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Sundance bows first U.K. edition

Fest swaps Park City for London

LONDON Thirty-four years since the first Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the beloved U.S. indie fest has finally migrated to the other side of the pond.

On Thursday, Sundance London unspools at the O2 arena in Blighty’s capital with U.K. preems of 14 features and docus that played at Sundance in Park City in January.

The four-day event, targeted primarily at U.K. consumers, will unspool prize winners including “The House I Live In,” which nabbed U.S. doc honors; “The Queen of Versailles,” which took U.S. doc helmer laurel for Lauren Greenfield; and “Nobody Walks,” which won a special jury prize for producers Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling.

“We wanted a cross-section of films so that people (in London) really get an understanding of what the festival is all about,” Sundance director of programming Trevor Groth told Daily Variety. “It’s a mix of dramatic and documentary and more experimental works within those sections. Some are more entertaining, others more rigorous.”

He added, “We’ve had such a long and rich history of bringing U.K. films to Sundance and it’s nice to finally branch out to London.”

And while the event will screen pics that, for the most part, have yet to gain U.K. distribution (“Liberal Arts” and “2 Days in New York” are the exception with distrib deals at Revolver/Picturehouse and Network Releasing respectively), this version of the fest is also peppered with consumer-led events such as music gigs and panels.

Opening night will see scribe Nick Hornby moderate a panel with Sundance founder Robert Redford and “Crazy Heart” music producer and singer-songwriter T. Bone Burnett.

AEG Europe is spearheading the musical component of the fest, which includes performances from Placebo, Glen Hansard, Tricky and Rufus and Martha Wainwright.

Prince Charles will introduce the world preem of “Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World,” on Saturday.

Pic follows the prince’s work with an array of environmental activists, business leaders and visionaries to find ways to create a more sustainable global environment.

“The whole event is very mission-driven in how we support indie filmmakers,” said Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper. “One thing we’ve seen is that in terms of U.S. indie films going outside of our own borders there’s a lot of area for growth.”

While the cost of the event is undisclosed, 30% of all proceeds will go back to Sundance London.

Additionally, Cooper points out that while the event’s main aim is to build an audience for a product, an added bonus would be if pics were able to snag a distribution deal.

“That would be great if that happens,” he said. “Part of the reason Trevor and I are doing this is because we want to expand opportunities for our filmmakers. But we’re first and foremost trying to bring audiences to those films.”

And while it’s still too early to decide whether Sundance London will be an annual event, Cooper said, “A one-off just isn’t our style.”

“A repeat isn’t so much based on profit but more about whether or not we can draw a main audience,” he added. “We’ll try not to think about it though until the first one is under our belt. But we are thinking longterm and these days these things take time.”

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