Little-hyped films that could steal the Sundance spotlight


Afghan Star
Director: Havana Marking
(World documentary competition)

The success of Danny Boyle's game show-based "Slumdog Millionaire" could rub off on first-time filmmaker Marking's documentary about contestants who risk their lives to appear on Afghanistan's version of "American Idol."

Big River Man
Director: John Maringouin
(World documentary competition)

Wading into Werner Herzog territory -- obsessive hero, exotic locale -- the director of 2006's "Running Stumbled" trains his camera on endurance swimmer Martin Strel. A 53-year-old Guinness World Record holder from Slovenia, Strel plunged into the Amazon river in Peru, and 66 days and 3,273 miles later hauled himself up onto its banks in Belem, Brazil.

Black Dynamite
Director: Scott Sanders
(Midnight screening)

Sanders' debut, "Thick as Thieves," premiered at Sundance 11 years ago, and he returns with a blaxploitation spoof he co-wrote with Michael Jai White and Byron Minns. The film promises to counter the festival's usual serious fare with "the smoothest, baddest mother to ever hit the big screen!"

Cold Souls
Director: Sophie Barthes
(U.S. dramatic competition)

Barthes' Charlie Kaufman-esque comedy stars Sundance stalwart Paul Giamatti as a self-serious actor who takes advantage of new technology to place his anguished soul in storage. He then discovers an entire black market industry devoted to soul swapping.

Five Minutes of Heaven
Director: Oliver Hirshbiegel
(World dramatic competition)

Hailed for capturing Hitler's last days in "Downfall," German director Hirshbiegel stumbled with his first foray into Hollywood, 2007's sci-fi remake "The Invasion." "Heaven" offers the chance to redeem himself. Partly based on the true story of 19-year-old Catholic Jim Griffin, killed in Northern Ireland in 1975 by a 17-year-old member of the Ulster Volunteer Forces, the film flashes forward to present day with characters played by Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt.