Gatekeepers open up

Fest's curators dish on '05 slate

John Cooper

Backstory: Former playwright who joined the festival staff 15 years ago; he’s now director of film festival programming.

Programs: All festival sections.

Trendwatch: “There’s definitely a more eccentric look at American life among this year’s films.”

Recommends: “The interactive work in the Frontier section in the online festival. It’s storytelling in a new way.”

Looking forward to: “I have a secret bar, hidden off of Main Street, where I go. And the bacon at the Marriott’s restaurant — I eat more bacon at Sundance than the whole rest of the year.”

Shari Frilot

Backstory: A filmmaker and former director of MIX: The New York Gay & Lesbian Experimental Film Festival, she joined Sundance in 1998.

Programs: All sections, but focuses on the Documentary and Frontier sections.

Trendwatch: “What I see among the documentary films is a honing of the craft toward narrative storytelling. The films play a lot more cinematically.”

Recommends: “I’m excited about this year’s Frontier live artist Luke Savinsky — he’s a projection artist and will present two shows, as well as an immersive environment and a series of ‘film actions’ where he goes into the street and projects onto things.”

Looking forward to: “We’re trying a lot of new stuff, so I’m anxious to see how both audiences and filmmakers will respond.”

Geoff Gilmore

Backstory: Studied film at UCLA and his history with Sundance goes back to when it was still known as the USA Film Festival. He’s now the festival’s topper.

Programs: Oversees all festival sections.

Trendwatch: “The caliber of films keeps getting better, and there’s a lot less genre work; the indie genres that we used to see have almost disappeared — the Tarantino wannabes, the quirky family melodramas, the twentysomething angst films. The stories are richer and more personal.”

Recommends: “I encourage people to see work they wouldn’t customarily see and I hope they’ll see the international work. People will find the films challenging and enlightening.”

Looking forward to: “Meeting people, renewing old acquaintances and feeling that sense of film culture that I think is really important.”

Trevor Groth

Backstory: Worked in the Utah Sundance office until joining the programming team in 1994.

Programs: All sections, but heads the shorts programming.

Trendwatch: “There’s a sense of really strong regional filmmaking, with very specific voices coming out of different areas of the country. With technology and more access to editing facilities, these voices are starting to be heard.”

Recommends: “One of the best 90 minutes of cinema is going to be the animation program. We brought it back again because we saw some spectacular pieces.”

Looking forward to: “Being at a party with Crispin Glover and Werner Herzog.”

Caroline Libresco

Backstory: Former programmer and communications specialist at the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and associate director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival; joined Sundance in 2001.

Programs: All sections, but focuses the World Cinema program.

Trendwatch: “We all know that the American documentary tradition is very strong, but this year I noticed really strong indie features.”

Recommends: “I want to remind people that Sundance is redoubling its efforts in international cinema. We are presenting 16 films in the new World Cinema Dramatic Competition and 12 in the Documentary section, and each one is a gem.”

Looking forward to: “For me, the real celebrities are the documentary subjects: people like Romeo Dallaire, who headed the peacekeeping force in Rwanda in 1994 and is featured in ‘Shake Hands With the Devil.’ He’s going to present the film.”

Bird Runningwater

Backstory: Former director of the Rockefeller family’s Fund of the Four Directions, as well as program associate of the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts and Culture Program; joined Sundance in 2000.

Programs: All sections, but oversees Native American film programming.

Trendwatch: “In the Native American films there’s more use of indigenous languages and also more modern stories.”

Recommends: “One of the films I’m particularly fond of is called ‘5th World,’ by Blackhorse Lowe from the Navajo nation. It’s a gem, a road movie/love story but also a culturally specific film, in the Navajo language with English subtitles. It’s very layered and textured, and establishes its own aesthetic.”

Looking forward to: “I enjoy going over to Sundance Village and stepping away from the chaos of Park City; the drive is seductive and calming, and I love eating at the Grill.”

Diane Weyermann

Backstory: Joined the programming team in 2001. She’s director of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program and also developed the Soros Documentary Fund of the Open Society Institute, now part of Sundance Institute.

Programs: All sections, but focuses on documentary programming.

Trendwatch: “A trend that emerged in the international documentary work deals with war and conflict, and its effect on a country, village or family.”

Recommends: “We have a couple of panels that will be great: ‘The World Is Watching’ will address how documentary films can make a difference, and another will pair Frederick Wiseman and Werner Herzog to talk about where documentary filmmaking is going.”

Looking forward to: “To hearing Iraqi pianist Samir Peter, who’s in ‘Liberace of Baghdad,’ play piano. He’s an amazing character, and he’s looking to play in Park City.”