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PARK CITY ’08 | First Timers, Personal Films Dominate Sundance’ 08 Slate; Fest Unveils Competition R

PARK CITY '08 | First Timers, Personal Films Dominate Sundance' 08 Slate; Fest Unveils Competition R

While the dramatic competition lineup for the 2008 Sundance Film Festival includes a few familiar names, such as the return to Park City by “Half Nelson” filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden or the new film from “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” director Jonathan Levine, and even an American feature by “Rain” director Christine Jeffs, the roster of American independent features is dominated by first timers. There are 51 first time filmmakers among the lineup of 121 features that will screen at Sundance this year, running January 17 – 27, 2008, in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Sundance, Utah. “It’s surprising the number of things that just popped out of nowhere,” Sundance Film Festival director Geoff Gilmore told indieWIRE this afternoon.

The Sundance feature film roster is spread across the four competitive sections being unveiled today and five out-of-competition sections which will to be announced tomorrow. The complete list of competition films, with descriptions are available below. The remainder of the feature roster will be announced tomorrow, Thursday, November 29th at 4 p.m. ET here at indieWIRE.

Announcing the lineup today, Gilmore and Sundance Film Festival programming director John Cooper noted that they saw a record number of submissions this year, the list increasing by more than 300 titles. The festival received 3,624 feature film submissions this year, up from 3,287 last year, the boost split fairly evenly among U.S. and international submissions. By the numbers, the organizers are touting 81 world premieres, 16 North American premieres and 12 U.S. premieres representing 24 countries.

“These are unique stories, individual kinds of perspectives on life and reality,” noted Gilmore in the conversation with indieWIRE. “It makes the program really feel almost unpredictable, almost surprising.”

Sundance programming director John Cooper, Institute managing director Jill Miller and festival director Geoff Gilmore at the 2005 Sundance fest. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

“This underlines us being the festival of discovery,” Cooper noted in a conversation with indieWIRE on Wednesday, referring to the large number of new filmmakers in the mix. He added that the preponderence of new faces carries over onto the big screen as well, including a number of new actors appearing in Sundance films this year.

As previously announced, the 2008 Sundance Film Festival will open with Playwright Martin McDonagh‘s first feature, “In Bruges,” described as a “twisted tale of two London hit men ordered to take a forced vacation in Bruges, Belgium”, that stars Ralph Fiennes, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. In the words of a Sundance announcement, “their subsequent time in exile goes awry.”

During the conversation with indieWIRE, Geoff Gilmore emphasized the impact of international titles, like “In Bruges,” making their way into the main sections of the festival. “The globalization of independent film that we have been talking about for several years, we are starting to see that influence on our own competition.”

Gilmore also noted the growth of a more personalized cinema. While last year he spoke of the large number of political and moral films at the festival, this time around he noted, “I don’t see that as much this year. I see a lot of personally driven stories that are trying to talk about a kind of reaction to what is going on in the word right now.” Continuing he added, “The reaction isn’t necessarily an activist one, it’s simpler than that, (there are) a lot of comedies. People are finding ways to survive or persevere, or keep on. They aren’t attemtping big picture solutions.”

“At the end of the day, the truth of the matter is, we are trying to look for work that excites us and we hope that if it’s excited it us, it’s going to excite audiences,” Gilmore concluded.


The films screening in Documentary Competition are:

An American Soldier,” Director and Screenwriter: Edet Belzberg
Uncle Sam wants you! A compelling exploration of army recruitment in the United States told through the story of Louisiana Sergeant, First Class Clay Usie, one of the most successful recruiters in the history of the U.S. Army. World Premiere

American Teen,” Director and Screenwriter: Nanette Burstein
This irreverent cinema verite chronicles four seniors at an Indiana high school and yields a surprising snapshot of Midwestern life. World Premiere

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*,” Director: Christopher Bell, Screenwriters: Christopher Bell, Alexander Bruno, Tamsin Rawady
A filmmaker explores America’s win-at-all-cost culture by examining his two brothers’ steroids use…and his own. World Premiere

Fields of Fuel,” Director and Screenwriter: Josh Tickell
America is addicted to oil and it is time for an intervention. Enter Josh Tickell, a man with a plan and a Veggie Van, who is taking on big oil, big government, and big soy to find solutions in places few people have looked. World Premiere

Flow: For Love of Water,” Director: Irena Salina
Water is the very essence of life, sustaining every being on the planet. FLOW confronts the disturbing reality that our crucial resource is dwindling and greed just may be the cause. World Premiere

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson,” Director: Alex Gibney
Fueled by a raging libido, Wild Turkey, and superhuman doses of drugs, Thompson was a true “free lance,” goring sacred cows with impunity, hilarity and a steel-eyed conviction for righting wrongs. Focusing on the good doctor’s heyday, 1965 to 1975, the film includes clips of never-before-seen (nor heard) home movies, audiotapes, and passages from unpublished manuscripts. World Premiere

The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo,” Director and Screenwriter: Lisa F. Jackson
Jackson travels to remote villages in the war zones of the Congo to meet rape survivors, providing a piercing, intimate look into the struggle of their lives. World Premiere

I.O.U.S.A.,” Director: Patrick Creadon
Few are aware that America may be on the brink of a financial meltdown. I.O.U.S.A. explores the country’s shocking current fiscal condition and ways to avoid a national economic disaster. World Premiere

Nerakhoon (The Betrayal),” Director: Ellen Kuras; Co-Director: Thavisouk Phrasavath; Screenwriters: Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath
The epic story of a family forced to emigrate from Laos after the chaos of the secret air war waged by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Kuras has spent the last 23 years chronicling the family’s extraordinary journey in this deeply personal, poetic, and emotional film. World Premiere

The Order of Myths,” Director: Margaret Brown
In 2007 Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras is celebrated…and complicated. Following a cast of characters, parades, and parties across an enduring color line, we see that beneath the surface of pageantry lies something else altogether. World Premiere

Patti Smith: Dream of Life,” Director: Steven Sebring
An intimate portrait of music icon Patti Smith that mirrors the essence of the artist herself. World Premiere

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” Director: Marina Zenovich; Screenwriters: Marina Zenovich, Joe Bini, P.G. Morgan
This film examines the public scandal and private tragedy which led to legendary director Roman Polanski’s sudden flight from the United States. World Premiere

Secrecy,” Directors: Peter Galison, Robb Moss
Amidst the American hunger for instantaneous news and up-to-date “facts,” this unflinching film uncovers the vast, invisible world of government secrecy. World Premiere

Slingshot Hip Hop,” Director: Jackie Reem Salloum
The voice of a new generation rocks and rhymes as Palestinian rappers form alternative voices of resistance within the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. World Premiere

Traces of the Trade: A Story From The Deep North,” Director: Katrina Browne; Co-Directors: Alla Kovgan, Jude Ray; Screenwriters: Katrina Browne, Alla Kovgan
History finally gets rewritten as descendants of the largest slave-trading family in early America face their past, and present, as they explore their violent heritage across oceans and continents. World Premiere

Trouble the Water,” Directors: Tia Lessin, Carl Deal
An aspiring rap artist and her streetwise husband, armed with a video camera, show what survival is all about when they are trapped in New Orleans by deadly floodwaters, and seize a chance for a new beginning. World Premiere

The films screening in Dramatic Competition are:

American Son,” Director: Neil Abramson; Screenwriter: Eric Schmid
Before being deployed for active duty, a young Marine takes a four-day Thanksgiving leave to return home to Bakersfield, California. There he meets a young woman, tries to connect with old friends, and confronts his volatile home life. Cast: Nick Cannon, Melonie Diaz, Matt O’Leary, Jay Hernandez, Tom Sizemore, Chi McBride.World Premiere

Anywhere, U.S.A.,” Director: Anthony (Chusy) Haney-Jardine; Screenwriters: Anthony (Chusy) Haney-Jardine, Jennifer MacDonald
Told in three segments ranging from satirical to tragic, the film is a wildly original look at American manners, prejudices, and family dynamics. Cast: Perla Haney-Jardine World Premiere

Ballast,” Director and Screenwriter: Lance Hammer
A riveting, lyrical portrait of an emotionally frayed family whose lives are torn asunder by a tragic act in a small Mississippi Delta town. Cast: Michael J. Smith Sr., Jim Myron Ross, Tara Riggs, Johnny McPhail. World Premiere

Choke,” Director and Screenwriter: Clark Gregg
An adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s (“Fight Club”) novel, CHOKE is the sardonic story about mother and son relationship, fear of aging, sexual addiction, and the dark side of historical theme parks. Cast: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, Brad Henke. World Premiere

Downloading Nancy,” Director: Johan Renck; Screenwriters: Pamela Cuming, Lee Ross
The tale of an unhappy wife whose online search for someone to put her out of her misery results in a torturous love affair. Cast: Maria Bello, Jason Patric, Rufus Sewell, Amy Brenneman. World Premiere

Frozen River,” Director and Screenwriter: Courtney Hunt
Set in rural upstate New York on a Mohawk Reservation bordering Canada, a mother left to care for her teenage son finds herself lured into the world of illegal immigrant smuggling. Cast: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott, Michael O’Keefe, Mark Boone, Jr. World Premiere

Good Dick,” Director and Screenwriter: Marianna Palka
The tale of a lonely girl drawn from her isolated life and solitary apartment by a doting young video store clerk who strives to capture her affections. Cast: Jason Ritter, Marianna Palka, Tom Arnold, Mark Webber, Martin Starr, Eric Edelstein. World Premiere

The Last Word“, Director and Screenwriter: Geoff Haley
An off-beat romantic comedy about a solitary writer who makes his living composing other people’s suicide notes. After meeting the sister of a recently deceased client, he finds his reclusive life and secret career upended by an unusual romance. Cast: Winona Ryder, Wes Bentley, Ray Romano. World Premiere

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” Director and Screenwriter: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Based on Michael Chabon’s novel, the film chronicles the defining summer of a recent college graduate who crosses his gangster father and explores love, sexuality, and the enigmas surrounding his life and his city. Cast: Jon Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Rawson Marshall Thurber, Sienna Miller, Mena Suvari, Nick Nolte. World Premiere

North Starr,” Director and Screenwriter: Matthew Stanton
After witnessing the brutal murder of his best friend, a young African-American man flees the badlands of Houston and finds himself in Trublin, a backward, racially intolerant town where he meets an unlikely kindred spirit who takes him under his wing. Cast: Jerome Hawkins, Matthew Stanton, Chris Sullivan, Isaac Lamb, Zach Johnson, Wayne Campbell. World Premiere

Phoebe in Wonderland,” Director and Screenwriter: Daniel Barnz
Confounded by her clashes with the seemingly rule-obsessed world, a little girl takes her already dysfunctional family down the rabbit hole when she seeks enlightenment from her unconventional drama teacher. Cast: Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Pullman, Campbell Scott, Peter Gerety. World Premiere

Pretty Bird,” Director and Screenwriter: Paul Schneider
A comic tale of three would-be entrepreneurs who set out to invent a rocket belt. The clash of their mismatched personalities soon dissolves the business into a morass of recriminations, retaliations, kidnapping, and murder in this parable of American dreams and delusions. Cast: Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti, Kristen Wiig, David Hornsby. World Premiere

Sleep Dealer,” Director: Alex Rivera; Screenwriters: Rivera, David Riker
Set in a near-future, militarized world marked by closed borders, virtual labor and a global digital network that joins minds and experiences, three strangers risk their lives to connect with each other and break the barriers of technology. Cast: Luis Fernando Pena, Leonor Varela, Jacob Vargas. World Premiere

Sugar,” Directors and Screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who last teamed up for “Half Nelson,” chronicle the journey of Dominican baseball star Miguel “Sugar” Santos recruited from his native country to play in the U.S. minor leagues. Cast: Algenis Perez Soto. World Premiere

Sunshine Cleaning,” Director Christine Jeffs; Screenwriter: Megan Holley
Struck by financial hardship, an ambitious mother and her unmotivated sister become entrepreneurs in the field of biohazard removal and crime scene clean-up. Cast: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn, Alan Arkin. World Premiere

The Wackness,” Director and Screenwriter: Jonathan Levine
During a sweltering New York summer, a troubled teenage drug dealer trades pot for therapy sessions with a drug-addled psychiatrist, and in the process falls for the doctor’s daughter. Cast: Josh Peck, Ben Kingsley, Famke Janssen, Olivia Thirlby, Mary Kate Olsen, Method Man. World Premiere

Films screening in World Cinema Documentary Competition are:

Alone in Four Walls (Allein In Vier Wanden) / Germany, Director: Alexandra Westmeier
Adolescent boys struggle to grow up in a home for delinquents in rural Russia where life behind bars may be better than the release to freedom. North American Premiere

The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins” / New Zealand, Director and Screenwriter: Pietra Brettkelly
Vanessa Beecroft is obsessively determined to adopt Sudanese twin orphans. Her consuming passion drives her marriage to a breaking point and fuels her controversial art, raising troubling questions about exploitation, culture clash, and the imposition of the West on Africa. World Premiere

Be Like Others” / United Kingdom, Director: Tanaz Eshaghian
An intimate and unflinching look at life in Iran, seen through the lens of those living at its fringes, “Others” is a provocative look at a generation of young Iranian men choosing to under go sex change surgery. World Premiere

A Complete History of My Sexual Failures” / United Kingdom, Director: Chris Waitt; Screenwriters: Chris Waitt and Henry Trotter
Chris is a useless boyfriend. Determined to find out why, he consults his ex-girlfriends, medical practitioners, producers, and mother to find out how women really see him. Has this journey made him potential boyfriend material or is he staring a life of loneliness square in the face? World Premiere

Derek” / United Kingdom, Director: Isaac Julien
A film involving two courageous and innovative artists: one the subject and one the filmmaker, provides a cinematic journey that illuminates the work and enduring importance of the late Derek Jarman. World Premiere

Dinner With The President” / Pakistan, Directors and Screenwriters: Sabiha Sumar and Sachithanandam Sathananthan
From on-the-street interviews to audiences with religious leaders to dinner with the President of Pakistan, the film takes the temperature of a culture on issues from politics to women’s rights. U.S. Premiere

Durakovo: the Village of Fools” (Durakovo: Le Village Des Fous) / France, Director and Screenwriter: Nino Kirtadze
Russian nationalism percolates in a castle outside Moscow, where Mikhail Morozov rules autonomously over young initiates, laying the groundwork for a rapidly growing right-wing movement. North American Premiere

In Prison My Whole Life” / United Kingdom, Director: Marc Evans; Screenwriters: Marc Evans, William Francome
A curious young filmmaker attempts to understand the true story behind award-winning journalist Mumia Abu Jamal’s death row sentence, and comes to startling realizations about American history and its justice system. With William Francome, Noam Chomksy, Alice Walker, Mos Def, Smoof, Snoop Dogg, Angela Davis. North American Premiere

Man on Wire” / United Kingdom, Director and Screenwriter: James Marsh
In 1974, Philippe Petit, a young Frenchman, dances on a wire suspended between New York’s Twin Towers. Consequently, Philippe is arrested and thrown into jail for what would become known as “the artistic crime of the century.” World Premiere

pUUJEE” / Japan, Director and Screenwriter: Kazuya Yamada
Against the backdrop of a magnificent but harsh natural landscape, a Japanese photojournalist encounters Puujee, a young girl who tames wild horses on the Mongolian plains.

Recycle” / Jordan, Director and Screenwriter: Al Massad
A Jordanian family man living in the hometown of Muslim leader Al-Zarqawi struggles to support his family and define his identity in a tense political climate. World Premiere

Stranded: I’ve Come From A Plane That Crashed on the Mountains” / France, Director and Screenwriter: Gonzalo Arijon
For the first time ever, survivors of the famous 1974 Andes plane crash tell in their own words their harrowing story of survival. North American Premiere

Triage: Dr. James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma” / Canada, Director: Patrick Reed
Acclaimed doctor James Orbinski, former head of Doctors Without Borders, returns to Africa to confront the harsh reality of conditions there and explores what it means to be a humanitarian. North American Premiere

Up The Yangtze” / Canada, Director and Screenwriter: Yung Chang
At the edge of the Yangtze River, not far from the Three Gorges Dam, young men and women take up employment on a cruise ship, where they confront rising waters and a radically changing China. U.S. Premiere

The Women of Brukman” (Les Femmes de la Baukma) / Canada, Director and Screenwriter: Isaac Isitan
Amidst Argentina’s financial collapse, workers take over a Buenos Aires men’s clothing factory and continue producing clothing on a self-management model. As the formerly poor become business managers, their lives are changed forever. U.S. Premiere

Yasukuni” / Japan, Director and Screenwriter: Li Ying
Controversy abounds as Japanese officials honor the deceased at the legendary Yasukuni shrine, where swords used to kills Chinese soldiers were famously forged. Few know about the shrine’s eerie past and the mysterious sword inside. Cast: Kariya Naoji, Sugawara Ryuken, Gaojin Sumei. North American Premiere

The films screening in World Cinema Dramatic Competition are:

Absurdistan” / Germany, Director: Veit Helmer; Screenwriters: Veit Helmer, Zaza Buadze, Gordan Mihic, Ahmet Golbol
This inventive and allegorical comedy centers on two childhood sweethearts who seem destined for one another until the women of their isolated village, angered by male indifference toward the water shortage, go on a sex strike that threatens the young couple’s first night of love. Cast: Maximilian Mauff, Kristyna Mlerova. World Premiere

Blue Eyelids” (Parpados Azules) / Mexico, Director: Ernesto Contreras
When Marina wins a beach getaway trip for two, her desperate search for someone to take with her leads to a complicated relationship and the revelation that she might be better off on her own. Cast: Cecilia Suarez, Enrique Arreola, Ana Ofelia Murguia, Tiare Scanda, Luisa Huertas. U.S. Premiere

Captain Abu Raed” / Jordan, Director and Screenwriter: Amin Matalqa
An aging airport janitor who is mistaken for an airline pilot by a group of poor neighborhood children weaves fantastical stories to offer hope for a sad, and sometimes unchangeable, reality. Cast: Nadim Sawalha, Hussein Al-Sous, Rana Sultan, Uday Al-Qiddissi, Ghandi Saber. North American Premiere

The Drummer” (Jin. Gwu) / Hong Kong, Director and Screenwriter: Kenneth Bi
A young man transforms from a reckless youth and gangster into a mature adult through the inspiration of Zen drumming. Cast: Jaycee Chan, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Josie Ho, Roy Cheung, Lee Sinje, Kenneth Tsang.

I Always Wanted to be a Gangster” (I Always Wanted to Be a Gangster) / France, Director and Screenwriter: Samuel Benchetrit
Told in four vignettes, this existential comedy relates the exploits of four aspiring criminals who hope to improve their lot, but find that they might not have what it takes for a life of crime. Cast: Sergi Lopez, Jean Rochefort, Alain Bashung, Anna Mouglalis. North American Premiere

Just Another Love Story” (Kaerlighed Pa Film) / Denmark, Director and Screenwriter: Ole Borendal
Jonas’s quiet life as a suburban family man takes an unexpected twist when he causes a car crash that leaves a young woman with amnesia. When he is mistaken for her boyfriend, Jonas’s decision to play the role gradually unravels his life. Cast: Anders W. Berthelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Charlotte Fich, Dejan Cukic, Ewa Froeling. International Premiere

King of Ping Pong” (Ping Pongkingen) / Sweden, Director: Jens Jonsson; Screenwriters: Jens Jonsson, Hans Gunnarson
An ostracized and bullied teenage boy who excels only in ping pong descends into an acrimonious struggle with his younger, more popular brother when the truth about their family history and their father surfaces over the course of their spring break. Cast: Georgi Staykov, Ann-Sofie Normi, Frederik Nilsson, Jerry Johansson. International Premiere

Mancora” Spain/Peru, Director: Ricardo de Montreuil; Screenwriter: Oscar Torres
A young man mourning the death of his father, his estranged stepsister and her arrogant husband all set out for adventures in the lush, picturesque beach town of Mancora, Peru. World Premiere

Megane” (Glasses)/ Japan, Director and Screenwriter: Naoko Ogigami
Taeko’s southern vacation becomes a life-changing experience when she discovers a unique beach community unified by surprising and perhaps odd traditions in this comedic film. Cast: Satomi Kobayashi, Mikako Ichikawa, Ryo Kase, Ken Mitsuishi, Masako Motai. North American Premiere

Mermaid” (Rusalka) / Russia, Director and Screenwriter: Anna Melikyan
The fanciful tale of an introverted little girl who grows up believing she has the power to make wishes come true. She must reconcile this belief with reality when, as a young woman, she journeys to Moscow and grapples with love, modernity and materialism. Cast: Masha Shalaeva, Evgeniy Ciganov, Maria Sokolova, Nastya Doncova. International Premiere

Perro Come Perro” (Dog Eat Dog) / Colombia, Director: Carlos Moreno; Screenwriters: Alonso Torres, Carlos Moreno
In the crime world of Colombia, there is an unwritten code. When Victor and Eusebio, two hoods who bungle a shake-down job, break that code, they unwittingly sign their own death sentence. Cast: Marlon Moreno, Oscar Borda, Alvaro Rodriguez, Blas Jaramillo, Paulina Rivas. World Premiere

Riprendimi” (Good Morning Heartache) / Italy, Director: Anna Negri; Screenwriters: Anna Negri, Giovanna Mori
A modern young couple with a new baby are forced to deal with the almost comedic pain of breaking up while being the subject of a documentary that quickly crosses professional lines into their private lives. Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Marco Foschi, Valentina Lodovini, Stefano Fresi, Alessandro Averone. World Premiere

Strangers” / Israel, Directors and Screenwriters: Erez Tadmor, Guy Nattiv
An Israeli man and a Palestinian woman meet serendipitously during the carefree atmosphere of the World Cup finals in Germany, drawing them out of the stark reality of their lives and into a passionate affair. Cast: Liron Levo, Lubna Azabal, Dominique Lollia, Patrick Albenque, Abdallah el Akal, Roger Dumas. International Premiere

Under The Bombs” (Sous Les Bombes) / Lebanon, Director: Philippe Aractingi; Screenwriters: Philippe Aractingi, Michel Leviant
In the wake of Israel’s 2006 bombardment of Lebanon, a determined woman finds her way into the country convincing a taxi cab driver to take a risky journey through the scarred region in search of her sister and her son. Cast: Nada Abou Farhat, Georges Khabbaz, Bshara Atallah, and Rawia Elchab. North American Premiere

The Wave” (Die Welle) / Germany, Director: Dennis Gansel; Screenwriters: Dennis Gansel and Peter Thorwarth
A high school teacher’s unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship spins horribly out of control when he forms a social unit with a life of its own. Cast: Juergen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt, Jennifer Ulrich, Christiane Paul. World Premiere

The Wind and the Water” (Burgua Dii Bo) / Panama, Directors and Screenwriters: A collective collaboration
A young indigenous teen seeking his fortune in Panama City struggles to acclimate to chaotic urban life, where he becomes enamored with a girl from a wealthy, assimilated family. Later, he encounters his crush once again–but this time the landscape and tradition define their interaction. World Premiere

indieWIRE’s coverage of the Sundance Film Festival is available in a special Park City section here at indieWIRE.com

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