Indie Stream: Your Guide to Streaming Sundance From Home

The Square (El Midan)

Egypt, U.S.A. (Director: Jehane Noujaim)

What does it mean to risk your life for your ideals? How far will five revolutionaries go in defending their beliefs in the fight for their nation? World Premiere

This week: Five ways to enjoy the goings-on at Park City from the comfort of your own living room, plus Taratino's favorite film of 2013.

There’s plenty of Sundance for those not at Sundance. Here’s 5 Ways you can stream a little piece of Park City at home:

1.  The Square and Mitt 

A large percentage of the films playing at Sundance 2014 will end up eventually streaming on Netflix, but what is newsworthy about the documentary The Square, which premiered at Sundance 2013, is that it was Netflix’s first major acquisition for its original documentary initiative.  The doc, which captures protests in Tahir Square during the Egypt’s political upheaval, was recently nominated for Best Feature Length Documentary.  Netflix put the film online the day after nominations were announced.

Netflix's second film to be released this way is Mitt, the doc following Mitt Romney’s campaign to become president.  The movie premiered at Sundance this weekend and will be online and free to subscribers before the festival ends (Jan. 24).  In his positive review from Sundance THR's John DeFore says the film succeeds where Romney’s campaign failed -- it humanizes the politician:

PHOTOS:  Actors Who Scored Oscar Nominations With Debut Films

“Greg Whiteley's Mitt, by viewing two election cycles exclusively through the Romney family's eyes, does for the candidate what Sundance films more regularly do for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the very very quirky: It puts us in his shoes and reminds us how much we have in common.”

2.  Oscar-Nominated Docs

The Square is one of four Oscar nominated docs that got it’s premiere at Sundance 2013.  The other three -- Dirty WarsCutie and the Boxer and 20 Feet From Stardom -- are available to stream via VOD and iTunes. 

The Act of Killing, the only non-Sundance film to get an Oscar doc nomination, is also available to stream and is probably the favorite to win.  The documentary category though has a history of being difficult to predict.  This year, for example, Blackfish and Stories We Tell, both of which also premiered at Sundance 2013 and are available to stream, were considered favorites going into last Thursday’s announcement.

There are two striking things that these seven films help demonstrate.  One, the documentary rebirth currently taking place is partially due to the fact that non-fiction films are finding their audience online.  Two, the connection between Sundance and Oscar-nominated documentaries has never been stronger. 

3.  Life Itself

Steve James’ (Hoop Dreams) loving documentary about film critic Roger Ebert premiered at Sundance last night and if you were one of the 19,000 who supported the film via the crowdfunding website Indiegogo you were given a special code from the digital self distribution company VHX to stream the film from home.  Letting supporters be one of the first to see the film is a unique way of promoting a crowdfunding campaign and very well might be an approach followed by Sundance 2015 films.

Story:  Why WME is Betting VHX is the Next Big Thing in VOD

4.  15 Short Films at Sundance 2014

Sundance is a marketplace for films to be bought and sold and the festival has made it fairly clear that they have little interest in putting films online while they simultaneously playing at the festival.  This year though they made an exception for 15 short films which can be viewed on the festival’s YouTube page.  One highlight of many is actress/writer Jenny Slate (Obvious Child) and her writer/director husband Dean Fleischer-Camp’s Catherine.  This is the team that made the Marcel The Shell shorts, which went viral a couple of years ago.

5.  2013 Dramatic Competition Breakouts

On the eve of Sundance, three of the festival’s 2013 narrative success stories hit iTunes:

In a World:  Last year’s Waldo Salt Award Winner for best screenplay and the acting and filmmaking breakout of Lake Bell. 

Fruitvale Station:  Last year’s Audience Award and Jury Prize winner, was surprisingly shut out completely from Academy Award nominations, but was easily the biggest indie success stories of the year. 

Spectacular Now:  A24’s surprise 7 million dollar summer hit and Whiplash’s Miles Teller’s first major step to becoming one of the hotter young stars in Hollywood.

PHOTOS:  SAG Red Carpet Arrivals

…and unrelated to Sundance:

Big Bad Wolves

Celebrity twitter praise and top-ten lists certainly can help build word of mouth, but is there any bigger endorsement than being Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movie of the year?  Israeli thriller Big Bad Wolves is basing virtually its entire publicity and marketing campaign on hoping the noted film geek and famous director’s endorsement can bring in an audience.  As THR pointed out, even the film’s trailer is Tarantino-esque.   Reviewing the film for THR, Frank Scheck wrote, “This mesmerizing revenge thriller is filled with surprising plot twists and generous doses of mordant humor.”

Wolves is playing in selected cities and has been available to stream since Friday.