The world comes to the Sundance Film Festival from January 19 to 29. In the past several years, the Festival, which first made its reputation with American Indie cinema, has put as much emphasis on its World Cinema competitions, including sections for Dramatic Feature and Documentary Feature. By laying out a red carpet for international filmmakers and industry professionals, Sundance has been able to go mano-a-mano with such prestigious European-based film festivals as Berlin, Cannes and Venice. And since Sundance insists on world or international premieres (as do the three biggie festivals mentioned above), there has been a very interesting shift in the marketing strategies of international sales agents and distributors, who now see Sundance as key to their international promotion efforts. If a film hits it big in Sundance, and secures a U.S. or North American deal, then the stage is set for these companies to hawk the film at the European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival (which follows just a few weeks later) and also at Cannes in May.
So, Sundance has taken advantage of its January dates to encourage international film sellers and buyers to make their way up to the mountains of Park City as their first stop of the new year. This is quite a sea change in strategy (European films premiering in Utah before they premiere in Europe) but one that has expanded the reach of the Sundance Film Festival and which offers attending professionals and general public a chance to review the cinema output around the globe. Below is the list of dramatic and documentary films competing at Sundance, with descriptions provided by the Festival.
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
4 SUNS (Czech Republic, Director and screenwriter: Bohdan Sláma) — Immature Fogi attempts to straighten up and accept his responsibilities as a new husband and father, as well as role model to his troubled son from a previous relationship, but finds himself unable to change his nature, leaving him to watch haplessly as his family begins to crumble. Cast: Jaroslav Plesl, Aňa Geislerová, Karel Roden, Jiří Mádl, Klára Melíšková. World Premiere
ABOUT THE PINK SKY (Japan, Director and screenwriter: Keiichi Kobayashi) — A high school girl finds a wallet full of money and tracks down its owner, leading to unexpected consequences for the girl and her friends. Cast: Ai Ikeda, Ena Koshino, Reiko Fujiwara, Tsubasa Takayama, Hakusyu Togetsuan. International Premiere
CAN (Turkey, Director and screenwriter: Rasit Celikezer) — A young married couple live happily in Istanbul, but their decision to illegally procure a child threatens their future together. Cast: Selen Ucer, Serdar Orcin, Berkan Demirbag, Erkan Avci. World Premiere
FATHER’S CHAIR (Brazil, Director: Luciano Moura, Screenwriters: Elena Soarez, Luciano Moura) — Following the trail of his runaway teen son, Theo confronts his own identity as a son, a father and a man along the way. Cast: Wagner Moura, Lima Duarte, Mariana Lima. World Premiere
L (Greece, Director: Babis Makridis, Screenwriters: Efthymis Filippou, Babis Makridis) — A man who lives in his car gets caught up in the undeclared war between motorcycle riders and car drivers. Cast: Aris Servetalis, Makis Papadimitriou, Lefteris Mathaios, Nota Tserniafski, Stavros Raptis. World Premiere
THE LAST ELVIS (Argentina, Director: Armando Bo, Screenwriters: Nicolás Giacobone and Armando Bo) — A Buenos Aires Elvis impersonator who believes that he is the reincarnation of the King struggles to shake free from reality and live his musical dream. Cast: John McInerny, Griselda Siciliani, Margarita Lopez. World Premiere
MADRID 1987 (Spain, Director and screenwriter: David Trueba) — The balance of power and desire constantly shifts during the meeting of an older journalist and a young student, of two generations completely foreign to one another. Cast: José Sacristán, María Valverde, Ramon Fontserè. International Premiere
MY BROTHER THE DEVIL (United Kingdom, Director and screenwriter: Sally El Hosaini) — A pair of British Arab brothers trying to get by in gangland London learn the extraordinary courage it takes to be yourself. Cast: James Floyd, Saïd Taghmaoui, Fady Elsayed. World Premiere
TEDDY BEAR (Denmark, Director: Mads Matthiesen, Screenwriters: Mads Matthiesen, Martin Pieter Zandvliet) — Dennis, a painfully shy 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives with his mother, sets off to Thailand in search of love. Cast: Kim Kold, Elsebeth Steentoft, Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard, David Winters, Allan Mogensen. World Premiere
VALLEY OF SAINTS (India, Director and screenwriter: Musa Syeed) — Gulzar plans to run away from the war and poverty surrounding his village in Kashmir with his best friend, but a beautiful young woman researching the dying lake leads him to contemplate a different future Cast: Gulzar Ahmad Bhat, Mohammed Afzal Sofi, Neelofar Hamid. World Premiere
VIOLETA WENT TO HEAVEN (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Director: Andrés Wood, Screenwriters: Eliseo Altunaga, Rodrigo Bazaes, Guillermo Calderón, Andrés Wood) — A portrait of famed Chilean singer and folklorist Violeta Parra filled with her musical work, her memories, her loves and her hopes. Cast: Francisca Gavilán, Thomas Durand, Luis Machín, Gabriela Aguilera, Roberto Farías. International Premiere
WISH YOU WERE HERE (Australia, Director: Kieran Darcy-Smith, Screenwriters: Felicity Price, Kieran Darcy-Smith) — Four friends embark on a carefree holiday, but only three return home. Who knows what happened on that fateful night? Cast: Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer, Felicity Price, Antony Starr. World Premiere.
WRONG (France, Director and screenwriter: Quentin Dupieux) — Dolph searches for his lost dog, but through encounters with a nympho pizza-delivery girl, a jogging neighbor seeking the absolute, and a mysterious righter of wrongs, he may eventually lose his mind… and his identity. Cast: Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, Steve Little, William Fichtner. World Premiere
YOUNG & WILD (Chile, Director: Marialy Rivas, Screenwriters: Marialy Rivas, Camila Gutiérrez, Pedro Peirano) — 17-year-old Daniela, raised in the bosom of a strict Evangelical family and recently unmasked as a fornicator by her shocked parents, struggles to find her own path to spiritual harmony. Cast: Alicia Rodríguez, Aline Kuppenheim, María Gracia Omegna, Felipe Pinto. World Premiere
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
½ REVOLUTION (Denmark, Directors: Omar Shargawi, Karim El Hakim) — In January 2011, two filmmakers captured the reality of the Egyptian revolution as it occurred out of view from the world’s media in the alleyways and streets away from the square – and in the process were arrested by the secret police. North American Premiere
5 BROKEN CAMERAS (Palestine, Israel, France, Directors: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi) — A Palestinian journalist chronicles his village’s resistance to a separation barrier being erected on their land and in the process captures his young son’s lens on the world. International Premiere
THE AMBASSADOR (Denmark. Director: Mads Brügger) — What happens when a very white European man buys his way into being a diplomat in one of Central Africa’s most failed nations? Welcome to the bizarre and hidden world of African diplomacy, where gin and tonics flow and diamond hustlers and corrupt politicians run free. North American Premiere
BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS! (Sweden, Director: Fredrik Gertten) — The behind-the-scenes story of a full-scale attack on freedom of speech. When Dole set its sights on the WG Film production Bananas!* in May 2009, confusion was the method, aggression was the tactic and media control was the story. North American Premiere
CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT (Canada, China, Director: Yung Chang) — In central China, where a coach recruits poor rural teenagers and turns them into Western-style boxing champions, the top students face dramatic choices as they graduate – should they fight for the collective good or for themselves? A metaphor for the choices everyone in the New China faces now. World Premiere
GYPSY DAVY (Israel, U.S.A., Spain, Director: Rachel Leah Jones) — How does a white boy with Alabama roots become a Flamenco guitarist in Andalusian boots? A tale of self-invention and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of the cost to others. International Premiere
THE IMPOSTER (United Kingdom, Director: Bart Layton) — In 1994 a 13-year-old boy disappears from his home in San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half years later he is found alive thousands of miles away in Spain with a shocking story of kidnap and torture. But all is not what it seems in this tale that is truly stranger than fiction. World Premiere
INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE (Canada, Directors: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky) — Follow the dramatic journeys of indie game developers as they create games and release those works, and themselves, to the world. World Premiere
THE LAW IN THESE PARTS (Israel, Director: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz) — Israel’s 43-year military legal system in the Occupied Palestinian Territories unfolds through provocative interviews with the system’s architects and historical footage showing the enactment of these laws upon the Palestinian population. International Premiere
PAYBACK (Canada, Director: Jennifer Baichwal) — Based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling book, Payback explores how debt is a central organizing principle in our lives – influencing relationships, societies, governing structures and the very fate of this planet. World Premiere
PUTIN’S KISS (Denmark, Director: Lise Birk Pedersen) — 19-year-old Marsha is a model spokesperson in a strongly nationalistic Russian youth movement that aims to protect the country from its enemies. When she starts recognizing the organization’s flaws, she must take a stand for or against it. North American Premiere
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (Denmark, United Kingdom, Director: Malik Bendjelloul) — Rodriguez was the greatest ‘70s US rock icon who never was. Hailed as the greatest recording artist of his generation he disappeared into oblivion – rising again from the ashes in a completely different context many miles away. World Premiere.