My heart is very heavy today. With all the excitement of Sundance London comes the crushing disappointment that I can’t go this year. But, for all of you who can or are going, the line-up for the first ever Sundance London has been announced. And it’s a bit of a cracker.
Held from the 26th-29th April (yep, next month), London’s O2 will be chockfull of music, panels, discussions and, most importantly, movies. And Robert actual Redford is going to be there, opening with ‘An Evening With Robert Redford And T Bone Burnett’ moderated by Nick Hornby. And Placebo are just one of the bands that have been announced so far. Remember when I told you my heart was heavy today…?! It’s an absolutely brilliant move, bringing it to London, and gives us (well, not me this year) a chance to see the films that we’ve heard so much about since the Americans had their Sundance in Park City, Utah, back in January.
14 of the 120 films shown in Park City will be shown in London and, although it’s a real shame Surrogates isn’t in there, it’s great to see such a brilliant selection of documentaries. Check out the full line-up below (all of the film descriptions are taken from the Sundance website, here):
2 Days In New York – Director: Julie Delpy
“Marion and Mingus live cozily—perhaps too cozily—with their cat and two young children from previous relationships. However, when Marion’s jolly father (played by director Delpy’s real-life dad), her oversexed sister, and her sister’s outrageous boyfriend unceremoniously descend upon them for a visit, it initiates two unforgettable days that will test Marion and Mingus’s relationship. With their unwitting racism and sexual frankness, the French triumvirate hilariously has no boundaries or filters . . . and no person is left unscathed in its wake.
Directed and cowritten by Delpy, 2 Days in New York is a deliciously witty romp. One of the pleasures of this follow-up film to 2 Days in Paris is the addition of Chris Rock, who—amid the Gallic mayhem—convincingly plays the straight man as Marion’s hipster American boyfriend. With great skill and energy, Delpy heightens cultural differences to comedic extremes but also manages to show that sometimes change is the best solution to a relationship that’s been pushed to its limit.”
Chasing Ice – Director: Jeff Orlowski
“Chasing Ice premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and received the Excellence in Cinematography Award.
When National Geographic photographer James Balog asked, “How can one take a picture of climate change?” his attention was immediately drawn to ice. Soon he was asked to do a cover story on glaciers that became the most popular and well-read piece in the magazine during the last five years. But for Balog, that story marked the beginning of a much larger and longer-term project that would reach epic proportions.
In this breathtakingly beautiful documentary, filmmaker Jeff Orlowski follows the indomitable photographer as he brings to life the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) – a massive photography project that placed 30 cameras across three continents to gather visual evidence of the Earth’s melting ice. Chasing Ice tells the story of a visionary artist who, in facing his own mortality, bequeaths the magic of photography and the adventure of the expedition to a new generation and captures the most visible sign of climate change on the planet today.
2012 Sundance Film Festival Excellence in Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary.”
Filly Brown – Directors: Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos
““Majo” Tonorio, a.k.a. Filly Brown, is a raw, young Los Angeles hip-hop artist who spits from the heart. When a sleazy record producer offers her a crack at rap stardom, Majo faces some daunting choices. With an incarcerated mother, a record contract could be the ticket out for her struggling family. But taking the deal means selling out her talent and the true friends who helped her to the cusp of success.
A portrait of an artist forced to discover her authentic voice, Filly Brown percolates with the raw energy of hope sprung from desperation. Directed with tenacious grit by Youssef Delara and Michael Olmos, propelled by an exceptional cast, and fused with a fierce hip-hop score, Filly Brown heralds the arrival of Gina Rodriguez in the title role. A dazzling new star, Rodriguez not only lights up the screen, but she could conquer the airwaves as well.”
Finding North – Directors: Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush
“Finding North premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and features music by T Bone Burnett.
America has lost its way in taking care of its own. The shocking fact is that one in six Americans doesn’t get enough to eat on a regular basis. Even more disturbing is the fact that this new face of hunger is largely invisible. There are no breadlines in the streets, but increasing numbers of soup kitchens and food banks are feeding people who – though employed full-time – can’t make ends meet.
Finding North unveils the human stories behind the statistics: a rancher juggling two jobs and a small-town policeman rely on food pantries to survive between paychecks; a single working mom can’t afford consistent meals for her children; a short-order cook must travel more than an hour to purchase fruits and vegetables.
As it unravels the real societal costs and applies transparency to the causes of this hunger crisis in the richest country in the world, Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush’s bracing film explores ways that we as a nation can correct this alarming and unnecessary state of affairs.”
For Ellen – Director: So Yong Kim
“After an overnight long-distance drive, Joby (Paul Dano) has a special meeting – with lawyers and his ex-wife. A struggling musician with the prerequisite tattoos, slimy hair, goatee, and his head firmly floating in the clouds, Joby hasn’t been around to be a dad. Now is his last chance to fight for shared custody of his daughter, Ellen.
Writer/director So Yong Kim takes this traditional situation and fills it with humanism. Joby becomes a fascinating character study – a wannabe rock star now turned into a human being – forced to care about something other than his dreams. Kim’s subtle filmmaking style captures real life and conveys emotion in both funny and touching ways. Dano takes a character we are used to laughing at and makes him genuine, completely immersing us in Joby’s journey to respectability, even though he may not make it there.”
The House I Live In – Director: Eugene Jarecki
“The House I Live In premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and received the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary, marking Eugene Jarecki’s second Grand Jury Prize at the Festival.
Eugene Jarecki’s seminal film Why We Fight dissected the underbelly of the American war machine. Now, with scalpel-like precision, Jarecki turns his lens on a less visible war – one that is costing more lives, destroying more families, and quickly becoming a scourge on the soul of American society. In the past 40 years, the War on Drugs has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer, and destroyed impoverished communities at home and abroad. Yet drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever. Where did we go wrong, and what can be done?
Comprehensive in scope, heart wrenching in its humanity, and brilliant in its thesis, Jarecki’s new film grabs viewers and shakes them to their core. The House I Live In is not only the definitive film on the failure of America’s drug war, but it is also a masterpiece filled with hope and the potential to effect change. This film is surely destined for the annals of documentary history.”
Liberal Arts – Director: Josh Radnor
“Liberal Arts debuted in the Premieres section at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and was Radnor’s second film to screen at the Festival in three years.
Newly single, 35, and uninspired by his job, Jesse Fisher worries that his best days are behind him. But no matter how much he buries his head in a book, life keeps pulling Jesse back. When his favourite college professor invites him to campus to speak at his retirement dinner, Jesse jumps at the chance. He is prepared for the nostalgia of the dining halls and dorm rooms, the parties and poetry seminars; what he doesn’t see coming is Zibby – a beautiful, precocious, classical-music-loving sophomore. Zibby awakens scary, exciting, long-dormant feelings of possibility and connection that Jesse thought he had buried forever.
The multitalented Josh Radnor returned to the Sundance Film Festival (happythankyoumoreplease won the 2010 dramatic Audience Award), wearing three hats. As writer, director, and star of Liberal Arts, Radnor could teach a master class in filmmaking. Given that his engaging co-star is Elizabeth Olsen, the master class here is one in chemistry between two exceptional actors.”
LUV – Director: Sheldon Candis
“Woody, an adorable 11-year-old boy awaiting the return of his missing mother, lives with his grandmother and Uncle Vincent, who is fresh off an eight-year prison stint. For Woody, the confident, charismatic Vincent is a titan among men. When Vincent notices that Woody could learn a thing or two about becoming a man, he brings him along as he ventures forth to open his own business. But when legit life fails to support Vincent’s vision, and his old Baltimore crime boss, Mr. Fish, haunts him, the pace of little Woody’s manhood lesson accelerates.
Beautiful, bold, and confident, Sheldon Candis’s auspicious debut feature transforms the standard gangster film into a warm and radiant coming-of-age story that humanizes complex situations through characters motivated by love, rather than pride. Brought to life by a brilliant cast, including Danny Glover, Charles Dutton, and Meagan Good, LUV is a lion-hearted tale about virtue as it shines through a complicated slice of black male life in Baltimore.”
Nobody Walks – Director: Ry Russo-Young
“Nobody Walks premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and received the Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Independent Film Producing. The script was developed, in part, at the 2010 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab and the project was supported through the 2010 Creative Producing Lab and Summit.
Martine, a 23-year-old artist from New York, arrives in Los Angeles to stay in the pool house of a family living in the hip and hilly community of Silver Lake. Peter, the father, has agreed to help Martine complete sound design on her art film as a favour to his wife. Martine innocently enters the seemingly idyllic life of this open-minded family with two kids and a relaxed Southern California vibe. Like a bolt of lightning, her arrival sparks a surge of energy that awakens suppressed impulses in everyone and forces them to confront their own fears and desires.
Exquisitely orchestrated by Ry Russo-Young (You Won’t Miss Me screened at the 2009 Festival) and co-written by Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture), this potent charting of inner urges and sufferings links characters in an intricate dance of lust, denial, and deception. Despite their issues, each comes across as fundamentally human, urging viewers to appraise the characters’ morality by evaluating their own motives. Sexually charged and rigorously composed, Nobody Walks boasts an impressive cast who deliver incisive performances in this absorbing tale.
2012 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Independent Film Producing (Andrea Sperling and Jonathan Schwartz).”
An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty – Director: Terence Nance
“An Oversimplification of Her Beauty premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in the New Frontier category, a section that celebrates the convergence of film, art, and new media technologies as a hotbed for cinematic innovation. The film has since screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and MoMA’s New Directors New Films.
You’ve just arrived home after a bad day. You’re broke and lonely, even though you live in the biggest and busiest city in America. You do, however, have one cause for mild optimism: you seem to have captured the attention of an intriguing young lady. You’ve rushed home to clean your apartment before she comes over. In your haste, you see that you’ve missed a call. There’s a voice mail; she tells you that she won’t be seeing you tonight.
With arresting insight, vulnerability, and a delightful sense of humour, Terence Nance’s explosively creative debut feature, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, documents the relationship between Nance and a lovely young woman as it teeters on the divide between platonic and romantic. Nance creates an exquisite tapestry of live action and various styles of animation to delve deeply into his own young male psyche as he sweats and stretches toward maturity. The result is an exciting and original film that announces the arrival of a bright new cinematic talent.”
The Queen Of Versailles – Director: Lauren Greenfield
“The Queen of Versailles premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and received the U.S. Directing Award for Documentary. Sundance Institute provided creative support for the film at the 2011 Creative Producing Summit.
With the epic dimensions of a Shakespearean tragedy, The Queen of Versailles follows billionaires Jackie and David’s rags-to-riches story to uncover the innate virtues and flaws of the American dream. We open on the triumphant construction of the biggest house in America, a sprawling, 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by Versailles. Since a booming time-share business built on the real-estate bubble is financing it, the economic crisis brings progress to a halt and seals the fate of its owners. We witness the impact of this turn of fortune over the next two years in a riveting film fraught with delusion, denial, and self-effacing humor.
Lauren Greenfield instinctively knows what questions to ask, when to ask them, and, more importantly, where to put her camera to mine this overflowing treasure of events. She constructs a series of glowing metaphors to concoct a fascinating character study of parents, children, pets, and household employees as their privileged existence turns upside down. The end result is a portrait of a couple who dared to dream big but lose, still maintaining their unique brand of humility.
2012 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Directing Award: Documentary.”
Safety Not Guaranteed – Director: Colin Trevorrow
“Safety Not Guaranteed premiered in the US Dramatic Competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and received the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.
Three magazine employees are sent to investigate a personal advertisement placed in the newspaper: guy seeking partner for time travel. They venture to the coast and set up a haphazard surveillance. Darius is recruited as the shill; her dry wit and cynical nature are perfectly suited to trap this enigmatic oddball, Kenneth, and get a good story. But it is she who first sees past the paranoid loner façade to the compelling person inside. The drawback? This still doesn’t rule out the possibility that he just might be crazy.
Colin Trevorrow has woven an ingenious tale: a modern version of the classic madcap romantic comedy. Clever dialogue and outlandish antics, peppered with misfit characters – each one charming yet flawed – are wrapped in a love story tingling with the tantalizing possibility of time travel. In a world where moments are fleeting and soul mates are scarce, it seems that even the simple act of falling in love is never safe.
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award”
SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS – Directors: Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace
“SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in the Park City at Midnight category.
With the release of their debut album in 2005, New York City’s LCD Soundsystem changed the face of dance music, combining equal parts punk, soul, and disco. Their devoted fan base steadily grew, bolstered by Grammy nominations and recognition as one of the best live bands in the world. In early 2011, touring to support their first Billboard Top 10 debut, LCD Soundsystem announced its largest gig to date – Madison Square Garden – and that the concert would be their last ever.
With fly-on-the-wall access, Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace’s concert film captures the final 48 hours of a band in complete control of its destiny. Packed with high-energy farewell performances, narrated by a frank conversation on success and rock stardom between bandleader James Murphy and writer Chuck Klosterman, SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS proves that if you’re hearing about LCD Soundsystem just now, you’ve already missed the party.”
Under African Skies – Director: Joe Berlinger
“Under African Skies premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in the Documentary Premieres category, a section dedicated to documentaries by master filmmakers.
Paul Simon’s historic Graceland album sold millions of copies and united cultures, yet divided world opinion on the boundaries of art, politics, and commerce. On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Graceland’s release, Simon returns to South Africa for a reunion concert that unearths the turbulent birth of the album. Despite its huge success as a popular fusion of American and African musical styles, Graceland spawned intense political crossfire. Simon was accused of breaking the United Nations’ cultural boycott of South Africa, which was designed to end apartheid.
Renowned filmmaker Joe Berlinger brilliantly intertwines both sides of a complex story as Simon revisits old ghosts and gains insights on his own musical journey. With the compelling perceptions of antiapartheid activists and music legends such as Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Paul McCartney, and David Byrne, Under African Skies is both a buoyant chronicle of unparalleled artistic achievement and a profound rumination on the role of the artist in society.”