Sundance Film Festivalprogramming director Geoffrey Gilmore promised next year's influentialevent would feature "among the most provocative and challenging films wehave ever seen at the festival" even in the face of all the commercial hardships that independent filmmakers are currently confronting
Unveiling the Dramatic andDocumentary Competitions, as well as the films that comprise the AmericanSpectrum and American Showcase sidebars, Gilmore acknowledged that the funding crisis affecting indie cinema right now had pushed the selection process tothe deadline limit. Nonetheless, he remainedupbeat about Sundance's commitment to broaden access to globalfilmmakers.
"This has been the latest, in 13 years of doing thisfestival, that we put this programme together. It is a reflection of howdifficult it is to get films made these days," Gilmore said. "Acouple of years ago independent films were flourishing but it was hard thisyear. A lot of these films are the result of the creative tenacity and passionof the filmmakers - these films are the most distinctive and diversegroup of films I have ever seen, particularly in terms of Dramatic Competitionand Premieres."
The remaining categories,including the high-profile Premiere section and World Cinema, will be announcedtomorrow.
This year's DramaticCompetition features a noticeably star-studded line-up of films from largelyuntested directors, among them the Kevin Spacey-produced The United StatesOf Leland , Wayne Kramer's TheCooler and the latest digital videoproduction from New York's InDigEnt fimmaking collective, Peter Hedges' PiecesOf April.
"This goes back to thetrend of actors trying to find roles and spread their own wings," Gilmoresaid. "The independent arena is the place to do that and it holds truefor actors as well as directors. That is what has happened here."
Gilmore highlighted therange of storytelling here, from The Station Agent, Tom McCarthy's account of a world-wearydwarf's attempts to find solace in New Jersey, through to ToddGraff's musical Camp, and PartyMonster, Fenton Bailey and RandyBarbato's style-heavy account of "club kid" MichaelAlig's killing of his drug dealer cum roommate, which stars MacaulayCulkin.
Perhaps the best knownfilmmaker in competition is David Gordon Green, whose acclaimed debut film GeorgeWashington proved to be a festivalfavourite in the US even without playing Sundance. His competition entry, AllThe Real Girls, is being released bySony Pictures Classics.
Gilmore noted theDocumentary Competition had a distinct taste for the 1960s and 1970s. One ofthe most popular draws could well be A Decade Under The Influence, which Ted Demme was working on when he died from aheart attack in January during the last Sundance Film Festival. It chroniclesthe decade as a crucial turning point in American cinema and was co-directed byRichard LaGravenese. Others include Tom Dowd And The Language Of Music, which charts the recording engineer'scollaborations with Eric Clapton, Otis Redding and the Alman Brothers. BrotherOutside: The Life Of Bayard Ruskinconcerns itself with a key player in the Civil Rights movement.
The non-competitive AmericanSpectrum section mostly features work by first-time directors, including CivilBrand by Neema Barnette, a dramaabout black female prisoners who fight an abusive private prison system, andthe documentary Born Rich byJohnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson, about the lives of children of the"insanely rich".
While the American Showcasestrand features titles that have already played the festival circuit, thereshould be enough to hold the attention with entries that include MattDillon's directorial debut and Cambodian-based thriller, City OfGhosts; Tom Wilkinson and JessicaLange pairing up in Jane Anderson's sex change drama Normal and Gregor Jordan's Buffalo Soldiers, which focuses on the criminal antics of US troopsstationed in Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Overall, there were 2,012feature submissions compared to 1,740 last year. The selection committee alsoreceived many more short film submissions, with 3,345 compared to 2,100 lastyear. This has been whittled down to 120 features and 82 shorts. 34% ofsubmissions originated in digital format.
Commenting on the continuingdistribution and exhibition crisis in independent cinema, Gilmore said:"There is a lot more to do. We sometimes forget the degree of exposure weget for a film does not translate into big audiences on a public run. We arestill in the position where the studio content dominates the market. There is alot of growth that is possible with independents and international cinema. Thecrisis in independent cinema continues to be in the areas of distribution andexhibition: it is very hard to find access to audiences and it continues to bea struggle for independent distributors."
In a bid to accommodateinternational filmmakers and industry professionals, Gilmore said the salesoffice would be returning to Park City. "We are fully aware that it issometimes taken for granted that people can figure out how to navigate around Park City - Americans have it figured out but a lot of the rest of the worlddoes not." He added that the next few years would probably see theintroduction of market screenings for international buyers.
The festival headquartershave moved from the Shadow Ridge hotel to The Marriot near The ProspectorSquare cinema, which Gilmore said afforded a more cordial ambience where peoplecould meet and discuss business. Sundance House and the Filmmakers' Lodgewill be active again. In addition, four new state-of-the-art cinemas each withstadium seating for 170 people will be ready for action in the now renovatedHoliday Theaters.DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Dir: David GordonGreen
From the directorof the acclaimed George Washington comes this film set in a small southerntown, where a young man, who has slept with almost every girl in the county,falls in love with his best friend's little sister, a virgin. PaulSchneider, Zooey Deschanel, Patricia Clarkson and Benjamin Mouton star. SonyPictures Classics will release domestically.
Dirs: ShariSpringer and Robert Pulcini
An original mixof fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman HarveyPekar. Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis and Judah Friedlander star in this film thatwas produced by the old Good Machine for HBO.
DIE MOMMIE DIE
Dir: Mark Rucker
Based on the hitcult play, an ex-pop singer kills her much-hated husband to be with her younglover. Her daughter plots Electra-like revenge. Charles Busch, Frances Conroy,Natasha Lyonne, Jason Priestley, Philip Baker Hall and Nora Dunn star.
THE MUDGE BOY
Dir: Michael Burke
A father and sonin rural America lose the most important person in their lives and ultimatelyfind each other. Vincent D'Onofrio, Emile Hirsch and Richard Jenkins star in afilm that also involves Stanley Tucci as a producer.
Dir: Joey Curtis
An exploration ofyouth rivalry, love, and war, set against the backdrop of hip hop and illegalstreet car racing in Southern California. Brihanna Hernandez, Victor Larios,Robert Beaumont and Greg Leone star.
A 13-year-oldgirl's relationship with her mother is put to the test as she discovers drugs,sex, and petty crime in the company of her cool but troubled best friend. HollyHunter, Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed star.
THE UNITED STATES OF LELAND
Dir: Matthew RyanHoge
A brilliant,troubled teenager kills a retarded boy. His prison teacher and family are leftto unravel the meaning of the crime. Ryan Gosling, Don Cheadle, Chris Klein,Kevin Spacey, Jena Malone, Lena Olin and Michelle Williams star. TheSpacey-produced film is being handled by MDP Worldwide.
THE STATION AGENT
Dir: Tom McCarthy
Finbar Mcbride, adwarf, is tired of being the centre of unsolicited attention. After taking upresidence in an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey, he finds himselfdrawn into the lives of two other people living there: an artist and hot dogstand owner. Patricia Clarkson, Peter Dinklage and Bobby Canavale star.
WHAT ALICE FOUND
Dir: A Dean Bell
Adown-on-her-luck young woman is taken in by an overly friendly RV couple andintroduced to a truckstop underworld. Judith Ivy stars.
Dir: Todd Graff
A musical comedyset at summer camp where aspiring young actors, singers and dancers chasedreams, agents and each other. Fortissimo Film Sales is handling sales on thisfilm, one of two involving New York's Killer Films as a producer. IFCFilms co-produced.
Dir: Wayne Kramer
An IvyLeague-educated man is sent in by the mob to revamp the old-school approach torunning a casino. William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello, Shawn Hatosy,Paul Sorvino and Joey Fatone star in this film, one of two films made byContentFilm.
RHYTHM OF THE SAINTS
A street-smartNew York girl fights back from danger in her own home with the help of her bestfriends. Sarita Choudhury, Daniella Alonso and Ryan Donowho star.
PIECES OF APRIL
Dir: Peter Hedges
April nervouslyprepares Thanksgiving dinner for her family, who consider her the black sheepof the family. However, her relatives face their own dilemmas during the longdrive in from the suburbs. Katie Holmes, Oliver Platt, Patricia Clarkson, DerekLuke, Alison Pill and Sean Hayes star in this latest low-budget digital videoproduction from InDigEnt, the filmmaking collective behind last year'sSundance sensations, Personal Velocity and Tadpole.
Dirs: FentonBailey and Randy Barbato
The true story ofMichael Alig, an infamous club kid whose life changed forever after he killedhis drug dealer/roommate. Stars Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green, Wilson Cruz,Natasha Lyonne, Marilyn Manson, Dylan McDermott, Chloë Sevigny and JohnStamos. Christine Vachon's Killer Films co-produced this with Ed Pressmanand John Schmidt's ContentFilm which is handling US distribution.Fortissimo Film Sales has international sales.
Dir: Mark Decena
A repressedcomputer animator fills a void in his life with an artificial creature andcomes face to face with love. Jonathan Livingston stars.
THE TECHNICAL WRITER
Dir: Scott Saunders
An urban hermit gets dragged kickingand screaming out of his shell by gregarious neighbours. Michael Harris, TatumO'Neal and William Forsythe star in this film from the filmmaker who won theSomeone to Watch prize at the Independent Spirit Awards four years ago.DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Capturing theFriedmans explores the nature of family relations through the prism of thestrange and tragic true story of an American family indicted for sex crimesagainst children.
MY FLESH AND BLOOD
My Flesh andBlood follows Susan Tom of Fairfield, California, and her 11 adopted specialneeds children.
THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND
Dirs: Sam Greenand Bill Siegel
The remarkablestory of The Weather Underground, radical activists of the 1960s, and ofradical politics at its best and most disastrous.
WHAT I WANT MY WORDS TO DO TO YOU
Created by: JudithKatz, Madeleine Gavin, and Gary Sunshine
A look atplaywright Eve Ensler's (The Vagina Monologues) writing workshop inside BedfordHills Correctional Facility for Women. Featuring Nerys Arias, Cynthia Berry,Kathy Boudin, Judith Clark, and others. With Glenn Close, Eve Ensler, RosiePerez, Marisa Tomei.
THE SAME RIVER TWICE
Dir: Robb Moss
From peyote toProzac, a sensitive portrait of five former hippies now approaching middle age.
BUKOWSKI: BORN INTO THIS
The life of latecult author Charles Bukowski.
BROTHER OUTSIDER: THE LIFE OF BAYARD RUSTIN
Dirs: Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer
A documentaryabout Bayard Rustin - one of the first "freedom riders",adviser to Martin Luther King and A Philip Randolph and organiser of the Marchon Washington - who was denied his place in the limelight for the solereason that he was gay.
THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL
A documentaryexamining the 1955 murder of a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago while hevisited relatives in Mississippi and the broad impact of his death, hisfuneral, and the subsequent trial and acquittal of his accused killers.
Dir: Steve James
The HoopDreams filmmaker,who long ago served as Stevie's Big Brother mentor, decides to catch up withthe grown-up Stevie. As the story of Stevie's impoverished, trailer-park lifeis revealed, the filmmaker and the audience get more than they bargained for.Lions Gate acquired the domestic rights at this year's Toronto FilmFestival
THE EDUCATION OF GORE VIDAL
The life and workof Gore Vidal, a contrarian and wickedly funny man, are explored as this documentaryjoins him at his cliffside villa in Ravello, Italy.
A CERTAIN KIND OF DEATH
Dirs: Blue Hadaeghand Grover Babcock
Unblinking andunsettling, this documentary lays bare a mysterious process that goes on allaround us - what happens to people who die with no next of kin'
STATE OF DENIAL
An unprecedented and unflinching look at how the citizens of South Africa areliving with the AIDS epidemic, given the climate of governmental confusion andneglect.
Dirs: Chana Gazitand David Steward
A documentaryrecounting the development of the birth control pill.
ROBERT CAPA: IN LOVE AND WAR
A documentaryabout the life of famed war photographer Robert Capa.
A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Dirs: RichardLaGravenese and Ted Demme
An IFC-produceddocumentary examining the decade of the 1970s as a turning point in Americancinema. Some of today's best filmmakers interview the influential directors ofthat time. This was the last film by Ted Demme, who died of a heart attack lastJanuary.
TOM DOWD AND THE LANGUAGE OF MUSIC
Dir: Mark Moormann
A documentaryabout Tom Dowd, an innovative recording engineer and producer of noted albumsby John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Otis Redding, Eric Clapton, the AllmanBrothers and many others.
A FOREIGN AFFAIR
Two men lookingfor household help after their Ma passes away decide to join a Russian romancetour to find and bring home a traditionally-minded wife. David Arquette and TimBlake Nelson star.
Dir: Patrick Coyle
When a man turnsto writing detective stories as an escape from his court-ordered sobriety, theline between reality and fiction blurs. Based on the director's award-winningplay of the same name. Mo Collins, Patrick Coyle, Sarah Agnew and Brent Doylestar.
MILK AND HONEY
Dir: Joe Maggio
Over one night inNew York City, lives of disparate strangers intersect by fate and circumstance.
In a splitnarrative, a young man follows two paths: his father's dream of him becoming acop, and his own dream of becoming a rapper. Cast includes Rahman Jamaal, KazzWingate, Toby Howard, featuring Coolio and Brian McKnight.
CRY FUNNY HAPPY
Dir: Sam Neave
Six characters ata crossroads in their lives come together for a thirtieth birthday party thatwill change them forever. Tif Luckenbill, Marjan Neshat and Amy Redford star.
Dir: Mark Illsley
A comedy/dramaabout four college friends who become small time bookies on campus only to findtheir world spinning dangerously out of control when they attract the attentionof the local Mafia. Nick Stahl, Johnny Galecki, Lukas Haas and Rachael LeighCook star in this film from Illsley, whose Happy Texas was the subject of amulti-million dollar distribution deal with Miramax during Sundance. .
A tale ofimprisoned, young Black women who empower themselves by fighting against abuseand private ownership of prisons for profit. LisaRaye, N'Bushe Wright, Mos Def,Da Brat and MC Lite star.
Dir: Jamie Johnson
A documentary onchildren of the insanely rich, directed by one of their own, Johnson &Johnson heir Jamie Johnson. Ivanka Trump, Georgina Bloomberg and SI Newhouseare featured.
THE BOYS OF 2ND STREET PARK
Dir: Dan Klores& Ron Berger
A documentaryabout a generation told through the eyes of five men as they recall theirchildhoods in the 1960s.
LOVE AND DIANE
This film, whichplayed at the New York Film Festival, follows a recovering crack addict and hertroubled daughter as they navigate the obstacles of joblessness, parenthood,welfare and public housing.
WHITE OF WINTER
A woman searchesfor a lost child that may only exist in her mind. Zoe Poledouris, Bret Roberts,Tamara Zook and Joseph Chase star.
CITY OF GHOSTS
Dir: Matt Dillon
Matt Dillon'sdirectorial debut has a con man (Dillon) on the run from the law who travels toCambodia to collect his share in an insurance scam but gets more than hebargained for. Dillon, James Caan, Stellan Skarsgard, Natascha McElhone andGerard Depardieu star. MGM will distribute in the US and Capitol Films arehandling sales.
A straight-lacedson returns home to his pot-smoking, free-wheeling Los Angeles record producermother with his rich fiancee in tow. Frances McDormand, Christian Bale,Kate Beckinsale and Natascha McElhone star in this film, which premiered in Cannesas part of Directors Fortnight. Sony Pictures Classics has US rights with Focushanding international sales on this, Cholodenko's follow-up to HighArt.
THE MALDONADO MIRACLE
Dir: Salma Hayek
Hayek'sdirectorial debut is set in a small dying town where the residents' faith istested when a statue of Jesus seems to be shedding real tears of blood.Ruben Blades, Christina Cabot, Peter Fonda and Frank Gerrish star.Showtime Networks will distribute in the US.
Dir: Gregor Jordan
A criminal subcultureoperates among US soldiers stationed in West Germany just before the fall ofthe Wall. Joaquin Phoenix, Anna Paquin, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Dean Stockwelland Elizabeth McGovern star. Miramax will distribute in the US with Focushandling international sales.
RAISING VICTOR VARGAS
Dir: Peter Sollett
A Lower East Sideteenager struggles to find some sanity while surrounded by an eccentricgrandmother, a crazy new girlfriend, and a longing younger brother. VictorRasuk, Judy Marte, Melonie Diaz, Altagracia Guzman and Silvestre Rasuk star inthis film that was known as Long Way Home when itfirst screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year. SamuelGoldwyn/Fireworks Pictures will distribute in the US.
Dir: Jane Anderson
After 25 years ofmarriage, Roy (Tom Wilkinson) surprises his wife (Jessica Lange) and thecommunity when he announces his desire for a sex change operation. HaydenPanettiere and Clancy Brown also star. HBO has US rights.