Park City gets ‘Down and Dirty’

Surfing docu expected to be fest's first sale

PARK CITY — There are dozens of filmmaking tomes in the window display of Dolly’s Books on Main Street, but Peter Biskind’s just-published “Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film,” isn’t among them. The book, which is unstinting in its criticism of Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford and Miramax Films chieftain Harvey Weinstein, can’t be found on even the store’s most far-flung shelves.

Is there a Park City boycott? Is it kept behind the register?

“We’re sold out,” said a Dolly’s clerk. “We won’t get more until Wednesday.”

By day two of the festival no deals have been made, but Biskind’s book is providing everyone with plenty to talk about. While no one is eager to be seen with the book in public, the only people who don’t have a copy in the condo are those who finished it before arriving in Park City.

On opening night, just prior to the premiere of surfing doc “Riding Giants,” even Redford acknowledged the elephant in the room. “I have to go,” he said dryly. “Later on, I’m joining Harvey Weinstein at a book signing party.”

Stacy Peralta’s “Riding Giants” will likely be the festival’s first sale, with a deal possible as soon as Sunday. Fox Searchlight is considered the likely buyer, although no deal was in place Saturday afternoon.

Among the other buzz pics that have screened to date are Ray McKinnon’s violent and disturbing “Chrystal” starring Billy Bob Thornton. Said one buyer, “This is one for Jack Valenti.”

Execs also expect Zach Braff’s “Garden State,” which stars Braff with Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard, to find a sale.

Low-budget suspenser “Open Water,” about a couple stranded at sea and surrounded by sharks, was also said to be drawing distrib interest Saturday.

Also likely to sell are Greg Harrison’s “November,” a psychological thriller from InDigEnt starring Courteney Cox. “Brother to Brother,” a drama about black politics and sexuality, was well-received at its Saturday screening.

This year, however, who will do the buying is expected to be at least as interesting as what’s being bought.

With UA head Bingham Ray fired just a week before the fest and Weinstein not yet arrived, the festival is without two of its most prominent figures. The jury’s still out on whether Warner Independent Pictures, which is making its Sundance bow with president Mark Gill in tow, is interested in becoming a significant finished-film buyer.

At the same time, there are a number of smaller distributors that can’t afford bidding wars but are aggressively seeking their next surprise hit, like Magnolia Films’ “Capturing the Friedmans” and ThinkFilm’s “Spellbound.”

Star sightings to date have included Hank Azaria and the periapetic Paris Hilton, with Ben Affleck expected at tonight’s Project Greenlight party. Among those who have sent their regrets are “Marie and Bruce” stars Matthew Broderick and Julianne Moore as well as Christian Bale and Jennifer Jason Leigh of Brad Anderson’s “The Machinist.”

Temperatures hovering in the 20s and below have done nothing to faze the crowds on Main Street, with some fashion plates walking up ice-slicked sidewalks in stiletto-heeled boots. However, this year’s must-have Sundance accessory is the major corporate sponsor. Microsoft Windows Media and Digital Cinema Solutions backed Friday night’s dinner for Sony Pictures Classics’ “Carandiru,” directed by Hector Babenco. Completing the postmodern shag décor of the Palms Casino were three plasma screens showing music clips advertising music mag Blender.

Later that evening, musician Liz Phair asked her Skyy Lounge audience, “Hey, how many of you are drinking Skyy Vodka?” Behind her was another plasma screen, this one showing a TiVo commercial on an endless loop. It was a short set; she was due next door to perform at Harry O’s, brought to you by Blender.

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