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Sundance London Builds on Promising Debut

Programming chief Trevor Groth praises 'adventurous' auds

LONDON — Sundance London, the U.K. film and music fest spin-off of the Sundance Film Festival, has added the final three titles for the main program of its sophomore edition.

Jeff Nichol’s “Mud” (pictured), Sean Ellis’ “Metro Manila” and Stuart Zicherman’s “A.C.O.D.” will join the 11 titles previously announced for the main program on March 11.

“With the addition of these three films, Sundance London will present an even more well-rounded program of independent films that represents the work we show at our festival in Utah,” said Sundance Festival director John Cooper. “In addition, each offers audiences a unique experience to interact with the artists behind exciting, challenging and entertaining work.”

The announcement of the final three titles confirms that Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale,” which won the dramatic jury and audience awards in Utah, would not participate in Sundance London. Director of programming Trevor Groth explained to Variety that while he had been in discussions with the filmmakers for its inclusion the film was under consideration for Cannes, which would require an international preem. “Getting into Cannes would be a huge opportunity for the film. We totally respect and support that,” said Groth.

The second edition of Sundance London follows a strong reaction from audiences and filmmakers to the inaugural event in 2012. “What is so inspiring was the feedback we received from filmmakers at last year’s London event,” said Cooper. “That seems to have spread around our community so all the filmmakers want to come. British audiences were very adventurous and energized.”

The fest gives U.K. audiences a chance to see films they may otherwise have little or no opportunity of accessing. Of the 16 titles included in the U.S. drama competition at Sundance in 2012 only six have U.K. distribution, with a seventh, “Simon Killer,” set for release in April. Of the six releases Benh Zeitlin’s Academy Award nommed “Beasts of the Southern Wild” played best with a U.K. box office of $1.3 million. Ben Lewin’s “The Sessions” delivered $399,481, Colin Trevorrow’s “Safety Not Guaranteed” $166,273 and Ira Sach’s “Keep the Lights On” $75,495.

However James Ponsoldt’s “Smashed” and So Yong Kim’s “For Ellen” saw only very limited releases for theatrical grosses of $19,559 and $10,036, respectively. For titles in Sundance London’s inaugural program including “Filly Brown,” “LUV” and “Nobody Walks,” the event likely represented the films’ best if not only opportunity to reach London filmgoers.

“We believe in what Sundance London can do for a film. We saw the power of what it can do for them last year,” said Groth. Other titles in the program for Sundance London 2012,  including docus “Chasing Ice,” “The House I Live In,” “The Queen of Versailles” and “Shut Up and Play the Hits” as well as narrative features “2 Days in New York” and “Liberal Arts,” also got U.K. theatrical releases.

In comparison, of the 22 titles features in the competish line-up at Cannes last May, four months after Sundance’s 2012 edition, 16 have received theatrical distribution in Blighty with another three set for release in coming months. These include “Mud,” which world preemed at Cannes  before playing at Sundance in January. The film is set to release in Blighty on May 10 through eOne.

London sees a large number of boutique fests throughout the year but few with the profile the Sundance name can bring. The city’s premiere fest, the BFI London Film Festival, will take place in Oct. 9-20 and last year boasted a record attendance of 149,000, up 12% from 2011. For more specialized independent film the two key events are the Raindance Film Festival (Sept. 25-Oct. 6 this year) and the BFI’s London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, which concludes this week. The LLGFF specifically programs films for or from the LGBT community, providing access to films rarely showcased elsewhere. In 2012 attendance reached over 21,200 and indications are that the 2013 edition will surpass that.

Sundance London will screen 21 features and nine shorts across four sections, including a new four-film U.K. spotlight, as well as live events and discussions. The event takes place at London’s O2 from April 25-28.

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