This year’s Sundance Film Festival is a crucial bellwether for the independent film business. Even as end-of-year hits such as Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, The Reader and Milk pack theatres across North America, the domestic acquisitions business has been sluggish to say the least.

Very rarely, these days, do distributors thrash it out through the night for a film - Hamlet 2 and The Wrestlerwere last year’s chief big-money examples at Sundance and Toronto respectively - and most wait for better terms in later weeks or months. And of course this Sundance, Warner Independent Pictures, Picturehouse and ThinkFilm are out of the game, Paramount Vantage is restructuring into a genre company, Bob Yari’s releasing division has filed for bankruptcy and former acquisitions giant The Weinstein Company is cash-strapped.

High-profile films from Venice and Toronto remain unsold or at least in play four months after their world premieres - The Burning Plain, The Other Man, Fifty Dead Men Walking, The Loss Of A Teardrop Diamond, Is There Anybody There’, Me And Orson Welles - while producers Ehud Bleiberg and Arthur Cohn decided to self-release their films Adam Resurrected and The Yellow Handkerchiefrespectively for Oscar-qualifying runs in the absence of distribution deals. To say it is a bleak time in the business is an understatement.

That said, the glut of films produced as a result of too much equity is coming to an end and perhaps a new era of indie sobriety is on the horizon. Film-makers and sellers will also have new offers on the table from online, digital or video-on-demand platforms which might be the alternative to the increasingly expensive theatrical distribution route.

The Sundance programmers have lined up 89 world premieres, including new work from some of the most intriguing film-makers in the US and Europe, such as Pete Travis, Oliver Hirschbiegel, Lone Scherfig, Oskar Roehler, Greg Mottola, the Polish brothers, Oren Moverman, David Mackenzie and Sandra Nettelbeck.

If the deals at Park City do not come with the same urgency as before, there are still buyers enough to guarantee a steady flow of deals. After all, there is always a demand for good product, isn’t there’

DIRECTOR SPOTLIGHT

Shana Feste - The Greatest

American Film Institute graduate Shana Feste was savvy enough to know what she had to do to get her directorial debut off the ground. “I used to work as an agent’s assistant (at CAA) and I knew as a first-time director, I’d need to write parts actors would be attracted to.”

She succeeded in signing Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon as leads in The Greatest, her drama about a family dealing with the aftermath of their son’s death, which was inspired by her love of dramas such as Ordinary People and Kramer Vs Kramer, and the films of Hal Ashby.

Feste says she has become attached to her characters. “The easier story would have been to show this marriage falling apart. But I had spent so long with these characters and I’d put them into this bad situation, I felt I had to give them a little hope.”

Wendy Mitchell

SUNDANCE 2009: WORLD PREMIERES

DOCUMENTARY

Art & Copy (US)

Dir: Doug Pray

Scr: Timothy J Sexton

Prods: Jimmy Greenway, Michael Nadeau

Advertising gurus discuss the wide-reaching effect of advertising and creativity on modern culture.

Sales contact: Cinetic, (1) 212 204 7979

Boy Interrupted (US)

Dir/prod: Dana Perry

A mother’s look at the psychiatric illness and death of her son.

Sales contact: Dana Perry, (1) 212 989 2880

The Cove (US)

Dir: Louie Psihoyos

Scr: Mark Monroe

Prods: Fisher Stevens, Paula DuPre Pesmen

Activists confront the horrors of dolphin hunting in Japan in a film that also takes a wider look at sea-life environmental issues.

Sales contact, US: William Morris Independent, (1) 310 859 4310, Submarine Entertainment, (1) 917 957 1400; int’l: WMI, (1) 310 859 4310

Crude (US)

Dir: Joe Berlinger

Prods: Joe Berlinger, Michael Bonfiglio, JR DeLeon, Richard Stratton

Ecuadoran tribes take on Chevron over the dumping of toxic oil waste in the Amazon.

Sales contact: Joe Berlinger, (1) 914 420 2830

Dirt! The Movie (US)

Dirs: Bill Benenson, Gene Rosow

Prods: Bill Benenson, Gene Rosow, Eleonore Dailly

A humorous look at man’s relationship with soil and how humans are taking for granted the earth’s last natural resource.

Sales contact: Gene Rosow, (1) 310 487 6371

El General (Mex-US)

Dir: Natalia Almada

Prods: Daniela Alatorre, Natalia Almada

An intimate portrait of the Mexican people.

Sales contact: Louise Rosen Ltd, LrosenLtd@aol.com

DIRECTOR PROFILES

NICHOLAS JASENOVEC - PAPER HEART

Nicholas Jasenovec’s debut feature is nothing if not ambitious. “It was pretty low budget but we shot in three countries, 16 cities, during an eight -week shoot,” the Los Angeles-based director explains.

Paper Heart is a narrative/documentary hybrid about performance artist/actress Charlyne Yi’s sceptical search for the true meaning of love. Michael Cera and Yi play fictionalised version of themselves, an actor plays Jasenovec, and ordinary people and experts are interviewed.

“There are a few different realities going on,” he says. “It’s all captured from the same cameras and crew so there’s no disconnect between the scripted parts and documentary sections.”

The director, who has made about a dozen shorts, says he is proud and surprised at the sweet nature of his first feature. “Going in we thought we had the opportunity to make a romantic movie that people our age can believe in.”

Wendy Mitchell

CARY JOJI FUKUNAGA - SIN NOMBRE

Cary Joji Fukunaga did not take the easy route when making his debut feature Sin Nombre. “I’m glad I didn’t realise how hard it was going to be because there were moments when I would curse myself for not writing a movie about two people talking about their emotions in one small room,” Fukunaga explains. “Instead it was an ensemble piece spanning a couple of thousand miles, with 3,000 extras.”

Sin Nombre is about immigrants riding on top of trains to cross into the US, facing Mexican gangs along the way. Fukunaga’s research included visiting gang members in jail and interviewing immigrants. Even riskier, he took the top-of-train journey himself (where gangsters attacked his train and killed a passenger). “Nothing could have driven home the sensation of fear and impotence more than what I had felt first hand,” he says.

His producer Amy Kaufman, who he met at the Sundance Labs, brought the project to Focus Features. He has since worked with Focus to adapt Beasts Of No Nation, the fictional story of a child soldier.

Wendy Mitchell

ROSS KATZ - TAKING CHANCE

Ross Katz was doing well as the Oscar-nominated producer of such films as Lost In Translation and In The Bedroom. “I love producing - but the movies I’ve produced weren’t stories I needed to tell as a director, they were stories I could facilitate,” he explains.

The story that inspired him to take up directing was Taking Chance, an HBO Films project based on the journals of former Marine Lt Col Michael Strobl, about a man who escorts home a soldier’s remains to his family.

The story reminded Katz of what he had felt some years earlier, watching news of a bomb blast in Baghdad. “I went outside and looked around and thought, ‘Why is everything normal” I just thought the world should stop for a moment in recognition.”

Katz wrote the script with Strobl, who he regards as “an artist, a really great writer”. He quickly took off his producing hat when it was time to direct. “I did all these things against my producing instincts - like for the lead I had a list of one, Kevin Bacon.”

Wendy Mitchell

SUNDANCE 2009: WORLD PREMIERES

Good Hair (US)

Dir: Jeff Stilson

Scrs: Chris Rock, Jeff Stilson, Lance Crouther, Chuck Sklar

Prods: Chris Rock, Kevin O’Donnell, Jenny Hunter

Chris Rock examines the culture of African-American hair and hairstyles.

Sales contact: ICM, (1) 310 550 4440

The Reckoning (US)

Dir: Pamela Yates

Prod: Paco de Onis

International criminal court prosecutor Luis Moreno- Ocampo tries to bring justice to perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

Sales contact, worldwide broadcast rights: Films Transit, (1) 514 844 3358; all other rights: Paco de Onis, (1) 212 947 5333

Reporter (US)

Dir: Eric Daniel Metzgar

Prods: Mikaela Beardsley, Steven Cantor

Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Nicholas D Kristof journeys through the Congo in the summer of 2007 to report on the conflict.

Sales contact, worldwide except US broadcast first window: Films Transit, (1) 514 844 3358

The September Issue (US)

Dir: RJ Cutler

Prods: RJ Cutler, Eliza Hindmarch, Sadia Shepard

A look at US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her team preparing the September 2007 issue of the fashion magazine.

Sales contact: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000

Sergio (US)

Dir: Greg Barker

Prods: John Battsek, Julie Goldman

The role of the United Nations is explored through the extraordinary life and career of Sergio Vieira de Mello, killed by a bomb in Baghdad in 2003.

Sales contact: John Battsek, (1) 646 248 2605; Julie Goldman, (1) 917 744 1355

Shouting Fire: Stories From The Edge Of Free Speech (US)

Dir: Liz Garbus

Prods: Liz Garbus, Rory Kennedy, Jed Rothstein

An exploration of free speech in the US.

Sales contact: HBO, (1) 212 512 1000

We Live In Public (US)

Dir: Ondi Timoner

Prods: Ondi Timoner, Keirda Bahruth

Web pioneer Josh Harris pushes the envelope with a Big Brother-style art project to broadcast life’s every moment on the internet.

Sales contact: Interloper Films, (1) 626 296 0068

When You’re Strange (US)

Dir/scr: Tom DiCillo

Prods: Dick Wolf, Peter Jankowski, John Beug, Jeff Jampol

Documentary about influential band The Doors, using original footage shot between 1966 and 1971.

Sales contact: Submarine, (1) 917 957 1400

William Kunstler: Disturbing The Universe (US)

Dirs: Sarah Kunstler and Emily Kunstler

Prods: Jesse Moss, Susan Korda

The daughters of famed civil rights attorney William Kunstler look at his career, representing clients including Martin Luther King Jr and the Chicago Eight.

Sales contact: Submarine, (1) 917 957 1400

DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Adam (US)

Dir/scr: Max Mayer

Prods: Leslie Urdang, Miranda De Pencier, Dean Vanech

Cast: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne

A love story about a dysfunctional man and his new neighbour, the woman of his dreams.

Sales contact: The Film Sales Company, (1) 212 481 5020

Amreeka (US-Can-Kuw)

Dir/scr: Cherien Dabis

Prods: Christina Piovesan, Paul Barkin

Cast: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Yussuf Abu-Warda

A divorced Palestinian woman and her teenage son face new challenges when they move to rural Illinois.

Sales contact, US: WMI, (1) 310 859 4310; int’l: EOne Films International, Charlotte Mickie, (1) 416 931 8463

Arlen Faber (US)

Dir/scr: John Hindman

Prods: Kevin Messick, Jana Edelbaum

Cast: Jeff Daniels, Lauren Graham, Lou Taylor Pucci

A reclusive author of a popular spiritual book faces new truths when he meets two strangers.

Sales contact, US: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000; ICM, (1) 310 550 4440

Big Fan (US)

Dir/scr: Robert Siegel

Prods: Jean Kouremetis, Elan Bogarin

Cast: Patton Oswalt, Michael Rapaport, Kevin Corrigan

A car park attendant has a violent confrontation with his favourite New York Giants player.

Sales contact: Andrew Hurwitz, (1) 646 220 2359

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (US)

Dir/scr: John Krasinski

Prods: Eva Kolodner, Yael Melamed, John Krasinski, James Suskin

Cast: Julianne Nicholson, John Krasinski, Bobby Cannavale, Dominic Cooper

After being dumped by a boyfriend, an anthropology student interviews men about their behaviour.

Sales contact: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000

Cold Souls (US)

Dir/scr: Sophie Barthes

Prods: Dan Carey, Elizabeth Giamatti, Paul Mezey, Andrij Parekh, Jeremy Kipp Walker

Cast: Paul Giamatti, Dina Korzun, David Strathairn

A famous actor suffering from an existential crisis explores soul extraction.

Sales contact, US: Cinetic, (1) 212 204 7979; int’l: EOne, Charlotte Mickie, (1) 416 931 8463.

DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Dare (US)

Dir: Adam Salky

Scr: David Brind

Prods: Mary Jane Skalski, Jason Orans

Cast: Emmy Rossum, Zach Gilford, Ashley Springer, Ana Gasteyer

Three teenagers shake things up during their last semester of high school.

Sales contact: Cinetic, (1) 212 204 7979

Don’t Let Me Drown (US)

Dir: Cruz Angeles

Scrs: Maria Topete, Cruz Angeles

Prods: Maria Topete, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, James Lawler, Ben Howe

Cast: EJ Bonilla, Gleendilys Inoa, Damian Alcazar

Two Latino teens find friendship and budding romance in post-9/11 New York.

Sales contact: Craig Emanuel, Loeb & Loeb, (1) 310 282 2262

Humpday (US)

Dir/scr: Lynn Shelton

Prod: Lynn Shelton

Cast: Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore

A comedy about straight male bonding that goes too far, when two old college buddies enter an amateur porn contest.

Sales contact: Submarine, (1) 917 957 1400

Paper Heart (US)

Dir: Nicholas Jasenovec

Scrs: Nicholas Jasenovec, Charlyne Yi

Prods: Elise Salomon, Sandra Murillo

Cast: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera

Charlyne Yi goes on a journey to find the true nature of love, striking up an unusual relationship with Michael Cera.

Sales contact: UTA, (1) 310 228 3842

Peter And Vandy (US)

Dir/scr: Jay DiPietro

Prods: Peter Sterling, Austin Stark, Benji Kohn, Bingo Gubelmann

Cast: Jess Weixler, Jason Ritter

A love story told backwards, juxtaposing a couple’s romantic early relationship with their bickering and manipulations in later years.

Sales contact, worldwide: Endeavor, (1) 310 246 3126

Push: Based On The Novel By Sapphire (US)

Dir: Lee Daniels

Scr: Damien Paul

Prods: Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness, Gary Magness

Cast: Gabourey Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey

The big-screen adaptation of Sapphire’s bestselling novel about a young girl in Harlem overcoming life’s traumas - including being pregnant with her father’s child.

Sales contact: Cinetic, (1) 212 204 7979

Sin Nombre (US-Mex)

Dir/scr: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Prod: Amy Kaufman

Cast: Edgar Flores, Paulina Gaitan, Kristyan Ferrer

As Central American migrants try to cross the border into the US, a teenage gang member looks to outrun his violent past.

Sales contact, US: Focus Features, (1) 818 777 7373

Taking Chance (US)

Dir: Ross Katz

Scrs: Michael R Strobl, Ross Katz

Prod: Lori Keith Douglas

A volunteer military escort officer accompanies the body of a 19-year-old Marine to his home town.

Cast: Kevin Bacon

Sales contact, int’l: HBO Enterprises, (1) 212 512 5315

Toe To Toe (US)

Dir/scr: Emily Abt

Prods: Emily Abt, Susan Leber

Cast: Sonequa Martin, Louisa Krause, Silvestre Rasuk

An inter-racial friendship is put to the test at a competitive Washington DC prep school.

Sales contact, worldwide: WMI, (1) 310 859 4310

MIDNIGHT

Black Dynamite (US)

Dir: Scott Sanders

Scrs: Michael Jai White, Scott Sanders, Byron Minns

Prods: Ars Nova

Cast: Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield

1970s action legend Black Dynamite fights The Man in this spoof.

Sales contact: Endeavor, (1) 310 246 3126

The Carter (US)

Dir: Adam Bhala Lough

Prod: Adam Bhala Lough, Josh Krause

An intimate portrait of rapper Dwayne ‘Lil’ Wayne’ Carter Jr.

Sales contact: Cinetic, (1) 212 204 7979

Grace (US)

Dir/scr: Paul Solet

Prods: Ingo Vollkammer, Cory Neal, Adam Green, Kevin DeWalt

Cast: Jordan Ladd, Samantha Ferris, Gabrielle Rose

A stillborn baby comes to life with a thirst for human blood.

Sales contact, int’l: Lightning, (1) 310 255 7999, (1) 310 770 7472; Canada: Leomaxe, (1) 323 785 3000.

The Killing Room (US)

Dir: Jonathan Liebesman

Scrs: Gus Krieger, Ann Peacock

Prods: Guymon Casady, Ben Forkner, Ross M Dinerstein, Bobby Schwartz

Cast: Chloe Sevigny, Peter Stormare, Clea DuVall, Timothy Hutton

Four people sign up for a psychological research study that turns out to be part of a classified government programme.

Sales contact, US: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000; int’l: ContentFilm, (1) 310 576 1059

Mystery Team (US)

Dir: Dan Eckman

Scrs: Dominic Dierkes, Donald Glover, DC Pierson

Prod: Meggie McFadden

Cast: Dominic Dierkes, DC Pierson, Donald Glover

High school kids The Mystery Team try to solve a double murder.

Sales contact: Submarine, (1) 917 957 1400

Spring Breakdown (US)

Dir: Ryan Shiraki

Scr: Ryan Shiraki, Rachel Dratch

Prods: Rick Berg, Larry Kennar

Cast: Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler, Parker Posey

Three thirtysomething women vacation at a popular spring break destination for college students.

Sales contact: Warner Bros, (1) 818 954 6000

White Lightnin’ (UK)

Dir: Dominic Murphy

Scrs: Shane Smith, Eddy Moretti

Prods: Mike Downey, Sam Taylor

Cast: Edward Hogg, Carrie Fisher, Muse Watson

A stylized portrait of the ‘dancing outlaw’, Jesco White.

Sales contact: Salt, (44) 7710 394080

PREMIERES

500 Days Of Summer (US)

Dir: Marc Webb

Scrs: Scott Neustadter, Michael Weber

Prods: Jessica Tuchinsky, Mary Waters, Steven Wolfe, Mason Novick

Cast: Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

A greeting-card copywriter looks back on a failed relationship, trying to work out where things went wrong.

Sales contact: Fox Searchlight, (1) 310 369 4432

Adventureland (US)

Dir/scr: Greg Mottola

Prods: Anne Carey, Ted Hope, Sidney Kimmel

In 1987, a college graduate takes a job at a local amusement park.

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart

Sales contact: Miramax (excl Australia), (1) 212 941 3800

Brooklyn’s Finest (US)

Dir: Antoine Fuqua

Scrs: Michael C Martin, Brad Caleb Kane

Prods: Basil Iwanyk, John Langley, Elie Cohn, John Thompson

Cast: Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Don Cheadle

Three different cops on the same Brooklyn housing project take the law into their own hands.

Sales contact, US: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000, WMI, (1) 310 859 4310; int’l: Nu Image, (1) 310 388 6900

Earth Days (US) Closing night film

Dir/prod: Robert Stone

The environmental crisis as seen through nine diverse people who launched the modern environmental movement.

Sales contact: Wgbh, (1) 617 300 5400

Endgame (UK)

Dir: Pete Travis

Scr: Paula Milne

Prods: David Aukin, Hal Vogel

Cast: William Hurt, Chiwetel Ejiofor

A businessman tries to find a peaceful solution to the Apartheid regime by initiating secret discussion between the African National Congress and white intellectuals.

Sales contact, US: Endeavor, (1) 310 246 3126, Penny Wolf, (1) 561 676 4171; int’l: Penny Wolf, (1) 561 676 4171

I Love You Phillip Morris (US)

Dirs/scrs: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Prods: Andrew Lazar, Far Shariat

Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor

A small-town Texas cop becomes a conman. Caught and jailed, he falls in love with a fellow inmate.

Sales contact, US: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000, Endeavor, (1) 310 246 3126, EuropaCorp, (33) 1 53 83 03 03; int’l: EuropaCorp, (33) 1 53 83 03 03

The Informers (US)

Dir: Gregor Jordan

Scrs: Bret Easton Ellis, Nicholas Jarecki

Prod: Marco Weber

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke

Adapted from Bret Easton Ellis’ novel about decadent 1980s Los Angelenos.

Sales contact: Essential Entertainment, (1) 310 550 9100

In the Loop (UK)

Dir: Armando Iannucci

Scrs: Armando Iannucci, Jesse Armstrong

Prods: Kevin Loader, Adam Tandy

Cast: Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini

A political comedy about the UK and US governments working together in the lead-up to a fictional war.

Sales contact: Protagonist, (44) 20 7306 5155

Manure (US)

Dir: Michael Polish

Scrs: Mark Polish, Michael Polish

Prods: Jonathan Sheldon, Michael Polish, Mark Polish

Cast: Tea Leoni, Billy Bob Thornton

Comedy about 1960s manure salesmen.

Sales contact: Prohibition Pictures, (1) 323 893 6292

Mary And Max (Australia) Opening night film

Dir/scr: Adam Elliot

Prod: Melanie Coombs

Voice cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Barry Humphries

A lonely eight-year-old girl in Australia finds an unlikely pen pal in an obese 40-year-old New Yorker, in this claymation project.

Sales contact, US: Icon, (1) 310 434 7300; int’l: Icon Entertainment International, (44) 20 8492 6300

The Messenger (US)

Dir: Oren Moverman

Scrs: Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman

Prods: Mark Gordon, Lawrence Inglee, Zach Miller

Cast: Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, Jena Malone

Two soldiers from different generations form a bond in the Army’s casualty notification department.

Sales contact, US: UTA, (1) 310 228 3842; int’l: ContentFilm, (1) 310 576 1059

Moon (UK)

Dir: Duncan Jones

Scr: Nathan Parker

Prods: Stuart Fenegan, Trudie Styler

Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey

Things go very wrong for an astronaut who has spent the past three years in space.

Sales contact: Independent, (44) 20 7257 8734

Motherhood (US)

Dir/scr: Katherine Dieckmann

Prods: Jana Edelbaum, Rachel Cohen, Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon

Cast: Uma Thurman, Minnie Driver

A mother of two from Manhattan has a very bad day.

Sales contact, US: Endeavor, (1) 310 246 3126; int’l: Kimmel International, (1) 212 431 5550

Rudo Y Cursi (Mex)

Dir/scr: Carlos Cuaron

Prods: Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo del Toro, Frida Torresblanco, Tita Lombardo

Cast: Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal

Two rival footballing brothers battle their personal demons.

Sales contact: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000, WMI, (1) 310 859 4310

Shrink (US)

Dir: Jonas Pate

Scrs: Thomas Moffett

Prods: Michael Burns, Braxton Pope, Dana Brunetti

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Keke Palmer

A personal tragedy sees a celebrity psychiatrist question his ability to help his patients.

Sales contact, US: WMI, (1) 310 859 4310; int’l: Mandate, (1) 310 360 1441

Spread (US)

Dir: David Mackenzie

Scr: Jason Dean Hall

Prods: Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg, Peter Morgan

Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche

A young man seduces wealthy older women in Los Angeles.

Sales contact, US: Endeavor, (1) 310 246 3126, CAA, (1) 424 288 2000; int’l: Voltage, (1) 323 464 8351

The Winning Season (US)

Dir/scr: James Strouse

Prods: Kara Baker, Gia Walsh, Galt Niederhoffer, Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg

Cast: Sam Rockwell, Emma Roberts

A misfit signs up to coach a high school’s female basketball team.

Sales contact: ContentFilm, (1) 310 576 1059

DIRECTOR PROFILES

The Greatest (US)

Dir/scr: Shana Feste

Prods: Lynette Howell, Beau St Clair

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Carey Mulligan

A family struggles with added pressures as they mourn their teenage son.

Sales contact, US: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000, Endeavor, (1) 310 246 3126; int’l: Kimmel International, (1) 212 431 5550

SOPHIE BARTHES - COLD SOULS

Writer-director Sophie Barthes found her inspiration for Cold Souls in a dream: “(I dreamt) Woody Allen and myself were waiting in line, carrying our extracted souls in a box. When Woody’s turn comes … his soul is a little chickpea. I think, ‘If Woody Allen’s soul is a chickpea, what’s mine going to look like””

Sundance Labs veteran Barthes considered writing the script for Allen but changed her mind when she saw Paul Giamatti in American Splendor. They met at the Nantucket Film Festival in 2006. “I like to write with a specific actor in mind, good actors are an infinite source of inspiration.” The “metaphysical tragicomedy” stars Giamatti as a troubled actor whose soul is stolen by a soul trafficker.

Wendy Mitchell

DOMINIC MURPHY - WHITE LIGHTNIN’

“I’ve always liked movies about delinquents. Films like Alan Clarke’s Made In Britain or Truffaut’s The 400 Blows,” says UK film-maker Dominic Murphy. He brings a new kind of delinquent to the big screen with his debut feature White Lightnin’, based on hillbilly dancer-turned-criminal Jesco White.

“It’s not a conventional biopic. We’re seeing from inside the mind of this character,” he says. After working on award-winning commercials for more than a decade, Murphy says he relished the feature format and the chance to do more work with his actors including Edward Hogg and Carrie Fisher. “A lot of what I’m interested in is character and performance, and with a feature I could develop that more in depth.”

Wendy Mitchell

OSKAR ROEHLER - LULU AND JIM

The new film from festival favourite Oskar Roehler is a modern fairytale with a cruel twist. Lulu and Jim are star-crossed lovers - she is a rich German girl, he is a cash-strapped black man - battling racial bigotry in Germany during the 1950s Economic Miracle. The film stars rising French actress Jennifer Decker and renowned UK TV actor Ray Fearon.

Roehler set the story to a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack, giving the film a pop-art feel and has dedicated it to David Lynch. “Lynch knows, in a way that is both humourous and sexy, how to tell a story about two people who let rip unconditionally,” says Roehler, “who go to the barricades to be able to live their love without any ifs and buts.”

Martin Blaney

DUNCAN JONES - MOON

Duncan Jones’ debut feature Moon is, its director believes, a sci-fi film in the vein of Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running or Ridley Scott’s Alien: a thoughtful, visually inventive yarn with soul as well as special effects.

“What we’ve captured aesthetically is something that pays homage to the science-fiction films of the 1970s but still feels fresh because we’ve blended in the live-action photography with more modern special effects,” says Jones. The film follows a man (Sam Rockwell) isolated on a moon base, who is “lonely but not alone”. Jones (formerly known as Zowie Bowie, son of rock star David Bowie) describes Moon as “an indie sci-fi but also quite thoughtful and romantic.”

Geoffrey Macnab

SPECTRUM

Against The Current (US)

Dir/scr: Peter Callahan

Prods: Joshua Zeman, Mary Jane Skalski

Cast: Joseph Fiennes, Justin Kirk, Elizabeth Reaser, Mary Tyler Moore

A man copes with the death of his wife by enlisting friends to help him swim the Hudson River.

Sales contact, international: Fortissimo, (31) 20 627 32 15

Barking Water (US)

Dir/scr: Sterlin Harjo

Prod: Chad Burris

Cast: Richard Ray Whitman, Casey Camp-Horinek

An elderly couple have had a tumultuous 40-year relationship but Irene agrees to take Frankie home from the hospital one last time.

Sales contact: Chad Burris, chad@indionfilm.com

Children Of Invention (US)

Dir/scr: Tze Chun

Prods: Mynette Louie, Trevor Sagan

Cast: Cindy Cheung, Michael Chen, Crystal Chiu

After their mother is arrested, two young immigrant children live illegally in a model apartment outside Boston.

Sales contact: Circus Road Films, (1) 310 386 5196

Everything Strange And New (US)

Dir/scr: Frazer Bradshaw

Prods: Laura Techera Francia, AD Liano

Cast: Jerry McDaniel, Beth Lisick, Rigo Chacon Jr, Luis Saguar

A man has to navigate his complicated life of family, sexuality and drug addiction.

Sales contact: George Rush, (1) 415 867 3965

Helen (Can-Ger)

Dir/scr: Sandra Nettelbeck

Prods: Judy Tossell, Christine Haebler

Cast: Ashley Judd, Goran Visnjic

A successful music professor fights clinical depression.

Sales contact: The Little Film Company, (1) 818 762 6999

The Immaculate Conception Of Little Dizzle (US)

Dir/scr: David Russo

Prods: Peggy Case, Michael Seiwerath

Cast: Marshall Allman, Natasha Lyonne

An executive takes a job as a night janitor, where he finds he is the subject of a strange experiment.

Sales contact: Visit Films, (1) 718 312 8210

La Mission (US)

Dir/scr: Peter Bratt

Prods: Alpita Patel, Benjamin Bratt, Peter Bratt

Cast: Benjamin Bratt, Erika Alexander, Jeremy Ray Valdez

A traditional Latino father in San Francisco’s Mission District comes to terms with his teenage son’s homosexuality.

Sales contact: Alpita Patel, alpita@apm-la.com

Once More With Feeling (US)

Dir: Jeff Lipsky

Scr: Gina O’Brien

Prods: Paul Jarrett, Nick Huston

Cast: Chazz Palminteri, Drea De Matteo, Linda Fiorentino

A psychiatrist in the midst of a midlife crisis pursues his singing ambitions through karaoke.

Sales contact: The Film Sales Company, (1) 212 481 5020

The Only Good Indian (US)

Dir: Kevin Willmott

Scr: Thomas Carmody

Prods: Thomas Carmody, Rick Cowan, Matt Cullen, Greg Hurd, Scott Richardson, Kevin Willmott

Cast: Wes Studi, Winter Fox Frank, J Kenneth Campbell

In early 1900s Kansas, a teenage Native American boy is taken from his family and forced to assimilate into white society.

Sales contact: Matt Cullen, (1) 785 550 9377

The Vicious Kind (US)

Dir/scr: Lee Toland Krieger

Prods: Tim Harms, Lindsay Lanzillotta, Lee Toland Krieger

Cast: Brittany Snow, Adam Scott, JK Simmons, Alex Frost

An insomniac brings his brother and his college girlfriend home to their estranged father’s house for Thanksgiving.

Sales contact: ICM, (1) 310 550 4440

World’s Greatest Dad (US)

Dir/scr: Bobcat Goldthwait

Prods: Tim Perell, Howard Gertler, Sean McKittrick, Richard Kelly

Cast: Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, Alexie Gilmore

A comedy about a high school poetry teacher who writes a successful journal which he passes off as being written by his dead son.

Sales contact: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000, Cinetic, (1) 212 204 7979

SPECTRUM DOC

No Impact Man (US)

Dirs: Laura Gabbert, Justin Schein

Prods: Laura Gabbert, Eden Wurmfeld

A wealthy family tries to spend one year abandoning their high-consumption lifestyle and become environmentally friendly.

Sales contact: Cinetic, (1) 212 204 7979

Passing Strange (US)

Dir: Spike Lee

Prods: Spike Lee, Steve Klein

Cast: De’Adre Aziza, Daniel Breaker, Eisa Davis, Colman Domingo, Stew

A documentary, based on the musical by Stew, about a young black man trying to find “the real” by leaving Los Angeles.

Sales contact: Endeavor, (1) 310 246 3126

Why We Laugh: Black Comedians On Black Comedy (US)

Dir: Robert Townsend

Scr: Quincy Newell, John Long

A mix of archival clips and provocative new interviews with the likes of Chris Rock and Bill Cosby, exploring the cultural influence of black comedy.

Sales contact, US: WMI, (1) 310 859 4310

Wounded Knee (US)

Dir: Stanley Nelson

Scr: Marcia Smith

Prod: Stanley Nelson

Depicts the 1973 siege when Native American groups took over the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, to draw attention to the 1890 massacre.

Sales contact: Wgbh, (1) 617 300 5400

The Yes Men Fix The World (Fr-US)

Dirs/scrs: Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno

Prod: Doro Bachrach, Ruth Charny

The prankster activists expose scandals such as profiteering after Hurricane Katrina and the environmental disaster in Bhopal.

Sales contact: Cinetic, (1) 212 204 7979

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY

211: Anna (It)

Dirs/scr: Paolo Serbandini, Giovanna Massimetti

Prod: Stefano Alpini

The late Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya risked her life to report on the war in Chechnya and president Vladimir Putin.

Sales contact: Stefano.alpini@gmail.com

Big River Man (US-UK)

Dir: John Maringouin

Prods: Maria Florio, Molly Lynch, John Maringouin, Kevin Ragsdale, Molly Hassell

An eccentric Slovenian tries to swim the Amazon to raise awareness of pollution.

Sales contact: Salt, (44) 7710 394080

The End Of The Line (UK)

Dir: Rupert Murray

Scr: Charles Clover

Prod: Claire Lewis, George Duffield

A look at the devastating global effects of overfishing, which could wipe out seafood by 2048.

Sales contact: Submarine, (1) 917 957 1400

Kimjongilia (Fr-US-S Kor)

Dir: NC Heikin

Prods: NC Heikin, David Novack

Defectors from North Korea speak out about their lives - and escapes.

Sales contact: ncheikin@mac.com

Let’s Make Money (Austria)

Dir: Erwin Wagenhofer

Prod: Helmut Grasser

The shocking reality of global moneyflow, from the factories of India to massive housing developments in Spain and offshore banks in Jersey.

Sales contact, worldwide excluding German-speaking territories: Celluloid Dreams, (33) 1 4970 0370

Prom Night In Mississippi (Can)

Dir: Paul Saltzman

Prods: Paul Saltzman, Patricia Aquino

Emotions run high when a small-town Mississippi high school resolves to hold its first racially integrated senior prom.

Sales contact: Emerging Pictures, Ira Deutchman, (1) 646 831 2909

The Queen And I (Swe)

Dir/prod: Nahid Persson Sarvestani

Sweden-based film-maker Sarvestani - exiled from Iran - confronts her own ideas about the Shah’s regime when she meets his widow.

Sales contact: Sara Vahabi, (1) 310 993 5458

Quest For Honoor (Kurd-US)

Dir: Mary Ann Smothers Bruni

Prods: Larry Taub, Frances Farenthold, Philip Knox

A former teacher and activist works with locals to stop honour killings in tribal Kurdistan.

Sales contact: Mary Ann Smothers Bruni, masbruni@mac.com

Tibet In Song (Tib)

Dir: Ngawang Choephel

Prod: Ngawang Choephel

Told through Tibetan music, a look at the efforts of Tibetan residents and exiles to preserve their cultural identity.

Sales contact: nchoephel@gmail.com

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

An Education (UK)

Dir: Lone Scherfig

Scr: Nick Hornby

Prods: Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey

Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan

In 1960s England, a bright 16-year-old is sidetracked when she meets a handsome older man.

Sales contact: CAA, (1) 424 288 2000

Five Minutes Of Heaven (UK-Ire)

Dir: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Scr: Guy Hibbert

Prod: Eoin O’Callaghan

Cast: Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca

Two men from the same town but different backgrounds come to terms with the past IRA conflict.

Sales contact: UTA, (1) 310 228 3842, Pathe Pictures International, (44) 20 7323 5151

Lulu And Jim (Ger)

Dir/scr: Oskar Roehler

Prods: Gabriela Sperl, Uwe Schott

Cast: Jennifer Decker, Ray Fearon, Katrin Sass, Udo Kier

A musically infused romantic road movie about lovers fleeing bigoted society in 1950s Germany.

Sales contact: Beta Cinema, (49) 89 67 34 69 80

One Day In A Life (It)

Dir: Stefano Tummolini

Scrs: Stefano Tummolini, Antonio Merone

Prod: Angelo Draicchio

Cast: Antonio Merone, Lucia Mascino

A man who wants a peaceful day at the beach becomes involved in the dramas of nearby sunbathers.

Sales contact: Ken Sparrow, k.sparrow@ripleysfilm.it, (39) 0678 441 401

Unmade Beds (UK)

Dir/scr: Alexis Dos Santos

Prods: Soledad Gatti-Pascual, Peter Ettedgui

Cast: Deborah Francois, Fernando Tielve

A Spanish man and a Belgian woman fall in love in London’s East End.

Sales contact: Protagonist, (44) 20 7306 5155

Victoria Day (Can)

Dir/scr: David Bezmozgis

Prods: Judy Holm, Michael McNamara

Cast: Mark Rendall, Sergiy Kotelenets, Nataliya Alyexeyenko, Holly Deveaux

A week in the life of a teenager in 1988 Toronto, following the search for a missing hockey teammate, a budding romance and a pivotal rock concert.

Sales contact: EOne, (1) 416 931 8463

Zion And His Brother (Fr-Isr)

Dir/scr: Eran Merav

Prods: Assaf Amir, Yoav Roeh

Cast: Reuven Badalov, Ronit Elkabetz, Tzahi Grad

In working-class Tel Aviv, two teenage brothers grow apart after events including the disappearance of a young boy.

Sales contact: MK2, (33) 1 44 67 30 55

DIRECTOR PROFILES

ARMANDO IANNUCCI - IN THE LOOP

Armando Iannucci is the latest in a long list of UK television comedians to make the transition to the big screen. “It’s always been an ambition of mine to make a funny film,” he says. “Having seen other people in the UK go from television to film, I’ve become aware of what not to do - which is to repeat what you’ve done before.”

In The Loop is a political satire that puts the UK/US ‘special relationship’ under the microscope. Tom Hollander stars as a UK politician desperately trying to reverse the march to war. How does the writer-director believe the film will play with Sundance audiences unfamiliar with Iannucci’s cult BBC TV series, the political satire The Thick Of It

“It’s a new set of characters (to The Thick Of It). The only character from The Thick Of It is Malcolm Tucker (played by Peter Capaldi),” the director says. “The film is very self-contained. It doesn’t require any knowledge of the TV series.”

Iannucci had been talking to The Sopranos star James Gandolfini about another project, but decided the actor would be perfect for the role of the Pentagon General “who talks the talk but in the end, doesn’t really walk the walk”.

Geoffrey Macnab

ALEXIS DOS SANTOS - UNMADE BEDS

It is no surprise Argentina-born, UK-based film-maker Alexis Dos Santos wanted a very international story for his second feature, Unmade Beds. “I started with the idea I wanted to shoot a film that I haven’t seen in London,” says Dos Santos during post-production. “It feels very contemporary, but also portrays a whole bunch of foreigners.”

The film, which shot in English, Spanish and French, follows a Spanish man and a Belgian woman who meet in multicultural east London. Dos Santos knows the immigrant experience - he studied film in Buenos Aires and Barcelona before moving to London to study at the National Film And Television School.

He was developing Unmade Beds several years ago when he recharged his creative batteries by shooting a quick, loose film, Glue, about small-town teens in Argentina. Shot for just $28,000, it became a festival favourite and a calling-card for the Latin American New Wave that established Dos Santos as a film-maker to watch.

Wendy Mitchell and Danny Plunkett

RJ CUTLER - THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE

RJ Cutler goes where no film crew has gone before - behind the trademark sunglasses of Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour. “It’s remarkable she would allow a film in and that she agreed to give me final cut and had no editorial control,” Cutler says of his famous subject, who had always been protective of her privacy.

Cutler documented Wintour, creative director Grace Coddington, and other Vogue staffers for eight stressful months as they prepared the monumental September 2007 issue of the fashion bible. It became the largest issue of any magazine ever published.

He compares the experience to producing groundbreaking 1993 political campaigning doc The War Room. “(At Vogue), you are dealing with people who are media savvy. It’s the same with The War Room. If the material in our camera had been leaked to news outlets or political enemies, it would have been devastating to them. It’s about earning your subject’s trust.”

Cutler says: “The film is from the perspective not of an insider, but the rest of us. But it is an inside view of this world in a way never shown before.” Non-Vogue readers can appreciate the larger themes: “Workplace dynamics, art vs commerce, and our achievements in the context of expectations.”

Wendy Mitchell

The Missing Person (US)

Dir/scr: Noah Buschel

Prods: Jesse Scolaro, Allen Bain, Lois Drabkin, Alex Estes

Cast: Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan, Frank Wood

A private detective is hired to track down a man who was presumed dead in the 9/11 attacks.

Sales contact: Visit Films, (1) 718 312 8210.