Tix selling briskly for Sundance fest

Nine world premieres and more than 20 U.S. preems highlight the non-competitive lineup at the Sundance Film Festival, which runs Jan. 20-30 in Park City, Utah.

As a telling sign of the intense interest in the annual event, which primarily spotlights American independent cinema but also embraces select work from around the world, fest director Geoffrey Gilmore said Thursday that B Package tickets for the fest’s perennially jammed second half are sold out, as are the $ 1,100 Fast Passes for the entire fest.

A Package registrations for the first half are still available, and individual ducats for specific screenings will go on sale to the public Jan. 10.

Opening night attraction will be the world premiere of Mike Newell’s romantic comedy “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” a/Gramercy Pictures release starring Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell. Newell’s “Into the West” served as last year’s opener.

Also making their bows at Sundance will be Matty Rich’s “The Inkwell,” a Disney release about the black enclave on Martha’s Vineyard; John Madden’s “Golden Gate,” an American Playhouse drama for Goldwyn release starring Matt Dillon and Joan Chen; 26-year-old British director Iain Softly’s “Backbeat,” a Gramercy release about the birth of the Beatles; and Ben Stiller’s “Reality Bites,” a romantic comedy from Universal toplining Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke.

Other world preems are Paul Anderson’s look at violent British gangs, “Shopping”; John Duigan’s study of 1920s Australian bohemians, “Sirens,” a Miramax release starring Sam Neill and Hugh Grant; and 27-year-old writer/director Andrew Fleming’s “Threesome,” a TriStar pickup starring Lara Flynn Boyle, Stephen Baldwin and Josh Charles.

Other films being presented in the “Premieres” section are Robert M. Young’s “Roosters,” with Edward James Olmos; Radu Mihaileanu’s Montreal Fest winner “Trahir”; Ake Sandgren’s Swedish Oscar entry “Slingshot”; Arturo Ripstein’s San Sebastian fest winner “The Beginning and the End”; Dan Algrant’s debut feature “Naked in New York,” with Eric Stoltz; Allison Anders’ “Mi Vida Loca,” which has been significantly recut since its screenings in Cannes; Tian Zhangzhuang’s “The Blue Kite”; and Gregg Araki’s “Totally F***ed Up.”

Special slate

Unspooling under the Special Screenings umbrella will be Jon Jost’s “The Bed You Sleep In”; Guillermo del Toro’s Mexican Oscar entry “Cronos”; Ilkka Jarvilaturi’s “Darkness in Tallinn” from Finland; David Wellington’s “I Love a Man in Uniform” from Canada; Roger Roberts Avary’s “Killing Zoe,” with Eric Stoltz, Julie Delpy and Jean-Hugues Anglade; Makoto Sato’s “Living on the River Agano” from Japan; Bob Ellis’ “The Nostradamus Kid” from Australia; Tran Anh Hung’s Paris-lensed Vietnamese Oscar candidate “The Scent of Green Papaya”; Francois Girard’s “Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould” from Canada; and Beth B.’s German-shot “Two Small Bodies” toplining Suzy Amis and Fred Ward.

Screening in midnight slots will be Wrye Martin and Barry Poltermann’s vampire horror item “Aswang”; the world premiere of Dan McCormack’s “Minotaur”; Arthur Borman’s “The Making of … And God Spoke”; and restored prints of two Andy Warhol titles, “Poor Little Rich Girl” and “Velvet Underground.”

In terms of the previously announced competition entries, Gilmore said that, “We’ve gone back to a more archetypal independent festival. The dramatic films are more in the experimental vein, and may not be quite as slick in terms of production values as some films in the last two years.”

The 16 competitive pictures were chosen from among 375 submissions in the dramatic category alone. Overall, nearly 600 films were offered up for consideration.

“This was a really tough year in making choices,” Gilmore observed. “There were fewer great films, but a lot of good ones.”

Many recent Sundance fests have been marked by the emergence of different groups of new talents — black filmmakers, women directors.

Latin Americans strong

Gilmore sees no such trend this year, though the fest features “the strongest set of Latin American films we’ve ever had and I’ve ever seen.” Group is comprised of Marco Bechis’ “The Fence” from Argentina, Gustavo Graef Marino’s “Johnny 100 Pesos” from Chile, Paul Leduc’s “Mambo” about Panama, Sergio Cabrera’s “The Snail’s Strategy” from Colombia, Marcelo Pineyro’s “Tango Feroz” from Argentina, and Marianne Eyde’s “You Only Live Once” from Peru. Section on European Film: A New Generation offers Francesco Martinotti’s “Abyssinia” from Italy, Chris Newby’s “Anchoress” from France, Ildiko Szabo’s “Child Murders” from Hungary, Katja von Garnier’s “Makin’ Up” from Germany, and Yolande Zauberman’s “Me Ivan, You Abraham” from France.

Chinese sidebar includes Zhang Yuan’s “Beijing Bastards,” John Zhang’s “Consuming Sun,” Ning Ying’s “For Fun” and Clara Law’s “Temptation of a Monk.”

Four programs of native cinema will include two features, Alanis Obomsawin’s Canadian docu “Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance” and Jay Craven’s “Where the Rivers Flow North.” There are also six programs of short films.

Director Arthur Penn will be the subject of this year’s career tribute, with screenings of eight of his films, and Gena Rowlands will receive the Piper Heidsieck Award.

Seven seminars will be offered, including sessions devoted to interactive technologies, short films, Latin American cinema, Native American subjects, independent filmmaking for TV and cable, the state of European cinema and political filmmaking in the U.S.

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