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SUNDANCE PREVIEW: Competition Drama 'Keep the Lights On' (Exclusive Video)

The film, from previous grand jury prize-winning filmmaker Ira Sachs, details a complicated long-term relationship between two men.

“I hope that people feel like they’ve gone through the journey of a long, deep, complex, troubled, rich, passionate relationship — that’s all I’m setting out to do,” says filmmaker Ira Sachs of his new film Keep the Lights On. Sounds simple enough.

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The autobiographically inspired drama, written by Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, will have its world premiere in competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Friday, Jan. 20, at 8:30 pm in the Library Center Theatre. The trailer is available for the first time here on THR.com.

Lights follows two men (Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth) as they navigate a long-term relationship complicated by drugs, secrets and sexual exploration.

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“It started off from a very autobiographical place, and then in the process of turning it into a movie it became a certain kind of personal filmmaking but not a memoir,” says Sachs. “I’m inspired by Bergman. You watch his films, and you know they come from his life, but they’re being transformed and translated by the actors and by the cinema. You have to feel that you’ve lived a life with this couple as they go through their experiences in New York City over those many years together. I’ve lived in New York for 25 years, and I hope that the intimacy I’ve had with the experience of living here comes through the film in a way that’s exciting to an audience.”

Late New York City musician Arthur Russell provided the score for the film, and the trailer, posthumously. Sachs says he discovered the work of Russell, who died of AIDS in 1992, in the 2008 documentary Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell. He collaborated with Russell’s estate to compile the score for Keep the Lights On from much of the musician’s undiscovered work.

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Sachs last co-wrote and directed Married Life, which Sony Pictures Classics distributed in 2008. But his film Forty Shades of Blue, which he also co-wrote and directed, won the dramatic grand jury prize at the Sundance fest in 2005. First Look International released it in theaters.

“When I started making this film, Sundance was always the place that I hoped we’d premiere it,” says Sachs. “I’ve made a film that’s truly American and truly independent, so it seemed like Sundance was the place to go.”