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Today we're setting up our Main Street video and photography suite, which is sponsored by Kenneth Cole, so watch for our video reports throughout the festival, visit regularly our Filmmaker in Park City page, and follow us on Twitter. And while we get into the swing of the fest, here are some quick previews, thoughts and recommendations.
The Don't MIss Event. One of the most intriguing projects at Sundance is not a film in a theater but rather an event happening all over town. For his New Frontiers project Pandemic 1.0, Lance Weiler has merged video games, a treasure hunt, performance pranks and online data mining to create a transmedia experience that takes the term "viral" back to its roots. Read online the mind-boggling scope of this project, and, if you're in Park City, pick up Filmmaker Magazine - there are clues within that will help guide you through Weiler's maze.
The Eagerly Awaited Second Film. Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know was one of Sundance's breakout discoveries of a few years ago. But rather than parlay its success into a hastily realized second feature or a poorly considered mainstream project, July went back to her performance art roots, wrote a book of short stories, and even did a public art piece in New York's Union Square. Now, she returns with The Future. July's voice is witty, compassionate, and uniquely attuned to the ways in which we communicate and bond in today's information age, and I can't wait to see it.
The Industry Spotlight. Each year, there's one film that the industry focuses on most intently. It's given the early Saturday night slot - "the Little Miss Sunshine slot" - at the Eccles, Park City's largest theater, and it's the one deemed to have the biggest chance at an industry sale. This year that film is Jesse Peretz's My Idiot Brother, with a star-studded cast top lined by Paul Rudd. With a beard, shaggy-hair and hippie garb, Rudd is an itinerant slacker who moves through the lives of his three sisters, transforming each. The film was only finished a few days ago, and I don't think buyers have seen it, so watch to see how it plays this weekend.
The Sleeper. Every year there's a film that emerges from the fest that wasn't focused so much on before. You could argue that Winter's Bone was that movie last year, but a better reference might be the Irish romantic musical Once, which succeeded in Park City solely on the winds of its audience reaction. By its very definition, it's hard to predict these sleeper discoveries... but keep your eye on Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur.
The Political Button Pusher. Several years ago at Hot Docs I asked my cab driver what he saw and liked. "Street Fight," he told me. I made a point to see this documentary about Newark Mayor Cory Booker, loved it, selected director Marshall Curry for our "25 New Faces," and watched the movie on to an Academy Award nomination. After releasing his populist Nascar doc Racing Dreams in 2010, Curry returns to politics with If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front, a documentary that challenges our dialogue about terrorism by focusing on the FBI's prosecution of environmental protester Daniel McGowan. Curry's a brilliant filmmaker and this is my can't-miss doc of the fest.
CULTURE HACKER: A STORYTELLING PANDEMIC By Lance Weiler
Originally printed in our Winter 2011 issue, grab a free issue of Filmmaker at Sundance to be a part of Pandemic 1.0.
When the phone rings I'm feeling a bit nervous. The voice on the other end is slow and calculated. "We can do 30,000 but it will take 10 weeks. In order to get it in time for Sundance we need to order 500,000 and ship from China... We're going to have to find another way." Not quite your normal Sundance prep conversation, especially when the items in question are bottles of water. But these are not regular bottles of water. more
SUNDANCE PREVIEW: INTERVIEW WITH SENIOR PROGRAMMER DAVID COURIER By Mary Anderson Casavant
For the independent film industry, January isn't just the start of a New Year, it's also exam season. At this very moment, documentary filmmakers around the world are in edit rooms deep into the night, hoping to ace the Sundance finals. The reward for those late night cram sessions is certainly worth it: the most gifted alumni of previous festival's have been awarded the best graduation gift of all - a career as a working filmmaker. To find out more about this year's class, I spoke to David Courier, Senior Film Programmer at the Sundance Institute. more
"HOT COFFEE" DIRECTOR SUSAN SALADOFF By Mary Anderson Casavant
No political season is complete without politicians taking up the case of tort reform. Greedy litigants are blamed for everything from clogging up our justice system to running up our medical bills as tort reform advocates take advantage of the fact that everyone hates a lawyer until they need one. With so much misinformation out there, what's a lawyer to do? Well, if you're Susan Saladoff, longtime lawyer, first-time filmmaker, you pick up a camera. more
"PARIAH," WRITER-DIRECTOR DEE REES The biggest surprise associated with making Pariah came after watching the first rough cut when we discovered that this was not a "black lesbian" movie. We had fought this BRUTAL uphill battle in funding the film with financiers and investors balking at the story because it was "too small and specific" (which is code for "too black and too gay"). After we screened the first cut, one of our early advisors went so far as to describe it as "commercial." more
"PROJECT NIM," DIRECTOR JAMES MARSH When you embark on any historical documentary or film about events that have already run their course, the biggest prize you're after is visual images and archive [materials] showing elements of your story. On Project Nim, which is the life story of a chimpanzee who was brought up like a human child, we knew from various contributors that there was going to be sufficient archive of the chimp to embark on the film but we didn't know the extent of it. more
"THE GUARD," WRITER-DIRECTOR JOHN MICHAEL MCDONAGH The biggest surprise for me occurred during preproduction. There was a scene in the screenplay where the three villains rendezvous at an amusement park and discuss the day's events while waiting to ride on a rollercoaster. The scene with the screwball nature of the film was set in an actual amusement park in a seaside town in County Galway, Ireland, our location for the shoot. However little did I know that when the rollercoaster is out of use (during the non-summer months) it is packed up and shipped off to storage. more