The Sundance '12 opening night round-up

Have you filled all your travel size bottles of Purell? Looked online to find out how many packets of Emergen-C a human being can safely ingest without overdosing on potassium? Bought enough Powerbars to qualify as a minority investor in the company? Good, then you’re ready for Opening Night of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Which is fortunate, cause it starts in, like four hours.

Thursday at Sundance boasts an abbreviated schedule, four films at 2 venues: the Eccles and the Library Center Theatre. Things technically kick off at 6:00pm at the Eccles with the U.S. Documentary selection THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, the story of two real estate billionaires building a 90,000-square-foot mansion in the midst of the global economic collapse. As we told you last week, TQoV — which just made The Wall Street Journal‘s list of “Ten Hot Sundance Documentaries” — garnered some pre-premiere headlines when the documentary’s subjects, who didn’t care for the way they were described in the film’s official description in the Sundance film guide, sued the festival and the director for defamation. In other words: the post-screening Q&A at the Eccles is going to be uh-maze-ing.

Stick around at the Eccles until 9:30 and you’ll be primed to check out HELLO I MUST BE GOING from LOVE LIZA director (and HIGH FIDELITY co-star) Todd Louiso. Melanie Lynskey stars in this U.S. Dramatic Competition film as a woman who’s recently divorced and currently distraught. To the best of my knowledge, no one involved in the film is suing anyone else involved in the film (yet). You can read our full preview of this one here.

Over at the Library Theatre, things kick off at 6:30 with a taste of the World Dramatic Competition. WISH YOU WERE HERE, from Australian director Kieran Darcy-Smith, tells the story of four friends who go on a vacation to Cambodia. Somewhere, somehow, one of the four dies, and after the survivors return home, they have to learn to live with the guilt, not to mention the suspicions of the police. And, I imagine, the nightmare of filling out travel insurance claim forms. Those things are horrible. Our full preview for this one is here — it comes from the same filmmaking collective that brought us THE SQUARE and ANIMAL KINGDOM, so if you dug those movies dot dot dot ellipsis ellipsis ellipsis.

Opening night winds down with the final part of the Library’s double feature, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN from the World Documentary competition. It’s a doc with a story that’s best left undescribed — or at least that’s what I told my editor to avoid doing any research about it. But seriously: this movie, about an obscure ’70s rock musician named Rodriguez, and the impact his music made on the people of South Africa when it was discovered there years after he was believed to have died, comes with a pretty big twist that will be spoiled for you the second you look at Rodriguez’s Wikipedia page or this Guardian profile. SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is the first film from Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul, who has previously worked as a director of short films about slightly more well-known musicians like Elton John and Madonna.

If the jet lag, travel, traffic, and high altitude oxygen deprivation are killing your attention span, the shorts program at the Egyptian Theatre on Main Street might provide a less taxing alternative to other opening night programming. After the movies wind down, you can do the responsible thing and go back to your hotel room for a good night’s sleep before the first full date of the festival. Or you could find a party and rock out all night long. The choice is yours, but remember that old expression about Sundance: it’s a marathon, not a sprint — and it’s a marathon in the bitter cold at high altitude with a bunch of fire-breathing gremlins chasing you. That’s an expression, right? I heard a guy say that on the subway once and I just assumed it was.