Popular Premieres section unveils lineup

Read related story: Sundance unveils lineup

The popular Premieres section of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival is filled with the customary selection of movies featuring stars venturing outside the mainstream to do something presumably more adventurous, as well as of films by name directors doing work outside the big studios.

Program has been bumped up to 24 entries this year and kicks off the fest Jan. 17 with the previously announced world preem of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s first feature, “In Bruges,” a noirish thriller about two London hitmen whose enforced vacation in the Belgian city goes south. Focus feature stars Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes.

Closing-night attraction on Jan. 26 will be the world preem of Bernard Shakey’s “CSNY Deja Vu,” which takes the occasion of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Freedom of Speech Tour” to analyze the band’s political and musical contributions and to compare the Vietnam era, when the group emerged, to the current climate during the Iraq war.

Also unveiled were the Spectrum sidebar, which is now split between a dramatic section and a documentary spotlight, as well as the expanded New Frontier program and the Park City at Midnight lineup.

Among the directors with films in Premieres are Michel Gondry, Barry Levinson, Boaz Yakin, Mark Pellington (twice represented with “Henry Poole Is Here” and “U2 3D“), Michael Keaton and Brad Anderson. Thesps making appearances therein include Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Maria Bello, William Hurt, Bruce Willis, Ben Kingsley, Ewan McGregor, Julianne Moore, Charlize Theron and Jack Black.

PREMIERES

These are the titles, in addition to “In Bruges” and “CSNY Deja Vu”:

“Assassination of a High School President,” directed by Brett Simon and written by Tim Calpin and Kevin Jakubowski, is a Catholic high school noir about a student journalist who uncovers a scandal. With Bruce Willis.

“Be Kind Rewind,” directed and written by Michel Gondry, is a flight of fancy that concerns a man whose magnetized body erases all the tapes in a friend’s videostore, whereupon they endeavor to remake lost films. Mos Def and Jack Black star in the New Line Cinema release.

“The Deal” (Canada), directed by Steven Schachter and written by William H. Macy and Schachter, is a romantic comedy about a suicidal vet Hollywood producer who cons a studio into making a big-budget pic without a script and starring a black action star newly converted to Judaism. Macy, Meg Ryan and LL Cool J star.

“Death in Love,” directed and written by Boaz Yakin, centers on a 40-year-old bachelor who tries to sort out his personal relationships in the shadow of his mother’s concentration camp experience.“Diminished Capacity,” directed by Terry Kinney and written by Sherwood Kiraly, is a dysfunctional family comedy that depicts a road trip taken by a man who wants to sell an ultra-rare baseball card to finance his uncle’s waning years. Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda and Virginia Madsen star.

“The Escapist” (Ireland), directed by Rupert Wyatt and written by Wyatt and Daniel Hardy, is a dramatic caper about a lifer prisoner who hatches a clever escape with the help of some misfits so he can make peace with his ailing daughter. Brian Cox and Joseph Fienneshead the cast.

“The Great Buck Howard,” directed and written by Sean McGinly, is a road movie about a law school dropout who becomes personal assistant to a has-been magician trying to make a comeback. Produced by Tom Hanks, this Salt Lake City opening-night attraction stars Colin Hanks, John Malkovich and Emily Blunt.

“The Guitar,” directed by debuting helmer Amy Redford and written by New York indie stalwart Amos Poe, looks at a woman whose surfeit of bad news — she’s fired, dumped by her boyfriend and diagnosed with a terminal disease –spurs her to quickly pursue her dreams.

“Henry Poole Is Here,” directed by Pellington and written by Albert Torres, is a study of faith and survival that centers on a man whose final days, which he wants to spend alone, are interrupted by a neighbor’s discovery of a “miracle.”

“Incendiary” (U.K.), directed and written by Sharon Maguire (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”), concerns the reactions of a young mother to a terrorist attack in London. Michelle Williams and McGregor star.

“The Merry Gentleman,” directed by first-time helmer Michael Keaton and written by Ron Lazzeretti, focuses on the unusual relationship between a woman who witnesses a murder and a depressed hitman.

“A Raisin in the Sun,” directed by Kenny Leon and adapted by Paris Qualles from the play by Lorraine Hansberry, is a filmed TV version of the recent Broadway revival starring Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald.

“Savage Grace,” directed by Tom Kalin (“Swoon”) and written by Howard A. Rodman, concerns the bizarre intimacy between a wealthy mother and her only child played out among the indolent rich in late ’60s Europe. Julianne Moore stars in theIFC release.

“Sleepwalking” (Canada/U.S.), directed by Bill Maher and written by Zac Stanford, concerns a young man jolted into responsibility when his abandoned niece is threatened with life in a foster home. Features Theron. An Overture Films release.

“Smart People,” directed by Noam Murro and written by Mark Jude Poirier, follows a self-involved lit professor who’s forced to examine his life when his brother unexpectedly turns up. Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church and Ellen Pagestar in the Miramax release.

“Towelhead” (formerly known as “Nothing Is Private”), the feature directorial debut of writer Alan Ball (“American Beauty,” “Six Feet Under”), charts an Arab-American girl’s tricky journey through adolescence and early sexuality in Texas. Warner Independent release stars Aaron Eckhart, Bello, Toni Collette and Summer Bishil.

“Transsiberian” (Spain), directed by Brad Anderson and written by Anderson and Will Conroy, is a revival of the classic train murder mystery genre set aboard a journey from China to Moscow. Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer and Kingsley star.

“U2 3D,” directed by Catherine Owens and Pellington, is a 3-D concert pic of U2’s “Vertigo” tour shot at seven different shows.

“The Visitor,” directed and written by Tom McCarthy, explores the growing connection between a college professor and an immigrant couple he discovers occupying his Manhattan apartment. An Overture Films release.

“What Just Happened?,” directed by Barry Levinson and written by Art Linson, is an inside-Hollywood comedy about a producer trying to keep sane while beset by his difficult director, star, executive, agent and second wife. De Niro, Willis, Penn, Catherine Keener, Stanley Tucci and John Turturro star.

“The Year of Getting to Know Us,” directed and written by Patrick Sisam, is a dysfunctional family comedy about a commitment-phobe whose sick father helps him make sense of his own childhood. Jimmy Fallon, Lucy Liu and Sharon Stonestar.

“The Yellow Handkerchief,” directed by Udayan Prasad and written by Eric Dignam, concerns a former con’s encounter with two disillusioned young folk on the road in Louisiana. Bello and Hurtstar.

SPECTRUM

Dramatic Section

“August,” directed by Austin Chick and written by Howard A. Rodman, concerns a dot-com entrepreneur coping with the market collapse of August 2001.“Baghead,” directed and written by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass, is a comedy exploring the relationship dynamics of a group of desperate actor friends.

“Birds of America,” directed by Craig Lucas and written by Elyse Friedman, focuses on the gathering of three neurotic siblings at the family manse. Matthew Perry, Ginnifer Goodwin and Ben Foster star.

“Blind Date,” directed by Stanley Tucci and written by Tucci and David Schechter, is a remake of the Dutch film by the late Theo van Gogh about a married couple who have suffered a tragedy and can relate to one another only as different characters via personal ads. With Tucci and Patricia Clarkson.

“Bottle Shock,” directed by Randall Miller and written by Jody Savin and Miller, centers on the world of California winemaking and the infamous “Judgment of Paris” blind wine tasting event of 1976.

“Chronic Town,” directed by Tom Hines and written by Michael Kamsky, is a dark comedy about a substance-abusing taxi driver during an Alaskan winter.

“Goliath,” directed by David Zellner and Nathan Zellner and written by the former, looks at a man who hopes to find salvation by locating his missing cat after his entire life has collapsed around him.

“A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy,” directed and written by Dennis Dortch, is an art film comprised of six vignettes about sexuality and relationships among blacks in L.A.

“Love Comes Lately” (Germany/Austria), directed and written by Jan Schutte based on Isaac Bashevis Singer stories, concerns the active love life of an 80-year-old man. “Momma’s Man,” written and directed by Azazel Jacobs, is an offbeat portrait of a man whose attitudes toward his wife and child change after being forced to stay with his parents.

“Quid Pro Quo,” directed and written by Carlos Brooks, is an unusual look at a paraplegic radio reporter who becomes interested in a mysterious woman while researching a story about able-bodied people who secretly yearn to be paralyzed.

“Red,” directed by TrygveDiesen and written by Stephen Susco, is a genre piece about a man who seeks justice after three teens shoot his dog.

SPECTRUM

Documentary Spotlight

“Anvil! The True Story of Anvil,” directed by Sacha Gervasi, is a mockumentary-like true account of fiftysomething Canadian heavy-metal practitioners Robb Reiner and Lips who, after a desultory European tour with their band Anvil, decide to record a 13th album in a final attempt to fulfill their boyhead dreams of stardom.

“The Black List,” directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and written by Elvis Mitchell, follows journo Mitchell as he interviews numerous black leaders from different fields to take the temperature of black America today.

“Kicking It,” directed and written by Susan Koch, depicts an assortment of homeless people whose lives are changed by participating in the Homeless World Cup soccer match in South Africa.

“The Linguists,” directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel Miller and Jeremy Newberger and written by Miller, concerns two linguists who travel the world documenting languages on the verge of extinction.

“Made in America,” directed by Stacy Peralta and written by Peralta and Sam George, is a comprehensive history of the Crips and Bloods street gangs of South Los Angeles.

“Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?” (France), directed by Morgan Spurlock and written by Jeremy Chilnick and Spurlock depicts the filmmaker’s search for the elusive terrorist.

“Young@ Heart” (U.K.), directed by Stephen Walker, follows a senior citizens’ choir that performs tunes by classic and contempo pop musicians.

NEW FRONTIER

“Casting a Glance,” directed and written by James Benning, is an experimental look at the Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson’s enormous sculpture that has evolved over 30 years in conjunction with the ebb and flow of the Great Salt Lake.

“Eat, for This Is My Body” (France/Haiti), directed and written by Michelange Quay, is a meditation on racial conquest and liberation in Haiti. With Sylvie Testud.

“Fear(s) of the Dark” (France), directed by Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Callou, Romain Slocombe, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti and Jerry Kramsky, is an animated feature comprising six works by graphic artists and cartoonists addressing their phobias and nightmares.

“Half-Life,” directed and written by Jennifer Phang, concerns a family confronting hidden issues against the backdrop of impending global cataclysms.

“Reversion,” directed and written by Mia Trachinger, is about a woman genetically stripped of morality who tries to continue her romance with a man.

“Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, Parts 4 and 5″ is a collection of the most recent shorts by artist Yang Fudong, which focus on seven thinkers in the ancient Chinese Wei and Jin dynasties.

PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT

“Adventures of Power,” directed and written by Ari Gold, is a comedy about the struggles of a small-town dreamer to become the world’s great air drummer.“The Broken,” directed and written by Sean Ellis, is a horror item that commences when a woman on a London street sees herself driving by in her own car.

“Donkey Punch” (U.K.), directed by Olly Blackburn and written by Blackburn and David Bloom, concerns the fallout among several young adults on a yacht in the Mediterranean after one of them dies in a freak accident. “Funny Games,” directed and written by Michael Haneke, is the Austrian filmmaker’s American remake of his own 1997 shocker. Naomi Watts stars in the Warner Independent release.

“George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead,” directed and written by Romero, follows students making an indie horror film who suddenly find themselves trapped with real zombies.

“Hell Ride,” directed and written by Larry Bishop, is a biker revenge pic presented by Quentin Tarantino that pays homage to ’60s AIP chopper mellers.

“Otto; or, Up With Dead People” (Germany/Canada), directed and written by Bruce LaBruce, follows a lonely gay zombie searching for love and meaning in contempo Berlin.

“Timecrimes” (Spain), directed and written by Nacho Vigalondo, is a sci-fier about a man who meets himself when he travels back in time, precipitating a terrible crime.

Read related story: Sundance unveils lineup

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