Premieres at the Sundance Film Festival — taking place on chilly evenings in Park City, usually with major stars in attendance — have been showcases for big films, usually from studios and often by established filmmakers. At Sundance 2007, the Premieres will be much harder to categorize, according to festival director Geoffrey Gilmore.
“There will be first-time filmmakers, unknown filmmakers, films that play to a broad audience yet also challenging films with dense, complicated stories,” he said.
Gilmore made these comments as he and director of programming John Cooper announced the lineup of films in the festival’s out-of-competition sections. Along with Premieres these include Spectrum, Park City at Midnight and New Frontier. The festival runs Jan. 18-28 in Park City as well as in locations throughout Utah including Salt Lake City, Sundance and Ogden.
Premieres will include the closing-night film, Nelson George’s “Life Support,” starring Queen Latifah as an AIDS activist in a Brooklyn black community, and the previously announced opening-night film, Brett Morgan’s “Chicago 10,” an innovative documentary that uses animation to tell the story of the 1968 anti-war protest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the famous 1969 conspiracy trial.
What drives this section are actors’ performances, Cooper said. He pointed to Samuel L. Jackson in two Premiere films, as an ex-boxing champ living on the streets in Rod Lurie’s “Resurrecting the Champ” and as a bluesman in Craig Brewer’s “Black Snake Moan”; Michael Douglas as an unstable father in Mike Cahill’s “King of California”; Brenda Blethyn in Cherie Nowlan’s “Clubland” from Australia; Jared Leto as John Lennon’s murderer, Mark David Chapman, in Jarrett Schaefer’s “Chapter 27”; and perennial Sundance fave Catherine Keener in “An American Crime,” Tommy O’Haver’s take on the true story of a housewife in the 1960s who kept a girl locked in her basement.
Other performances singled out by Cooper and Gilmore include Jim Broadbent as eccentric British politician Lord Longford in Tom Hooper’s TV drama “Longford”; Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney as siblings in Tamara Jenkins’ “The Savages”; Molly Shannon in the fest’s Saturday Night Premiere, Mike White’s “Year of the Dog,” described as a comedy with serious drama; and Kevin Kline as a Texas cop on the trail of sex traffickers in Marco Kreuzpaintner’s “Trade.”
The Spectrum section changed its name from American Spectrum in 2006 to broaden the category to include international films and docus, “a full spectrum of work,” Cooper said. Of particular interest in this section, albeit for tragic reasons, is “Waitress,” selected by Sundance programrs before the murder last month of its director-actress, Adrienne Shelly, best known for her work in Hal Hartley’s “Trust” and “The Unbelievable Truth.” Programrs anticipate a very poignant screening.
Hartley will be represented in Spectrum by the U.S. premiere of “Fay Grim,” while actor-director Steve Buscemi will world premiere his journalist drama “Interview.” Meanwhile, Buscemi will star in Tom DiCillo’s “Delirious,” which also has a journalism angle.
“Bugmaster” (Mushishi) from Japanese director Katsuhiro Otomo, based on a celebrated manga, will screen in a version 32 minutes shorter than the one that debuted in September at the Venice Film Festival.
The New Frontier section is highlighted by a new initiative from the festival, one that Gilmore referred to as the “traditional avant-garde.” He coined the oxymoron-sounding phase while explaining a kind of experimental film familiar to Sundancegoers versus the works showcased at the upcoming festival from artists working at the intersection of art, film and emerging media technologies.
This will result in a new venue called New Frontier on Main, located across from the Egyptian Theatre on Main Street in Park City (previously known as the Film Center). This spot will host screenings, moving image installations, live performances, a cafe/lounge and panel discussions.
“It’s a crossover from Internet technology and nontraditional storytelling, a new wave we want to find a way to platform,” Cooper said. “These are artists pushing the limits of how audiences engage with moving images.”
Thus, Nina Menkes (“Phantom Love” set in Los Angeles and India) represents the traditional avant-garde, while Travis Wilkerson’s “Proving Ground” combines video, text, live music and commentary. Even Anthony Hopkins takes his turn as writer-director of “Slipstream,” where “time, dreams and reality collide.”
For Park City at Midnight, usually a slasher/ghoul fest, Cooper promised “a lot comedies” albeit with the requisite weirdness.
Gilmore and Cooper said the festival has “fine-tuned” the experience of Sundance itself for the upcoming edition. From the walking paths between the venues to the shuttle buses, the goal is easier navigation and a better overall experience. “We need to make the festival accessible for first timers, especially international visitors,” Gilmore said.
The festival has hired consultants for the bus routes and operation. It also will move the Industry Center from its headquarters at the Marriott Park City to the Yarrow Hotel, where press screenings take place. There they will establish a hospitality room for press and industry.
A new parking lot on Main Street should relieve some congestion there. However, construction at the popular Eccles Theatre on the high school campus continues, so parking will remain a problem probably for another two years.
As for the ambush marketers and swag lounges that proliferate around Main Street, both men suggested these may be winding down. But neither is holding his breath.
The films screening in Premieres are:
AN AMERICAN CRIME, U.S. (Director: Tommy O’Haver; Screenwriters: Tommy O’Haver, Irene Turner)– A fictionalized account of the true story of a young girl’s torturous ordeal at the hands of a troubled mother of seven in 1960s Indianapolis. World Premiere.
AWAY FROM HER, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Sarah Polley)–Married for almost 50 years, Grant and Fiona’s serenity is interrupted by Fiona’s increasingly frequent memory lapses. When it is no longer possible for either of them to ignore the fact that she is being consumed by Alzheimer’s disease, the limits of love and loyalty are wrenchingly redefined. U.S. Premiere. OPENING NIGHT SALT LAKE CITY
BLACK SNAKE MOAN, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Craig Brewer)–Desire is a burning sickness for Rae, while making her the white-trash sexual target of every man and boy in her small Tennessee town. When her true love leaves for military service, Rae plunges into wild excess. Beaten, left for dead, she’s taken in by a reformed bluesman, a private self-contained black man who nurses deep anger of his own, who is fiercely committed to his task of keeping her alive. World Premiere.
CHAPTER 27, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Jarrett Schaefer)– A terrifying glimpse into the deranged mind of Mark David Chapman during his days in NYC prior to the murder of John Lennon, which is played out through his obsession with JD Salinger’s classic novel ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. World Premiere.
CHICAGO 10, U.S. (Director Brett Morgen)–CHICAGO 10 presents contemporary history with a forced perspective, mixing bold and original animation with extraordinary archival footage that explores the build-up to and unraveling of the Chicago Conspiracy Trial and the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. World Premiere. OPENING NIGHT PARK CITY
CLUBLAND, Australia (Director: Cherie Nowlan; Screenwriter: Keith Thompson)–Tim has a new girlfriend. It should be the perfect romance but something is holding him back. He has a secret…his parents are “Entertainers”! There are never just two people in a family love story. World Premiere.
THE GOOD NIGHT, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Jake Paltrow)–A man finds he has more happiness and love with the woman in his dreams than in his miserable day-to-day reality. World Premiere.
KING OF CALIFORNIA, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Mike Cahill)– An unstable dad who after getting out of a mental institution tries to convince his daughter that there’s Spanish gold buried somewhere under suburbia. World Premiere.
LIFE SUPPORT, U.S. (Director: Nelson George; Screenwriters: Nelson George, Jim McKay, Hannah Weyer)–LIFE SUPPORT views the African-American community’s HIV crisis through the eyes of a survivor who is a mother, a former addict and an AIDS activist. World Premiere. CLOSING NIGHT FILM
LONGFORD, U.K. (Director: Tom Hooper; Screenwriter: Peter Morgan)–A portrait of Lord Longford, a tireless British campaigner whose controversial beliefs often resulted in furious political debate and personal conflict. World Premiere.
THE NINES, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: John August)–A troubled actor, a television show runner, and an acclaimed videogame designer find their lives intertwining in mysterious and unsettling ways. World Premiere.
RESURRECTING THE CHAMP, U.S. (Director: Rod Lurie; Screenwriters: Allison Burnett, Michael Bortman, Chris Gerolmo, Rod Lurie)–A down on his luck sports reporter has his life and career upturned when he lands the story of his career: A former heavyweight boxing superstar, previously thought to be dead, is living his final years on the streets. Finally, he can earn the respect of his wife and editor—but the dark secret he finds may be too much for him to bear. World Premiere.
THE SAVAGES, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Tamara Jenkins)– A comic-drama about a pair of adult siblings who are suddenly plucked from their self-absorbed lives when they are forced to care for their estranged and elderly father who never cared for them–an irreverent story about life, love and mortality. World Premiere.
SON OF RAMBOW, U.K. (Director and Screenwriter: Garth Jennings) Will is the eldest son in a family with a strict moral and religious view and never been allowed to mix with other people, listen to music or watch TV. That is until he finds himself caught up in the extraordinary world of Lee Carter, the school terror and maker of bizarre home movies. World Premiere.
SUMMER RAIN (EL CAMINO DE LOS INGLESES), Spain (Director: Antonio Banderas; Screenwriter: Antonio Soler)–The film is adapted from an award-winning novel written by the director’s childhood friend, Antonio Soler, and is a deeply personal and poetic recreation of their generation growing up in Malaga in the late 1970s. World Premiere.
TRADE, U.S. (Director: Marco Kreuzpaintner; Screenwriter: Jose Rivera)–Adriana is a 13-year-old girl from Mexico City whose kidnapping by sex traffickers sets in motion a desperate mission by her 17-year-old brother, Jorge, to save her. As Jorge dodges immigration officers and incredible obstacles to track the girls’ abductors, he meets Ray, a Texas cop whose own family loss to sex trafficking leads him to become an ally in the boy’s quest. World Premiere.
YEAR OF THE DOG, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Mike White)–Peggy is a happy-go-lucky secretary – a great friend, employee, and sister who lives alone with her beloved dog. But when Pencil unexpectedly dies, Peggy must embark on a journey of personal transformation that is hilarious, poignant and suspenseful. World Premiere.
The films screening in Spectrum are:
ANGEL-A, France (Director and Screenwriter: Luc Besson)– A fairy tale about a man who gets a second chance in life when he saves a statuesque, mysterious beauty from a suicide bid in the Seine River. North American Premiere.
BUGMASTER (MUSHISHI), Japan (Director: Katsuhiro Otomo; Screenwriter: Sadayuki Murai)– A traveling mystical doctor, “a Bugmaster,” passes through remote regions of Japan curing the ill-effects of supernatural creatures, the “Mushi,” who plague the people in this tale of ancient legend based on a celebrated Manga. U.S. Premiere.
DARK MATTER, U.S. (Director: Chen Shi-Zheng; Screenwriter: Billy Shebar)–Inspired by real events, DARK MATTER delves into the world of a brilliant Chinese astronomy student whose dreams are challenged when he arrives in America to pursue his Ph.D. World Premiere.
DEDICATION, U.S. (Director: Justin Theroux; Screenwriter: David Bromberg)–A socially dysfunctional children’s book author is forced to work closely with a female illustrator when he loses his long-time collaborator and only friend. World Premiere.
DELIRIOUS, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Tom DiCillo)–A small time paparazzo befriends and hires a homeless young man who flirts with fame and fortune when he becomes entangled with a famous pop star. North American Premiere.
THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK, U.S. (Directors: Annie Sundberg, Ricki Stern)–THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK exposes the genocide raging in Darfur, Sudan as seen through the eyes of a former U.S. marine who returns home to make the story public. World Premiere.
EXPIRED, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Cecilia Miniucchi)–When a lonely, gentle meter maid meets a troubled fellow parking officer, their love affair becomes an awkward dance of attraction and antagonism. World Premiere.
FRAULEIN, Switzerland (Director and Screenwriter: Andrea Staka)–A hardened Zurich restaurant owner from Yugoslavia finds her cool detachment from the past disrupted with the arrival of a younger, free-spirited woman seeking a better life after the Balkan War. North American Premiere.
THE GO-GETTER, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Martin Hynes)–When his mother dies a teenager takes a road-trip in a stolen car to find his long-lost brother. Along the way he discovers a profound connection with the car-owner and with himself as well. World Premiere.
THE GREAT WORLD OF SOUND, U.S. (Director: Craig Zobel; Screenwriter: George Smith, Craig Zobel)–When a man answers an ad to train as a record producer, he’s excited by the prospect of signing undiscovered artists only to discover his new job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. World Premiere.
IF I HAD KNOWN I WAS A GENIUS, U.S. (Director: Dominique Wirtschafter; Screenwriter: Markus Redmond)–A young African-American man recounts his life. When he finds out he has a high IQ he struggles to fit in somewhere while also battling with his dysfunctional family. World Premiere.
INTERVIEW, U.S. (Director: Steve Buscemi; Screenwriters: Steve Buscemi, David Schechter)–A fading political journalist has a falling out with his editor and is given an assignment to interview a top television actress, which derails into a battle of wits and deep dark secrets. World Premiere.
LOW AND BEHOLD, U.S. (Director: Zack Godshall; Screenwriters: Zack Godshall, Barlow Jacobs)–When an unmotivated young man signs on as an insurance adjuster in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, he is profoundly changed by the destruction and loss he encounters. World Premiere.
LA MISMA LUNA (THE SAME MOON), U.S. (Director: Patricia Riggen; Screenwriter: Ligiah Villalobos)–When his grandmother dies a young Mexican boy struggles to cross the border to reunite with his beloved mother, who is working hard in Los Angeles to create a better life for the family. World Premiere.
MISS NAVAJO, U.S. (Director: Billy Luther)–A documentary that explores the role of women and tradition in Navajo culture by following one young woman as she prepares for and competes in the Miss Navajo Nation Pageant. World Premiere.
RAY GRIM, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Hal Hartley)–A single mother whose husband has been missing for seven years is used as bait by the CIA in this international espionage caper. U.S. Premiere.
RED ROAD, U.K. (Director and Screenwriter: Andrea Arnold)–When a man she never wanted to see again suddenly appears back in Jackie’s ordered, isolated Glasgow life, she has no choice; she is compelled to confront him. U.S. Premiere.
REPRISE, Norway (Director: Joachim Trier; Screenwriters: Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt)–Two competitive twenty-something friends, fueled by literary aspirations and youthful exuberance, endure the pangs of love, depression and burgeoning careers. U.S. Premiere.
SAVE ME, U.S. (Director: Robert Cary; Screenwriters: Craig Chester, Alan Hines, Robert Desiderio)–When a young gay man flees his life of drugs and sex to check into a Christian-run ministry, his attempts to cure himself of his “gay affliction” are tested by powerful forces. World Premiere.
TULI, Philippines (Director: Auraeus Solito; Screenwriter: Jimmy Flores)–When a young girl in a remote Philippine village is forced into an arranged marriage by her abusive father, she rejects traditional mores and creates an alternative life. North American Premiere.
THE UNFORESEEN, U.S. (Director: Laura Dunn)– When a west Texas farm boy develops pristine hill country into large-scale subdivisions, threatening a fragile limestone aquifer, an environmental movement rises up and fights back. This documentary takes a hard look at the American dream and asks, “What does it mean to grow?” World Premiere.
WAITRESS, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Adrienne Shelly)–A pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep South falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness. World Premiere.
WONDERS ARE MANY, U.S. (Director: Jon Else)–A documentary that tracks the creation of Peter Sellars’ and John Adams’ 2005 opera about Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project, while also exploring the complex birth of nuclear weapons. World Premiere.
YEAR OF THE FISH, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: David Kaplan)–A rotoscope-animated modern-day Cinderella story set in the underbelly of New York’s Chinatown. World Premiere.
The films screening in New Frontier are:
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: PIERRE HUYGHE, France (Director: Pierre Huyghe)–A presentation of short films that have rarely been screened outside of a museum or art gallery context. Huyghe is one of France’s most celebrated young artists. His multimedia installations–which are concerned with collective memory, the construction of narratives, and textures of re-enactment–have been exhibited at museums across the world including the Guggenheim, Tate Modern, and the Whitney Museums.
THE LAST DINING TABLE, South Korea (Director and Screenwriter: Gyeong-Tae Roh)–This minimal and surrealist film about irony and separation poetically explores modern social problems including pollution and environmental concerns and the collapse of family values.
OFFSCREEN, Denmark (Director: Christoffer Boe; Screenwriter: Christoffer Boe, Knud Romer J?rgensen)–Actor Nicolas Bro reigns supreme in the role of Nicolas Bro ? a man intent on making a film about himself. After his director friend Christoffer Boe lends him a camera, his self-monitoring is so hair-raisingly private (and creepy!) that it becomes impossible to separate fact from fiction. World Premiere.
PHANTOM LOVE, U.S. (Director: Nina Menkes)–A surreal drama about a woman trapped within an enmeshed family, and her slow process of personal liberation. Set in Los Angeles and Rishikesh, India, the film combines fairy-tale elements with brutal black and white photography to create a powerful testament about inner transformation. World Premiere.
SLIPSTREAM, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: Anthony Hopkins)–A man discovers that life is random and fortune is sightless as he is thrown into a vortex where time, dreams and reality collide in an increasingly whirling Slipstream. World Premiere.
ZIDANE: A 21ST CENTURY PORTRAIT, France (Director: Douglas Gordon, Philippe Parreno)– During the course of an entire football match, seventeen super-35mm Scope format cameras were set around the playing field focusing solely on football legend Zinedine Zidane, who agreed to become the center of attention for this out-of-the-ordinary, full-length feature film. U.S. Premiere.
The films screening in Park City at Midnight are:
FIDO, U.S. (Director: Andrew Currie; Screenwriters: Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie)–Timmy Robinson’s best friend in the whole wide world is a six-foot tall rotting zombie named Fido. But when Fido eats the next-door neighbor, Mom and Dad hit the roof, and Timmy has to go to the ends of the earth to keep Fido in the family.
FINISHING THE GAME, U.S. (Director: Justin Lin, Screenwriters: Josh Diamond, Justin Lin)–The unexpected death of Bruce Lee comes at the zenith of his popularity. Having already shot scenes for his upcoming movie Game of Death, studio heads decide to complete the film by launching a search for his replacement attracting hopefuls from all around the world. World Premiere.
IT IS FINE! EVERYTHING IS FINE., U.S. (Director: Crispin Hellion Glover, David Brothers; Screenwriters: Crispin Hellion Glover, Steven C. Stewart)– A man with a severe case of cerebral palsy, Steven C Stuart’s naive, fantastical, psychosexual retelling of his point of view of life involving many women. World Premiere.
THE SIGNAL, U.S. (Directors and Screenwriters: David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, Dan Bush)– Told in three parts from three unique perspectives created by three visionary directors, THE SIGNAL is a horrific journey towards the discovery that the most brutal violent monster might actually be within all of us. World Premiere.
SK8 LIFE, Canada (Director: S. Wyeth Clarkson; Screenwriters: S. Wyeth Clarkson, Elan Mastai)–8 sk8trs brought together to make a ‘sk8 tape’, crash at the legendary “Crashpad.” They soon discover its days are numbered and band together to save it. North American Premiere.
SMILEY FACE, U.S. (Director: Gregg Araki; Screenwriter: Dylan Haggerty)–Jane F, an unsuccessful slacker actress, inadvertently eats her roommate’s pot cupcakes and proceeds to have a very strange day of hijinks and surreal misadventures. World Premiere.
THE TEN, U.S. (Director: David Wain; Screenwriters: Ken Marino, David Wain)–Ten stories, each inspired by one of The Ten Commandments, illustrate the perils of modern life via extreme comedy. World Premiere.
WE ARE THE STRANGE, U.S. (Director and Screenwriter: M dot Strange)–In this animated feature film, two outcasts fight for survival in a sinister fantasy world. Their lives are constantly in jeopardy after they’re caught in the middle of a deadly battle between bizarre monsters on their way to the ice cream shop. World Premiere.
Sundance Collection screenings are:
THE RIVER’S EDGE, U.S. (Director: Tim Hunter; Screenwriter: Neal Jimenez)– A tight-knit group of high school slackers struggle to reconcile friendship and responsibility when one of them kills his girlfriend in this disturbing portrait of moral ambivalence and alienated youth in small town America.
X: THE UNHEARD MUSIC, U.S. 1986 (Director: W.T. Morgan)– A rarely seen 1987 documentary that explores the music and musicians of the early 1980s LA punk band X, as well as the underground music scene of the time, the foibles of the music industry, and the “unheard music” of American culture in the 1980s.
Special Screenings are:
THE LAST MIMZY, U.S. (Director: Bob Shaye; Screenplay by: Bruce Joel Rubin and Toby Emmerich; Screen Story by James V. Hart and Carol Skilken)–Based on the acclaimed sci-fi short story by Lewis Padgett, The Last Mimzy centers on two children who discover a mysterious box containing some strange devices they think are toys. As the children play with these “toys,” they begin to display higher intelligence levels, prompting their parents and the community to search for answers. World Premiere.
AUTISM EVERY DAY, U.S.A (Director: Lauren Thierry)–AUTISM EVERY DAY takes you inside the lives of families struggling to raise children with autism. It is a gritty, truthful portrayal of the 24 hour a day challenge faced by families as they confront the heartbreak of autism with uncompromising hope and unconditional love. World Premiere.