This is the FIRST year that ALL of the Sundance Film Festival’s competition sections kicked off the 10-day celebration, with films from the U.S. AND World Cinema Dramatic AND Documentary competitions, ALONG with one program of shorts. Last year, Festival Director john Cooper broke from tradition by opening the Festival with more than one film screening on Day One; this year, Day One extended its global reach by including international films and shorts to Thursday’s nights offerings.
The opening nights films were:
U.S. DRAMATIC: Pariah (Director and screenwriter: Dee Rees) – When forced to choose between losing her best friend or destroying her family, a Bronx teenager juggles conflicting identities and endures heartbreak in a desperate search for sexual expression. Cast: Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Kim Wayans, Charles Parnell, Aasha Davis. According to Variety: “Vivid photography, true-to-life moments and a wonderful lead performance compensate for some first-timer missteps in debutante writer-director Dee Rees’ “Pariah,” a low-budget coming-out and coming-of-age piece set in the predominantly black neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Pic will surely strike a chord with fests, and an especially resonant one for those with an LGBT bent.” Read the Variety review.
U.S. DOCUMENTARY: Sing Your Song (A film by Susanne Rostock) – Most people know the lasting legacy of Harry Belafonte, the entertainer; this film unearths his significant contribution to and his leadership in the civil rights movement in America and to social justice globally. When reviewed in Variety, John Anderson said the film would be a natural fit for PBS or cable. Read the Variety review. The Hollywood Reporter was kinder, saying, “with the enthusiasm of a revival meeting at the screening of Susanne Rostock’s “Sing Your Song,” which views the extraordinary career of entertainer Harry Belafonte through the prism of his tireless social activism. Full Hollywood Reporter review here.
WORLD DRAMATIC: The Guard / Ireland (Director and screenwriter: John Michael McDonagh) – A small-town cop in Ireland has a confrontational personality, a subversive sense of humor, a fondness for prostitutes and absolutely no interest whatsoever in the international drug-smuggling ring that has brought a straight-laced FBI agent to his door. However, a surreal chain of events pulls him into the action. Cast: Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Dominique McElligot. Variety’s review was mixed (“A crusty jewel of a performance by Brendan Gleeson goes a long way toward enlivening an otherwise routine tale of murder, blackmail, drug trafficking and rural police corruption in “The Guard.” Rudely funny and faintly melancholic, both qualities stemming from the atmospheric backdrop of Ireland’s west coast, screenwriter John Michael McDonagh’s directorial debut is a stylish lark whose many disparate elements somehow manage to go down as smoothly as Guinness. Casting of Don Cheadle in a buddy-cop role opposite Gleeson should translate into a healthy theatrical profile abroad, though some of the caustic rogues-with-brogues dialogue would benefit from subtitles.) Variety review.
WORLD DOCUMENTARY: Project Nim / United Kingdom (Director: James Marsh) – From the Oscar-winning team behind Man on Wire comes the story of Nim, the chimpanzee who was taught to communicate with language as he was raised and nurtured like a human child. According to Variety: “Researchers may have taught a chimp named Nim to communicate via sign language back in the mid-’70s, but it was humans who learned the most from the experiment, as detailed in director James Marsh’s “Project Nim.” A provocative and surprisingly emotional saga that ranges from wrenching to downright hilarious as it spans more than a quarter-century of unpredictable twists, “Nim” reaches far beyond mere scientific curiosity to become compelling human drama. Marsh’s impressive post-Oscar follow-up (acquired by HBO just before Sundance) has strong theatrical potential, raising big questions about ethics, parenting strategies and what separates man from animal.” Variety review.
Shorts Program One
Deeper Than Yesterday Director: Ariel Kleiman Australia, 2009, 20 Min., Color
The External World Director: David Oreilly Germany/Ireland, 2010, 15 Min., Color & B/W
Fight For Your Right Revisited Director: Adam Yauch U.S.A., 2011, 2o Min., Color
The Strange Ones Directors: Christopher Radcliff, Lauren Wolkstein U.S.A., 2011, 15 Min., Color
The Terrys Directors: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim U.S.A., 2010, 15 Min., Color
Worst Enemy Director: Lake Bell U.S.A., 2010, 13 Min., Color