Stephen Frears, Spike Lee pics to bow at fest; documentaries also announced

Fifteen world-premiere titles from filmmakers including Stephen Frears, Julie Delpy and Spike Lee are set to screen next month in Sundance’s Premieres section, which, for the first time in recent memory, will feature not a single pic with distribution already in place.

“It’s a bit of a new paradigm, even for us,” festival director John Cooper said before announcing the third and final feature lineup for the 28th annual event, including the eight world preems bowing in Documentary Premieres. Describing the no-distrib situation as “a fluke in some ways … a curiosity, not a trend,” Cooper said he and his staff are anticipating typically healthy sales activity during the fest’s Jan. 19-29 run in Park City, Utah.

The number of Premieres bowing at Sundance with distribution varies from year to year. The most recent edition featured just two, Fox Searchlight’s “Cedar Rapids” and “Win Win,” while the 2010 fest boasted a whopping five: “Get Low” and “Please Give” (Sony Classics), “Jack Goes Boating” (Overture), “Nowhere Boy” (the Weinstein Co.) and “The Runaways” (Apparition).

Given that the Premieres section is generally reserved for the festival’s starriest, most commercial fare, buyer interest will be heavily focused on such distrib-seeking titles as Frears’ gambling pic “Lay the Favorite,” toplining Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Rebecca Hall; Delpy’s “2 Days in New York,” starring the helmer and Chris Rock; Lee’s “Red Hook Summer”; Leslye Headland’s “Bachelorette,” starring Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan; Marshall Lewy’s “California Solo,” featuring Robert Carlyle; and Lee Toland Krieger’s “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” toplining Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg.

Also lined up for Premieres berths are Jamie Travis’ “For a Good Time, Call … ” with Ari Graynor and Lauren Anne Miller; Christopher Neil’s “Goats,” featuring David Duchovny and Vera Farmiga; Michael Walker’s “Price Check,” starring Parker Posey and Eric Mabius; Rodrigo Cortes’ “Red Lights,” with Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver and Robert De Niro; and Jake Schreier’s “Robot and Frank,” starring Langella and Sarandon, which will receive a Salt Lake City gala on Jan. 20.

The section will feature two helmers who have previously competed at Sundance: James Marsh (“Man on Wire,” “Project Nim”) for his thriller “Shadow Dancer,” starring Andrea Riseborough; and Josh Radnor (“Happythankyoumoreplease”) for “Liberal Arts,” featuring Elizabeth Olsen and the director. Nicholas Jarecki, brother of filmmakers Andrew and Eugene, joins the lineup with his first fiction feature, “Arbitrage,” starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth. (It’ll be a Jarecki-heavy festival: Eugene Jarecki’s “The House I Live In” will bow in the documentary competition.)

Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal’s “The Words,” starring Bradley Cooper, has been selected as the festival’s closing-night film.

On Jan. 26, Premieres will host an interactive live performance/exhibition featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his collaborative HitRecord production company, inviting audiences to engage using their digital devices. HitRecord was launched in the 2010 fest’s New Frontier section.

Of the eight nonfiction titles slated for Documentary Premieres, the Peter Jackson-produced, Amy Berg-directed “West of Memphis” looks to attract significant attention as the latest film to chronicle the travails of the West Memphis Three. Two other docus in the selection are centered around music: Joe Berlinger’s “Untitled Paul Simon Project” and “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,” the directing debut of rapper-actor Ice-T.

Rounding out the nonfiction slate are Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ “About Face,” Mark Kitchell’s “A Fierce Green Fire,” Stacy Peralta’s “Bones Brigade: An Autobiography,” Rory Kennedy’s “Ethel” and James Redford’s “The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia.” Redford is the son of Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford.

Inaugurated as a fixture of the Sundance program earlier this year, Documentary Premieres will be based primarily at the 550-seat Park City Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center, previously known as the Racquet Club. Venue was shut down this year for remodeling.

PREMIERES

The 13 world premieres in this section are from the U.S. unless otherwise noted.

2 Days in New York (France) – Directed by Julie Delpy, written by Delpy and Alexia Landeau. A Gotham-set sequel of sorts to “2 Days in Paris,” starring Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau and Alex Nahon.

Arbitrage – Directed, written by Nicholas Jarecki. A hedge-fund magnate, desperately trying to unload his financial empire before his fraud is revealed, makes a fatal mistake. With Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta and Nate Parker.

Bachelorette – Directed, written by Leslye Headland. A woman becomes engaged to one of New York’s most eligible bachelors and asks three high-school friends to be her bridesmaids, bringing their issues to the surface. Features Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer.

California Solo – Directed by Marshall Lewy. A Britpop ex-rocker now living on a farm outside Los Angeles must deal with personal demons. Stars Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite, A Martinez and Danny Masterson.

Celeste and Jesse Forever – Directed by Lee Toland Krieger, written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. In which the titular high-school sweethearts decide to get divorced at 30 but remain best friends. Stars Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood and Emma Roberts.

For a Good Time, Call … – Directed by Jamie Travis, written by Katie Anne Naylon and Lauren Anne Miller. Two new roommates embark on a highly unconventional business venture. With Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber and James Wolk.

Goats – Directed by Christopher Neil, written by Mark Jude Poirier. In which Ellis leaves his unconventional desert home to attend the rigorous Gates Academy, where he reconnects with his estranged father. Stars David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Graham Phillips, Justin Kirk and Ty Burrell.

Lay the Favorite – Directed by Stephen Frears, written by D.V. DeVincentis. A young woman gets involved with a group of geeky older men who have figured out how to get rich in Vegas. With Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rebecca Hall.

Liberal Arts – Directed by Josh Radnor. A thirtysomething guy falls for a 19-year-old student at his old alma mater. Stars Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro and Elizabeth Reaser.

Price Check – Directed, written by Michael Walker. A happy family man copes with rising debt and a job he hates. Features Parker Posey, Eric Mabius, Annie Parisse, Josh Pais and Cheyenne Jackson.

Red Hook Summer – Directed by Spike Lee, written by James McBride and Lee. A young Atlanta boy spends a summer in Brooklyn with the grandfather he’s never seen before. With Clarke Peters, Jules Brown, Toni Lysaith, James Ransone, Thomas Jefferson Byrd and Nate Parker.

Red Lights – Directed by Rodrigo Cortes. A psychologist and her assistant with an interest in paranormal activity find themselves investigating a world-renowned psychic. With Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen and Toby Jones.

Robot and Frank – Directed by Jake Schreier, written by Christopher Ford. An old curmudgeon gets a robot for a caretaker. Stars Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler. Salt Lake City gala.

Shadow Dancer (U.K.) – Directed by James Marsh, written by Tom Bradby. Arrested in an aborted bomb plot, a widow must make hard choices to protect her son. With Andrea Riseborough, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen.

The Words – Directed and written by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. An aspiring writer claims another man’s literary achievements as his own. Features Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde and Zoe Saldana. Closing-night film.

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES

The eight world premieres in this section are from the U.S. unless otherwise noted.

About Face – Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Explores issues of beauty and aging through supermodels’ stories.

Bones Brigade: An Autobiography – Directed by Stacy Peralta. Examines the lives off six teenage boys who formed a skateboarding team in the 1980s.

The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia – Directed by James Redford. Follows a dyslexic high school senior struggling to get into a competitive college.

Ethel – Directed by Rory Kennedy. An intimate portrait of Ethel Kennedy, specifically her years with and later without her husband, Robert F. Kennedy.

A Fierce Green Fire – Directed by Mark Kitchell. Etches a history of the environmental movement from the 1960s to the present.

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap (U.K.) – Directed by Ice-T, co-directed by Andy Baybutt. Traces the roots and history of rap through interviews with some of its most influential practitioners.

Untitled Paul Simon Project – Directed by Joe Berlinger. Follows Simon back to South Africa to explore the musical and political legacy of his “Graceland” album.

West of Memphis – Directed by Amy Berg. Examines judicial, prosecutorial and jury misconduct in the widely publicized West Memphis Three trials.

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