The directorial debuts of Paddy Considine, Vera Farmiga and Barry Levinson’s son Sam Levinson as well as new work from Sundance alumni James Marsh and Drake Doremus are among the Sundance 2011 competition line-up announced today [December 1].
Festival director John Cooper and director of programming Trevor Groth and their team have assembled a provocative roster in the US and world cinema dramatic and documentary competition strands – traditionally the first to be unveiled.
Sundance kicks off on January 20 2011 and the ebullient selection includes Considine’s redemption drama Tyrannosaur (pictured) featuring Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan and Olivia Colman, as well as Farmiga’s drama Higher Ground and The Loved Ones, the younger Levinson’s all-star comedy about a chaotic wedding starring Demi Moore, Ellen Barkin and Thomas Haden Church – one of two maiden productions from Mandalay Vision to screen at Sundance in January. The second will be announced tomorrow.
Ben Foster plays a cartographer befriending Armenian locals in HERE, while Toronto breakout Juno Temple stars in the drama Little Birds and Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle team up in John Michael McDonagh’s Irish comedy thriller The Guard. Doremus’ follow-up to last year’s Douchebag is the romance Like Crazy starring the hot young cast of Indie Spirit nominee Jennifer Lawrence from last year’s acclaimed Winter’s Bone, Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones.
Oscar winning documentary maker James Marsh returns following his 2008 entry Man On Wire with Project Nim and audiences will get a chance to see Asif Kapadia’s documentary Senna about the late Formula One legend Ayrton Senna.
In their second year in charge Cooper and Groth have chosen once again to dispense with a single opening night film, opting instead to get underway with narrative and documentary titles from the US and world cinema sections as well as a shorts programme. World cinema dramatic title The Guard will be one of the films and Marsh’s Project Nim is in the mix to represent the world documentary section. The complete set will be announced next week.
“The festival is a challenge to narrowly define,” Cooper said. “It is all at once exciting, fun, crazy, engaging, visceral, and sometimes even painful. We can explain storylines, we can share what we know of each artist’s unique journey, but ultimately what we will experience for 10 days in January is different for each of us. It’s the spark from the filmmakers – their passion – that brings 200 unique worlds to life and, in turn, ignites the audience. The films, conversations, encounters are there to experience. And that’s what makes Sundance so magical.”
“Knowing how difficult it is to get a film made anywhere, and given that the number of submissions was higher than ever, it is a testament to the passion and creativity of film-makers everywhere that they are able to preserve and stay true to their vision.” Groth added. “The calibre of films submitted this year was exceptional and made for exhilarating discussion among the programmers. Now that discussion gets turned over to the audience.”
Cooper, Groth and their cohorts selected 115 features representing 30 countries. Forty film-makers are first-timers and 25 are in competition. The line-up was culled from 3,812 feature submissions composed of 1,943 US and 1,869 international entries. Ninety-four films will be world premieres.
The festival runs from January 20-30. Selections for the Premieres, new category Documentary Premieres, Park City At Midnight, low-budget strand NEXT, Spotlight, New Frontier and Native Showcase will be announced tomorrow.
US DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Sixteen films were selected from 1,102 submissions. Every one is a world premiere.
Director: Mike Cahill. Screenwriters: Cahill and Brit Marling
On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, a tragedy irrevocably alters the lives of two strangers who begin an unlikely love affair.
Cast: William Mapother, Brit Marling, Jordan Baker, Robin Lord Taylor, Flint Beverage.
Director: Amy Wendel. Screenwriters: Daniel Meisel and Wendel
A high school senior in a forgotten town has earned admission to the University Of Texas At Austin but can’t afford to go. Her one shot is a scholarship for winning the State Powerlifting Championship.
Cast: Corina Calderon, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Joseph Julian Soria, Julia Vera, Julio Cesar Cedillo.
Director and screenwriter: Maryam Keshavar
A wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teenager’s growing sexual rebellion and her brother’s dangerous obsession.
Cast: Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazemy, Reza Sixo Safai, Soheil Parsa, Nasrin Pakkho.
Gun Hill Road
Director and screenwriter: Rashaad Ernesto Green
After three years in prison, Enrique is back in his beloved Bronx, back in the arms of an estranged wife and back in the life of his teenage son, who is stumbling towards a transformation that will put the bonds of their embattled family to the test.
Cast: Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, Harmony Santana, Vanessa Aspillaga.
Director: Braden King. Screenwriters: King and Dani Valent
On assignment to create a new, more accurate satellite survey of Armenia, an American cartographer forms a powerful bond with an Armenian expatriate and art photographer.
Cast: Ben Foster and Lubna Azabal with Narek Nersisyan, Yuri Kostanyan and Sofik Sarkisyan.
Director: Vera Farmiga. Screenwriters: Carolyn S Briggs and Tim Metcalfe
A frustrated young mother turns to a fundamentalist community for answers, but after years of dogma and loss, she must find the courage to ask the questions that will help her reclaim her life.
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, John Hawkes, Dagmara Dominczyk, Norbert Leo Butz.
Director and screenwriter: Gavin Wiesen
Quirky, rebellious George has no ambitions other than to cut his next class. But one day, one girl gives him the perfect reason to figure out who he really is.
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Elizabeth Reaser with Rita Wilson and Blair Underwood.
Director and screenwriter: Matthew Chapman
Perched on a ledge, a man says he must jump by noon, while a cop races against time to get to the bottom of it. Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson and Terrence Howard with Christopher Gorham.
Director: Drake. Screenwriters: Doremus and Ben York Jones
A young American man and a young British girl meet in college and fall in love. Their love is tested when she is required to leave the country and they must face the challenges of a long-distance relationship.
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston.
Director and screenwriter: Elgin James
Amid the stark landscape of the Salton Sea, two 15-year-old girls test the limits of their friendship when one follows the other to Los Angeles, only to discover that the boredom of home may be better than learning to survive in the big city. Cast: Juno Temple, Kay Panabaker, Leslie Mann, Kate Bosworth, Kyle Gallner.
The Loved Ones
Director and screenwriter: Sam Levinson
A pair of reckless siblings are dragged into a chaotic family wedding by their overwrought mother.
Cast: Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth, Jeffrey DeMunn, Ellen Barkin, Ellen Burstyn, Thomas Haden Church.
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Director and screenwriter: Sean Durkin
Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Brady Corbet, Hugh Dancy, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson.
On the Ice
Director and screenwriter: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
On the snow-covered Arctic tundra, two teenagers try to get away with murder.
Cast: Josiah Patkotak, Frank Qutuq Irelan, Teddy Kyle Smith, Adamina Kerr, Sierra Jade Sampson.
Director and screenwriter: Dee Rees
When forced to choose between losing her best friend or destroying her family, a Bronx teenager juggles conflicting identities and endures heartbreak in a desperate search for sexual expression.
Cast: Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Kim Wayans, Charles Parnell, Aasha Davis.
Director and screenwriter: Jeff Nichols
A working-class husband and father questions whether his terrifying dreams of an apocalyptic storm signal something real to come or the onset of an inherited mental illness he’s feared his whole life.
Cast: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Kathy Baker.
Director: Azazel Jacobs. Screenwriters: Patrick Dewitt and Jacobs
Orphaned to an uncle who is fading away, mercilessly teased by his peers and roundly ignored by his teachers, Terri is alienated and alone. When the dreaded vice-principal sees something of himself in Terri, they establish a friendship which opens Terri up to the possibility that life is not something to be endured, but something to be shared, and even enjoyed.
Cast: Jacob Wysocki, John C. Reilly, Creed Bratton, Olivia Crocicchia, Bridger Zadina.
US DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Sixteen films were selected from 841 submissions. Every one is a world premiere.
Beats, Rhymes And Life
Director: Michael Rapaport
The story of the rise and influence of one of the most innovative and influential hip hop bands of all time, the collective known as A Tribe Called Quest.
BEING ELMO: A Puppeteer’s Journey
Director: Constance Marks
The Muppet Elmo is one of the most beloved characters among children across the globe. Meet the unlikely man behind the puppet – the heart and soul of Elmo – Kevin Clash.
Director: Cindy Meehl
In a story about the power of non-violence, master horse trainer Buck Brannaman uses principles of respect and trust to tame horses and inspire their human counterparts.
Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology
Director: Tiffany Shlain. Screenwriters: Shlain, Ken Goldberg, Carlton Evans and Sawyer Steele
A stream-of-consciousness ride through the interconnectedness of humankind, nature, progress and morality at the dawn of the 21st century.
Crime After Crime
Director: Yoav Potash
Debbie Peagler is a survivor of brutal domestic violence incarcerated for her connection to the murder of her abuser. Two decades later a pair of rookie land-use attorneys cut their teeth on her case, attracting global attention to the troubled intersection of domestic violence and criminal justice.
Director: Susan Saladoff
Following subjects whose lives have been devastated by an inability to access the courts, this film shows that many long-held beliefs about our civil justice system have been paid for by corporate America.
How To Die In Oregon
Director: Peter D Richardson
In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. How To Die In Oregon gently enters the lives of terminally ill Oregonians to illuminate the power of death with dignity.
If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front
Director: Marshall Curry
The Earth Liberation Front is a radical environmental group that the FBI calls America’s ‘number one domestic terrorist threat.’ Daniel McGowan, an ELF member, faces life in prison for two multi-million dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies. But who is really to blame?
The Last Mountain
Director: Bill Haney. Screenwriters: Haney and Peter Rhodes
A coal mining corporation and a tiny community vie for the last great mountain in Appalachia in a battle for the future of energy that affects us all.
Director: Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Screenwriters: Newsom and Jessica Congdon
Miss Representation uncovers how American mainstream media’s limited and disparaging portrayals of women contribute to the under-representation of women in power positions – creating another generation of women defined by youth, beauty and sexuality, and not by their capacity as leaders.
Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times
Director: Andrew Rossi. Screenwriters: Kate Novack and Rossi
Unprecedented access to the New York Times newsroom yields a complex view of the transformation of a media landscape fraught with both peril and opportunity.
The Redemption Of General Butt Naked
Directors: Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion
A brutal warlord who murdered thousands during Liberia’s horrific 14-year civil war renounces his violent past and reinvents himself as an Evangelist, facing those he once terrorised.
Resurrect Dead: The Mystery Of The Toynbee Tiles
Director: Jon Foy
An urban mystery unfurls as one man pieces together the surreal meaning of hundreds of cryptic tiled messages that have been appearing in city streets across the US and South America.
Sing Your Song
A film by Susanne Rostock
Most people know the lasting legacy of Harry Belafonte, the entertainer; this film unearths his significant contribution to and his leadership in the civil rights movement in America and to social justice globally.
Director: Morgan Neville
A musical journey tracing the lives and careers of James Taylor and Carole King, pillars of the Calfornia singer/songwriter scene, which converged in and around LA’s Troubadour Club in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
We Were Here
Director: David Weissman
A deep and reflective look at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco and how individuals rose to the occasion during the first years of this unimaginable crisis.
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Thirteen films were selected from 1,073 international narrative feature submissions.
Director: Dai Sako. Screenwriters: Sako and Naoki Kato).
After botching a speech on career guidance at a local high school, a depressed Zen monk with a heavy metal past realizes that only music can revive his spirit.
Cast: Suneohair, Rie Tomosaka, Manami Honjou, Ryouta Murai, Kaoru Kobayashi.
All Your Dead Ones (Todos Tus Muertos) (Colombia)
Director Carlos Moreno. Screenwriters: Alonso Torres and Moreno
One morning, a peasant wakes to find a pile of bodies in the middle of his crops. When he goes to the authorities, he quickly realises that the dead ones are a problem nobody wants to deal with.
Cast: Alvaro Rodriguez, Jorge Herrera, Martha Marquez, Harold Devasten, John Alex Castillo.
The Cinema Hold Up (Asalto Al Cine) (Mexico)
Director: Iria Gomez Concheiro. Screenwriters: Concheiro and Juan Pablo Gomez
Four childhood friends in Mexico’s Guerrero colony toy with the idea of robbing a cinema. Each hopes that the heist will hurtle them past life’s obstacles, only to realize that the caper risks the only thing they have: their friendship.
Cast: Gabino Rodriguez, Juan Pablo de Santiago, Angel Sosa, Paulina Avalos.
Few Days Of Respite (Quelque Jours De Repit) (Algeria-France)
Director and screenwriter: Amor Hakkar
A pair of gay men who have escaped from Iran seek safe harbor in a small French village, where a lonely middle-aged woman offers aid.
Cast: Marina Vlady, Samir Guesmi, Amor Hakkar.
The Guard (Ireland)
Director and screenwriter: John Michael McDonagh
A small-town cop in Ireland has a confrontational personality, a subversive sense of humor, a fondness for prostitutes and absolutely no interest whatsoever in the international drug-smuggling ring that has brought a straight-laced FBI agent to his door. However, a surreal chain of events pulls him into the action.
Cast: Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Fionnula Flanagan.
Happy, Happy (Sykt Lykkelig) (Norway)
Director: Anne Sewitsky. Screenwriter: Ragnhild Tronvoll
A perfect housewife, who just happens to be sex-starved, struggles to keep her emotions in check when an attractive family moves in next door.
Cast: Agnes Kittelsen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Maibritt Saerens, Joachim Rafaelsen.
Director and screenwriter: Alrick Brown
Based on accounts from survivors, Kinyarwanda tells the story of Rwandans who crossed the lines of hatred during the 1994 genocide, turning mosques into places of refuge for Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis.
Cast: Edouard Bamporiki, Cassandra Freeman, Cleophas Kabasiita, Hadidja Zaninka, Kennedy Mazimpaka, Hassan Kabera.
Lost Kisses (I Baci Mai Dati) (Italy)
Director: Roberta Torre. Screenwriters: Torre and Laura Nuccilli
A 13-year-old girl in the deprived outskirts of a sprawling Sicilian city becomes a local celebrity to her needy community when word spreads that she just might be able to perform miracles.
Cast:Donatella Finocchiaro, Pino Micol, Giuseppe Fiorello, Carla Marchese, Martina Galletta, Tony Palazzo.
Mad Bastards (Australia)
Director: Brendan Fletcher. Screenwriters: Fletcher in collaboration with Dean Daley-Jones, Greg Tait and John Watson
In a frontier town of northern Australia’s Kimberley Region, an urban street warrior meets his match in a local cop. Performances and stories from real people in Kimberley are woven through the music of legendary Broome musicians, The Pigram Brothers.
Cast: Dean Daley-Jones, Greg Tait, John Watson, Ngaire Pigram, Lucas Yeeda.
Restoration (Boker Tov Adon Fidelman) (Israel)
Director: Yossi Madmoni. Screenwriter: Erez Kav-El
Aided by a young and mysterious apprentice, an antique furniture restorer struggles to keep his workshop alive, while his relationship with his own estranged son, who is trying to close down the shop, begins to disintegrate.
Cast: Sasson Gabay, Henry David, Nevo Kimchi, Sarah Adler.
The Salesman (Le Vendeur) (Canada)
Director and screenwriter: Sebastien Pilote
Car salesman Marcel Levesque operates by the rules of a bygone era, turning on the charm to make his quota. But the increasing decline of his fading industrial town threatens to plummet this peddler of dreams into an unfriendly reality.
Cast: Gilbert Sicotte, Nathalie Cavezzali.
Ticket To Paradise (Boleto Al Paraiso) (Cuba)
Director: Gerardo Chijona Valdes. Screenwriters: Valdes, Francisco Garcia Gonzalez and Maykel Rodriguez Ponjuan
A teenage girl running away from her father’s sexual harassment meets a young rocker who has escaped to Havana with his misfit group of friends. Set in 1993, during a period of acute shortages in Cuba, the local AIDS hospice begins to look like an unlikely refuge to the hopeless teens.
Cast: Miriel Cejas, Hector Medina, Dunia Matos, Jorge Perugorria, Luis A Garcia.
Director and screenwriter: Paddy Considine
For Joseph, a man plagued by self-destructive violence and rage, a chance of redemption appears in the form of Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker with a devastating secret of her own.
Cast: Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan, Olivia Colman.
Director and screenwriter: Iwai Shunji
On the surface, Simon seems like a fairly normal, average young man, devoted to his teaching job and ailing mother. Secretly, he is compelled to hunt through online chat rooms and message boards, searching for the perfect girl who will ensure his own survival.
Cast:Kevin Zegers, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rachel Leigh Cook, Kristin Kreuk, Aoi Yu and Adelaide Clemens.
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Twelve films were selected from 796 international documentary submissions.
An African Election (Ghana-Switzerland-US)
Director: Jarreth Merz
The 2008 presidential elections in Ghana, West Africa, serve as a backdrop for this feature documentary that looks behind the scenes at the complex, political machinery of a third-world democracy struggling to avoid civil war and establish stability for good.
North American premiere
The Bengali Detective (India-US-UK)
Chubby, dance-obsessed private-detective Rajesh Bharti and his motley band of helpers tackle poisonings, adultery and the occasional murder on the frenzied streets of Kolkata.
The Blackpower Mixtape 1967-1975 (Sweden-US)
Director: Goran Olsson
From 1967 to 1975, Swedish journalists chronicled the Black Power movement in America. Combining that 16mm footage, undiscovered until now, with contemporary audio interviews, this film illuminates the people and culture that fueled change and brings the movement to life anew.
Family Portrait In Black And White (Canada-Ukraine)
Director: Julia Ivanova
In a small Ukrainian town, Olga Nenya, raises 16 black orphans amidst a population of Slavic blue-eyed blondes. Their stories expose the harsh realities of growing up as a biracial child in Eastern Europe.
The Flaw (UK)
Director: David Sington
Within a few months in 2008, several American financial institutions failed, and before you knew it the US was in the red. An imaginative blend of archive, animation and personal stories delivers a devastating indictment of the unfettered capitalism which has led to crippling, catastrophic income inequality in the land of the free.
North American premiere
The GreenWave (Irans gruner Sommer) (Germany)
Director: Ali Samadi Ahadi
Animated blogs and tweets tell the story of democracy under fire and hopes dashed as protesters are arrested, tortured and raped during Iran’s tumultuous elections of June 2009.
North American premiere
Hell And Back Again (US-UK)
Director: Danfung Dennis
Told through the eyes of one Marine from the start of his 2009 Aghanistan tour to his distressing return and rehabilitation in the US, we witness what modern “unconventional” warfare really means to the men who are fighting it.
Director: Ian Palmer
An epic 12-year journey into the brutal and secretive world of Irish Traveler bare-knuckle fighting, this film follows a history of violent feuding between rival clans.
Position Among The Stars (Stand Van De Sterren) (Netherlands)
Director: Leonard Retel Helmrich
The effects of globalisation in Indonesia’s rapidly changing society ripple into the life of a poor Christian woman living in the slums of Jakarta with her Muslim sons and teenage granddaughter.
Project Nim (UK)
Director: James Marsh
From the Oscar-winning team behind Man On Wire comes the story of Nim, the chimpanzee who was taught to communicate with language as he was raised and nurtured like a human child.
Director: Asif Kapadia. Screenwriter: Manish Pandey
The story of the legendary racing driver and Brazilian hero Ayrton Senna takes us on the ultimate journey of what it means to become the greatest when faced with the constant possibility of death.
North American premiere
Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure (Australia-US)
Director: Matthew Bate
When two friends tape-recorded the fights of their violently noisy neighbours, they accidentally created one of the world’s first ‘viral’ pop-culture sensations.