Along with Cannes and Toronto, Sundance is one of the biggest and best film festivals in the world. This year looks like an amazing line up as they’ve officially released their official selections for the 2008 installment of the festival.
I’ve always enjoyed festival parties and the whole environment of the festivals… but not much else. However, this year at the San Diego festival I had a total blast, and I count no less than about 20 films on this list that I’m dying to see… so I may just wander on down to Utah for the festival this year. We’ll see.
For now, here is the official line up for the 2008 Sundance Film Festival:
For the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, 121 feature-length films were selected including 87 world premieres, 14 North American premieres, and 12 U.S. premieres representing 25 countries with 55 first-time filmmakers, including 32 in competition. These films were selected from 3,624 feature film submissions composed of 2,021 U.S. and 1,603 international feature-length films. These numbers represent an increase from last year when 1,852 U.S. and 1,435 international feature-length films were considered.
These films represent a broad section of new documentaries by American independent filmmakers. From examinations of the American political system and the country’s use of natural resources to explorations of cultural development and intimate portraits of legendary artists, these films represent a thematic and artistic variety. This year’s 16 films were selected from a record 953 submissions. Each film is a world premiere.
The films screening in Documentary Competition are:
AN AMERICAN SOLDIER (Director and Screenwriter: Edet Belzberg)—Uncle Sam really wants you! A compelling exploration of army recruitment in the United States told through the story of Louisiana Sergeant, First Class Clay Usie, one of the most successful recruiters in the history of the U.S. Army. World Premiere
AMERICAN TEEN (Director and Screenwriter: Nanette Burstein)— This irreverent cinema vérité chronicles four seniors at an Indiana high school and yields a surprising snapshot of Midwestern life. World Premiere
BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER* (Director: Christopher Bell; Screenwriters: Christopher Bell, Alexander Buono, Tamsin Rawady)—A filmmaker explores America’s win-at-all-cost culture by examining his two brothers’ steroids use…and his own. World Premiere
FIELDS OF FUEL (Director and Screenwriter: Josh Tickell)— America is addicted to oil and it is time for an intervention. Enter Josh Tickell, a man with a plan and a Veggie Van, who is taking on big oil, big government, and big soy to find solutions in places few people have looked. World Premiere
FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER (Director: Irena Salina)— Water is the very essence of life, sustaining every being on the planet. FLOW confronts the disturbing reality that our crucial resource is dwindling and greed just may be the cause. World Premiere
GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON (Director: Alex Gibney)—Fueled by a raging libido, Wild Turkey, and superhuman doses of drugs, Thompson was a true “free lance,” goring sacred cows with impunity, hilarity, and a steel-eyed conviction for writing wrongs. Focusing on the good doctor’s heyday, 1965 to 1975, the film includes clips of never-before-seen (nor heard) home movies, audiotapes, and passages from unpublished manuscripts. World Premiere
THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO (Director and Screenwriter: Lisa F. Jackson)— Jackson travels to remote villages in the war zones of the Congo to meet rape survivors, providing a piercing, intimate look into the struggle of their lives. World Premiere
I.O.U.S.A. (Director: Patrick Creadon)—Few are aware that America may be on the brink of a financial meltdown. I.O.U.S.A. explores the country’s shocking current fiscal condition and ways to avoid a national economic disaster. World Premiere
NERAKHOON (THE BETRAYAL) (Director: Ellen Kuras; Co-Director: Thavisouk Phrasavath; Screenwriters: Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath)— The epic story of a family forced to emigrate from Laos after the chaos of the secret air war waged by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Kuras has spent the last 23 years chronicling the family’s extraordinary journey in this deeply personal, poetic, and emotional film. World Premiere
THE ORDER OF MYTHS (Director: Margaret Brown) — In 2007 Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras is celebrated…and complicated. Following a cast of characters, parades, and parties across an enduring color line, we see that beneath the surface of pageantry lies something else altogether. World Premiere
PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE (Director and Screenwriter: Steven Sebring)— An intimate portrait of music icon Patti Smith that mirrors the essence of the artist herself. World Premiere
ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (Director: Marina Zenovich; Screenwriters: Marina Zenovich, Joe Bini, P.G. Morgan)— Marina Zenovich’s new documentary examines the public scandal and private tragedy which led to legendary director Roman Polanski’s sudden flight from the United States. World Premiere
SECRECY (Directors: Peter Galison, Robb Moss)— Amidst the American hunger for instantaneous news and up-to-date “facts,” this unflinching film uncovers the vast, invisible world of government secrecy. World Premiere
SLINGSHOT HIP HOP (Director: Jackie Reem Salloum)—The voice of a new generation rocks and rhymes as Palestinian rappers form alternative voices of resistance within the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. World Premiere
TRACES OF THE TRADE: A STORY FROM THE DEEP NORTH (Director: Katrina Browne; C0-Directors: Alla Kovgan, Jude Ray; Screenwriters: Katrina Browne, Alla Kovgan)—History finally gets rewritten as descendants of the largest slave-trading family in early America face their past, and present, as they explore their violent heritage across oceans and continents. World Premiere
TROUBLE THE WATER (Directors: Tia Lessin, Carl Deal)— An aspiring rap artist and her streetwise husband, armed with a video camera, show what survival is all about when they are trapped in New Orleans by deadly floodwaters, and seize a chance for a new beginning. World Premiere
One of the most recognizable sections of the Festival, the films in this year’s Dramatic Competition employ a range of aesthetic invention and reinvention of genre. From the light-hearted exploration of the darker side of human nature and relationships to stories that address serious issues of class and race, the 2008 Dramatic Competition represents a range of distinctive voices and unique storytelling.
This year’s 16 films were selected from 1,068 submissions. Each film is a world premiere.
The films screening in Dramatic Competition are:
AMERICAN SON (Director: Neil Abramson; Screenwriter: Eric Schmid)— Before being deployed for active duty, a young Marine takes a four-day Thanksgiving leave to return home to Bakersfield, California. There he meets a young woman, tries to connect with old friends, and confronts his volatile home life. Cast: Nick Cannon, Melonie Diaz, Matt O’Leary, Jay Hernandez, Tom Sizemore, Chi McBride. World Premiere
ANYWHERE, U.S.A. (Director: Anthony (Chusy) Haney-Jardine; Screenwriters: Anthony (Chusy) Haney-Jardine, Jennifer Macdonald)— Told in three segments ranging from satirical to tragic, the film is a wildly original look at American manners, prejudices, and family dynamics. Cast: Perla Haney-Jardine. World Premiere
BALLAST (Director and Screenwriter: Lance Hammer)— A riveting, lyrical portrait of an emotionally frayed family whose lives are torn asunder by a tragic act in a small Mississippi Delta town. Cast: Michael J. Smith Sr., Jim Myron Ross, Tarra Riggs, Johnny McPhail. World Premiere
CHOKE (Director and Screenwriter: Clark Gregg)—An adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s (Fight Club) novel, CHOKE is the sardonic story about mother and son relationship, fear of aging, sexual addiction, and the dark side of historical theme parks. Cast: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, Brad Henke. World Premiere
DOWNLOADING NANCY (Director: Johan Renck; Screenwriters: Pamela Cuming, Lee Ross)—The tale of an unhappy wife whose online search for someone to put her out of her misery results in a torturous love affair. Cast: Maria Bello, Jason Patric, Rufus Sewell, Amy Brenneman. World Premiere
FROZEN RIVER (Director and Screenwriter: Courtney Hunt)—Set in rural upstate New York on a Mohawk Reservation bordering Canada, a mother left to care for her teenage son finds herself lured into the world of illegal immigrant smuggling. Cast: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott, Michael O’Keefe, Mark Boone, Jr. World Premiere
GOOD DICK (Director and Screenwriter: Marianna Palka)—The tale of a lonely girl drawn from her isolated life and solitary apartment by a doting young video store clerk who strives to capture her affections. Cast: Jason Ritter, Marianna Palka, Tom Arnold, Mark Webber, Martin Starr, Eric Edelstein. World Premiere
THE LAST WORD (Director and Screenwriter: Geoff Haley)—An off-beat romantic comedy about a solitary writer who makes his living composing other people’s suicide notes. After meeting the sister of a recently deceased client, he finds his reclusive life and secret career upended by an unusual romance. Cast: Winona Ryder, Wes Bentley, Ray Romano. World Premiere
THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH (Director and Screenwriter: Rawson Marshall Thurber)— Based on Michael Chabon’s novel, the film chronicles the defining summer of a recent college graduate who crosses his gangster father and explores love, sexuality, and the enigmas surrounding his life and his city. Cast: Jon Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Rawson Marshall Thurber, Sienna Miller, Mena Suvari, Nick Nolte. World Premiere
NORTH STARR (Director and Screenwriter: Matthew Stanton)—After witnessing the brutal murder of his best friend, a young African American man flees the badlands of Houston and finds himself in Trublin, a backward, racially intolerant town where he meets an unlikely kindred spirit who takes him under his wing. Cast: Jerome Hawkins, Matthew Stanton, Chris Sullivan, Isaac Lamb, Zach Johnson, Wayne Campbell. World Premiere
PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND (Director and Screenwriter: Daniel Barnz)— Confounded by her clashes with the seemingly rule-obsessed world, a little girl takes her already dysfunctional family down the rabbit hole when she seeks enlightenment from her unconventional drama teacher.
Cast: Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Pullman, Campbell Scott, Peter Gerety. World Premiere
PRETTY BIRD (Director and Screenwriter: Paul Schneider)— A comic tale of three would-be entrepreneurs who set out to invent a rocket belt. The clash of their mismatched personalities soon dissolves the business into a morass of recriminations, retaliations, kidnapping, and murder in this parable of American dreams and delusions. Cast: Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti, Kristen Wiig, David Hornsby. World Premiere
SLEEP DEALER (Director: Alex Rivera; Screenwriters: Alex Rivera, David Riker)— Set in a near-future, militarized world marked by closed borders, virtual labor and a global digital network that joins minds and experiences, three strangers risk their lives to connect with each other and break the barriers of technology. Cast: Luis Fernando Peña, Leonor Varela, Jacob Vargas. World Premiere
SUGAR (Directors and Screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck)—Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who last teamed up for HALF NELSON, chronicle the journey of Dominican baseball star Miguel “Sugar” Santos recruited from his native country to play in the U.S. minor leagues. Cast: Algenis Perez Soto. World Premiere
SUNSHINE CLEANING (Director: Christine Jeffs; Screenwriter: Megan Holley)— )—Struck by financial hardship, an ambitiousmother and her unmotivated sister become entrepreneurs in the field of biohazard removal and crime scene clean-up. Cast: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn, Alan Arkin. World Premiere
THE WACKNESS (Director and Screenwriter: Jonathan Levine)— During a sweltering New York summer, a troubled teenage drug dealer trades pot for therapy sessions with a drug-addled psychiatrist, and in the process falls for the doctor’s daughter. Cast: Josh Peck, Ben Kingsley, Famke Janssen, Olivia Thirlby, Mary Kate Olsen, Method Man. World Premiere
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
The 16 films selected from 620 submissions represent 8 countries including Pakistan, Jordan, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Canada. The range of human experience is played out in these engaging stories about the artistic process, the cost of conflict, faith and nationalism, and the triumph of personal spirit.
Films screening in World Cinema Documentary Competition are:
ALONE IN FOUR WALLS (ALLEIN IN VIER WÄNDEN)/ Germany (Director and Screenwriter: Alexandra Westmeier)—Adolescent boys struggle to grow up in a home for delinquents in rural Russia where life behind bars may be better than the release to freedom. North American Premiere
THE ART STAR AND THE SUDANESE TWINS/ New Zealand (Director and Screenwriter: Pietra Brettkelly)— Vanessa Beecroft is obsessively determined to adopt Sudanese twin orphans. Her consuming passion drives her marriage to a breaking point and fuels her controversial art, raising troubling questions about exploitation, culture clash, and the imposition of the West on Africa. World Premiere
BE LIKE OTHERS/ United Kingdom (Director: Tanaz Eshaghian)— An intimate and unflinching look at life in Iran, seen through the lens of those living at its fringes, BE LIKE OTHERS is a provocative look at a generation of young Iranian men choosing to undergo sex change surgery. World Premiere
A COMPLETE HISTORY OF MY SEXUAL FAILURES/ United Kingdom (Director: Chris Waitt; Screenwriters: Chris Waitt and Henry Trotter)–Chris is a useless boyfriend. Determined to find out why, he consults his ex-girlfriends, medical practitioners, producers, and mother to find out how women really see him. Has this journey made him potential boyfriend material or is he staring a life of loneliness square in the face? World Premiere
DEREK/ United Kingdom (Director: Isaac Julien)— A film involving two courageous and innovative artists—one the subject and one the filmmaker—provides a cinematic journey that illuminates the work and enduring importance of the late Derek Jarman. World Premiere
DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT/Pakistan (Directors and Screenwriters: Sabiha Sumar and Sachithanandam Sathananthan)— From on-the-street interviews to audiences with religious leaders to dinner with the President of Pakistan, the film takes the temperature of a culture on issues from politics to women’s rights. U.S. Premiere
DURAKOVO: THE VILLAGE OF FOOLS (DURAKOVO: LE VILLAGE DES FOUS)/ France (Director and Screenwriter: Nino Kirtadze)— Russian nationalism percolates in a castle outside Moscow, where Mikhail Morozov rules autonomously over young initiates, laying the groundwork for a rapidly growing right-wing movement. North American Premiere
IN PRISON MY WHOLE LIFE/ United Kingdom (Director: Marc Evans; Screenwriters: Marc Evans, William Francome)— A curious young filmmaker attempts to understand the true story behind award-winning journalist Mumia Abu Jamal’s death row sentence, and comes to startling realizations about American history and its justice system. With William Francome, Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Mos Def, Smoof , Snoop Dogg, Angela Davis . North American Premiere
MAN ON WIRE/ United Kingdom (Director and Screenwriter: James Marsh)—In 1974, Philippe Petit, a young Frenchman, dances on a wire suspended between New York’s Twin Towers. Consequently, Philippe is arrested and thrown into jail for what would become known as “the artistic crime of the century.” World Premiere
pUUJEE/ Japan (Director and Screenwriter: Kazuya Yamada)— Against the backdrop of a magnificent but harsh natural landscape, a Japanese photojournalist encounters puujee, a young girl who tames wild horses on the Mongolian plains. North American Premiere
RECYCLE/ Jordan (Director and Screenwriter: Al Massad)— A Jordanian family man living in the hometown of Muslim leader Al-Zarqawi struggles to support his family and define his identity in a tense political climate. World Premiere
STRANDED: I’VE COME FROM A PLANE THAT CRASHED ON THE MOUNTAINS/ France (Director and Screenwriter: Gonzalo Arijon)— For the first time ever, survivors of the famous 1974 Andes plane crash tell in their own words their harrowing story of survival. North American Premiere
TRIAGE: DR. JAMES ORBINSKI’S HUMANITARIAN DILEMMA/ Canada (Director: Patrick Reed)— Acclaimed doctor James Orbinski, former head of Doctors Without Borders, returns to Africa to confront the harsh reality of conditions there and explores what it means to be a humanitarian. North American Premiere
UP THE YANGTZE/ Canada (Director and Screenwriter: Yung Chang)—At the edge of the Yangtze River, not far from the Three Gorges Dam, young men and women take up employment on a cruise ship, where they confront rising waters and a radically changing China. U.S. Premiere
THE WOMEN OF BRUKMAN (LES FEMMES DE LA BRUKMAN)/ Canada (Director and Screenwriter: Isaac Isitan)—Amidst Argentina’s financial collapse, workers take over a Buenos Aires men’s clothing factory and continue producing clothing on a self-management model. As the formerly poor become business managers, their lives are changed forever. U.S. Premiere
YASUKUNI/ Japan (Director and Screenwriter: Li Ying)—Controversy abounds as Japanese officials honor the deceased at the legendary Yasukuni shrine, where swords used to kill Chinese soldiers were famously forged. Few know about the shrine’s eerie past and the mysterious sword inside. Cast: Kariya Naoji, Sugawara Ryuken,Gaojin Sumei. North American Premiere
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
The World Cinema Dramatic Competition reflects Sundance’s commitment to championing the independent spirit in filmmakers everywhere and to fostering creative dialogue between divergent cultures. This year’s 16 selections from 983 submissions represent 17 countries including Spain, Peru, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Panama, Russia, and Sweden. From sexual exploits to criminal minds, coming-of-age stories to life-altering events, these films introduce us to characters with tenacity, imagination, and spirit that transcend borders.
The films screening in World Cinema Dramatic Competition are:
ABSURDISTAN/ Germany (Director: Veit Helmer; Screenwriters: Veit Helmer, Zaza Buadze, Gordan Mihic, Ahmet Golbol)— This inventive and allegorical comedy centers on two childhood sweethearts who seem destined for one another until the women of their isolated village, angered by male indifference toward the water shortage, go on a sex strike that threatens the young couple’s first night of love. Cast: Maximilian Mauff, Kristyna Mlérova. World Premiere
BLUE EYELIDS (PÁRPADOS AZULES)/ Mexico (Director: Ernesto Contreras; Screenwriter: Carlos Contreras)– When Marina wins a beach getaway trip for two, her desperate search for someone to take with her leads to a complicated relationship and the revelation that she might be better off on her own. Cast: Cecilia Suàrez, Enrique Arreola, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Tiaré Scanda, Luisa Huertas. U.S. Premiere
CAPTAIN ABU RAED/ Jordan (Director and Screenwriter: Amin Matalqa)— An aging airport janitor who is mistaken for an airline pilot by a group of poor neighborhood children weaves fantastical stories to offer hope for a sad, and sometimes unchangeable, reality. Cast: Nadim Sawalha, Hussein Al-Sous, Rana Sultan, Uday Al-Qiddissi, Ghandi Saber. North American Premiere
THE DRUMMER (JIN. GWU)/ Hong Kong/ Taiwan/ Germany (Director and Screenwriter: Kenneth Bi) — A young man transforms from a reckless youth and gangster into a mature adult through the inspiration of Zen drumming. Cast: Jaycee Chan, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Josie Ho, Roy Cheung, Lee Sinje, Kenneth Tsang.
I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A GANGSTER (J’AI TOUJOURS RÊVÉ D’ÊTRE UN GANGSTER)/ France (Director and Screenwriter: Samuel Benchetrit)— Told in four vignettes, this existential comedy relates the exploits of four aspiring criminals who hope to improve their lot, but find that they might not have what it takes for a life of crime. Cast: Sergi López, Jean Rochefort, Alain Bashung, Anna Mouglalis. North American Premiere
JUST ANOTHER LOVE STORY (KÆRLIGHED PÅ FILM)/ Denmark (Director and Screenwriter: Ole Borendal) —Jonas’s quiet life as a suburban family man takes an unexpected twist when he causes a car crash that leaves a young woman with amnesia. When he is mistaken for her boyfriend, Jonas’s decision to play the role gradually unravels his life. Cast: Anders W. Berthelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Charlotte Fich, Dejan Cukic, Ewa Fröling. North American Premiere
KING OF PING PONG (PING PONGKINGEN)/ Sweden (Director: Jens Jonsson; Screenwriters: Jens Jonsson, Hans Gunnarson) An ostracized and bullied teenage boy who excels only in ping pong descends into an acrimonious struggle with his younger, more popular brother when the truth about their family history and their father surfaces over the course of their spring break. Cast: Georgi Staykov, Ann-Sofie Normi, Frederik Nilsson, Jerry Johansson. International Premiere
MÁNCORA/ Spain/Peru (Director: Ricardo de Montreuil; Screenwriter: Oscar Torres)– A young man mourning the death of his father sets out with his estranged stepsister and her arrogant husband for adventures in the lush, picturesque beach town of Máncora, Peru. World Premiere. World Premiere
MEGANE (GLASSES)/ Japan (Director and Screenwriter: Naoko Ogigami)–Taeko’s southern vacation becomes a life-changing experience when she discovers a unique beach community unified by surprising and perhaps odd traditions in this comedic film. Cast: Satomi Kobayashi, Mikako Ichikawa, Ryo Kase, Ken Mitsuishi, Masako Motai. North American Premiere
MERMAID (RUSALKA)/ Russia (Director and Screenwriter: Anna Melikyan) – The fanciful tale of an introverted little girl who grows up believing she has the power to make wishes come true. She must reconcile this belief with reality when, as a young woman, she journeys to Moscow and grapples with love, modernity and materialism. Cast: Masha Shalaeva, Evgeniy Ciganov, Maria Sokolova, Nastya Doncova. International Premiere
PERRO COME PERRO (DOG EAT DOG)/ Colombia (Director: Carlos Moreno; Screenwriters: Alonso Torres, Carlos Moreno) – In the crime world of Colombia, there is an unwritten code. When Víctor and Eusebio, two hoods who bungle a shake-down job, break that code, they unwittingly sign their own death sentence. Cast: Marlon Moreno, Oscar Borda, Alvaro Rodríguez, Blas Jaramillo, Paulina Rivas. World Premiere
RIPRENDIMI (GOOD MORNING HEARTACHE)/ Italy (Director: Anna Negri; Screenwriters: Anna Negri, Giovanna Mori) – A modern young couple with a new baby are forced to deal with the almost comedic pain of breaking up while being the subject of a documentary that quickly crosses professional lines into their private lives. Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Marco Foschi, Valentina Lodovini, Stefano Fresi, Alessandro Averone. World Premiere
STRANGERS/ Israel (Directors and Screenwriters: Erez Tadmor, Guy Nattiv)— An Israeli man and a Palestinian woman meet serendipitously during the carefree atmosphere of the World Cup finals in Germany, drawing them out of the stark reality of their lives and into a passionate affair. Cast: Liron Levo, Lubna Azabal, Dominique Lollia, Patrick Albenque, Abdallah el Akal, Roger Dumas. International Premiere
UNDER THE BOMBS (SOUS LES BOMBES)/ Lebanon (Director: Philippe Aractingi; Screenwriters: Philippe Aractingi,Michel Léviant)— In the wake of Israel’s 2006 bombardment of Lebanon, a determined woman finds her way into the country convincing a taxi cab driver to take a risky journey through the scarred region in search of her sister and her son. Cast: Nada Abou Farhat, Georges Khabbaz, Bshara Atallah, and Rawia Elchab. North American Premiere
THE WAVE (DIE WELLE)/ Germany (Director: Dennis Gansel; Screenwriters: Dennis Gansel and Peter Thorwarth)—A high school teacher’s unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship spins horribly out of control when he forms a social unit with a life of its own. Cast: Juergen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt, Jennifer Ulrich, Christiane Paul. World Premiere
THE WIND AND THE WATER (BURWA DII EBO)/ Panama (Directors and Screenwriters: A collective collaboration)– A young indigenous teen seeking his fortune in Panama City struggles to acclimate to chaotic urban life, where he becomes enamored with a girl from a wealthy, assimilated family. Later, he encounters his crush once again–but this time the landscape and tradition define their interaction. World Premiere