Citing what he defines as “a new maturity” in the indie movement, a more complex way of looking at the world and a bracing fusion of the personal and the political in much of the work, Sundance Film Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore said that selecting the 64 entries in four competition categories for the 2007 fest was more difficult than ever.
“There were easily 40 or 50 films we could have programmed, ones I have regrets about not showing. That makes it really hard to hold the line and not expand the festival.”
As it is, the upcoming festival, which runs Jan. 18-28 in Park City, Utah, will include 82 world premieres among its 122 fea-ture titles culled from 25 countries. True to recent form, more submissions were received than ever, 3,287 this year — 1,852 from the U.S. and 1,435 from other countries, up from 1,764 and 1,384, respectively, the previous year.
With regard to the lineup, Gilmore enthused, “We’re on the cusp of a new era of inde-pendent film. It’s not so much about inno-vation, but a whole new horizon of what inde-pendent film engages with.”
Gilmore and director of programming John Cooper were particularly struck by the range of material and approaches repre-sented by the most compelling entries. “If the world independent films addressed used to seem narrow, now you’ve got a whole new array of interests,” Gilmore said. “The subjects are fresh, and you feel that the influences that are working on these films are independent filmmaking from all over the world, rather than just Hollywood or European cinema.
“We’ve always been about discovering new filmmakers, the diversity of filmmakers, from racial and ethnic groups that are not traditionally part of the mainstream. But this year, there’s the sense that you’re really looking at new work.”
Assessing the lineup strictly on the basis of subject matter, quite a few films deal with historical and/or political issues, begin-ning with the opening nighter, Brett Morgen’s multiformat “Chicago 10.” Africa, Central and South America are hot topics, a number of dramatic features were made by filmmakers with docu backgrounds, and there are others, such as Tamara Jenkins and Tommy O’Haver, who, per Gilmore, “are making a com-pletely different impression of who they are as filmmakers with films you’d never expect from them.”
Programmers found the works complicated, not all on point or predictable. “We’ve got antiwar films not from the left, but from the middle,” advised Gilmore. “We’ve got influ-ences that are global, from Africa and Asia, that to an extent have left Europe behind. There are four films that deal with the process of writing and the authorial voice. There are quite a few second-time filmmakers who have come back with work that’s really original. There are films in this festival that have two languages in them, or are in foreign or native languages, that are not foreign films. They don’t worry about it. They just do it.”
Gilmore likened the new “engagement” of indie filmmakers with the ’60s and takes heart in their seriousness and particular strain of optimism. “The films may have flaws,” he acknowledged, “but they are not remotely dismissable.” It’s a notion amplified by Cooper, who stressed that “the political notions in the films are very much woven into the personal stories. There’s less navel-gazing. The filmmakers are more aware of the strug-gles going on everywhere in the world. They’re taking responsibility.”
Where fest logistics are concerned, the shuttle system has been further refined, and walking trails have been established be-tween various venues, notably between the Mar-riott and the Eccles Theater and the Eccles and the Racquet Club. The industry office is being moved to the Yarrow Hotel from the Marriott, where the press center will remain, and some supplementary indus-try screenings will be held at the Redstone multiplex at the shopping center at the Junction, a number of miles from Park City. This facility can only unspool 35mm, however — somewhat limiting at a fest where more pics each year turn up on digital.
Following are the dramatic and documentary competition titles in both the domestic and international sections. Premieres, Spectrum, Midnight and New Frontier titles will be announced tomorrow.
- “Adrift in Manhattan,” directed by Alfredo de Villa (“Washington Heights”) and written by Nat Moss and de Villa, stars Heather Graham as a grieving eye doctor reassessing her life, while an aging artist deals with his loss of eyesight and a photogra-pher battles personal demons. Features an eye-popping sex scene with Graham. Victor Rasuk, Dominic Chianese, William Baldwin and Elizabeth Pena also star.
- “Broken English,” directed and written by Zoe Cassavetes in her dramatic feature bow, is a romantic yarn about a thirty-something woman (Parker Posey) who embarks upon a relationship with an offbeat Frenchman while her friends are preoccupied with family life. Also with Melvil Poupaud, Drea de Matteo, Gena Rowlands, Justin Theroux, Peter Bogdanovich, Tim Guinee, James McCaffrey, Josh Hamilton and Bernadette La-font.
- “Four Sheets to the Wind,” a debut feature from Sundance Lab director-writer Sterlin Harjo, is a comedy/drama about a Native American brother and sister who, after their father dies, embark upon a new life in Tulsa. With Cody Lightning and Jeri Arre-dondo.
- “The Good Life,” directed and written by Steve Berra, is about how the arrival of a young woman disrupts the life of a young man who’s dedicated himself to operating a faded movie palace in a small town. Mark Webber, Zooey Deschanel, Bill Paxton, Harry Dean Stanton, Chris Klein, Patrick Fugit, Drea de Matteo, Bruce McGill, Donal Logue and Deborah Rush star.
- “Grace Is Gone,” the first dramatic feature from director-writer James C. Strouse, is a topical story about the three days it takes for a father (John Cusack) to summon the courage to tell his young daughters that their mother has been killed in Iraq. Alessandro Nivola, Shelan O’Keefe and Gracie Bednarczyk fill out the cast.
- “Joshua,” directed by George Ratliff (“Hellhouse”) and written by David Gilbert and Ratliff, is a threatening child meller about the eponymous 8-year-old prodigy who wreaks havoc on his New York family when a baby sister is brought home from the hos-pital. Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Celia Weston, Dallas Roberts, Michael McKean and Jacob Kogan star.
- “Never Forever,” directed and written by Gina Kim, is about a woman (Vera Far-miga) who launches into a clandestine relationship with a stranger when she and her Asian-American husband can’t conceive a child. David McInnis, Jung-woo Ha and Hwasi Lee co-star.
- “On the Road With Judas,” directed and written by J.J. Lask, sees reality, fiction and different storytelling modes mix to relate the tale of a young thief and his lover. Aaron Ruell, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kevin Corrigan star.
- “Padre nuestro,” directed and written by Christopher Zalla, is an immigration sur-vival story about a criminal’s passage from his native Mexico to New York City, where he meets a man looking for his wealthy father. Jesus Ochoa, Armando Hernandez, Jorge Adrian Espindola and Paola Mendoza star.
- “The Pool,” directed by documaker Chris Smith and written by Smith and Randy Russell, is a class study acted in Hindi and filmed in Goa, India, about a young hotel worker’s fixation on a swimming pool and the family that comes to occupy the house it adjoins. Nana Patekar, Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah and Ayesha Mohan star.
- “Rocket Science,” directed and written by documaker Jeffrey Blitz (“Spell-bound”), is an HBO-produced story about a 15-year-old stutterer from New Jersey who is drawn into the intense world of competitive debating when he falls for the star of the debate team.
- “Snow Angels,” directed by David Gordon Green (“George Washington
“) and written by Stewart O’Nan, is a dark tale about a teenager, his former babysitter, her es-tranged husband and their daughter. Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, Griffin Dunne and Amy Sedaris star.
- “Starting Out in the Evening,” directed by Andrew Wagner (“The Talent Given Us”) and written by Wagner and Fred Parnes, concerns a grad student who convinces an aging, solitary writer (Frank Langella) that her thesis will put him back in the literary spotlight. Lili Taylor, Lauren Ambrose and Adrian Lester co-star.
- “Teeth,” directed and written by Mitchell Lichtenstein, is a conceptually provoca-tive yarn about a devoutly Christian high school girl (Jess Wexler) who finds she pos-sesses a “physical advantage” over men when she becomes the victim of a sexual assault. John Hensley, Josh Pais, Hale Appleman and Lenny von Dohlen also appear.
- “The Untitled Dakota Fanning Project, aka Hounddog,” directed and written by Deborah Kampmeier (“Virgin”), is a Southern gothic tale set in 1961 Alabama about a precocious girl who finds what she’s looking for in blues music. Fanning stars along with Robin Wright Penn, David Morse, Piper Laurie and Afemo Omilami.
- “Weapons,” directed and written by Adam Bhala Lough, is a multistrand revenge drama that examines several seemingly random youth-related killings in a small town over the course of a weekend. Nick Cannon, Paul Dano, Mark Webber, Riley Smith, Regine Nehy, Jade Yorker, Brandon Mychal Smith, Amy Ferguson, Aris Mendoza, Serena Reeder, Toni Trucks and Arliss Howard star.
- “Banished,” directed by Marco Williams, is an exploration of what might be done to right the wrongs committed in three American towns that forcibly ejected their black populations in the early 20th century.
- “Chasing Ghosts,” directed by Lincoln Ruchti, takes a look at the winners of the original, 1982 Video Game World Championship.
- “Crazy Love,” directed by Dan Klores, is the troubling true story of an obsessive relationship between a married man and a beautiful, single 20-year-old woman that started in 1957 and continues.
- “Everything’s Cool,” directed by Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold, follows the struggles of some global warming activists to find the right ways to move from advocacy to public action on behalf of alternative energy.
- “For the Bible Tells Me So,” directed by Daniel Karslake, looks at five conserva-tive Christian families as a way of analyzing how the religious right has tried to use the Bible to stigmatize gays.
- “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” directed by Rory Kennedy, uses firsthand testimony from those involved to examine the abuses at the Iraq prison.
- “Girl 27,” directed by David Stenn, investigates the cover-up of a scandal stem-ming from the rape of underage dancer Patricia Douglas at a wild MGM stag party in 1937.
- “Hear and Now,” directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky, is the story of the filmmaker’s deaf parents who, after 65 years of silence, decide to have cochlear implant surgery in an attempt to gain hearing.
- “Send a Bullet,” directed by Jason Kohn, takes a look at corruption and violence in contempo Brazil.
- “My Kid Could Paint That,” directed by Amir Bar-Lev, focuses on a 4-year-old girl whose paintings, which have been compared to the work of Kandinsky, Pollock and Picasso, have already netted her parents $300,000.
- “Nanking,” directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, examines the “Rape of Nanking” by the Japanese in the ’30s, with attention to the special efforts of a small group of Westerners who saved more than 250,000 people in the midst of the violence.
- “No End in Sight,” directed by Charles Ferguson, is a comprehensive analysis, us-ing first-time interviews with significant participants, of the chain of decisions that led to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
- “Protagonist,” directed by Jessica Yu, uses the stories of four diverse men to ex-plore the organic relationship between human life and Euripidean dramatic structure.
- “War Dance,” directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, concerns the efforts of three young Ugandan girls and their refugee camp school to travel to compete in a na-tional music and dance festival.
- “White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” directed by Steven Okazaki, looks at the human cost of atomic warfare.
- “Zoo,” directed by Robinson Devor (“Police Beat”) offers a humanizing account of the notorious case of an apparently normal Seattle man who died during a sexual en-counter with a horse.
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
- “Blame It on Fidel” (France), directed and written by Julie Gavras, takes the point of view of a 9-year-old girl whose parents become political radicals in early ’70s Paris.
- “Drained” (Brazil), directed by Heitor Dhalia and written by Marcal Aquino and Dhalia, concerns the life change of a devious pawnbroker.
- “Dreams of Dust” (Burkina Faso/Canada/France), directed and written by Laurent Salgues, is about a Nigerian peasant who hopes to put his past behind him by working in a gold mine in Burkina Faso.
- “Driving With My Wife’s Lover” (South Korea), directed by Kim Taisik and writ-ten by Kim Joenhan and Kim, describes the long taxi journey of a man and the cab driver he’s learned is having an affair with his wife.
- “Eagle vs. Shark” (New Zealand), directed and written by Taika Waititi, is a por-trait of two social misfits who try to find love. A Miramax release in its world premiere.
- “Ezra” (France), directed by Newton I. Aduaka and written by Aduaka and Alain-Michel Blanc, examines the attempt of a former child soldier to carve out a normal life after the civil war in Sierra Leone. World premiere.
- “Ghosts” (U.K.), directed by Nick Broomfield and written by Broomfield and Jez Lewis, is a fact-based telling of the tragic struggle of an illegal Chinese woman to find a footing in the U.K.
- “How Is Your Fish Today?” (U.K.), directed by Xiaolu Guo and written by Rao Hui and Xiaolu, looks at a Chinese writer’s inner journey through his fictional characters.
- “How She Move?” (Canada), directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid and written by Annmarie Morais, is the tale of a private school student forced to return to her former crime-ridden neighborhood, where she takes up competitive step dancing. World pre-miere.
- “The Island” (Russia), directed by Pavel Lounguine and written by Dmitri Sobo-lev, is a drama bout an odd monk at a small Russian Orthodox monastery.
- “Khadak” (Belgium/Germany), directed and written by Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth, concerns a young Mongolian faced with the end of the nomadic way of life in the wake of an animal plague.
- “The Legacy” (Georgia/France), directed and written by Gela Babluani and Temur Babluani, focuses on three French hip-sters and a translator who encounter an old man and his grandchild determined to end a clan war in Georgia, where the French intend to claim an inherited castle.
- “The Night Buffalo” (Mexico), directed by Jorge Hernandez Aldana and written by Hernandez Aldana and Guillermo Arriaga, is about a 22-year-old schizophrenic who schemes to ensnare his cheating girlfriend and her lover before committing suicide. World premiere.
- “Noise” (Australia), directed and written by Matthew Saville, follows the strug-gles of a young cop who suffers from tinnitus, or ear-ringing, to clear his head of the screaming he hears in the wake of a mass murder on a train. World premiere.
- “Once” (Ireland), directed and written by John Carney, is a modern musical love story featuring Glen Hansard and his Irish band the Frames.
- “Sweet Mud” (Israel), directed and written by Dror Shaul, is an account of a man who must deal with his mother’s mental illness within the constraints of ’70s kibbutz life.
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
- “Acidente” (Brazil), directed by Cao Guimaraes and Pablo Lobato, is an ex-perimental, poetic expression of every
day life culled from images of 20 cities in Brazil.
- “Bajo Juarez, the City Devouring Its Daughters” (Mexico), directed by Alejandra Sanchez, examines the societal corruption backdropping the many cases of sexual abuse and murders of women in a Mexican industrial border town.
- “Cocalero” (Bolivia), directed by Alejandro Landes, follows the campaign of Ay-maran Indian Evo Morales to become the first president of Bolivia from an indigenous tribe. World premiere.
- “Comrades in Dreams” (Germany), directed by Uli Gaulke, looks at four people in different parts of the world who bring cinema to locals.
- “Crossing the Line” (U.K.), directed by Daniel Gordon, recounts the life of one of the few Americans who defected to North Korea during the Cold War.
- “Enemies of Happiness” (Denmark), directed by Eva Mulvad and Anja Al-Erhayem, is an account of the victory of a 28-year-old Afghan woman in the 2005 par-liamentary election.
- “The Future Is Unwritten” (Ireland/U.K.), directed by Julien Temple, is a look at Joe Strummer and the punk-rock generation.
- “Hot House” (Israel), directed by Shimon Dotan, examines how Israeli prisons have become a breeding ground for future Palestinian leaders and terrorists.
- “In the Shadow of the Moon” (U.K.), directed by David Sington, is a comprehen-sive account of the American Apollo space program. World premiere.
- “Manufactured Landscapes” (Canada), directed by Jennifer Baichwal, focuses on the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky and his portraits of the transformation of landscapes due to industry and manufacturing.
- “The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun” (Denmark), directed by Pernille Rose Gronkjaer, is about how an 82-year-old male virgin and a Russian nun transform the for-mer’s castle into an Orthodox Russian monastery.
- “On a Tightrope” (Norway/Canada), directed by Petr Lom, uses the efforts of four orphans to learning tightrope walking to express the struggle of the Uighur Chinese Mus-lim minority to reconcile religion and communism.
- “Three Comrades” (Netherlands), directed by Masha Novikova, is an account of how the lives of three lifelong friends are devastated by the war in Chechnya.
- “A Very British Gangster” (U.K.), directed by Donal MacIntyre, takes an upclose look at Manchester’s Dominic Noonan, the head of one of Britain’s best-known crime families.
- “VHS — Kahloucha” (Tunisia), directed by Nejib Belkadhi, concerns a self-styled filmmaker in a poor Tunisian community.
- “Welcome Europa” (France), directed by Bruno Ulmer, is about the struggles of Kurdish, Moroccan and Romanian immigrants in Europe.