The Sundance Film Festival,the film calendar's official discovery venue for US independent films, todayunveiled the dramatic and documentary competition lineups for its 2004 event(Jan 15 to 25) today, as well as the titles in the American Spectrum section.
Several film-makers who havefilms in dramatic competition are already well-known in Sundance folklore suchas Christopher Munch, whose new picture Harry And Max is his fourth feature to play in competition at thefestival, Gregory Harrison (November) who had his breakthrough in American Spectrum with Groove in 2000, and Jacob Kornbluth (The Best Thief InThe World), who played Spectrum in2001 with Haiku Tunnel.
Meanwhile in the documentarycompetition section, some famous names in the medium like Oscar winner JessicaYu (Breathing Lessons) and RobertStone (American Babylon) showcasenew work alongside newcomers to documentaries including Alison Maclean, thedirector of Crush and Jesus'sSon. Subjects range from Scrabble tofast food, Imelda Marcos to Calcutta's red light district, from the executionof the Rosenbergs to death row inmates whose executions were indefinitelypostponed.
Festival director GeoffreyGilmore said yesterday that the Sundance films next year represent the firstwave of pictures conceived and shot after 9/11 and he said he detects a movefrom US films in the 90s which reflected the "arrogant insularity of America atthe time." "These films are of a world where Americans are not soself-assured," he explained to Screendaily yesterday. "Themes like search forknowledge, loss of memory, alienation and loss of control are almostreminiscent of film-making of the 1950s during the McCarthy era where life wasdisrupted."
Ironically, one of the documentaries, the highly anticipated Heir To An Execution deals with two victims of that era - the Rosenbergs. The film is one of the 12 shortlisted for this year's documentary Academy Award and was made by the Rosenbergs' granddaughter Ivy Meeropol.
In the dramatic section, Gilmore points to films incompetition like November, Primerand One Point O as representativeof this new anxiety. "The heroes are riddled with anxiety," he says, "and aretrying to make sense of a loss of control. This mood is not just in a darknessof subject matter but in the sensibility of the films."
"Film-makers aren't justshowing that, say, paedophilia exists. They are asking what it means," addsprogramming director John Cooper. "They are presenting these moral quandarieswithout being pointed as to the answers."
Among these films ofalienation and discomfort are Munch's Harry And Max, which looks at the incestuous affair between twobrothers, Nicole Kassell's The Woodsman in which Kevin Bacon plays a convicted child molestor struggling tore-enter society and Mean Creek,a dark teen story which Gilmore compares to River's Edge.
Gilmore stressed that thegoal of Sundance was to represent the full range and multiple agenda of theindependent film-making world and defended the fact that some of the films indramatic competition feature famous actors like Bacon, Billy Bob Thornton,Nathalie Portman, Courteney Cox and Naomi Watts.
"Years ago, in my efforts tomake competition a level playing field, we worked on the principle that if afilm had a star in it, it had to be a premiere and could not go in competition,but that's not the case anymore," he said. "The independent world has evolvedand it's our job to respond to it. None of these films have a distributor yet."
Similarly, he says thatthere are no strict criteria as to whether competition should only includefirst-time film-makers. "Chris Munch is not someone who has broken out," hesays. "You don't see him moving to Warner Bros and producing a movie for JoelSilver. He is of the independent world and we have included his fourth filmbecause of the nature of the aesthetic and the nature of the film-making."
Premieres, World cinema,World documentaries, Midnight movies, Native Forum and Frontier will beannounced tomorrow.
The Best Thief In TheWorld
Dir: Jacob Kornbluth
Cast: Mary-Louise Parker, AudraMcDonald, Michael Silverman, David Warshofsky, Lois Smith, Margo Martindale
11-year-old Izzy breaks into apartments
Book Of Love
Dir: Alan Brown
Cast: Frances O'Connor, Simon Baker,Gregory Smith, Bryce Dallas Howard
On a hot summer day in suburbia, a high school history teacher and hisrestless wife befriend a lonely, enigmatic teenage boy. This unlikelyfriendship leads to unexpected consequences.
Brother To Brother
Dir: Rodney Evans
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Roger Robinson, Larry Gillard Jr, Aunjanue Ellis, Duane Boutte, Daniel Sunjata, Alex Burns, Ray Ford.
An elderly luminary of the HarlemRenaissance inspires a gay, African-American art student as he struggles tofind his place in the world.
Dir: Ray McKinnon
Cast: Lisa Blount, Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Fickes, Walt Goggins, KathrynHowell, Max Kasch, Harry J. Lennix, Ray McKinnon, Harry Dean Stanton
Joe was in prison for drugs and a car accident that left his wife Chrystalbadly injured and their child missing in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas. AfterJoe comes home, they must try to come to terms with their history.
Down To The Bone
Dir: Debra Granik
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Hugh Dillon, Clint Jordan, Caridad De La Luz
In a small town in upstateNew York, a woman struggles to raise two sons, keep her stale marriagetogether, and manage a secret cocaine habit.
Cast: Marguerite Moreau, Brian F. O'Byrne, Naveen Andrews, Emily Deschanel,John Rothman, Caroline Goodall, DB Woodside, Lanette Ware
Jamie, a sharp-witted, sexy youngwoman, is a self-described "jerk magnet." When she finds herself in a lovetriangle with two seemingly decent men, she struggles to make the right choice.Easy also played at the 2003Toronto International Film Festival.
Dir: Enid Zentelis
Cast: Cara Seymour, Mary Kay Place, Bruce Davison, Noah Fleiss, Gary Farmer,Lynn Cohen, Addie Land
A young girl seduced by a boy'saffluent, seemingly idyllic family goes to unusual extremes to gain acceptanceand escape her poverty-stricken home-life.
Dir: Zach Braff
Cast: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Ian Holm, Jean Smart, RobLiebman, Method Man
Andrew Largeman returns home for thefirst time in ten years to attend his mother's funeral. While home, he isreunited with the world he left behind and meets a girl who will change hislife.
Harry And Max
Dir: Christopher Munch
Cast: Bryce Johnson, Cole Williams, Rain Phoenix, Tom Gilroy, MichellePhillips, Justin Zachary
Maria Full Of Grace (HBO Films)
Dir: Joshua Marston
Cast: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Yenny Paola Vega, Guilied Lopez, Jhon Alex Toro,Patricia Rae, Orlando Tobon
Maria Alvarez, a defiant17-year-old, rural Colombian girl, undergoes a harrowing journey when shenaively agrees to transport a half-kilo of heroin to the US.
Dir: Jared Hess
Cast: Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez, Aaron Ruell, Tina Marjorino, HaylieDuff, Diedrich Bader, Sandy Martin, Shondrella Avery, Ellen Dubin, EmilyKennard, Carmen Brady
Napoleon Dynamite is stuck in ruralIdaho, navigating his adolescence in moonboots. When Napoleon's social lifehits a new low, he uses his dance and ninja skills to triumph over adversity.
Dir: Greg Harrison
Cast: Courteney Cox, James LeGros, Michael Ealy, Nora Dunn, Nick Offerman, AnneArcher
Photographer Sophie Jacobs'boyfriend is tragically shot to death in a convenience store. As she strugglesto cope, her life splinters, and the line between fantasy and reality becomesalarmingly blurred.
One Point O (Int'l sales: Armada Pictures)
Dirs: Jeff Renfroe &Marteinn Thorsson
Cast: Jeremy Sisto, Deborah Unger, Udo Kier, Lance Henriksen
A young computer programmerdiscovers he has become the test subject for a dangerous experiment incorporate advertising.
Dir: Shane Carruth
Cast: David Sullivan, Shane Carruth, Carrie Crawford, Casey Gooden, AnandUpadhyaya
Two small-time entrepreneurs are inover their heads when a side effect of their latest invention provides morethan they ever expected and quickly defines the limit of their trust.
We Don't Live HereAnymore (Int'l sales:Renaissance Films)
Dir: John Curran
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause, Naomi Watts
An exploration into a married man'saffair with his best friend's wife and the subtle machinations that ultimatelylead to calamitous emotional entanglements The film is based on stories byAndre Dubus, whose short story Killings was turned into the Sundance hit In The Bedroom. Australia's Curran, who broke throughinternationally with 1998 movie Praise, directs from an adaptation by Larry Gross (Prozac Nation, BeautifulCountry).
Dir: Nicole Kassell
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Benjamin Bratt, Mos Def, Eve, MichaelShannon, David Alan Grier
A haunting tale of a convicted childmolester (Bacon) who attempts to rebuild his life despite the odds societyplaces against him
A Place Of Our Own
Dir: Stanley Nelson
A rare inside look at the values andculture of the Black upper middle class as it explores the summer resort communityof Oak Bluffs on the island of Martha's Vineyard.
Born Into Brothels (HBO/Cinemax)
Dirs: Ross Kauffman &Zana Briski
In the underworld of Calcutta's redlight district, the children of prostitutes embark on a transformationaljourney with photographer Zana Briski, who teaches them to document their ownlives.
Chisholm 72 - Unbought & Unbossed
Dir: Shola Lynch
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm madea bid for the US presidency in 1972. Shunned by the political establishment,her campaign trail adventures were frenzied, fierce and fundamentally right on.
Dirs: Katy Chevigny &Kirsten Johnson
A documentary about two landmarkevents that resulted in the suspension of the death penalty in America, and theinmates who were granted a second chance at life.
Dir: Ondi Timoner
The story of two revolutionaryrock'n'roll bands, The Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Onerises to success, the other is driven towards obsession and self-destruction.
Dirs: Catherine Tambini &Carlos Sandoval
The hate-based attempted murder oftwo Mexican day labourers catapaults the Long Island twon of Farmingville intonational headlines, unmasking a new front line of the border wars: suburbia.
Dir: Barak Goodman
The interweaving stories of twoheavyweight boxers America's Joe Louis and Germany's Max Schmeling, on the eveof World War Two, in one of the most famous boxing matches ever held.
Heir To An Execution (HBO/Cinemax)
Dir: Ivy Meeropol
In 1953, Ethel and Julius Rosenbergwere executed by the US Government at the height of McCarthyism and theanticommunist hysteria. Fifty years later, their granddaughter revealsstartling new discoveries about who the Rosenbergs really were. Among theproducers is Marc Levin, the director of Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winner Slam.
Home Of The Brave
Dir: Paola di Florio
A blue collar American familystruggles with the unresolved death of their mother, Viola Liuzzo
I Like Killing Flies
Dir: Matt Mahurin
Shopsin's, an eccentric family-runrestaurant in New York's Greenwich Village, provides a backdrop forphilosophical ruminations, community bonding and exceptional cooking.
Dir: Ramona S Diaz
A look at former Philippine FirstLady Imelda Marcos and the intersection of personal and public power, myth, andillusion.
In The Realms Of TheUnreal
Dir: Jessica Yu
Yu, who won the 1997 Oscar for bestdocumentary short with Breathing Lessons and then made Living Museum,returns to Sundance with this exploration into the life and work of HenryDarger, reclusive janitor by day, visionary artist by night, whose 15,000 wordnovel details the exploits of seven angelic sisters engaged in a holy war.
Neverland: The RiseAnd Fall Of The Symbionese Liberation Army
Dir: Robert Stone
An account of America's mostnotorious and flamboyant domestic terrorist group and their infamous 1974kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.
Persons Of Interest
Dirs: Alison Maclean &Tobias Perse
The US Government's War on Terrorismsubjected Muslim Americans to arbitrary arrest, secret detention and solitaryconfinement. This film allows the victims to tell their own stories. Macleanpreviously directed the dramatic features, Crush and Jesus' Son.
Super Size Me
Dir: Morgan Spurlock
Why are Americans so fat' Atongue-in-cheek
Dirs: Eric Chaikin & Julian Petrillo
For these players, Scrabble is morethan a domestic nicety
CSA: Confederate StatesOf America
Dir: Kevin Willmott
Cast: Evamarii Johnson, Rupert Pate, Larry Peterson
This speculative Ken Burns-esque pseudo-documentary looks at an Americanhistory in which the South won the Civil War, creating discussion over whetherthey, in essence, actually did.
Dir: Mark Milgard
Cast: Vincent Kartheiser, TarynManning, Arliss Howard, Mare Winningham, Blake Heron, Michelle Forbes, MarshallBell, Shawn Reaves
In a small town of rollingfields and endless skies, an isolate 15-year-old boy meets a sweet and troubledgirl. Together they find what they are looking for but with tragicconsequences.
Dir: David Sampliner
This follows the lives of three menwho deal with our unpleasant business: a septic tank pumper; a bull semencollector and an embalmer
Everyday People (HBO Films)
Dir: Jim McKay
When a Brooklyn neighbourhood restaurantis threatened with closing due to gentrification, the lives of the employeesare thrown into turmoil. From the director of Our Song.
Dir: Matthew Bonifacio
Cast: Miriam Shor, Michael Aronov, Sharon Angela, Carmine Famiglietti, SusanVaron, Lou Martini, Fil Formicola
The story of a 315-pound man and hisstruggles to overcome food addiction. After moving to the country, he proceedsto lose more than 100 pounds
Let The Church SayAmen
Dir: David Petersen
A documentary about a small churchbecomes a powerful place for a community breaking free of its urban struggle inone of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Nation's Capital.
Dir: Jacob Aaron Estes
Cast: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scot Mechiowicz, Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck,Carly Schroeder
A group of kids conspire to play aprank on the school bulley, with tragic emotional, legal and moralconsequences.
Metallica: Some KindOf Monster
Dirs: Joe Berlinger &Bruce Sinofsky
While recording their first originalstudio album in six years, heavy metal icons Metallica undergo group therapy tohelp them through their struggles with addiction, fatherhood, backlash fromfans and near-total disintegration. Another cinema-verite documentary from theduo behind Brother's Keeper and ParadiseLost.
Dir: Harry Davis
Cast: Wood Harris, Roger Guenveur Smith, N'Bushe Wright
Public defender Tony Smalls iscalled upon to defend his sister's boyfriend, the reputed leader of thenotorious MVP gang in Detroit. The trial becomes a battleground to determinewho really controls the fate of young black men in a criminal justice systemincreasingly privatized by multi-national corporations.
Dir: Chris Kentis
Cast: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Estelle Lau.
Based on the true story ofan American couple who disappear while on holiday after a series ofmiscommunications on a diving expedition, with terrifying consequences.
Dir: Eric Weber
Cast: Joe Pantoliano, Jennifer Tilly, Boyd Gaines, Bronson Pinchot, PeterGerety, Matthew Arkin, Barbara Barrie, Polly Draper, Paulina Porizkova,Patricia Hearst.
The story of five male baby boomers who all nearing the age of fifty. Agathering of the old gang triggers intense feelings of inadequacy and "secondbestness" among friends.
Dir: Christian Johnson
Cast: George Calil, Wali Razaqi
An American journalist sets off toAfghanistan one year after September 11th, searching for the truthabout the hunt for Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.
Dir: Jessica Sharzer
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Hallee Hirsch, Steve Zahn
Based on the award-winning book byLaurie Halse Anderson, Speak relatesthe story of a young girl struggling to recover from a terrible traumaticevent.