Sundance 2003'sstar-studded festival programme will officially open in Salt Lake City on Jan16th with Levity, thedirectorial debut of Hollywood screenwriter Ed Solomon that headlines Billy BobThornton as a released murderer on the road to redemption. The festival endsten days later.

Other highlights in thePremiere section, which was announced yesterday alongside the programme forboth the World Cinema and the newly-introduced World Documentary sections,include Keith Gordon's The Singing Detective. This big-screen version of acclaimed BBC dramaseries about the hallucinatory ramblings of a bed-ridden writer stars RobertDowney Jr, Robin Wright Penn and Mel Gibson, whose Icon outfit also produced.

"Mel Gibson took itupon himself to get this made and plays a role you have never seen from himbefore," said festival director Geoffrey Gilmore. "It takes guts toremake Dennis Potter but that's what they've done here. RobertDowney Jr is astounding and this is an exciting film to watch that operates ona number of levels."

Among those returning to Sundance are Neil LaBute, whose incendiary debutfeature In The Company Of Men wonthe Filmmakers Trophy in 1997. His new film, an adaptation of his own stageplay The Shape Of Things, is described as a "chilling battle of thesexes" in which an art student uses her boyfriend as the ultimate canvas. It was produced by the UK's Working Title.

Festival director GeoffreyGilmore pointed to Levity, TheSinging Detective and NeilLaBute's The Shape Of Thingsas examples of an American cinema as interested right now about ideas as muchas it always has been about feelings, relationships and stories. "It iskind of a cerebral film-making that Europe is full of and that is sometimeslacking in America."

But in recognizing theintellectual and artistic merits of such films, Gilmore was also at pains notto underplay their audience appeal by using such a "cerebral" tag.

Among the other tantalizingPremiere offerings are Thomas Vinterberg's futuristic love thriller It'sAll About Love, starring ClaireDanes and Joaquin Phoenix; Campbell Scott's Off The Map, a coming-of-age tale about an 11-year-old girlwhose father is struck by depression that stars Joan Allen and Sam Elliott; MaskedAnd Anonymous, the debut productionfrom Nigel Sinclair and Guy East's Spitfire Pictures in which Bob Dylanplays a cult musician who is called upon to play a mysterious benefit gig. Itsglittering supporting cast includes John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges,Penelope Cruz, Ed Harris and Angela Bassett

Gilmore also made specialmention of Frank Pierson's A Soldier's Girl, based on the true story of the fatal beating of ayoung soldier who fell for a transgendered nightclub performer. Praising theleads Troy Garity and Shawn Hatosy, Gilmore said the picture was an intelligenttreatment of US military's so-called'don't-ask-don't-tell' policy regarding sexualpreferences.

Also featured is OliverStone's documentary Commandante, which follows a meeting between the filmmaker and Fidel Castro. UStelevision rights for the Stone's debut as documentarian, which wasfinanced out of Spain, were recently picked up by HBO.

The overseas presence is alsonoticeably strong, a reflection of Sundance's concerted push into theinternational film arena. Besides Vinterberg's new film, the Premieressection boasts Alex Proyas' Garage Days, Matthew Parkhill's Dot The I, Richard Kwietniowski's Canadian-backed Owning Mahowny and Jim Sheridan's In America.

There are numerous worldpremieres in the World Cinema section, Nicolas Winding Refn's Fear X, Aisling Walsh's Song For A Raggy Boy, Monique Gardenberg's Benjamin and Penny Woolcock's Death Of Klinghoffer

These join an array ofprize-winners and critical favourites from other international festivals thisyear, including Whale Rider fromNew Zealand and Susanne Bier's Danish Dogme film Open Hearts, two films that were picked up for US release byNewmarket.

From the UK come also twolocal audience pleasers: Gurinda Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham and Danny Boyle's London apocalypse thriller 28Days Later.

From China comes LuChuan's The Missing Gun,about a policeman who is framed for the murder of his first love, while Japantakes a different twist on the crime genre with Masahiko Nagasawa's Thirteen, about a released inmate who is hired to solve amurder.

With greater awareness ofother global cultures at a premium these days, the inaugural World Documentarysection makes a timely bow with nine entries. "We want to work on ashowcase of cinema that has little commercial potential but is in some waysexactly what Sundance is all about. We are showing works that are windows intoother societies," Gilmore said.

World Documentary titlesinclude: Kim Longinotto's The Day I Will Never Forget, a UK entry that focuses on female genitalmutilation in Kenya; Weijun Chen's To Live Is Better Than To Die, about a family of Chinese villagers with AIDS;Russian filmmaker AlexandrGutman's Frescos, which chroniclesthe aftermath of an earthquake in an Armenian village; and The Purified, in which Dogme chartists Lars von Trier, ThomasVinterberg, Mogens Rukov, Kristian Levring and Soren Kragh-Jacobsen are seendiscussing their work.

The Midnight category featuresAmerican stand-up comic Eddie Griffin in action in George Gallo's DysFunKtionalFamily and John Kesselman'sThe Hebrew Hammer, in which a Jewish superhero saves Hannukah from an evilFather Christmas.


Dir: Ed Solomon
After serving 19 years for killing ateenager in an attempted robbery, a man (Billy Bob Thornton) encounters amysterious minister (Morgan Freeman) and two needy women (Dunst and Hunter) inhis search for redemption. Sony Pictures Classics will release this Sundance OpeningNight film stateside, with StudioCanal handling international sales.

Dir: Alex Proyas
A young garage band in Sydney,Australia, tries to make it big. Kick Gurry, Maya Stange, Pia Miranda andRussell Dykstra star. Fox Searchlight is distributing worldwide.

Dir: Thomas Vinterberg
In a futuristic world on the brinkof apocalypse, a professor becomes entangled in a fight to save his mega-starex-wife's life. Claire Danes and Joaquin Phoenix star in Vinterberg'sfollow-up to his Dogme breakthrough The Celebration.Trust Film Sales is handling sales on this Europeanco-production.

Dir: Richard Kwietniowski
Based on a true story, a gamblingaddict/banker pushes his bets to the extreme in an embezzling scheme of majorproportions. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver and John Hurt star in thisKwietnioswki's follow-up to Love And Death On Long Island. Sony Pictures Classics will release in the US,Alliance Atlantis is handling international sales

Dir: Neil LaBute
In a chilling battle of the sexes,an art student uses her boyfriend as the ultimate canvas. Paul Rudd, RachelWeisz, Gretchen Mol and Fred Weller star. Focus Features will release thisWorking Title production with UIP distributing internationally.

Dir: Keith Gordon
From his hospital bed, a writersuffering from a skin disease hallucinates musical numbers and paranoid plots.Robert Downey, Jr., Robin Wright Penn, Mel Gibson, Adrien Brody and KatieHolmes star in this theatrical version of Dennis Potter's acclaimedBritish TV series. Paramount Pictures have US rights, Icon is selling the filminternationally.

Dir: Frank Pierson
A Soldier's Girl is based on thetrue story of a young soldier beaten to death for falling in love with atransgendered nightclub performer. Troy Garity and Shawn Hatosy star. ShowtimeNetworks has US distribution rights.

Dir: Michael Polish
Set in 1955, Northfork is about theresidents of a small Montana community forced to move their homes to make wayfor a new dam. James Woods, Daryl Hannah, Kyle MacLachlan, Nick Nolte andClaire Forlani star. Paramount Classics has English-speaking rights and Pandorahas international rights.

Dir: Campbell Scott
A coming-of-age tale about an11-year-old girl, who, during the summer, sees her father come down with acrippling depression. During the course of the season, she learns answers toseveral mysteries and comes to terms with love and loss. Joan Allen, Amy Brenneman,Valentina d'Angelis and Sam Elliott star.

Dir: Alan Rudolph
Based on Jane Smiley's novella TheAge Of Grief, a dentist has astrange dream that blurs the boundaries between fantasy and reality. CampbellScott, Hope Davis, Denis Leary and Robin Tunney star. Manhattan PicturesInternational will release the film in North America.

Dir: Larry Charles
Jack Fate (Bob Dylan), a cultmusician who never hit it big, gets sprung from prison by Uncle Sweetheart(John Goodman), a promoter who wants Jack to play a benefit concert -- who stands to benefit is unclear. Cast also includes LukeWilson, Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, Val Kilmer, GiovanniRibisi, Ed Harris, Angela Bassett and Mickey Rourke. Directed by TV veteranLarry Charles, the film is the debut production from Nigel Sinclair and GuyEast's Spitfire Pictures, with co-financing from Marching Band Productions and the BBC. Initial Entertainment Group is the international sales agent.

Dir: James Foley
A con man's latest scam puts him indebt with the mafia when it turns out that his victim, an accountant, is a'mob' accountant, leading the kingpin to hire an enforcer. EdwardBurns, Andy Garcia, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Donal Logue, Rachel Weiszand Morris Chestnut star in this film from the director who gave broughtMamet's Glengarry Glen Rossto the big screen..

Dir: Matthew Parkhill
Young lovers in London are wrappedup in a love triangle that may not be exactly what it seems. Gael GarciaBernal, Charlie Cox and Natalia Verbeke star in Parkhill's feature debut.Momentum Pictures has UK distribution rights.

Dir: Daniel Algrant
A New York publicist, Eli Wurman,whose career has seen better days, finds himself being entangled in a mysteryinvolving politics and celebrity. Al Pacino, Tea Leoni, Kim Basinger andRyan O'Neal star. Miramax has US rights to the film, which has already beenreleased in Italy to some good critical notices. Myriad Pictures is handlinginternational sales.

Dir: Ernest Dickerson
A moving portrait of an upwardlymobile African American family for whom the American Dream becomes a nightmare.Starring Danny Glover and Whoopi Goldberg. Showtime Networks is distributing inthe US.

Dir: Thom Fitzgerald
A family is turned upside down whena DA begins investigations of a series of unexplained deaths. Parker Posey,Olympia Dukakis, Sarah Polley and Don McKellar star. THINKFilm has acquiredworldwide rights.

Dir: Oliver Stone
Documentary feature, financed out ofSpain, about Stone's personal encounters with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.MediaPro is handling international sales.

Dir: Jim Sheridan
With their two young daughters intwo and mourning the loss of a third, Irish emigres Johnny and Sarah usetheir sheer strength of will and ingenuity to make the most of their new lifeand find that their kindness to a stranger ultimately opens the door to theirnew home in America. Starring Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou,Sarah Bolger and Emma Bolger. Fox is releasing the film worldwide


WHALE RIDER (New Zealand)
Dir: Niki Caro
In a small New Zealand coastalvillage, a 12 year-old Maori girl fights to be allowed to fulfill her destinyas The Whale Rider, a chiefly title reserved once in every generation for amale heir. Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton and CliffCurtis star. Newmarket has US rights;The Works is handling international sales.

Dir: Michael Mackenzie
A wealthy American Quaker womanrebels and marries a French baron for love. A plan to start a Parisian salonwith a distinctively democratic air brings conflict with her new surroundingsand an unusual ally in a country girl raised by pigs. Starring Patricia Clarkson,Colm Feore, Caroline Dhavemas and Bernard Hempton.

Dir: Mina Shum
Twelve-year-old Mindy Ho inexpertly tries Taoist magic to fix her singlemother's financial situation and seemingly hopeless romantic prospects. SandraOh, Valerie Tian, Tsai Chin, Ric Young and Christina Ma star.

Dir: Huo Jianqi
The story of a beautiful, single woman who runs a restaurant in inland China,delving into her battle to understand the rapid changes affecting societyaround her. Starring Tao Hong, Tao Zeru, Pan Yueming and Yang Yi.

Dir: Fernando Leon De Aranoa
Dockworkers lose their jobs andsuccumb to the life of perpetual Sunday. Javier Bardem, Luis Tosar, Jose AngelEgido, Nieve de Medina and Enrique Villen star in the film that beat out PedroAlmodovar's Talk To Her asnext year's Spanish entry for the Oscars. Lions Gate Films have NorthAmerican rights and Sogepaq is handling international sales.

Dir: Susanne Bier
A Dogme film about an engaged couplethat is torn apart after the man is paralyzed in an accident, and the womanfalls in love with the husband of the woman who caused the accident. SonjaRichter, Mads Mikkelsen, Paprika Steen and Nikolaj Lie Kaa star. NewmarketFilms will release this Dogme-style production in US; Trust Film Sales ishandling international sales.

THE SEA (Iceland)
Dir: Baltasar Kormakur
Feeling his time running out, anaging fishing magnate gathers his children in their small Icelandic hometown tosettle their mother's inheritance and the future of the fishery that made himpowerful. However, the family gathering will not go as planned. Starring GunnerEyjolfsson, Hilmir Snaer Gudnason, Helene de Fougerolles and Elva Osk Olafsdottir.Palm Pictures acquired US/UK distribution rights, international sales are beinghandled by Flach Pyramide International

Dir: Gurinda Chadha
A story of a traditional family inBritain trying to balance their own traditional desires with their spunkydaughter's soccer playing aspirations. Starring Parminder Nagra, KeiraKnightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anupam Kher, Archie Panjabi,Shaznay Lewis, Frank Harper and Juliet Stevenson. Fox Searchlight acquiredNorth and S outh American rights to the film after it became a big hit forHelkon SK in the UK.

Dir: Duncan Roy
A working class young man assumes abourgeoisie identity in his quest for love in the extravagant world of late1970's Britain, but struggles with how far he is willing to go with thecharade. Matthew Leitch, George Asprey, Lindsey Coulson, Diana Quick, BlakeRitson and Peter Youngblood Hills star in this triptych-format film thatreceived financing from the UK Film Council's New Cinema Fund. It was digitally distributed by independent UK distributor City Screen through its circuit.

Dir: Carlos Sorin
Three people and a baby set off onseparate journeys, along the same road; their disparate dreams and storiesintertwine amidst the breathtaking deserted Patagonic route. Director CarlosSorin, Carlos Montero, Anibal Maldonado, Maria Rosa Cianferoni, Mariela Diazand Maria del Carmen Jiminez star. Wanda Vision is handling internationalsales.

Dir: Lu Chuan
Small-town policeman Ma Shan wakesup one morning to discover that his gun is missing. During his search, thingstake a sinister turn when his first love turns up dead and the bullet appear tobe from his gun. Jiang Wen, Ning Jing and Wu Yujuan star.

Dir: Jeremy Wooding
Bollywood Queen is a cross-culturalromance set in London's East End about a young girl of Indian heritagewho is obsessed with both Bollywood musicals and a English boy whose family isthe major competitor of her own family's business in the cut-throat worldof London's garment district. Preeya Kalidas, James McEvoy and IanMcShane star in this film being handled by Arclight Films .

Dir: Unni Straume
Sara, recently divorced and mourning the loss of her only child, rents herbasement to Bogdan, a Serbian musician who brings the whole band along. As shelearns more about her ex's infidelity, she wonders if Bogdan's lifestyle may bepreferable to the manipulative starkness of her ex that ultimately lead to hismurder. Starring Lena Endre, Bjorn Floberg, Rebecka Hemse, Petronella Barkerand Goran Bregovic.

Dir: S Wyeth Clarkson, in a marriage betweenreality and fiction, improvisation and interactive filmmaking, is the story ofthree teens who make a pact to drive from Quebec City to the west coast andupon arrival, commit suicide. Harold Amero, Nicole Raven and Adrian Rogersstar.

Dir: Monique Gardenberg
The tumultous life of a malemodel/actor in Brazil through years of career and political turmoil.

Dir: Danny Boyle
After a powerful virus,locking those infected into a state of murderous rage, is unleashed on theBritish public, a group of survivors struggle to salvage a future together.Starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson andChristopher Eccleston. Fox is distributing worldwide

I LOVE YOU (China)
Dir: Zhang Yuan
A young woman who has lost her firstlove begins a relationship with his best friend, and the two of them attempt tocreate a baggage-free future. Starring Tong Da Wei and Xu Jing Lei.

RED BEAR (Argentina)
Dir: Adrian Caetano
Bear has never gotten overthe separation from his wife and daughter after having been convicted for armedrobbery and homicide and sent to prison. Now he is out, to finally get his cutof the money and reunite with his family, or at least avenge the damage done.Julio Chavez, Soledad Villamil, Luis Machin, Agostina Lage and Enrique Liporacestar.

FEAR X (Denmark)
Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
When his wife is killed in a seemingly randomincident, Harry (John Turturro), prompted by mysterious visions, journeys todiscover the true circumstances surrounding her murder. John Turturro, JamesRemar and Deborah Unger star in a film that is being represented by new UK sales outfitMoviehouse Entertainment.

Dir: Masahiko Nagasawa
A released inmate is hired to solvea murder case.

ANGELA (Italy)
Dir: Roberta Torre
True story of an attractive Sicilianmob-wife who participates in her husband's drug-dealing business and falls forher husband's lackey. Starring Donatella Finocchiaro, Andrea Di Stefano andMario Pupello. First Look Pictures releasing have US rights and Adriana ChiesaEnterprises is handing international sales.

Dir: Penny Woolcock
An adaptation from the John Adamsopera on the true life incident that took place in the mid 80s. ChristopherMaltman, Dean Robinson, Vivian Tierney, Tom Randle, Kamel Boutros, SanfordSylvan and Leigh Melrose star.

SONG FOR A RAGGY BOY(Ireland, Denmark, UK & Spain)
Dir: Aisling Walsh
Based on a true story, Song For ARaggy Boy is the story of one man's courage to stand up and fight against thetough fascist regime in a boys' Irish Reformatory School in 1939. AidanQuinn, Alan Devlin, Iain Glen and John Travers star. International sales are handled by LolaFilms for all territories except Ireland and Scandinavia & Iceland.

THE KITE (Russia)
Dir: Alexei Muradov
As an executioner for the state, afather kills in order to buy his son more time to live. The boy, who dreams offlying a kite with his father, is an invalid desperately in need of anoperation the executioner cannot afford. Victor Solovyev, Nadezhda Ozerova,Pavel Zolotilin, Mikhail Paznikov and Jani Solokhin star.

Dir: Karim Ainouz
A portrait of Joao Francisco dosSantos, also known as Madame Sata, a sometime chef, transvestite, lover,father, hero and convict from Rio de Janeiro. Lazaro Ramos, Marcelia Cartaxoand Renata Sorrah star. Wellspring Media has US rights and Wild Bunch ishandling international sales.

Dir: Hidenori Sugimori
A woman whose emotions trigger therain falls in love with a smouldering pyromaniac. Set in a public bath - avanishing element of Japanese culture - this is a modern myth of love andhealing.


Dirs: Carlos Bosch and Josep Maria Domenec
The story of Cuban refugees whorisked their lives in homemade rafts to reach the United States, and what lifeis like for those who succeed. Lauren Film is distributing in Spain.

Dir: Kim Longinotto
The practice of female genitalmutilation is explored through personal stories of Kenyan women.

Dir: Thierry Michel
Depicts contemporary Iran at aturning point in its history, exposing both an extreme fundamentalism beingfostered by its leadership and the seeds for change in its youth culture.

Dir: Jennifer Baichwal
The meaning of art itself comes intoquestion in this documentary about Shelby Lee Adams' controversial photos offamilies in Appalachia.

BUS 174 (Brazil)
Dir: Jose Padilha
Jose Padilha's documentary Bus 174delves into the backstory behind an actual Sao Paulo bus hijacking.

Dir: Mercedes Moncada Rodriguez
A tribal woman from Mexico'sTarahumara Mountains seeks justice for the death of her son who is tragicallykilled by a car driven by a white woman. Zazen Producoes is handlinginternational sales.

FRESCOS (Russia)
Dir: Alexandr Gutman
A lyrical portrait of life in acontemporary Armenian village following the devastation of an earthquake and thefall of communism.

Dir: Weijun Chen
A rare portrait of a family in aChinese village living with and dying of HIV/AIDS.

THE PURIFIED (screens withNEW SCENES FROM AMERICA, directed by Jorgen Leth) (Denmark)
Dir: Jesper Jargil
The filmmakers who created the Dogmemanifesto reflect, argue, and watch clips of their own films. Featuring Larsvon Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov, Kristian Levring and SorenKragh-Jacobsen.