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Sundance Announces Premieres and Documentary Premieres

The 2012 festival program includes work from Spike Lee, Julie Delpy, Josh Radnor and James Marsh -- plus a new Peter Jackson-produced documentary about the West Memphis Three.

Spike Lee BLUE Scholarship - H 2011
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Filmmakers Julie Delpy, Stephen Frears, James Marsh and Spike Lee will headline the Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, organizers announced Monday. A new documentary about the legal case of the West Memphis Three produced by Peter Jackson will also have its premiere in the program.

PHOTOS: Stars at Sundance

Coming after the release of the competition program and most of the out-of-competition selections last week, these last out-of-competition films rep the most high-profile of the festival’s offerings. As a result, these films historically often come into the festival with a distributor, or they leave with one. But for what may be the first time, none of the 15 world premieres in the 2012 Premieres program have distribution yet, a “fluke” that has festival director John Cooper excited and will have buyers rubbing their hands together in anticipation.

“I like my brothers and sisters in the distribution world!” Cooper says. “The fact that most of the Premieres have been produced completely independently further underscores the resourcefulness and tenacity of filmmakers in this climate. That drive and entrepreneurial spirit has pushed narrative and documentary filmmakers alike to create rich stories which will entertain and inspire audiences at the festival and in the year to come.”

Last January's festival sparked a renewed frenzy of sales activity after several years of uncertainty and shuttered distributors. There were two-dozen acquisitions during the ten days of the festival (plus the few leading up to it), including Premieres-section films The Details, Life in a Day and My Idiot Brother. The 2012 edition looks to be comparably hot.

PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes of Sundance 2011

Josh Radnor, whose directing debut Happythankyoumoreplease screened at the 2010 festival, has his follow-up, Liberal Arts, in Premieres. In the film, Radnor plays a man who visits his alma mater only to fall in love with a college student played by Elizabeth Olsen, who starred in the 2011 Sundance narrative competition drama Martha Marcy May Marlene that was picked up by Fox Searchlight. Olsen also stars with Sigourney Weaver in Red Lights, the new thriller from writer-director Rodrigo Cortes, whose film Buried was picked up by Lionsgate out of the 2010 festival.

Frears has directed Lay The Favorite from a script by D.V. DeVincentis about a group of people gaming the sports book system in Las Vegas. Delpy has directed and co-written 2 Days in New York with Alexia Landeau, a follow up to her 2 Days in Paris that stars Chris Rock. Marsh has directed the thriller Shadow Dancer, written by Tom Bradby, about a widowed mother arrested in an aborted bomb plot. And Lee has directed Red Hook Summer from a screenplay he wrote with James McBride about a young Atlanta boy who spends his summer in Brooklyn with the grandfather he’s never met.

Cooper and director of programming Trevor Groth note that the film has the flavor of Lee’s early work and “may push some buttons,” Groth says. Lee last had the musical adaptation Passing Strange in the festival in 2009.

PHOTOS: What to Pack for Sundance

Actress Ari Graynor, who starred in the 2010 Sundance premiere Holy Rollers, has two new films in the Premieres section: Celeste and Jesse Forever and For a Good Time, Call…. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind, 2009) and written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormackForever stars Jones and Andy Samberg as high school sweethearts trying to remain friends after their divorce. For A Good Time, from director Jamie Travis and screenwriters Katie Anne Naylon and Lauren Anne Miller, stars Miller and Graynor as women who move in together and start a phone sex line. Actor Mark Webber, who also appears in two competition films, turns up in Good Time as well.

The comedy continues with Leslye Headland’s Bachelorette, which features Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan and James Marsden in the story of the conflicts that arise among high school friends when the least popular of them gets engaged years later.

Bradley Cooper (The Words), Vera Farmiga and David Duchovny (both in Goats), Clive Owen (Shadow Dancer), Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones (both in Lay the Favorite), Parker Posey (Price Check), Robert De Niro (Red Lights) and Richard Gere and Tim Roth (both in Arbitrage) will provide some old-fashioned star power, while 2011 breakout Brit Marling (Another Earth) returns in Arbitrage.

The Words, from writer-directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, will serve as the fest’s closing night film, while director Jake Schreier’s Robot and Frank will play as the Salt Lake City Gala film.

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt will host a special presentation from hitRECord, the creative community he founded during the 2010 festival. The one-time-only Jan. 26 event will feature work that was created by global hitRECord participants, which the live Sundance audience will then be able to interact with and contribute to using their own digital devices.

The Documentary Premieres section features returning Sundance filmmakers Rory Kennedy (Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, 2007), Amy Berg (Bhutto, 2010) and Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys, 2001), among its eight world premieres. Kennedy sizes up the life and times of Ethel Kennedy in Ethel, while Peralta dives back into skateboarding history with Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, which focuses on the stars and developments of the sport in the 1980s.

Joe Berlinger (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, 2004) is back, too, with an as-yet-untitled film about Paul Simon’s return to South Africa and the making of his classic Graceland album. The concluding film in the filmmaker's trilogy about the West Memphis Three, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, will not screen at Sundance; it had its premiere at the Toronto film festival in September just as the accused men were finally freed. But the controversial Arkansas case will still be in the spotlight in Berg's West of Memphis, which tracks the Peter Jackson-led efforts to force a new trial and bring further exculpatory evidence to light. Jackson and wife Fran Walsh produced the film with the freed Damien Echols and his wife Lorri Davis.

Rap icon Ice-T will screen his exploration of the history of hip-hop, Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap, co-directed by Andy Baybutt, while Sundance founder Robert Redford’s son James Redford is bringing The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia. (Redford’s daughter Amy Redford’s directing debut, The Guitar, screened at the fest in 2008.) “Don’t worry, we put them through the same paces as everyone,” Cooper says with a laugh.

The 28th annual festival runs January 19-29 with screenings and events in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah. The complete program will feature 112 feature-length films from 31 countries, including 90 world premieres.

Below is the complete line-up:

PREMIERES

2 Days in New York/ France (Director: Julie Delpy, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau) — Marion has broken up with Jack and now lives in New York with their child. A visit from her family, the different cultural background of her new boyfriend, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, and her upcoming photo exhibition make for an explosive mix. Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alex Nahon.

Arbitrage/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nicholas Jarecki) — A hedge-fund magnate is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire before the depths of his fraud are revealed. An unexpected, bloody error forces him to turn to the most unlikely corner for help. Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Nate Parker.

Bachelorette/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Leslye Headland) — Unresolved issues between four high school friends come roaring back to life when the least popular of them gets engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in New York City and asks the others to be bridesmaids in her wedding. Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer.

California Solo/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Marshall Lewy) — A former Britpop rocker has long settled for an unfettered life working on a farm outside of L.A. When he’s caught driving drunk and faces deportation, he must confront past and current demons in his life to stay in the country. Cast: Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite, A Martinez, Danny Masterson.

Celeste and Jesse Forever/ U.S.A. (Director: Lee Toland Krieger, Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack) — Celeste and Jesse met in high school, married young, and at 30, decide to get divorced but remain best friends while pursuing other relationships. Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts.

For A Good Time, Call.../ U.S.A. (Director: Jamie Travis, Screenwriters: Katie Anne Naylon & Lauren Anne Miller) — Lauren and Katie move in together after a loss of a relationship and a loss of a rent controlled home, respectively. When Lauren learns what Katie does for a living the two enter into a wildly unconventional business venture. Cast: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber, James Wolk.

Goats/ U.S.A. (Director: Christopher Neil, Screenwriter: Mark Jude Poirier) — Ellis leaves his unconventional desert home to attend the disciplined and structured Gates Academy. There, he re-connects with his estranged father and for the first time questions the family dynamics. Cast: David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Graham Phillips, Justin Kirk, Ty Burrell.

Lay the Favorite/ U.S.A. (Director: Stephen Frears, Screenwriter: D.V. DeVincentis) — An adventurous young woman gets involved with a group of geeky older men who have found a way to work the sportsbook system in Las Vegas to their advantage. Cast: Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rebecca Hall.

Liberal Arts/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Josh Radnor) — When 30-something Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them. Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro, Elizabeth Reaser.

Price Check/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Walker) — Pete is having trouble resolving a happy marriage and family life with rising debt and a job he hates. When his new boss pulls him into the maelstrom that is her life, money and opportunities come his way, but at what price? Cast: Parker Posey, Eric Mabius, Annie Parisse, Josh Pais, Cheyenne Jackson.

Red Hook Summer/U.S.A. (Director:Spike Lee, Screenwriters: James McBride, Spike Lee) —A young Atlanta boy spends his summer in Brooklyn with his grandfather, who he's never seen before. Cast: Clarke Peters, Jules Brown, Toni Lysaith, James Ransone, Thomas Jefferson Byrd.

Red Lights/ U.S.A., Spain (Director and screenwriter: Rodrigo Cortés) —Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic. Cast: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones.

Robot and Frank/ U.S.A. (Director: Jake Schreier, Screenwriter: Christopher Ford) — A curmudgeonly older dad’s grown kids install a robot as his caretaker. Cast: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler. SALT LAKE CITY GALA FILM

Shadow Dancer/ United Kingdom (Director: James Marsh, Screenwriter: Tom Bradby) — When a widowed mother is arrested in an aborted bomb plot she must make hard choices to protect her son in this heart-wrenching thriller. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, with Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen.

The Words/ U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal) — Aspiring writer Rory Jansen finds another man's haunting memories in a collection of lost stories and claims them as his own, propelling him to literary stardom. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde with Zoe Saldana. CLOSING NIGHT FILM

Special event: Hit RECord at the Movies with Joseph Gordon-Levitt — Be a part of the process by joining Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the global hitRECord community for a special one-time-only interactive exploration of the power of making things together. Gordon-Levitt will showcase works that have been created from the collaborative hitRECord production company and invite the audience to engage, interact and contribute to the event using their digital devices. The event will be recorded, with footage posted on their website for all to enjoy and be inspired by. hitRECord, which launched with an installation in the New Frontier section of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, returns to the Festival to showcase the project’s evolution and potential for creative experimentation. 

 

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES

About Face/ U.S.A. (Director: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders) — An exploration of beauty and aging through the stories of the original supermodels. Participants including Isabella Rossellini, Christie Brinkley, Beverly Johnson, Carmen Dell'Orefice, Paulina Porizkova, Jerry Hall and Christy Turlington weigh in on the fashion industry and how they reassess and redefine their own sense of beauty as their careers progress.

Bones Brigade: An Autobiography/ U.S.A. (Director: Stacy Peralta) — When six teenage boys came together as a skateboarding team in the 1980s, they reinvented not only their chosen sport but themselves too – as they evolved from insecure outsiders to the most influential athletes in the field.

The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia/ U.S.A. (Director: James Redford) — While following a Dyslexic high school senior struggling to achieve his dream of getting into a competitive college, The D Word exposes myths about Dyslexia and reveals cutting edge research to elucidate this widely misunderstood condition.

Ethel/ U.S.A. (Director: Rory Kennedy) — This intimate, surprising portrait of Ethel Kennedy provides an insider's view of a political dynasty, including Ethel’s life with Robert F. Kennedy and the years following his death when she raised their eleven children on her own.

A Fierce Green Fire/ U.S.A. (Director: Mark Kitchell) — A definitive history of one of the most important movements of the 20th century, A Fierce Green Fire chronicles the environmental movement’s fascinating evolution from the 1960s to the present.

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap/ United Kingdom (Director: Ice-T, Co-Director: Andy Baybutt) — Through conversations with Rap’s most influential artists – among them Chuck D, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eminem, MC Lyte, Mos Def, and Kanye West – Ice-T explores the roots and history of Rap and reveals the creative process behind this now dominant art form.

Untitled Paul Simon Project/ U.S.A. (Director: Joe Berlinger) — Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the incredible journey of his historic Graceland album, including the political backlash he sparked for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa, designed to end Apartheid.

West of Memphis/ U.S.A. (Director: Amy Berg) — Three teenage boys are incarcerated for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. 19 years later, new evidence calls into question the convictions and raises issues of judicial, prosecutorial and jury misconduct – showing that the first casualty of a corrupt justice system is the truth.