Doc on Burma sells at Sundance

Aussie claymation pic 'Mary & Max' opens the fest

More Sundance coverage

PARK CITY -- At the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday HBO bought TV rights to political documentary "Burma VJ" about the military junta's suppression of a 2007 monk-led rebellion, incorporating footage shot by journalists who risked their lives to smuggle it out of the Southeast Asian country.

HBO bought the rights from doc sales specialist Submarine Entertainment.

The fest is poised to show an eclectic and potentially career-making slate of films.

The tone was set with the unconventional choice to screen Adam Elliot's Australian clay-animation movie, "Mary & Max," featuring voice work by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette, as its opening-night film.

The movie, a whimsical mediation on loneliness and friendship with strong doses of humor and quirkiness, played well at its debut. The story of a pen-pal relationship between a young girl in Australia and a fortysomething man in New York could find a distribution home with a specialty division like Sony Pictures Classics, which demonstrated with "Persepolis" that it knows how to handle poignant animated tales.

This year's Sundance also will share the calendar with the quadrennial event of a presidential inauguration taking place during the festival.

Despite the potential for distraction, festival founder Robert Redford said he didn't mind if it meant some festgoers left town and said the timing of the events in D.C. was propitious because he expects the new administration to be strongly supportive of the arts.

Redford took a parting shot at the outgoing Bush administration, which he has targeted in recent years at his opening-day news conference.

"I'm glad to see the gang that couldn't shoot straight out of there," he said, then added, "For a lame-duck president, he sure has been quacking a lot."
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