It will not justbe the visibly heightened security measures that will lend next year's Sundance Film Festival a distinctive new flavour; the competition filmsthemselves are liable to provoke rather different audience and industry responses than in recent years, say selectors.
Many of thedramatic feature films that will vie for various jury honours next January inPark City - just days before the Utah mining town then becomes engulfed by theWinter Olympics - exude an eccentricity that stands in marked contrast tothe polished storytelling that was a feature of last year's Sundance.
"People arereally pushing the edge again," confirmed chief programmer Geoff Gilmore.He spoke just after the festival had announced the films chosen for the 2002documentary and dramatic competitions, as well as those selected for AmericanSpectrum and its new companion American Showcase that was created to includefilms that had shown at previous festivals but weren't destined asSundance Premieres. (See full line-up below). The remaining sections includingthose high-profile Premieres and the World Cinema sidebar will be announcedlater today.
"A lot ofthe work doesn't feel formulaic at all and has a uniqueness to it like Pi did, or Memento. There is a quality here that will causepeople to reflect on the edginess of the work and how it is breaking away fromformulaic indie work," continued Gilmore.
"Lastyear, the competition was one of the best we had, comprised of very well madefilms like In the Bedroom, The Deep End and The Believer. The work this year is a little edgier in terms of itsconception; it pushes the commercial limits, it pushes the edge. It feels freshand non-generic. The films take what could have been formulas and sends them ina different direction. The films may not necessarily have broad commercialpossibilities, yet it is the very originality of Memento and Waking Life which inspired their grosses."
Certainly someof the subject-matter this year seems willfully subversive. A shared desire forspanking is what unites a lawyer with his new female assistant in Secretary - a secretary, who only recentlycame out of a mental hospital. The fact that the lawyer is played by JamesSpader, the actor who made his name videotaping sexual confessions in theSteven Soderbergh debut that first put Sundance on the map, just makes mattersthat much more piquant.
In Bark, we see a husband turn to veterinary helpwhen his wife starts acting like a dog - only to then fall for the vethimself. In Cherish,an awkward yet promiscuous woman is held a gunpoint by a stalker while drivingher car; in trying to evade him, she runs over a cop and is arrested only tothen fall for the local detective. The stalker returns.
A darkly comicstrain is said to run through Love Liza even though it depicts a man is too distraught over hiswife's suicide to even open up her farewell note. Killing Time is described as an urban road movie,except that the protagonist in question chooses to walk, rather than drive, thelength of Manhattan. This from a filmmaker known until now for hisblood-splattered Hollywood screenplays.
And then there is Justin Lin. Given cultural sensitivities these days, he might have been forgiven for portraying the young Asian Americans that inhabit his film, Better Luck Tomorrow in a positive light only. But instead he shows them as the flawed young high school Californian kids he knows them to be as they commit a crime whose repercussions are sure to stir up discussions around Park City.
Nor was it enough for the young male teen to fall for his stepmother in Gary Winick's Tadpole - one of several digitally shot features to be announced so far, including several involving top-notch cinematographers like Ellen Kuras. No, the sixteen year-old also had to become enamoured with his stepmother's best friend as well. For more details on these and other films in the dramatic line-up read below.
Even though the2002 festival starts earlier than in previous years to accommodate the Olympics,the actual programme announcement were inevitably delayed by the knock-oneffects of the September 11 terrorist attacks. ""We didn't travel asmuch as we had in the past, didn't get to San Sebastian for example,"explained Gilmore. "But everything we would have seen tracked us down. Wegranted extensions to whoever asked for completion work and any number ofdifferent reasons. Some of the extensions - three or four weeks -are as long as we've ever given."
"Thebigger question is how it changes us as a cultural institution and thesensibilities of the kind of work we are looking at. Independent film is alwaysa barometer of how the US is as a society and a reflection of the socialfabric. Since most of the work in the programme this year was in productionbefore September 11th, we will wait to 2003 to see how September 11th affectedthat."
A comedyabout misfits in which a veterinarian becomes involved with a client, whosewife has begun acting like a dog. Lisa Kudrow plays the vet while Lee Tergensenis the frazzled husband, whose marriage is going to the dogs. Hank Azaria andVincent D'Onofrio also star as does screenwriter/comedienne HeatherMorgan as the canine wife. Propaganda Films co-produced; First Look willrelease in the US with its Overseas Filmgroup handling international sales.
Dir: Justin Lin
Lin, who madehis debut co-directing Shopping For Fangs, again explores the dark side of young Asian-American males- only this time in a Californian high school in Orange County. Thepsyches and communal identities of four teenage Asian-American boys areexamined in a story in which a specific instance of angst compels them tocommit a nihilistic act of violence. Lin is also the production coordinator ofthe Media Arts Center for the Japanese American National Museum in LA.
Taylor'sdebut, Dream With The Fishes, was shown as part of the American Spec