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Sundance Film Festival Announces Out-of-Competition Films

Filmmakers Lynn Shelton, Katie Aselton and Joe Swanberg have new work in the 2012 Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, NEXT <=> and New Frontier programs.

Joe Swanberg
Matt Carr/Getty Images
Joe Swanberg

The Sundance Film Festival announced Thursday the programs for four of its 2012 out-of-competition categories: Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, NEXT <=> and New Frontier. Typically the home of more experimental fare, these sections will feature work from prolific returning low-budget filmmakers such as Lynn Shelton, Katie Aselton and Joe Swanberg.

Shelton’s new film Your Sister’s Sister, which IFC Films picked up out of Toronto this fall, will play in Sundance’s Spotlight program. The filmmaker’s Humpday had its premiere in competition at the 2009 fest. Aselton's new thriller Black Rock, which also stars Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth, will have its first showing in the Park City at Midnight program. The actor-writer-director last starred in and directed The Freebie, which had its premiere in the NEXT <=> section in 2010. Swanberg, whose Uncle Kent screened in the Spotlight section in 2011, is part of the ensemble acting-directing found-footage horror film V/H/S that is also playing in Park City at Midnight.

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The Midnight section, consisting of seven world premieres that often play up the scary and the silly, also includes Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact, Richard Bates, Jr.’s Excision (featuring Traci Lords and John Waters!) and Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, a nutty comedy in which Will Ferrell, John C Reilly and Zach Galifianakis also appear. Comedians of the Funny or Die generation, Heidecker and Wareheim will also appear in the U.S. narrative competition entry The Comedy from Rick Alverson.

“They bring their sensibility to this social critique of what our culture is all about right now,” director of programming Trevor Groth says of The Comedy. “Between those two films, I think they’re going to create quite a stir at Sundance. Which I’m all for.”

The 28th annual Sundance festival runs January 19-29 with screenings and events in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah. The full 2012 program features 110 feature-length films from 31 countries, including 88 world premieres. The official competition program was announced Wednesday; the remaining out-of-competition sections, Premieres and Documentary Premieres, will be unveiled Dec. 5.

The NEXT <=> program features nine world premieres that often veer from traditional storytelling techniques.Craig Zobel’s Compliance, David Zellner’s Kid-Thing, Laurence Thrush’s Pursuit of Loneliness and Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita y Mari are among the titles that will screen.“Each year it’s taken on its own shape and life, partly by design and partly by the films that we get submitted to us,” says Groth, who launched the section three years ago. “It’s not just a discovery of people that we don’t know, it’s really about fresh ways of telling stories and supporting those visions in the festival.”

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As with Shelton’s film, movies featured in the Spotlight section often have already played in other festivals. Gareth Evans’s action film The Raid had a great showing at Toronto, and Valérie Donzelli’s drama Declaration Of War had its world premiere at Cannes, as did Nadine Labaki’s drama Where Do We Go Now?

The New Frontier section, which was moved to the Miners Hospital last year, will now play out in a newly built venue, a big warehouse on Kearns Blvd. between the Yarrow Hotel and the Park City Marriott. Festival director John Cooper says that the new loft-like location, which was constructed in consultation with Sundance, is better suited to some of the multimedia performances and installations, panels and screenings that make up the more experimental category. The venue also has gallery and lounge space.

Included in the New Frontier program are Denis Côté’s Bestiaire, which explores the relationship between nature and humanity; Rodney Ascher’s Room 237, which looks at the meaning of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining; and Eve Sussman | Rufus Corporation’s whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir, which involves a live algorithmic performance of music, dialogue, sound and footage shot in Kazakhstan.

Despite the fringe elements of some of these out-of-competition films, they often find audiences outside the festival. From the 2011 NEXT <=> program, Evan Glodell’s Bellflower got a release through Oscilloscope, Joshua Leonard’s The Lie was picked up by Screen Media Films and Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling’s Sound of My Voice was acquired by Fox Searchlight, though it has not yet been released. The 2011 Spotlight section featured two nominees for the best foreign-language film Oscar that year, Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies and Susanne Bier’s In a Better World, which won the award.

Below is the full line-up:


Corpo Celeste/ Italy (Director and screenwriter: Alice Rohrwacher) — After moving back to southern Italy with her mother and older sister, 13-year-old Marta struggles to find her place, restlessly testing the boundaries of an unfamiliar city and the catechism of the Catholic church. Cast: Yle Vianello, Salvatore Cantalupo, Anita Caprioli, Renato Carpentiere.