There are few cinematic happenings in the U.S. where spectators can stand face to face with Gwyneth Paltrow one moment and then witness a video installation sculpture involving bus-terminal televisions the next. Such is the Sundance Film Festival, where organizers announced the lineups today for the event’s other feature sections, from the glitzy Premieres and catchall Spectrum to the cult-ish Midnight and avant-garde New Frontier section.
As previously announced, Brett Morgen‘s “Chicago 10,” a documentary about the 1968 anti-war protest and trials that followed, will open the festival in Park City. Meanwhile, Salt Lake City’s gala opener goes to Sarah Polley‘s feature debut and recent Toronto favorite “Away from Her.” The festival’s official closer is Nelson George‘s HBO Films movie “Life Support,” which stars Queen Latifah as a crack-addicted mother who turned her life around to become an AIDS activist.
The complete Sundance feature competition lineups were announced yesterday and are available now at indieWIRE.com. The lineup of short films will be announced next week.
Adding the requisite celebrity quotient to Park City’s slopes is the Premieres section, which includes, among others, “Black Snake Moan,” Craig Brewer‘s return trip to Sundance after his “Hustle and Flow” triumph (from Paramount Vantage), “Year of the Dog,” Mike White‘s comedy starring Molly Shannon (Paramount Vantage), “The Savages,” Tamara Jenkins’ latest starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Fox Searchlight) and Yari Film Group‘s “Resurrecting the Champ,” a story about an ex-boxer from Rod Lurie, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett.
Reaffirming the festival’s sense of eclecticism this year, Sundance festival director Geoffrey Gilmore says the Premieres reflect, “a broad range of programming,” he explains, “including international films, major works by first-time directors, and with major actors doing turns that you haven’t seen before. It’s a program which runs the gamut from those with a kind of mainstream quality to work that is intense and provocative, like John August‘s ‘The Nine,'” the Hollywood screenwriter’s feature debut which currently has no U.S. distribution.
Acquisition executives, per usual, will be busy shuttling back and forth between the Racquet Club and the Eccles (where many of the Premieres debut), looking for pick-ups. This year’s hot commercial titles are likely to include Inferno Pictures‘ comedy “The Good Night,” directed by Jack Paltrow and starring Gwyneth and Penelope Cruz, Peace Arch Entertainment‘s John Lennon assassination film “Chapter 27,” starring Lindsay Lohan and Jared Leto, and Nu Image‘s “King of California,” starring Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood.
“People get excited about a lot of stuff that they don’t really know much about,” says Gilmore regarding the pre-festival hype. “You are happy for the excitement, you want people to feel good about what emerges,” he adds, “and hopefully find it equally interesting after they see it.”
Distributors will also be staying up late to check out the festival’s Park City at Midnight program — once home to such breakouts as “Saw” and “The Blair Witch Project.” This year, it’s new comedies – not horror – from David Wain (with the Ten Commandments spoof “The Ten“) and Justin Lin (“Finishing the Game,” a ’70s-set mockumentary about finding Bruce Lee’s replacement after his sudden death) that will be generating buzz. The midnight program also includes Sundance regular Gregg Araki‘s stoner-epic, screwball-comedy “Smiley Face.”
Just as its name suggests, this year’s Spectrum program is all over the map. “Spectrum really has a little bit of everything and that’s what it’s created for,” says programming director John Cooper, “American and international, documentary and fiction. It’s become a much broader category.”
Twenty-four films will screen in the out-of-competition Spectrum section, including new films from indie vets Tom DiCillo (“Delirious“) and Hal Hartley (“Fay Grim“), actor-turned-directors Steve Buscemi (“Interview“) Justin Theroux (“Dedication”) and recently murdered actress-filmmaker Adrienne Shelly (“Waitress“), new documentaries about Sudan, the Miss Navajo Nation Pageant, the Manhattan project and foreign films from the U.K. (Andrea Arnold‘s “Red Road“), the Philippines (“The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros” director Auraeus Solito‘s latest “Tuli“), and France (Luc Besson‘s “Angel-A“).
The festival’s biggest new addition this year is an expanded Frontier section, the home for the event’s more experimental work. Now dubbed “New Frontier,” the program will include, as usual, a selection of more innovative work screening in regular festival venues – including reknowned artist Nina Menkes‘ “Phantom Love,” Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins‘ “Slipstream,” Douglas Gordon‘s Cannes favorite “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait” and recent Pusan Fest critic’s favorite “The Last Dining Table” — as well as a new permanent space called the New Frontier on Main, which will host screenings, installations and live performances.
Two years in the making, the permanent home is “a platform for art, film and technology,” says Gilmore. While the Frontier section was created 10 years ago to create a showcase for more avant-garde work, Gilmore says, “a lot more has been going on than what you’d describe as traditional avant-garde.”
“It’s more than just the four walls of the theater,” adds Cooper, who worked closely with programmer Shari Frilot to put together the program. “We’re bringing in artists that used to find their home more in the museum world.”
Curator Mike Plante, for example, has put together a program of shorts called “Lunch Film,” in which 14 artists – including notables James Benning, James Fotopoulos and Sharon Lockhart – were commissioned to make films in trade for the price of a lunch of the same value. Sundance vet Travis Wilkerson (“An Injury to One“) will present a live performance called “Proving Ground,” collagist and animator Martha Colburn offers an installation called “Meet Me in Witchita,” and artist Shu Lea Cheang (“I.K.U.”) will coordinate “Mobiopera,” a collaborative soap-opera made from Park City cellphone users that will culminate in a VJ party.
“We know that’s this work is marginal to a lot of people’s interests,” admits Gilmore. “But frankly that’s one of the problems that the avant-garde is not as visible as it should be. But now it’s much more exciting and diverse in terms of the kind of filmmaking we’re talking about.”
“They’re kind of wild and crazy,” adds Cooper about the New Frontier on Main projects. “But they’re also very accessible. I think they’re really going to draw an audience, on a more visceral and emotional level.”
While Gilmore acknowledges that audiences for experimental work may be scarce among the stargazers in Sundance, he says, “We’re offering people an opportunity to experience something which, in some cases, they’re unfamiliar with. It’s about opening up people to different ideas. And we know that festivals are often the one context where that can happen.”
The films screening in Premieres are:
“An American Crime“/ USA, Director: Tommy O’Haver; Screenwriters: Tommy O’Haver, Irene Turner
A fictionalized account of the true story of a young girl’s torturous ordeal at the hands of a troubled mother of seven in 1960s Indianapolis. World Premiere.
“Away from Her“/ Canada, Director and Screenwriter: Sarah Polley
Married for almost 50 years, Grant and Fiona’s serenity is interrupted by Fiona’s increasingly frequent memory lapses. When it is no longer possible for either of them to ignore the fact that she is being consumed by Alzheimer’s disease, the limits of love and loyalty are wrenchingly redefined. U.S. Premiere. (Salt Lake City Gala)
“Black Snake Moan“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Craig Brewer
Desire is a burning sickness for Rae, while making her the white-trash sexual target of every man and boy in her small Tennessee town. When her true love leaves for military service, Rae plunges into wild excess. Beaten, left for dead, she’s taken in by a reformed bluesman, a private self-contained black man who nurses deep anger of his own, who is fiercely committed to his task of keeping her alive. World Premiere.
“Chapter 27“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Jarrett Schaefer
A terrifying glimpse into the deranged mind of Mark David Chapman during his days in NYC prior to the murder of John Lennon, which is played out through his obsession with JD Salinger’s classic novel ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. World Premiere.
“Chicago 10“/ USA, Director: Brett Morgen
“Chicago 10” presents contemporary history with a forced perspective, mixing bold and original animation with extraordinary archival footage that explores the build-up to and unraveling of the Chicago Conspiracy Trial and the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. World Premiere. (Opening Night Park City)
“Clubland“/ Australia, Director: Cherie Nowlan; Screenwriter: Keith Thompson
Tim has a new girlfriend. It should be the perfect romance but something is holding him back. He has a secret…his parents are “Entertainers”! There are never just two people in a family love story. World Premiere.
“The Good Night“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Jake Paltrow
A man finds he has more happiness and love with the woman in his dreams than in his miserable day to day reality. World Premiere.
“King of California“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Mike Chahill
An unstable dad who after getting out of a mental institution tries to convince his daughter that there’s Spanish gold buried somewhere under suburbia. World Premiere.
“Life Support“/ USA, Director: Nelson George; Screenwriters: Nelson George, Jim McKay, Hannah Weyer
“Life Support” views the African-American community’s HIV crisis through the eyes of a survivor who is a mother, a former addict and an AIDS activist. World Premiere. (Closing Night Film)
“Longford“/ UK, Director: Tom Hooper; Screenwriter: Peter Morgan
A portrait of Lord Longford, a tireless British campaigner whose controversial beliefs often resulted in furious political debate and personal conflict. World Premiere.
“The Nines“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: John August
A troubled actor, a television show runner, and an acclaimed videogame designer find their lives intertwining in mysterious and unsettling ways. World Premiere.
“Resurrection Camp“/ USA, Director Rod Lurie; Screenwriters: Allison Burnett, Michael Bortman, Chris Gerolmo, Rod Lurie
A down on his luck sports reporter has his life and career upturned when he lands the story of his career: A former heavyweight boxing superstar, previously thought to be dead, is living his final years on the streets. Finally, he can earn the respect of his wife and editor—but the dark secret he finds may be too much for him to bear. World Premiere.
“The Savages“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Tamara Jenkins
A comic-drama about a pair of adult siblings who are suddenly plucked from their self-absorbed lives when they are forced to care for their estranged and elderly father who never cared for them–an irreverent story about life, love and mortality. World Premiere.
“Son of Rambow“/ UK, Director and Screenwriter: Garth Jennings
Will is the eldest son in a family with a strict moral and religious view and never been allowed to mix with other people, listen to music or watch TV. That is until he finds himself caught up in the extraordinary world of Lee Carter, the school terror and maker of bizarre home movies. World Premiere.
“Summer Rain” (El Camino de los Ingleses)/ Spain, Director: Antonio Banderas; Screenwriter: Antonio Soler
The film is adapted from an award-winning novel written by the director’s childhood friend, Antonio Soler, and is a deeply personal and poetic recreation of their generation growing up in Malaga in the late 1970s. World Premiere.
“Trade“/ USA, Marco Kreuzpaintner; Screenwriter: Jose Rivera
Adriana is a 13-year-old girl from Mexico City whose kidnapping by sex traffickers sets in motion a desperate mission by her 17-year-old brother, Jorge, to save her. As Jorge dodges immigration officers and incredible obstacles to track the girls’ abductors, he meets Ray, a Texas cop whose own family loss to sex trafficking leads him to become an ally in the boy’s quest. World Premiere.
“Year of the Dog“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Mike White
Peggy is a happy-go-lucky secretary – a great friend, employee, and sister who lives alone with her beloved dog. But when Pencil unexpectedly dies, Peggy must embark on a journey of personal transformation that is hilarious, poignant and suspenseful. World Premiere.
The films screening in Spectrum are:
“Angel-A“/ France, Director and Screenwriter: Luc Besson
A fairy tale about a man who gets a second chance in life when he saves a statuesque, mysterious beauty from a suicide bid in the Seine River. North American Premiere.
“Bugmaster” (Mushishi)/ Japan, Director: Katsuhiro Otomo; Screenwriter: Sadayuki Murai
A traveling mystical doctor, “a Bugmaster,” passes through remote regions of Japan curing the ill-effects of supernatural creatures, the “Mushi,” who plague the people in this tale of ancient legend based on a celebrated Manga. U.S. Premiere.
“Dark Matter“/ USA, Director: Chen Shi-Zheng; Screenwriter: Billy Shebar
Inspired by real events, “Dark Matter” delves into the world of a brilliant Chinese astronomy student whose dreams are challenged when he arrives in America to pursue his Ph.D. World Premiere.
“Dedication“/ USA, Director: Justin Theroux; Screenwriter: David Bromberg
A socially dysfunctional children’s book author is forced to work closely with a female illustrator when he loses his long-time collaborator and only friend. World Premiere.
“Delirious“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Tom DiCillo
A small time paparazzo befriends and hires a homeless young man who flirts with fame and fortune when he becomes entangled with a famous pop star. North American Premiere.
“The Devil Came on Horseback“/ USA, Directors: Annie Sundberg, Ricki Stern
“The Devil Came on Horseback” exposes the genocide raging in Darfur, Sudan as seen through the eyes of a former U.S. marine who returns home to make the story public. World Premiere.
“Expired“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Cecilia Miniucchi
When a lonely, gentle meter maid meets a troubled fellow parking officer, their love affair becomes an awkward dance of attraction and antagonism. World Premiere.
“Fay Grim“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Hal Hartley
A single mother whose husband has been missing for seven years is used as bait by the CIA in this international espionage caper. U.S. Premiere.
“Fraulein“/ Switzerland, Director and Screenwriter: Andrea Staka
A hardened Zurich restaurant owner from Yugoslavia finds her cool detachment from the past disrupted with the arrival of a younger, free-spirited woman seeking a better life after the Balkan War. North American Premiere.
“The Go-Getter“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Martin Hynes
When his mother dies a teenager takes a road-trip in a stolen car to find his long-lost brother. Along the way he discovers a profound connection with the car-owner and with himself as well. World Premiere.
“The Great World of Sound“/ USA, Director: Craig Zobel; Screenwriter: George Smith, Craig Zobel
When a man answers an ad to train as a record producer, he’s excited by the prospect of signing undiscovered artists only to discover his new job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. World Premiere.
“If I Had Known I Was a Genius“/ USA, Dominique Wirtschafter; Screenwriter: Markus Redmond
A young African-American man recounts his life. When he finds out he has a high IQ he struggles to fit in somewhere while also battling with his dysfunctional family. World Premiere.
“Interview“/ USA, Director: Steve Buscemi; Screenwriters: Steve Buscemi, David Schechter
A fading political journalist has a falling out with his editor and is given an assignment to interview a top television actress, which derails into a battle of wits and deep dark secrets. World Premiere.
“Low and Behold“/ USA, Director: Zack Godshall; Screenwriters: Zack Godshall, Barlow Jacobs
When an unmotivated young man signs on as an insurance adjuster in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, he is profoundly changed by the destruction and loss he encounters. World Premiere.
“La Misma Luna” (The Same Moon)/ USA, Director: Patricia Riggen; Screenwriter: Ligiah Villalobos
When his grandmother dies a young Mexican boy struggles to cross the border to reunite with his beloved mother, who is working hard in Los Angeles to create a better life for the family. World Premiere.
“Miss Navajo“/ USA, Director: Billy Luther
A documentary that explores the role of women and tradition in Navajo culture by following one young woman as she prepares for and competes in the Miss Navajo Nation Pageant. World Premiere.
“Red Road“/ UK, Director and Screenwriter: Andrea Arnold
When a man she never wanted to see again suddenly appears back in Jackie’s ordered, isolated Glasgow life, she has no choice; she is compelled to confront him. U.S. Premiere.
“Reprise“/ Norway, Director: Joachim Trier; Screenwriters: Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Two competitive twenty-something friends, fueled by literary aspirations and youthful exuberance, endure the pangs of love, depression and burgeoning careers. U.S. Premiere.
“Save Me“/ USA, Director: Robert Cary; Screenwriters: Craig Chester, Alan Hines, Robert Desiderio
A deft exploration of the controversial gay reform movement, “Save Me” follows a sex and drug addicted young man who is forced into a Christian-run ministry in an attempt to cure him of his “gay affliction”, where instead he is faced with the truth in his heart and spirit. World Premiere.
“Tuli“/ Philippines, Director: Auraeus Solito; Screenwriter: Jimmy Flores
When a young girl in a remote Philippine village is forced into an arranged marriage by her abusive father, she rejects traditional mores and creates an alternative life. U.S. Premiere.
“The Unforseen“/ USA, Director: Laura Dunn
When a west Texas farm boy develops pristine hill country into large-scale subdivisions, threatening a fragile limestone aquifer, an environmental movement rises up and fights back. This documentary takes a hard look at the American dream and asks, “What does it mean to grow?” World Premiere.
“Waitress“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Adrienne Shelly
A pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep South falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness. World Premiere.
“Wonders Are Many“/ USA, Director: Jon Else
A documentary that tracks the creation of Peter Sellars’ and John Adams’ 2005 opera about Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project, while also exploring the complex birth of nuclear weapons. World Premiere.
“Year of the Fish“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: David Kaplan
A rotoscope-animated modern-day Cinderella story set in the underbelly of New York’s Chinatown. World Premiere.
The films screening in New Frontier are:
“Artist Spotlight: Pierre Huyghe“/ France, Director: Pierre Huyghe
A presentation of short films that have rarely been screened outside of a museum or art gallery context. Huyghe is one of France’s most celebrated young artists. His multimedia installations–which are concerned with collective memory, the construction of narratives, and textures of re-enactment–have been exhibited at museums across the world including the Guggenheim, Tate Modern, and the Whitney Museums.
“The Last Dining Table“/ South Korea, Director and Screenwriter: Gyeong-Tae Roh
This minimal and surrealist film about irony and separation poetically explores modern social problems including pollution and environmental concerns and the collapse of family values.
“Offscreen“/ Denmark, Director: Christoffer Boe; Screenwriter: Christoffer Boe, Knud Romer Jorgensen
Actor Nicolas Bro reigns supreme in the role of Nicolas Bro – a man intent on making a film about himself. After his director friend Christoffer Boe lends him a camera, his self-monitoring is so hair-raisingly private (and creepy!) that it becomes impossible to separate fact from fiction. World Premiere.
“Phantom Love“/ USA, Director: Nina Menkes
A surreal drama about a woman trapped within an enmeshed family, and her slow process of personal liberation. Set in Los Angeles and Rishikesh, India, the film combines fairy-tale elements with brutal black and white photography to create a powerful testament about inner transformation. World Premiere.
“Slipstream“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: Anthony Hopkins
A man discovers that life is random and fortune is sightless as he is thrown into a vortex where time, dreams and reality collide in an increasingly whirling Slipstream. World Premiere.
“Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait“/ France, Director: Douglas Gordon, Philippe Parreno
During the course of an entire football match, seventeen super-35mm Scope format cameras were set around the playing field focusing solely on football legend Zinedine Zidane, who agreed to become the center of attention for this out-of-the-ordinary, full-length feature film. U.S. Premiere.
The films screening in Park City at Midnight are:
“Fido“/ Canada, Director: Andrew Currie; Screenwriters: Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie
Timmy Robinson’s best friend in the whole wide world is a six-foot tall rotting zombie named Fido. But when Fido eats the next-door neighbor, Mom and Dad hit the roof, and Timmy has to go to the ends of the earth to keep Fido in the family.
“Finishing the Game“/ USA, Director: Justin Lin, Screenwriters: Josh Diamond, Justin Lin
Bruce Lee’s shock death left legions of stunned fans and a legacy of 12 minutes from his unfinished Game Of Death. Undeterred, studio executives launched a search for his replacement chronicled here through the eyes of five aspiring thespians who find out what the real game is. World Premiere.
“It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine.“/ USA, Director: Crispin Hellion Glover, David Brothers; Screenwriters: Crispin Hellion Glover, Steven C. Stewart
A man with a severe case of cerebral palsy, Steven C Stuart’s naive, fantastical, psychosexual retelling of his point of view of life involving many women. World Premiere.
“The Signal“/ USA, Directors and Screenwriters: David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, Dan Bush
Told in three parts from three unique perspectives created by three visionary directors, THE SIGNAL is a horrific journey towards the discovery that the most brutal violent monster might actually be within all of us. World Premiere.
“SK8 Life“/ Canada, Director: S. Wyeth Clarkson; Screenwriters: S. Wyeth Clarkson, Elan Mastai
8 sk8trs brought together to make a ‘sk8 tape’, crash at the legendary “Crashpad.” They soon discover its days are numbered and band together to save it. North American Premiere.
“Smiley Face“/ USA, Director: Gregg Araki; Screenwriter: Dylan Haggerty
Jane F, an unsuccessful slacker actress, inadvertently eats her roommate’s pot cupcakes and proceeds to have a very strange day of hijinks and surreal misadventures. World Premiere.
“The Ten“/ USA, Director: David Wain; Screenwriters: Ken Marino, David Wain
Ten stories, each inspired by one of The Ten Commandments, illustrate the perils of modern life via extreme comedy. World Premiere.
“We Are The Strange“/ USA, Director and Screenwriter: M dot Strange
In this animated feature film, two outcasts fight for survival in a sinister fantasy world. Their lives are constantly in jeopardy after they’re caught in the middle of a deadly battle between bizarre monsters on their way to the ice cream shop. World Premiere.
From the Sundance Collection:
“The River’s Edge“/ USA, Director: Tim Hunter; Screenwriter: Neal Jimenez
A tight-knit group of high school slackers struggle to reconcile friendship and responsibility when one of them kills his girlfriend in this disturbing portrait of moral ambivalence and alienated youth in small town America.
“X: The Unheard Music“/ USA, 1986 Director: W.T. Morgan
A rarely seen 1987 documentary that explores the music and musicians of the early 1980s LA punk band X, as well as the underground music scene of the time, the foibles of the music industry, and the “unheard music” of American culture in the 1980s.
“The Last Mimzy“/ USA, Director: Bob Shaye; Screenplay by: Bruce Joel Rubin and Toby Emmerich; Screen Story by James V. Hart and Carol Skilken
Based on the acclaimed sci-fi short story by Lewis Padgett, The Last Mimzy centers on two children who discover a mysterious box containing some strange devices they think are toys. As the children play with these “toys,” they begin to display higher intelligence levels, prompting their parents and the community to search for answers. World Premiere.
“Autism Every Day“/ USA, Director: Lauren Thierry
“Autism Every Day” takes you inside the lives of families struggling to raise children with autism. It is a gritty, truthful portrayal of the 24 hour a day challenge faced by families as they confront the heartbreak of autism with uncompromising hope and unconditional love. World Premiere.