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2008 Sundance Dramatic Competition

DRAMATIC COMPETITION

One of the most recognizable sections of the Festival, the films in this year’s Dramatic Competition employ a range of aesthetic invention and reinvention of genre. From the light-hearted exploration of the darker side of human nature and relationships to stories that address serious issues of class and race, the 2008 Dramatic Competition represents a range of distinctive voices and unique storytelling.

This year’s 16 films were selected from 1,068 submissions. Each film is a 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, Tarra 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: Alex 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 Peña, 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 ambitiousmother 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

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