Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is the editorial director of Film in Focus, a website for grown-up movie lovers with intelligent and thoughtful critiques and criticism. Film in Focus is a venture of Focus Features. Focus Features (www.focusfeatures.com) is a motion picture production, financing, and worldwide distribution company committed to bringing moviegoers the most original stories from the world's most innovative filmmakers.

The Truth About Truth

Article: The Truth About Truth

The truth is that non-fiction film is the hot item so far this year. Year by year, documentaries have become more visible, discussed and more attractive to buyers. Coming into this year’s festival, much of the business buzz has been about documentaries. Before the Festival had even kicked off, Zeitgeist Films [www.zeitgeistfilms] had picked up Yung Chang’s political travelogue, UP THE YANGTZE [uptheyangtze.com], in which a poor Chinese girl is hired to work on a luxury cruise with the famed and controversial Three Gorges Dam in the background. Zeitgeist co-president Nancy Gerstman emphasizes the film’s “compassion and dark humor” as among its selling – and in their case buying – points.

13 Ways Of Looking At Sundance

Article: 13 Ways Of Looking At Sundance

While everyone talks about the Sundance Film Festival, anyone who has been here quickly realizes that there are many festivals, or, at least, many ways of looking at it.

Just as Wallace Stevens found “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird [www.writing.upenn.edu],” here are 13 perspectives on the festival.

Live From Cyberspace

Article: Live From Cyberspace

Filmmaker Michel Gondry is back at Sundance with his latest romp BE KIND, REWIND [www.bekindmovie.com]. In it, a video store dude (Jack Black), who, after he accidentally erases the store’s merchandise, decides to remake all the lost films on video. Gondry, who has taken his DIY aesthetic to sublime places, is endorsing others video imagination this week. While at Sundance, he will be curating YouTube [www.youtube.com] videos all week.

Five Things To Know About Sundance: Craig Zobel

Article: Five Things To Know About Sundance: Craig Zobel

Craig Zobel premiered his southern comedy of music and fraud THE GREAT WORLD OF SOUND [www.greatworldofsound.com] at last year’s Sundance Film Festival to much acclaim. He’d been working in film and media for years — co-producing David Gordon Green’s debut feature GEORGE WASHINGTON and co-created the cartoon website Homestar Runner — but last year was his Sundance debut. His hard work was acknowledged by the Gotham Awards this fall when he was named the 2007 Breakthrough Director. His film is currently in limited distribution through Magnolia Pictures [www.magpictures.com] and will be available on DVD in February.

Craig was kind enough to tell us five things you should know before coming to Sundance.

Opening Night Swearing In

Article: Opening Night Swearing In

IN BRUGES, the opening night film for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, played to two packed houses at the Eccles Theater last night. In some ways, a film made by the Irish playwright Martin McDonagh about hit men in an old Belgium town might seem to set an incongruous note for America’s premier independent film festival. But the rough and tumble play of blazing guns, high-swearing dialogue and squirting blood pays a worthy tribute to how Sundance and its filmmakers — such as, indie action directors like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino – have influenced global culture.

Global Reach: Dramatic Jury Winner Christopher Zalla

Article: Global Reach: Dramatic Jury Winner Christopher Zalla

Christopher Zalla, the writer/director of this year’s Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic PADRE NUESTRO [festival.sundance.org] is an American independent filmmaker with a global perspective. His film, a neo-realist primarily Spanish-language thriller in which a case of identity theft awkwardly brings together a mismatched quartet of outsiders in New York, highlights the immigrant populations that make up New York with an empathy that makes them feel completely American.

And The Award Goes To…

Article: And The Award Goes To…

Tonight the Awards Ceremony marked the unofficial end of the Sundance Film Festival. And the participants demonstrated as much drama, passion, and comic turns as many of the films the awards were honoring. One award even involved a suspense-filled car chase as Jess Weixler, who was receiving a Special Jury Prize for Acting raced from the Salt Lake City airport to get to the ceremony. While she missed her name being called out, she made it in time to still get on stage to give a charming and breathless acceptance speech.

The Day The Music Died

Article: The Day The Music Died

The last day of the festival is also the last day of the ASCAP Music Cafe [www.ascap.com]. This afternoon sets by Annie Stela [www.ascap.com], Ron Sexsmith [www.ascap.com], Emerson Hart [www.ascap.com] and Sparta [www.ascap.com] were the final performances before the Music Cafe closes its door for another year. But there was more music at Sundance than could be held in a single cafe…

The Poster Showdown

Article: The Poster Showdown

While Park City has passed strict laws governing film marketing that doesn’t mean problems don’t still occur. For example, while it is illegal to hand out flyers or post cards on Main Street, people can ask you for your card. Scott Foundas [blogs.laweekly.com] at the LA Weekly reported on a recent poster war that has erupted on main street. Elsewhere all about a town someone has been posting another sign promoting local town spirit, and, well, denigrating Sundance. I guess, it’s a love/hate relationship.

Once More With Feeling

Article: Once More With Feeling

In addition to his excellent coverage, Ray Pride at Movie City Indie [www.mcnblogs.com] points out that you can find the music from the film ONCE [festival.sundance.org] on thier MYSPACE MUSIC [www.myspace.com] page. There you will find four songs — “Leave,” “Falling Softly,” “Drown Out,” “What Happens when…” — you can listen to and download.

Worlds Away: Science And Film

Article: Worlds Away: Science And Film

Yesterday at the Prospector Theater convened “Space, A Guided Tour,” one of the most intellectually expansive panels held this year that dealt with one of most complicated of subjects — the collision of science and cinema. While the panel veered off into all sorts of themes — ranging from medieval magic, teleportation, and Einstein’s time/space paradigms — the participants kept returning to a singular predicament: how do we relate these two very different technologies for re-imagining the universe. Science deploys the tools mathamatical analysis and logic to model our cosmos, while filmmakers use narrative and celluloid…

Five Things I Took Away From: Carl Spence

Article: Five Things I Took Away From: Carl Spence

As the Artistic Director of Seattle International Film Festival (May 24 – June 17) and the Director of Programming at Palm Springs International Film Festival (January 4 – 15, 2007), Carl Spence spends all year watching films. So what will he remember from his experience this year at Sundance?

Anyway You Swag It

Article: Anyway You Swag It

It’s wouldn’t be Sundance without a comment about swag, that four-letter word that speaks to man’s most mercenary desires. It used to be that swag was all about specific film marketing — an AMERICAN PIMP [www.imdb.com] t-shirt, a pair of THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS [www.imdb.com] gloves, a snow globe, a lighter, or a glow-in-the-dark rubber with the name of the film printed over it. In recent years, however, swag has gone upscale. And its opponents have gotten serious….

Turned On: Radio At Sundance

Article: Turned On: Radio At Sundance

Radio came to Park City this festival in a number of ways. Yesterday, in the Panel, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love TV: This American Life Reloaded,” NPR radio star Ira Glass joined Director Chris Wilcha [www.imdb.com] and cinematographer Adam Beckman [www.imdb.com] to discuss the transformation of the This American Life [www.thislife.org] from a radio show to a Showtime television series.

Cops, Park City

Article: Cops, Park City

One way to understand the festival is to try to see it through the eyes of the local police. Park Record, the local newspaper, provides just such an alternative view in their police blotter [www.parkrecord.com].

A few of the week’s highlights include… More after the jump.

Drawn To Life

Article: Drawn To Life

Along with the animation spotlight, several films are using animation to further their narrative storytelling. In the opening night film, CHICAGO 10 [festival.sundance.org], Brett Morgen employed animators to bring to live the court transcripts of the Yippees on trial.

Party Of Choice

Article: Party Of Choice

Sundance Channel party last night marked in many ways the final big party of the festival party season — that is, of course, before the Awards ceremony this weekend. Unlike many of the celebrity driven parties, those impossible affairs with only the rumor of a famous person flaming the crowd into tighter and tighter spaces, Sundance Channel party was an event for comrades in work: filmmakers, buyers, publicists, and film people in general. The big, splashy parties one sees on “Entertainment Tonight” happen over the weekend, and pretty much end when the stars wing their way back to wherever stars live. Nevertheless fond memories of Sundance society stay behind.

Ipod For You

Article: Ipod For You

Park City, Jan 23. In addition to weak beer, spicy chicken wings, and loud music, Sundance parties provide ideal networking opportunities. But how to show the person next to the steam table you’re up for the job? Up-and-coming cinematographer Jendra Jarnagin [www.floatingcamera.com] downloaded her reel onto her ipod and used it at the Technicolor party to show new friends her talent, a gesture that may have landed her gig shooting a new feature.

Sundance Meet Oscar

Article: Sundance Meet Oscar

The early morning announcement of the Academy Awards [www.imdb.com] marked the next step of the journey that many films began at Sundance last year. Three of the narrative films were on the nomination slate: LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE [www.imdb.com](Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Abigail Breslin and Best Original Screenplay; HALF NELSON [www.imdb.com] (Best Actor for Ryan Gosling); THE ILLUSIONIST [www.imdb.com] (Best Cinematography). And two documentaries are also up for Oscars: AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH [www.imdb.com] (Best Documentary, Original Song); IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS [www.imdb.com] (Best Documentary). Finally WEST BANK STORY [www.imdb.com] is up for Short Film: Live Action.

Draw Me A Picture: Animation At Sundance

Article: Draw Me A Picture: Animation At Sundance

While animation is not a constant among the selections at the Sundance Film Festival, this year sees a new focus with the “Animation Spotlight,” a specal program of eight short films. According to programmer Trevor Groth, “We have always dabbled in it and have tried to sprinkle it though the festival.” While the festival programmers look for workin other festivals, they have found that the animation world often seeks out the festival. “Animators by having been in Sundance they have expressed a gratitude for having an outlet for their work. For them to find an audience outside of their realm is really appreciated.”

Musical Interlude

Article: Musical Interlude

If something goes wrong during your screening, it’s always good to have a song in your back pocket. So when John Carney’s [www.imdb.com] once ran into projection problems Sunday night, the two leads Glen Hansard [www.imdb.com] and Marketa Irglova [www.imdb.com] took to the stage to entertain the audience as the theater fixed the mechanical problem. How apropos, since ONCE is a musical — or as director Carney calls it “video album” — about the musical relationship between Czech immigrant and local Dublin boy. After the projector was fixed and the film played, the duo returned to stage for the Q&A — and some more songs.

Foreign Stars In Sundance

Article: Foreign Stars In Sundance

While most people look to the World Dramatic Competition for foreign stars, several international names are showing up in American documentaries: Zoe Cassavetes’ BROKEN ENGLISH (which premiered yesterday) and Gina Kim’s NEVER FOREVER (which premieres tonight) both sport stars from abroad.

Overheard In Park City

Article: Overheard In Park City

When a festival goer trying to adjust the heat lamp at the bus stop was stopped by a transit volunteer, he turned to her: “Oh you work for Sundance; I thought you were a real person.”

On the back bus by the library: “Dude, Salt Lake City is the easiest place around to buy semi-automatic rifles.”

more after the jump…

Lounge Lizards

Article: Lounge Lizards

During the 10 days of Sundance, Park City seems to go lounge crazy. “Lounge” is the buzz word for a highly, perhaps overly, designed space (usually off main street) with pleasant amenities that push a particular corporate brand or organizational initiative. While the more private lounges offer high-end schwag for visiting celebrities, the more pedestrian offer other gifts. The Airborne [www.airbornehealth.com] lounge provides plenty of anti-cold tablets, as well as when it is crowded, plenty of germs. The Delta [biz.yahoo.com] Lounge unfortunately does not offer airplane tickets. AOL-Cyber lounge, one of the more airline-influenced architectural spaces, gives you internet access…