Sundance festival director John Cooper and programming director Trevor Groth today [December 2] hailed an “exciting and diverse” competitive roster for the 2010 edition that honours the festival’s democratic sensibility and mandate for discovery while broadening its global reach.
There are world premieres for Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine from the Incentive Filmed Entertainment fund and starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, as well as Mark Ruffalo’s feature directorial debut Sympathy For Delicious, Chris Morris’ jihad satire Four Lions from the UK, fantasy-mystery The Temptation Of St Tony from highly regarded Estonian film-maker Veiko Ounpuu, and Alvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro’s Me Too from Spain (pictured).
A vibrant documentary line-up showcases new work from Alex Gibney, Davis Guggenheim, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, Jeffrey Blitz, Sebastian Junger and Brazil’s Jose Padilha, among other. Topics range from the war in Afghanistan, lottery winners and the state of public education in the US to space tourism, the Cambodian genocide and the plight of Iran’s first female Taekwondo Olympian.
Cooper and Groth gear up for the first outing in their new roles following the departure after 19 years of former festival director Geoff Gilmore. They promise to deliver the traditionally eclectic coverage of the US independent sector and a far-reaching roster of international talent. “The films are all very original,” Groth said. “You can read a passion and vitality in these films. They are very diverse.”
Inevitably there are innovations that will begin to define the new regime. Cooper has dispensed with what he called the “pomp and circumstance” of a single opening night film, electing instead to launch simultaneously with one narrative film, one documentary and one shorts programme on January 21. A week later eight film-makers and their films will go on the road around the country under the Sundance Film Festival USA initiative.
New also are two non-competition rosters that will be announced tomorrow: the remodelled Spectrum, now fashioned into a “best-of-fests” strand called Spotlight that also includes films that did not fit the competition mould for various reasons, and Next, which will showcase eight low budget features under $500,000 – indeed Cooper said he thought all eight came in at less than $200,000.
Despite the economic hardship of the past 18 months or so festival top brass return with a strong network of sponsors and must remain mindful of how the 2009 event generated a record overall economic impact of $92.1m. Of the traditional major sponsors, only Delta and The New York Times have gone, however the 2010 roster includes American Express, Southwest Airlines, HP, Honda, Microsoft Corporation, Blockbuster, Sony Electronics and Stella Artois.
The core team of key programmers – all of whom stayed on after Gilmore left to assume his new post as chief creative officer of Tribeca Enterprises – have selected 113 features representing 31 countries from 9,816 submissions. There are 97 feature world premieres and the programming team considered 1,920 US and 1,804 international feature submissions. Sundance 2010 is scheduled to run from January 21-31.
US DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Sixteen films were selected from 862 submissions.
Bhutto Dirs: Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara
A journey through the life and work of recently assassinated Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani Prime Minister and a polarising figure in the Muslim world.
CASINO JACK & The United States of Money Dir: Alex Gibne
An investigation into the lies, greed and corruption surrounding DC super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies.
Family Affair Dir: Chico Colvard
Family Affair examines resilience, survival and the capacity to accommodate a parent’s past crimes in order to satisfy the longing for family.
Freedom Riders Dir: Stanley Nelson
The story behind the band of Civil Rights activists called the Freedom Riders who in 1961 challenged segregation in the American South.
Gas Land Dir: Josh Fox
A cross-country odyssey uncovers toxic streams, dying livestock, flammable sinks and weakening health among rural citizens on the front lines of the natural gas drilling craze.
I’m Pat _______ Tillman Dir: Amir Bar-Lev
The story of professional football star and decorated US soldier Pat Tillman, whose family takes on the US government after their son dies in a “friendly fire” incident in Afghanistan in 2004.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child Dir: Tamra Davis
The story of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose work electrified and challenged an era and whose death at 27 turned him into a cultural icon.
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work Dirs: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg
A rare glimpse into the comedic process and private dramas of the legendary comedian as she fights tooth and nail to keep her American dream alive.
Lucky Dir: Jeffrey Blitz
The story of what happens when ordinary people hit the lottery jackpot.
My Perestroika Dir: Robin Hessman
Tracks the lives of five Muscovites who came of age just as the USSR collapsed and are adjusting to their post-Soviet reality.
The Oath Dir: Laura Poitras
Filmed in Yemen, The Oath tells the story of two men whose fateful encounter in 1996 set them on a course of events that led them to Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantanamo, and the US Supreme Court.
Restrepo Dirs: Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s year dug in with the Second Platoon in one of Afghanistan’s most strategically crucial valleys reveals the surreal combination of back breaking labour, deadly firefights and camaraderie as the soldiers push back the Taliban.
A Small Act Dir: Jennifer Arnold
A young Kenyan’s life changes dramatically when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he founds his own scholarship programme to replicate the kindness he once received.
Smash His Camera Dir: Leon Gast
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sued him and Marlon Brando broke his jaw. The story of notorious, reviled paparazzo Ron Galella opens a Pandora’s Box of issues from the right to privacy, freedom of the press, and the ever-growing vortex of celebrity worship.
12th & Delaware Dirs: Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing
The abortion battle continues to rage in unexpected ways in an unassuming corner of America.
Waiting For Superman Dir: Davis Guggenheim
Waiting For Superman examines the crisis of public education in the United States through multiple interlocking stories – from a handful of students and their families to the educators and reformers trying to find real solutions within a dysfunctional system.
US DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Sixteen films were selected from 1,058 submissions.
Blue Valentine Dir: Derek Cianfrance
A portrait of an American marriage, charting the evolution of a relationship over time.
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman.
Douchebag Dir: Drake Doremus
On the verge of getting married, Sam Nussbaum insists he escort his younger brother Tom on a wild goose chase to find Tom’s fifth grade girlfriend.
Cast: Andrew Dickler, Ben York Jones, Marguerite Moreau, Nicole Vicius, Amy Ferguson, Wendi McClendon-Covey.
The Dry Land Dir: Ryan Piers Williams
A US soldier returning home from war struggles to reconcile his experiences abroad with the life and family he left in Texas.
Cast: America Ferrera, Wilmer Valderrama, Ethan Suplee, June Diane Raphael, Melissa Leo.
happythankyoumoreplease Dir: Josh Radnor
Six New Yorkers negotiate love, friendship, and gratitude at a time when they’re too old to be precocious and not ready to be adults.
Cast: Malin Akerman, Josh Radnor, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Tony Hale, Pablo Schreiber, Michael Algieri
Hesher Dir: Spencer Susser
A mysterious, anarchical trickster descends on the lives of a family struggling to cope with a painful loss.
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Devin Brochu, Piper Laurie, John Carroll Lynch.World Premiere
Holy Rollers Dir: Kevin Tyler Asch
A young Hasidic man, seduced by money, power and opportunity, becomes an international Ecstasy smuggler.Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Danny A Abeckaser, Ari Graynor, Jason Fuchs.
Howl Dirs: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
A non-fiction drama about the young beat poet Allen Ginsberg, the creation of his groundbreaking poem Howl and the landmark obscenity trial that followed.
Cast: James Franco, David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels.
The Imperialists Are Still Alive! Dir: Zeina Durra
Juggling the sudden abduction of her childhood sweetheart as well as a blooming love affair, a French Manhattanite makes her way as an artist in an indifferent, sometimes hostile world.
Cast: Élodie Bouchez, José Maria de Tavira, Karim Saleh Karolina Muller, Marianna Kulukundis, Rita Ackerman.
Lovers Of Hate Dir: Bryan Poyser
The shaky reunion of estranged brothers takes a turn for the worse when the woman they both love chooses one over the other.
Cast: Chris Doubek, Heather Kafka, Alex Karpovsky, Zach Green.
Night Catches Us Dir: Tanya Hamilton
In 1978, complex political and emotional forces are set in motion when a young man returns to the race-torn Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age during the Black Power movement.
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Jamie Hector, Wendell Pierce, Jamara Griffin.
Obselidia Dir: Diane Bell
A lonely librarian believes love is obsolete until a road trip to Death Valley with a beguiling cinema projectionist teaches him otherwise.
Cast: Gaynor Howe, Michael Piccirilli, Frank Hoyt Taylor.
Skateland Dir: Anthony Burns
In the early 1980s in small-town Texas, dramatic events force a 19-year-old skating rink manager to look anew at his life.
Cast: Shiloh Fernandez, AJ Buckley, Ashley Greene, Brett Cullen, Ellen Hollman, Heath Freeman.
Sympathy For Delicious Dir: Mark Ruffalo
A newly paralysed DJ gets more than he bargained for when he seeks out the world of faith healing.
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Mark Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, Laura Linney, John Carroll Lynch.
3 Backyards Dir: Eric Mendelsohn
A quiet suburban town becomes an intense emotional terrain for three residents over the course of one curious autumn day.
Cast: Embeth Davidtz, Edie Falco, Elias Koteas, Rachel Resheff, Kathryn Erbe, Danai Gurira.
Welcome To The Rileys Dir: Jake Scott
On a business trip to New Orleans, a damaged man seeks salvation by caring for a wayward young woman.
Cast: James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, Melissa Leo.
Winter’s Bone Dir: Debra Granik
An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealer father while trying to keep her family intact.
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Kevin Breznahan, Isaiah Stone.
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Twelve films were selected from 782 international documentary submissions.
Enemies Of The People (Cambodia/UK) Dirs: Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath
A young journalist whose family was killed by the Khmer Rouge befriends the perpetrators of the Cambodian genocide.
Fix ME(France/Palestinian Territories/Switzerland) Dir: Raed Andoni
When Palestinian film-maker Raed Andoni gets a headache that won’t go away, he seeks out help and insight in different forms in his hometown of Ramallah.
His & Hers(Ireland) Dir: Ken Wardrop
Seventy Irish women offer moving insights into the relationships between women and men.
Kick In Iran (Gemany) Dir: Fatima Geza Abdollahyan
The first female professional Taekwondo fighter from Iran to qualify for the Olympic Games struggles for recognition in a society where women still play a subordinate role.
Last Train Home (Canada) Dir: Lixin Fan
Getting a train ticket in China proves a towering ordeal as a migrant worker family embarks on a journey, along with 200million other peasants, to reunite with their distant family.
A Film Unfinished (Germany/Israel) Dir: Yael Hersonski
Film reels uncovered in Nazi archives reveal the mechanisms used to stage Warsaw Ghetto life – images that have shaped our view of history.
The Red Chapel (Det Rode Kapel) (Denmark) Dir: Mads Brugger
A journalist with no scruples, a self-proclaimed spastic, and a comedian travel to North Korea under the guise of a cultural exchange visit to challenge one of the world’s most notorious regimes.
Russian Lessons (Georgia/Germany/Norway) Dir: Olga Konskaya and Andrei Nekraso
An investigation into Russian actions during the 2008 war in Georgia, revealing the little known story of the ethnic cleansing in the former Soviet region.
Secrets Of The Tribe (Brazil) Dir: José Padilha
Scandal and infighting abound in the academic anthropology community regarding the representation and exploitation of indigenous Indians in the Amazon Basin.
Sins Of My Father (Argentina/Colombia) Dir: Nicolas Entel
The life and times of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar are recounted through the eyes of his son, who fled Colombia to move beyond his father’s legacy.
North American Premiere
Space Tourists (Switzerland) Dir: Christian Frei
A humorous view of the way billionaires depart our planet to travel into outer space for fun.
North American Premiere
Waste Land (UK) Dir: Lucy Walker
Lives are transformed when international art star Vik Muniz collaborates with garbage pickers in the world’s largest landfill in Rio de Janeiro.
WORLD CINEMA NARRATIVE COMPETITION
Fourteen films were selected from 1,022 submissions.
All That I Love (Poland) Dir: Jacek Borcuch
In 1981, during the growing Polish Solidarity movement, four small-town teenagers form a punk rock band in the hope of playing at a local festival.
Cast: Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Jakub Gierszal, Mateusz Banasiuk, Olga Frycz, Igor Obloza.
North American Premiere
Animal Kingdom (Australia) Dir: David Michod
After the death of his mother, a 17-year-old boy is thrust precariously between an explosive criminal family and a detective who thinks he can save him.Cast: Guy Pearce, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, James Frecheville.
Boy (New Zealand) Dir: Taika Waititi
When his father returns home after many years away, 11-year-old Boy and his little brother Rocky must reconcile reality with the fantasy dad they created in their imagination.
Cast: Taika Waititi, James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone.
Peepli Live (India) Dir: Anusha Rizvi
A satirical look at the predicament of a poor farmer who creates a media frenzy when, beset with debt, he announces that he will commits suicide so his family can receive government compensation.
Cast: Omkar Das, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Raghubir Yadav, Shalini Vatsa, Farukh Jaffer.
Four Lions (UK) Dir: Chris Morris
The British arch satirist’s comedy about a bunch of self styled British jihadis.
Cast: Chris Wilson, Kevin Eldon.
Grown Up Movie Star (Canada) Dir: Adriana Maggs
After her mother runs away, a teenage girl, determined to grow up fast, is left to care for her hopelessly rural father.
Cast: Shawn Doyle, Tatiana Maslany, Jonny Harris, Mark O’Brien, Andy Jones, Julia Kennedy.
Me Too (Yo, Tambien) (Spain) Dirs: Alvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro
A 34-year-old college-educated man with Down syndrome and his free-spirited co-worker forge an unconventional relationship.
Cast: Pablo Pineda, Lola Duennas, Antonio Naharro, Isabel Garcia Lorca, Pedro Alvarez Ossorio.
Nuummioq (Greenland) Dirs: Otto Rosing and Torben Bech
A young man’s journey through the exquisite natural landscape of Greenland allows him to piece together elements of his past and move on with his life.
Cast: Lars Rosing, Angunnguaq Larsen, Julie Berthelsen, Morten Rose, Makka Kleist, Mariu Olsen.
The Man Next Door (El Hombre De Al Lado) (Argentina) Dir: Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat
A dark comedy about two neighbours who get into a row about a wall separating their property.
Cast: Rafael Spregelburd, Daniel Araoz, Eugenia Alonso, Ines Budassi, Lorenza Acuna.
Son Of Babylon (Iraq) Dir: Mohamed Al Daradji
In the days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a young Kurdish boy and his grandmother venture through Iraq on a quest to find the remains of the boy’s missing father
Cast: Yasser Talib, Shazda Hussein, Bashir Al-Majid.
Southern District (Zona Sur) (Bolivia) Dir: Juan Carlos Valdivia
In La Paz, Bolivia, in a villa surrounded by beautiful gardens, an upper-class family experiences final halcyon days of luxury as social change penetrates their bubble.
Cast: Ninon del Castillo, Pascual Loayza, Nicolas Fernandez, Juan Pablo Koria, Mariana Vargas.
North American Premiere
The Temptation Of St Tony (Estonia) Dir: Veiko Ounpuu
A mid-level manager who develops an aversion to being “good” finds himself confronting the mysteries of middle-age and morality as he loses grasp of what was once his quiet life.
Cast: Taavi Eelmaa, Rain Tolk, Tiina Tauraite, Katariina Lauk, Raivo E Tamm.
Contracorriente (Undertow) (Colombia/France/Germany/Peru) Dir: Javier Fuentes-Leon
A ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside about a married fisherman who struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his town’s rigid traditions.
Cast: Cristian Mercado, Manolo Cardona, Tatiana Astengo.
North American Premiere
Vegetarian (Chaesikjueuija) (South Korea) Dir: Lim Woo-seong
A young housewife, finds herself having strange dreams that make her disgusted by meat, leading to trouble with her meat-loving husband and attention from her artist brother in law.
Cast: Chea Min-Seo, Kim Hyun-Sung, Kim Yeo-Jin, Kim Young-Jae.