Dee Rees, Director or PARIAH You might think a young filmmaker talented enough to have her first feature film selected to make its worldwide debut at the Sundance Film Festival would have it made in the shade. But, for Dee Rees, whose PARIAH, a coming-of-age story about a Brooklyn teenager juggling disparate identities in a…
Among the intriguing films in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival in January is Goran Hugo Olsson’s powerful-looking THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975. The film combines audio interviews with contemporary figures with 16mm archival footage documenting the Black Power movement in America, shot by Swedish journalists between 1967 and 1975 and…
Mark Ruffalo made his presence known at last year’s Sundance Film Festival with his performance in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT and again with his directorial debut, SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS. Nominated for both the Grand Jury Prize and the Special Jury Prize, Ruffalo took home the former for his story about a DJ in a…
JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK came out just as the comedienne turned 75, a fact her many cosmetic procedures have attempted to conceal. Rivers, however, admits to her age as readily as she dishes out trash talk on the red carpet. One of the hardest and longest working women in show biz, Rivers began…
Sundance Institute announces films selected to screen as part of Sundance Film Festival USA on January 27, 2011
Official Festival Sponsors Chase SapphireSM and Southwest Airlines Help Bring Sundance Film Festival USA to Local Cities Across America
Seattle Joins List of Cities Hosting Filmmakers and Films Direct from Fest; Cedar Rapids to Screen Both Seattle and Ann Arbor
Initiative Continues Commitment to Audience Engagement, Support of Independent Theaters
Life in a Day Makes World Premiere in Park City
Park City, UT – Sundance Institute today announced the films from the 2011 Sundance Film Festival scheduled to screen in theaters in nine different cities, including the newly added Seattle, Washington Egyptian Theatre, on the evening of Thursday, January 27, 2011. The screenings are part of Sundance Film Festival USA, designed to introduce the Festival experience to film-loving audiences nationwide. The 2011 Sundance Film Festival opens January 20 and runs through January 30 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.
WINTER’S BONE, Grand Jury Prize Winner at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival
Now that Sundance is over, it’s time for a little perspective. And critics and industry watchers are only too happy to provide it.
Sure, since the awards were handed out on Saturday night and the festival wrapped on Sunday, there have been the requisite stories about which movies to watch out for and the reports on last-minute acquisitions. (Ten movies were acquired at the festival; in the past few days, Weinstein Co. snagged Derek Cianfrance’s BLUE VALENTINE, starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling; IFC Films scored the rights to Michael Winterbottom’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME; and Roadside scooped up Debra Granik’s WINTER’S BONE, which won the festival’s grand jury prize.)
But what lessons can we take away from Sundance 2010?
SECRETS OF THE TRIBE (World Documentary Competition)
The Yanomami Indians are an Amazonian tribe who lived in total isolation from the modern world until a half century ago, when one anthropologist after another started showing up to observe, document, and eventually exploit what they saw (and, in some cases, fetishized) as a virginal society. Piecing together testimonials from key researchers in the field and from tribe members, Brazilian documentarian José Padilha (BUS 174, Sundance ’03) progressively complicates the picture. Underlying all the bitter accusations and recriminations are the starkly opposed views of cultural and scientific anthropologists (the latter emphasize the role of evolutionary biology) and the conflicting assumptions that these native others are either noble innocents or violent primitives.
LOVERS OF HATE
Rudy (Chris Doubek), the less-than-lovable protagonist of Bryan Poyser’s dramatic-competition entry LOVERS OF HATE, is an embittered sadsack who can barely tolerate the sight of his smug younger brother, Paul (filmmaker Alex Karpovsky, last seen in Andrew Bujalski’s BEESWAX). An author of children’s novels who has apparently borrowed some ideas for his monstrously successful books from Rudy’s childhood fantasies, Paul drops into Austin for a reading and catches Rudy at low ebb: he’s out of work and has just been thrown out of the house by his wife, Diana (Heather Kafka), whom Paul has always had a crush on.
Without any adieu the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners. Also, be sure to check out the rest of our coverage including exclusive interviews and news and gossip from this year’s Festival.
The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to RESTREPO, directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington. Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s year dug in with the Second Platoon in one of Afghanistan’s most strategically crucial valleys reveals extraordinary insight into the surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie as the soldiers painfully push back the Taliban.
The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to WINTER’S BONE, directed by Debra Granik; written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini. An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her missing father while trying to keep her family intact.
The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to THE RED CHAPEL (Det Røde Kapel) directed by Mads Brügger. A journalist with no scruples, a self-proclaimed spastic, and a comedian travel to North Korea under the guise of a cultural exchange visit to challenge one of the world’s most notorious regimes. Denmark
The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to ANIMAL KINGDOM, written and directed by David Michôd. After the death of his mother, a seventeen year-old boy is thrust precariously between an explosive criminal family and a detective who thinks he can save him.
FAMILY AFFAIR (U.S. Documentary Competition)
It makes sense that Chico Colvard’s first-person documentary was picked up by OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s new cable network, given the surface parallels with last year’s Oprah-endorsed Sundance hit PRECIOUS. As a little boy, the filmmaker accidentally shot one of his sisters in the leg and, in so doing, blew the lid on a family secret. His father, an African American former GI who grew up in segregated Mississippi, had been sexually abusing his three sisters for years, unbeknownst to their mother, a German Jew. At first glance, FAMILY AFFAIR seems like yet another dysfunctional-family home movie, but it’s willing to ask some unexpectedly tough questions about abuse and its aftermath.
SMASH HIS CAMERS, directed by Leon Gast, Oscar-winning director of WHEN WE WERE KINGS
I suppose it’s a mark of where celebrity journalism and gossip are today that paparazzo Ron Galella is finally getting the star treatment.
For decades, Galella lurked in bushes and staked out buildings, hunkered down in taxis and emerged seemingly out of nowhere to get his shot of celebrities like Sinatra and Warhol, Sophia and Bianca, Michael Jackson, Elvis, and Sundance founder Robert Redford himself. Jackie O, whom he considered his “Mona Lisa,” took out a restraining order against him. Brando broke his jaw. Now, Leon Gast, the Oscar-winning director of WHEN WE WERE KINGS, has focused his own cameras on the infamous lensman in his new documentary, SMASH HIS CAMERA, currently showing at the Sundance Film Festival.
NIGHT CATCHES US <
American indie movies specialize in character-driven intimacy. Most of the fiction films you see at the Sundance Film Festival in a given year, good or bad, are insular by design, focused on personal conflicts and private moods, sealed off from the outside world. It’s always a pleasant surprise then to encounter a dramatic movie here that grapples with larger historical forces, that blends the personal and the political. That’s precisely what THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE! and NIGHT CATCHES US — two of this year’s most interesting dramatic-competition titles — set out to do. Neither is wholly successful — IMPERIALISTS indulges in a few too many art-film affectations; NIGHT is serious and somber, almost to a fault — but both are strikingly ambitious debuts (by women writer-directors, as it happens).
SMASH HIS CAMERA, directed by Leon Gast
One of two documentaries about paparazzi culture at the Sundance Film Festival this year — the other is Adrian Grenier’s TEENAGE PAPARAZZO — Leon Gast’s SMASH HIS CAMERA traces the colorful career of Ron Galella, “paparazzo superstar” (as he calls himself). Among the first and by far the most notorious of stalker photographers, Galella played a years-long cat-and-mouse game with Jackie Kennedy and earned a restraining order for his efforts. Once he got too close to Marlon Brando, who rewarded him with a fist in the face.
Now in his late 70s, Galella fondly revisits these old war stories in SMASH HIS CAMERA, which also follows the still-active photographer on a few excursions from suburban New Jersey to Manhattan high society. He worms his way up to Robert Redford at a charity event and hands him a copy of his new book (needless to say, this got plenty of laughs at Sundance). He barges onto the red carpet of the CHANGELING premiere to get a good look at Brangelina. Various experts — curators, photographers, lawyers, gossip writers — weigh in on the merits and ethics of Galella’s work (there’s widespread disagreement).
JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK
Joan Rivers is about to enter the pantheon of gods in my addled mind that is only occupied so far by Cher and Barbra Streisand, aka The Survivors Club. So I finally saw JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK last night at the Sundance Film Festival and it is perfection.
UTOPIA IN FOUR MOVEMENTS.
Love it or hate it, AVATAR has revived for many audiences the old-fashioned notion of movies as a social experience. Billed as a “live documentary,” Sam Green’s UTOPIA IN FOUR MOVEMENTS does effectively the same thing, on a smaller scale but with bigger ideas. Performed twice at the Sundance Film Festival this week as part of the New Frontier section, this was a charmingly homespun cross between a “benshi” silent-film show and a PowerPoint presentation: Green stood before the audience, narrating and cuing still and moving images while three musicians performed a score by co-director Dave Cerf.
As in his Oscar-nominated THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND (Sundance 2003, co-directed with Bill Siegel) Green sifts through the ruins of extinguished idealism. UTOPIA IN FOUR MOVEMENTS is as much a story of failure as it is one of hope.
Until Thursday, Sundance Film Festival watchers from afar could have been forgiven for concluding that the increased emphasis on art, rather than on commerce, in the festival offerings this year may have worked all too well. Many of the films making their debuts were wowing critics, but the money people appeared to be unimpressed, or at least not impressed enough to open their wallets. Or at least opening them too often.
In his review of 8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION, a documentary about the Mormon Church’s campaign to pass Prop. 8, the ballot initiative outlawing gay marriage in California, Variety’s Peter Debruge writes that the film is “mostly preaching to the converted.”
“Although controversy could spur interest, the pic hasn’t been as incendiary as one might expect playing just north of LDS HQ at the Sundance Film Festival,” Debruge asserts.
He may have spoken too soon.
What are the top trends emerging from the Sundance Film Festival this year? That really depends on whom you ask.
Los Angeles Times Film critic Betsy Sharkey thinks it’s punk saviors. “If there is a collective vision emerging out of the films in the Sundance dramatic competition it is this: The punks will save you,” she writes, citing WELCOME TO THE RILEYS, the debut film of director Jake Scott (son of Ridley); actor Mark Ruffalo’s directing debut SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS, in which he also stars; and Spencer Susser’s HESHER.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival 2010
It’s easy to see why Lisa Cholodenko’s THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT has scored the biggest distribution deal to date at this year’s Sundance. (Focus Features acquired it for a reported $5 million.) Enthusiastically received at its packed premiere on Monday night, this lively crowd pleaser appears to take a conventional form (family dramedy) and give it an unconventional spin (it’s about what you might call a modern family).
Image from THE RED CHAPEL.
One of the oddest non-fiction stunts in recent memory, THE RED CHAPEL combines two inherently dubious genres — the culture-clash comedy and the ambush documentary — and pushes them to surreal extremes. The film’s director, Mads Brügger, a Danish journalist, recruited two Danish-Korean performers, Simon Jul and Jacob Nossell (who is handicapped but prefers the term “spastic”) to pose as a comedy act, and convinced the North Korean authorities to allow them to perform in the country’s capital, Pyongyang, in the spirit of cultural exchange.
FOUR LIONS, a comedy about terrorism at the Sundance Film Festival 2010
FOUR LIONS, a pitch-black farce that begins with jihadi-video bloopers, raises some obvious questions. Are jokes about suicide bombers in poor taste? Is it too soon to be finding the hilarity in extreme radicalism? Can terrorism ever be safe for comedy? But if FOUR LIONS proves anything, it’s that “safety” and “taste” are irrelevant concepts for a comedy about such a deadly serious subject; whatever larger meaning we might glean from the film comes from the inherent danger of the project and from the discomfort it provokes.
La Pieta is in Park City, sort of (replica)
I’m gonna take a break from the booze, the nightlife and the parties for a second an delve into the world of Sundance Film Festival Art. Because it’s just that spectacular.
The Sundance Film Festival attracts the most random things. Beyond the psychotic gifting suites, the MySpace lounges, the Bing Bar and the Music café (which, by the way, may have nothing to do with movies but has had an INSANE roster of people playing including the Fray, Leeann Rimes, Joey+Rory, Lady Antebellum, etc.) – the randomest of the all prize goes to the “Have You Seen Michelango’s La Pieta?” exhibit (and let’s use that term loosely) at the Caledonian Hotel.
Paula Froelich and Celine Rattray, producer of THE ROMANTICS
Is it terribly wrong that I find Lyle Lovett insanely awesome and hot? So the other night I finally got to hang with my pal Celine Rattray, who produced THE ROMANTICS and another flick here. Fun Fact: Celine started her career at HBO and then started Plum Pictures with her pal Gault Niederhoffer (whose daddy Jimmy was in foreign exchange and blew up the Thai Baht in the 90’s) and other friend Daniella – they kicked ass and now Celine is leaving to partner with Peter Fricking Guber. I mean – that’s amazing. (Gault will focus on directing now and not sure what Daniella is doing. I mean – I don’t even know her last name, so…). Celine always makes me feel like I need to revise my 5 year plan. (which currently consists of curing Karl Froelich the wonder dachshund of his grudge-pooping habit, nursing my liver back to life and trying to avoid turning into a complete stereotype).
So Celine and I decide to catch up, get a drink before hitting the Variety party at the St. Regis at Deer Valley.
Abu Jandal, a Yemeni cab driver and former Al-Qaeda member in THE OATH
I’ll be surprised if I see a fiction film at Sundance this year that comes close to the novelistic scope and richness of Laura Poitras’s exemplary documentary THE OATH — or has a character even half as complicated as THE OATH’s main subject, Abu Jandal, a Yemeni cab driver and former Al-Qaeda member.
Sundance Film Festival attendees who are looking to unglue their eyes from screens and emerge from darkened movie theaters now and again just got a little added incentive. The Festival has announced a series of panels, roundtables and special events examining the powerfully transformative role of art and culture in society