Welcome To Sundance 2007

On Jan 18, the Sundance Film Festival kicks off for another 10 days of packed parties, tragic fashion, smoke-filled business deals, overpriced restaurants, sightings of Paris Hilton, and, oh yes, films This year offers one of the most ambitious slates in recent years. Geoffrey Gilmore, Director, Sundance Film Festival highlights that “in this year’s Festival there is a breadth of subject matter, vision and innovative storytelling that is transforming the old idea of the American indie film.” (In Variety [www.variety.com], Gilmore went on to define that diversity.)

Of course, there will be plenty of the character-driven, genre-bending, narrative-twisting stories that have defined American Indie films at Sundance. (For a good overview of the festival history, see Sundance Channel’s timeline of winners [www.sundance.tv]. and Benjamin Craig’s extended piece at “Sundance: a festival virgin’s guide [www.sundanceguide.net].”

But as Sundance grows up, so have its directors. Quite a few alumni are back this year with their 2nd, 3rd, and — in the case of Gregg Araki’s SMILEY FACE — 7th film. You’ll find new work by Tommy O’Haver, Craig Brewer, Nelson George, Marco Williams, Jessica Yu and more previous Sundance filmmakers. The opening night film, Brett Morgen’s sixties activism documentary CHICAGO 10, marks his 3rd time here (after ON THE ROPES and THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE). This is also only the second doc to open the festival, with RIDING GIANTS being the first.

Despite such familiar faces, Sundance remains, as Gilmore stresses, “a place for new filmmakers.” But this year’s new filmmakers have also brought a uniquely international bent with them. In recent years the festival has shifted the focus from America to the world with inclusion of the World Dramatic and Documentary competition. For the 125 feature film slots, for example, there were 1,852 U.S. from the US and 1,435 worldwide. But several American independent films highlight the truly multicultural fabric of American life, a point that seems particular salient in a time of immigration debates and international adventurism. Films, like PADRE NUESTRO and LA MISMA LUNA, are primarily in Spanish, while a film, like NEVER FOREVER, cast actors from Korea’s vibrant film community.

A different form of globalization shows up this year in the expansion new media. Many of the short films will either be streamed on line or sold through iTunes. But more on that later.


Peter Bowen

Senior Editor, Filmmaker Magazine