, like nearly every year before it, could likely be dubbed the year of the documentary. Veteran filmmakers’ entries include “Start,” directed by D.A. Pennebaker partner Chris Hegedus (“The War Room“) and Jehane Noujaim, and “Lalee’s Skin: The Legacy of Cotton,” about a poor Mississippi family, directed by another renowned team, Susan Froemke and Deborah Dickson with Albert Maysles (1987 Sundance Competition entry, “Ozawa“). “American Job” and “American Movie” director Chris Smith tackles the strange places people live with “Home Movie,” and Doug Pray, director of 1996 competition film “Hype!” returns with another music themed doc “Scratch.”

Several films about racial and sexual politics will screen in the line-up: “Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey” by celebrated black filmmaker William Greaves (“Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One“); “Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind” by Stanley Nelson (“The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords,” Sundance ’99 Freedom of Expression Award); Tom Shepard’s “Scout’s Honor,” about anti-gay bigotry in the Boy Scouts; “Trembling Before G-D,” the long-awaited portrait of lesbian and gay Hasidic and Orthodox Jews by Sandi Simcha Dubowski (“Tomboychik“); and Kate Davis’s highly anticipated “Southern Comfort” about the love story between a female-to-male transsexual dying from ovarian cancer who falls in love with a male-to-female transsexual.

Other documentaries include director/skateboarder Stacy Peralta’s “Dogtown and the Z-Boys” about Zephyr, the famous Santa Monica x-treme sports gang, narrated by Sean Penn; “Chain Camera” from Kirby Dick (“Sick: The Life and Times of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist“) which chronicles the lives of LA teenagers; “The Natural History of the Chicken,” directed by Mark Lewis, of “Cane Toads: An Unnatural History,” “Wonderful World of Dogs,” and “Rat” fame; “Go Tigers!” about an Ohio high school football team, directed by Kenneth A. Carlson (“Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick,” Sundance 1996; Best Documentary, National Board of Review); Bestor Cram and Mike Majoros’s “An Unfinished Symphony,” Edet Belzberg’s “Children Underground,” and George Butler’s IMAX epic “The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic.”
[Anthony Kaufman]


>> A Diverse Spectrum; InDigEnt and Agenda Out of the Gate

(indieWIRE/ 12.5.00) — Sundance 2001’s American Spectrum remains true to its name with 16 films that explore the vast makeup of the American experience. Several first-time feature filmmakers from diverse backgrounds fill out the section, including Rosemary Rodriguez’s “Acts of Workship,” Meng Ong’s “Miss Wonton,” Ara Corbett’s “Roof to Roof” about an Armenian family, Reggie Rock Bythewood’s “Dancing in September” about a black female producer’s struggles in the television industry, starring Nicole Ari Parker and Isaiah Washington, Randy Redroad’s NHK-grant winner, “The Doe Boy,” about a Cherokee boy who is hemophiliac, produced by Chris Eyre (“Smoke Signals“), and “Jump Tomorrow,” the debut of Joel Hopkins, director of the award-winning short “Jorge.”

Also unique to the Spectrum is the inclusion of two digital films from the Independent Film Channel‘s InDigEnt division and one from Next Wave Film‘s digital arm Agenda 2000. InDigEnt brings “I’m Losing You” writer/director Bruce Wagner’s “Women in Film,” starring Beverly D’Angelo, Portia de Rossi and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as three women working in the film industry, and Austin maverick Richard Linklater’s one-room three-character psychological no exit, “Tape,” starring Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Uma Thurman. Notably, neither Ethan Hawke’s “Last Word on Paradise” nor Campbell Scott’s “Final” are listed to screen at the festival — the two InDigEnt films that The Hollywood Reporter had speculated as late as yesterday would be included. Agenda 2000 brings its first title to the selection, “Manic,” directed by Jordan Melamed, the story of a group of troubled teens in a juvenile mental institution.

Other spectrum features include: Robert Manganelli’s “After Image,” a thriller about a deaf woman, starring singer-actor John Mellencamp and Louise Fletcher; Ilya Chaiken’s “Margarita Happy Hour” with Larry Fessenden, about the travails of a young, single mother; Hamptons Film Festival favorite “Diary of a City Priest,” starring David Morse and directed by Eugene Martin (“Edge City“); “Wet Hot American Summer,” from The State comedy troupe’s David Wain, about the last day of a summer camp in 1981, with Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce; and Jacob Kornbluth and Josh Kornbluth’s “Haiku Tunnel” based on brother Josh’s late-’80s autobiographical monologue about a male temp at a law firm (which was workshopped at the Sundance Labs).

Two documentaries will also appear in the program: Beverly Peterson’s “Invisible Revolution” and actor Billy Corben’s “Raw Deal: A Question of Consent.”
[Anthony Kaufman]


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