"Sundance is by far the most important film festival in America," declares Kyle Buchanan. Sundance "is where dreams come true," swoons Jason Guerrasio. And in how many days, do you imagine, will we see the annual "Sundance is over-hyped" wave hit? Doesn't matter. Buchanan's introduction to the "Vulture's Ten Most Anticipated Films at Sundance" slide show and Guerrasio's to Cinematical's clip-spiked list of "20 Movies to Watch For" are just two of the previews I'll be collecting here before turning to entries on some of the more interesting-looking individual films. The festival opens today in Park City and runs through January 30.
"A number of currents run through the 2011 festival," writes Brooks Barnes in the New York Times, "but perhaps the most notable one involves the large number of homegrown titles. Six of the 16 movies selected for the United States Dramatic Competition, including the buzzy Little Birds from [Elgin] James [image above], were shaped in the Sundance Institute's workshops — a record."
"When it comes to predicting the commercial success of independent movies, festival heat is rarely a reliable prophet." For the Los Angeles Times, Steven Zeitchik and John Horn talk with producers, sales agents and the like about what they might be looking for. "This year's crop of movies has proved particularly tricky to assess ahead of time, given the abundance of titles from emerging and lesser-known filmmakers… Among the acquisition targets mentioned in an informal survey of buyers are Little Birds, a coming-of-age drama starring Kate Bosworth from the producer of Blue Valentine; the Kevin Spacey-starring Margin Call, a ripped-from-the-headlines story about the financial crisis; The Ledge, a thriller about faith and a potential suicide; the Paul Rudd comedy My Idiot Brother; Salvation Boulevard, a dark comedy with Pierce Brosnan playing a wayward evangelist; and Higher Ground, a spiritual drama that marks the directorial debut of actress Vera Farmiga… On the documentary side, buyers are keen on a look at a Liberian warlord (The Redemption of General Butt Naked) and Magic Bus, an exploration of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters directed by Alex Gibney, who won an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side." The LAT's Kenneth Turan gets in a round of previewing as well.
Filmmaker has opened its Sundance '11 special section, which includes Mary Anderson Casavant's interview with David Courier, Senior Film Programmer at the Sundance Institute: "We're unique at Sundance in that there's not one programmer of any section. There are seven of us, and we all program everything, but we do specialize. Caroline Libresco and I oversee all the documentaries, so we hone our list. Then we have these weekly meetings where we watch everything on the list and fight it out in the room. There are certain moments where it's just a slam dunk with everyone. We do stay conscious of mixing it up and not having too many films on the same topic. It breaks our hearts, but we have to say no to films that we loved. I could do an entire second festival of films I love."
IndieWIRE's been interviewing filmmakers heading to Park City for weeks now, heading toward a total of around 50 talks in all.
Ray Pride is curating Sundance-related headlines at Movie City News, pointing, for example, to Peter Howell's overview in the Toronto Star. For MSN Movies, James Rocchi asks filmmakers who've made their debuts at Sundance for any advice they'd give to this year's crop. Danielle DiGiacomo will be there for the L and has already posted a brief preview. Sean Glass lists his "Ten Most Anticipated Films" at ioncinema. Back at Cinematical, Christopher Campbell looks ahead to the docs — and to Slamdance.
Meantime, screenings are not limited to Park City; Sundance Selects is presenting "Direct From the Sundance Film Festival," a VOD program of five films actually there but also available nationwide: Gregg Araki's Kaboom and four world premieres, Brendan Fletcher's Mad Bastards, Michael Tully's Septien, Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton's These Amazing Shadows and Joe Swanberg's Uncle Kent. The L's Mark Asch offers quick takes on Bastards and Kent, while Benjamin Strong reviews Kaboom.
Updates: Mike Everleth offers a guide to "the quirkier, out-of-the-hype screenings" at both Sundance and Slamdance.
At Cinematical, Peter Martin has been tracking distribution deals; a surprising number of films have already been snapped up.
Judy Berman's got a list of ten films Flavorwire is looking forward to.
Listening (28'29"). Director of Programming Trevor Groth is Elvis Mitchell's guest on The Treatment.
Updates, 1/21: "Sundance programmer Shari Frilot watches all kinds of films for the festival each year, but she spends much of the her time smoking out the best, strangest, most relevant work for the New Frontiers section." And Alicia Van Couvering talks with her for Filmmaker.
Eric Lavallee lists his "10 Most Anticipated Films" at ioncinema.
The Hollywood Reporter's special section.