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Sundance London Puts Comedy Center-stage

Fest to put spotlight on British indie movies

LONDON — Comedy and the contrast between practitioners on either side of the Atlantic forms a centerpiece of the second Sundance London film and music festival, which will also see a spotlight on U.K. films.

The program for the four-day event draws on that of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in January, and was announced Monday. It will feature 21 features and nine shorts across four sections.

“We want the program to be a good representation of the festival that just happened,” Sundance Festival director John Cooper told Variety. Included in the line-up are docu “Blood Brother,” which took home jury and audience awards in Utah, and Lake Bell’s “In a World,” which won the Waldo Salt screenwriting award.

Also included in the main program are docus “Blackfish,” “God Loves Uganda,” “Muscle Shoals” and “Running from Crazy,” and narrative features “Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes,” “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” “The Kings of Summer,” “Touchy Feely” and “Upstream Color.” The main program currently features six international preems and the European preem of “God Loves Uganda,” while the remaining four are U.K. preems.
Three more features are yet to be confirmed for the lineup. Director of programming Trevor Groth revealed to Variety that Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale” is in discussions to appear, but that the filmmakers are waiting to hear about a possible placement in Cannes. “That’s one we love for a number of reasons, it was a Sundance Labs project, then it won the jury and audience awards in Utah,” said Groth. “We’d love to bring it to London, but the filmmakers are waiting to hear back from Cannes and that would need to be an international premiere. We totally respect and support that.”

New for the second edition of the fest is a U.K. spotlight, featuring the U.K. preems of Michael Winterbottom’s “The Look of Love” and Jeremy Lovering’s “In Fear,” as well as docus “The Moo Man,” also receiving its U.K. preem, and “The Summit.”

“Last year we saw strong reactions to British filmmakers in particular from the local crowd,” explained Cooper. “That’s why we added the U.K. spotlight this year to create something special for the audience.”

Live performance events include the international preem of Alison Ellwood’s docu about rock legends The Eagles, “History of the Eagles part One,” followed by the band on stage, and the previously announced Canadian musician Peaches giving a live performance following her film “Peaches Does Herself.”

Also on the event lineup is Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk with Me,” followed by Birbiglia and U.K. comedian Jimmy Carr on stage. The comedy won Best of Next! at Sundance in 2012, but was selected by Groth after discovering it had yet to find a U.K. release. “It is a great opportunity to screen the film and get some stand-up going on,” said Groth.

Birbiglia will also take part in panel discussion “Senses of Humor and Humour: U.S.-U.K. Comedy,” co-presented with the BFI. The event will see U.K. and U.S. actors, comedians and filmmakers exploring American and British humor. Lake Bell will also take part, with other panellists yet to be announced.

“That came out of what was going on in Park City this year,” said Groth. “There were a high number of comedies which delighted audiences so we were interested in bringing that to London, both the films and the spirit. Compare and contrast.”

Other discussion events will include “Art of the Score” with composer David Arnold and a “Screenwriting Flash Lab” with scribes from both sides of the Atlantic shedding light on what they learnt from their biggest mistakes. Scripters already announced include Tony Grisoni, Peter Straughan and Lynn Shelton.

Sundance London takes place April 25-28 at The O2 arena.

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