Sundance unveils its short list


NEW YORK -- The Sundance Film Festival has announced 71 short films set to screen next month, including a film starring Peter Sarsgaard and fiancee Maggie Gyllenhaal, and added two new features to its New Frontier and Special Screening sections.

In the New Frontier section, Lynn Herschman Leeson's docu "Strange Culture" follows Steve Kurtz, who found himself charged with bioterrorism in 2004 after his wife died of cardiac arrest and authorities found his art supplies suspicious. Tilda Swinton and Peter Coyote are featured in the film, which makes its world premiere at Sundance.

Joining the Special Screening lineup is Jennifer Fox's six-hour docu "Flying -- Confessions of a Free Woman," which took the director to 17 countries over three years to examine the sex lives of women, including her own.

The 71 shorts arrive from 19 countries and were selected from 4,445 submissions, categorized by U.S. and international under dramatic, documentary and animated films. A selection of about 50 shorts will be viewable on the Sundance Web site from Jan. 18-April 18; the festival runs Jan. 18-28.

Among the notable U.S. dramatic shorts is Andrew Zuckerman's "High Falls," featuring Sarsgaard and Gyllenhaal as a man and his pregnant wife whose confessions to a best friend put their relationship in jeopardy. "Bomb," a tale of teens flirting on an old bombing range, comes from this year's Independent Spirit Award-winning director Ian Olds, who helmed the Iraq War docu "Occupation: Dreamland."

Domestic docus include the moms-on-methamphetamine chronicle "Mother Superior," from Alex Mack and Diana Montero, who were 17- and 19-years-old, respectively, when they filmed it with the support of the local youth media program Real Stories co-run by the Sundance Institute. U.S. animated features include Comedy Central vet Aaron Augenblick's "Golden Age," the story of fallen superheroes that was funded by the cable network.

Diego Quemada-Diez, cinematographer of "The Elephant King" starring Ellen Burstyn, directed the international dramatic short "I Want to Be a Pilot," set in an East African slum.

"Having expanded our programming team to four people this year, we were able to select an incredibly diverse range of styles that represent the full spectrum of gifted filmmakers working in the short form," said Sundance senior programmer Trevor Groth, who noted that a large portion of shorts -- about 10% -- come from Columbia University film students and alumni.