Sundance Film Festival 2014 (January 16-26)

January 26th, 2014 - Graham Eley

Sundance’s 30th anniversary edition launches the festival season tomorrow with its now familiar blend of world premieres from established, emerging and new filmmakers.

 

Amongst those returning to Park City with new films are Lynn Shelton (Laggies), who picked up a Special Jury Prize for Humpday, John Michael McDonagh (Calvary) and Gregg Araki (White Bird in a Blizzard).

 

Marjane Satrapi (The Voices) leads an equally impressive list of Sundance newcomers, including Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) and Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man), who debut their latest features.

 

All of the films in the US dramatic competition are world premieres with the family emerging as the dominant theme.   Joe Swanberg’s latest film, Happy Christmas, is one of five exploring the family institution in varied ways.

 

And there are high profile world premiere documentaries from Steve James (Life Itself) and Joe Berlinger (United States of America v. James J. Bulger).

 

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION:

 

Camp X-Ray
Peter Sattler

 

Peter Sattler takes a potentially more reflective approach towards the ‘war on terror’ in his debut feature, ‘Camp X-Ray’.  Kristen Stewart plays a new Guantanamo guard, who developments an unusual friendship with a detainee.

 

Cold in July
Jim Mickle

 

Emerging filmmaker, Jim Mickle, makes another Sundance appearance after last year’s ‘We Are What We Are’, which went on to screen in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight.  Mickle follows it with a southern noir thriller where Michael C. Hall plays a homeowner, who faces a revenge attack after killing a burglar.

 

Dear White People
Justin Simien

 

The directorial debut of industry insider, Justin Simien, takes a light hearted statistical look at race issues in contemporary America.  Starring Tyler James Williams and Tessa Thompson, it is set in an Ivy League university where a white students’ ‘African American’ themed party causes a race riot.  The film’s trailer, which went viral on YouTube, has given it an early buzz.

 

Fishing Without Nets
Cutter Hodierne

 

Cutter Hodierne expands upon his short film, ‘Fishing Without Nets’, which won a special jury prize at Sundance two years ago.  Using non-professional actors, it depicts a moral dilemma facing a Somali pirate following the capture of an oil tanker.

 

God’s Pocket
John Slattery

 

John Slattery moves into the director’s chair with God’s Pocket, where things go from bad to worse for a construction worker after a fatal accident on site.  Philip Seymour Hoffman leads a stellar cast, which includes, amongst others, Christina Hendricks and John Turturro.

 

Happy Christmas
Joe Swanberg

 

Prolific Mumblecore filmmaker, Joe Swanberg, screens in the US dramatic competition for the first time with his latest feature, ‘Happy Christmas’.  It’s a standard Mumblecore set-up where a thirty something’s wife and sister share a similar sense of disillusionment in a complex family drama.  The film comes at a time when the movement appears to be almost at an end and its filmmakers are embracing other styles.

 

Hellion
Kat Candler

 

Kat Candler loosely based her third feature, ‘Hellion’, on a short of the same name, which she premiered at Sundance two years ago.  Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis and Josh Wiggins star in an uncompromising drama where a dysfunctional one-parent family has to face a new reality after the Child Protective Services intervene.  Candler recently received a San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation filmmaking grant.

 

Infinitely Polar Bear
Maya Forbes

 

Screenwriter, Maya Forbes, best known for ‘Monsters vs Aliens’, turns filmmaker for the first time with ‘Infinitely Polar Bear’, starring  Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide.  As with a number of films at Sundance this year, it focuses on a family crisis from an unusual angle.  This one has Ruffalo playing a bipolar father, who tentatively takes care of the children after recovering from a nervous breakdown so that his wife can undertake an MBA.

 

Jamie Marks Is Dead
Carter Smith

 

Carter Smith continues his association with Sundance where he won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking for ‘Bugcrush’ and screened his later short, ‘Yearbook’.  He made his first feature, ‘The Ruins’, for just $8,000 and it went on to gross over $22m worldwide.  His follow up, ‘Jamie Marks Is Dead’, starring Cameron Monaghan, Noah Silver and Morgan Saylor, adapts Christopher Barzak’s novel, ‘One for Sorrow’ where the ghost of an anonymous school boy forms a surprising friendship with the classmate who found his body.

 

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
David Zellner

 

David Zellner returns to Sundance with his intriguing fifth feature, ‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’, which he co-wrote with his brother and long term collaborator, Nathan.  Rinko Kikuchi (‘Pacific Rim’, ‘Norwegian Wood’) plays a loner, who travels from Tokyo to the harsh Minnesota winter in search of a non-existent fortune that she saw buried during a film.

 

Life After Beth
Jeff Baena

 

It is ten years since Jeff Baena made his only significant mark on film when he co-wrote ‘I Heart Huckabees’ with David O. Russell.  Baena now returns with his first feature in the director’s chair, ‘Life After Beth’, starring Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan and John C. Reilly.  It’s an idiosyncratic mystery drama where a twenty something’s girlfriend comes back to life after an unexpected death but all is not what it first seems.

 

Low Down
Jeff Preiss

 

Jeff Preiss’ debut feature, ‘Low Down’, starring John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close and Lena Headey, depicts life with jazz pianist and heroin addict, Joe Albany, from the perspective of his daughter.  Amy Albany has adapted the script from her own memoir of the same name with screenwriter, Topper Lilien.

 

The Skeleton Twins
Craig Johnson

 

‘The Skeleton Twins’ is one of two films in competition along with Joe Swanberg’s ‘Happy Christmas’ from a filmmaker with Mumblecore associations.  It’s the second feature from Craig Johnson and, like ‘Happy Christmas’, looks at a complex relationship between two siblings, who, on this occasion, reunite after they both loose their way on opposite side of the States.  His debut film, ‘True Adolescents’, enjoyed strong festival exposure after premiering at SXSW.

 

The Sleepwalker
Mona Fastvold

 

After making music videos and performing in a handful of titles as an actress, Mona Fastvold directed her debut feature, ‘The Sleepwalker’, following a grant from the Norwegian Film Institute.  It picks up one of the competition’s dominate themes, family relationships, and explores the past’s impact on later lives when two sisters come into conflict.  The ensemble cast includes Brady Corbet with whom Fastvold co-wrote this film and his directorial debut, ‘The Childhood of a Leader’.

 

Song One
Kate Barker-Froyland

 

Kate Barker-Froyland’s feature debut, ‘Song One’, has the hallmarks of a romance drama that sits comfortably within the American indie tradition.  Anne Hathaway plays a thirty something who returns home when her brother suffers a bad injury, and forms an unlikely friendship with his favourite singer.

 

Whiplash
Damien Chazelle

 

Damien Chazelle returns to Sundance with a feature version of his short, ‘Whiplash’, which won a jury prize at last year’s festival.  Miles Teller (‘The Spectacular Now’, ‘Rabbit Hole’) and J.K. Simmons star in a musical drama where a young drummer encounters a brutal teacher who shares his obsession with perfection.  Chazelle’s debut feature ‘Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench’, attracted attention at various festivals and raised expectations for this follow up.discount cialis coupon cialis price walmart pharmacy can you order cialis online for canada cialis online canadian pharmacy cialis online doctor how to order cialis online generic cialis canadian

 

There were no surprises at last night’s Sundance awards ceremony with Damien Chazelle’s ‘Whiplash’ winning the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the US dramatic competition.

 

Chazelle’s second feature after ‘Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench’ opened this year’s edition with a bang and became the first film at the festival to sell.  It stars up and coming Miles Teller as an ambitious young jazz drummer and JK Simmons plays his brutal teacher.

 

Cutter Hodierne picked up the US dramatic Directing Award for his Somali pirates drama, ‘Fishing Without Nets’.  Like ‘Whiplash’, it is feature version of a short, which won a major award at Sundance.

 

‘Dear White People’ created most buzz before the festival when the film’s trailer went viral on YouTube and it received a US dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent.  Tyler Williams and Tessa Thompson star in this satirical look at race issues in contemporary America, which is the first feature from industry insider, Justin Simien.

 

The US documentary Grand Jury Prize went to the teenage hardship feature, ‘Rich Hill’.  ‘You’re Next’ cinematographer, Andrew Droz Palermo, collaborated with producer, Tracy Droz Tragos, to co-direct the documentary as their first feature.

 

Ryan White collaborated with newcomer, Ben Cotner, for his second documentary feature, ‘The Case Against 8′ and the pair won the US documentary Directing Award.  It provides an insiders’ viewpoint of the legal action to end California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

 

The Chilean new wave continued to enhance its reputation as one of the world’s most vibrant movements with Alejandro Fernández Almendras’ ‘To Kill a Man’ winning the world cinema dramatic Grand Jury Prize.  Almendras’ third feature surrounds a serious violent attack that led to a disproportionately short prison sentence for the perpetrator.

 

Sophie Hyde scooped the world cinema dramatic Directing Award for her gender transition drama, ’52 Tuesdays’.  It’s Hyde’s first directorial feature on her own after co-directing ‘Life in Movement’ with Bryan Mason and she filmed it on every Tuesday each week over the course of a year.

 

Syrian conflict feature, ‘Return to Homs’, took the world cinema documentary Grand Jury Prize.  Talal Derki’s debut feature follows young freedom fighters  in the besieged industrial city and ‘capital of the revolution’.

 

And the world cinema documentary Directing Award went to long term collaborators and visual artists, Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard for ’20,000 Days On Earth’.  The title is a literal reference to the days that Nick Cave has spent on earth and the feature explores the musician and his creative process from unusual perspectives.

 

Awards:

 

Grand Jury Dramatic: Whiplash
Grand Jury Documentary: Rich Hill
Directing Award U.S. Dramatic: Fishing Without Nets
Directing Award U.S. Documentary: The Case Against 8
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award U.S. Dramatic: The Skeleton Twins
Editing Award U.S. Documentary: Watchers of the Sky
Cinematography Award U.S. Dramatic: Low Down
Cinematography Award U.S. Documentary: E-TEAM
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent: Dear White People
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Musical Score: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Use of Animation: Watchers of the Sky
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Intuitive Filmmaking: The Overnighters
Audience Award U.S. Dramatic: Whiplash
Audience Award U.S. Documentary presented by Acura: Alive Inside
Audience Award World Cinema Dramatic: Difret
Audience Award World Cinema Documentary: The Green Prince
Audience Award Best of NEXT: Imperial Dreams
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize Dramatic To Kill a Man
Directing Award World Cinema Dramatic: 52 Tuesdays
Screenwriting Award World Cinema Dramatic: Blind
Cinematography Award World Cinema Dramatic: Lilting
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance: God Help the Girl
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize Documentary: Return to Homs
Directing Award World Cinema Documentary: 20,000 Days on Earth
Editing Award World Cinema Documentary: 20,000 Days on Earth
Cinematography Award World Cinema Documentary: Happiness
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematic Bravery: We Come as Friends
Shorts Audience Award: Chapel Perilous
Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: I Origins

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION:

 

Camp X-Ray (Peter Sattler)

Cold in July (Jim Mickle)

Dear White People (Justin Simien)

Fishing Without Nets (Cutter Hodierne)

John’s Pocket (John Slattery)

Happy Christmas (Joe Swanberg)

Hellion (Kat Candler)

Infinitely Polar Bear (Maya Forbes)

Jamie Marks is Dead (Carter Smith)

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (David Zellner)

Life After Beth (Jeff Baena)

Low Down (Joe Preiss)

The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson)

The Sleepwalker (Mona Fastvold)

Song One (Kate Barker-Froyland)

Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)

 

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION:

 

Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory (Michael Rossato-Bennett)

All the Beautiful Things (John Harkrider)

Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart (Jeremiah Zagar)

The Case Against 8 (Ben Cotner, Ryan White)

Cesar’s Last Fast (Richard Ray Perez, Lorena Parlee)

Dinosaur 13 (Todd Miller)

E-Team (Katy Chevigny, Ross Kauffman)

Fed Up (Stephanie Soechtig)

The Internet’s Own Boy: Aaron Schwartz (Brian Knappenberger)

Ivory Tower (Andrew Rossi)

Marmato (Mark Grieco)

No No: A Dockumentary (Jeffrey Radice)

The Overnighters (Jesse Moss)

Private Violence (Cynthia Hill)

Rich Hill (Andrew Droz Palermo, Tracy Droz Tragos)

Watchers of the Sky (Edet Belzberg)

 

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION:

 

52 Tuesdays (Sophie Hyde, Australia)

Blind (Eskil Vogt, Norway/Netherlands)

Difret (Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, Ethiopia)

The Disobedient (Mina Djukic, Serbia)

God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch, UK)

Liar’s Dice (Geetu Mohandas, India)

Lilting (Hong Khaou, UK)

Lock Charmer (Natalia Smirnoff, Argentina)

To Kill a Man (Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, Chile/France)

Viktoria (Maya Vitkova, Bulgaria/Romania)

Wetlands (David Wnendt, Germany)

White Shadow (Noaz Deshe, Italy/Germany/Tanzania)

 

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION:

 

20,000 Days On Earth (Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, UK)

Concerning Violence (Göran Hugo Olsson, Sweden/USA/Denmark/Finland)

The Green Prince (Nadav Schirman, Germany/Israel/UK)

Happiness (Thomas Balmès, France/Finland)

Love Child (Valerie Veatch, South Korea/USA)

Mr leos CaraX (Tessa Louise-Salomé, France)

My Prairie Home (Chelsea McMullan, Canada)

The Notorious Mr. Bout (Tony Gerber, Maxim Pozdorovkin, USA/Russia)

Return to Homs (Talal Derki, Syria/Germany)

SEPIDEH — Reaching for the Stars (Berit Madsen, Denmark)

We Come as Friends (Hubert Sauper, France/Austria)

Web Junkie (Shosh Shlam, Hilla Medalia, Israel)

 

NEXT PROGRAMME:

 

Appropriate Behavior (Desiree Akhavan, USA/UK)

Drunktown’s Finest (Sydney Freeland, USA)

The Foxy Merkins (Madeleine Olnek, USA)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, USA)

Imperial Dreams (Malik Vitthalm, USA)

Land Ho! (Martha Stephens, Aaron Katz, USA/Iceland)

Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry, USA)

Memphis (Tim Sutton, USA)

Obvious Child (Gillian Robespierre, USA)

Ping Pong Summer (Michael Tully, USA)

War Story (Mark Jackson, USA)

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