Sundance Film Festival movie line-up: From Hurricane Katrina & Roman Polanski to Zen drumming & sexual failures
The Sundance Institute announced today, Dec. 7, the movie line-up in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival's four main competitive categories. According to the Sundance press release, 121 features from 25 countries were selected. The – as usual – eclectic line-up includes the following:
- Marina Zenovich's Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, about the Academy Award-winning filmmaker's (The Pianist, 2002) past and current issues with the U.S. legal system following the accusation that he raped a teenager in the late 1970s.
- Nino Kirtadze's Durakovo: The Village of Fools, in which the “fools” are initiates into Russia's fast-spreading fascist/nationalist culture.
- Chris Waitt's documentary A Complete History of My Sexual Failures, about the filmmaker's attempt to understand the causes for his failed relationships with women. (Update: Some have questioned the authenticity of A Complete History of My Sexual Failures. The Independent's Toby Young, for one, praises the film's humor while remarking that “if Waitt was an employee of the BBC he'd be dragged before a series of committees before being tossed into the street.”)
The 2008 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 17–27 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Sundance, Utah. Below is a partial list of films in competition. For more information, visit www.sundance.org.
See also: 2008 Sundance Film Festival winners.
U.S. Documentary Competition
Each film in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival's U.S. Documentary Competition is a World Premiere.
BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER* (Dir.: Christopher Bell; Scr.: Christopher Bell, Alexander Buono, Tamsin Rawady) – A filmmaker explores America's win-at-all-cost culture by examining his two brothers' steroids use … and his own.
FIELDS OF FUEL (Dir.: Josh Tickell; Scr.: Johnny O'Hara) – America is addicted to oil and it is time for an intervention. Enter Josh Tickell, a man with a plan and a Veggie Van, who is taking on big oil, big government, and big soy to find solutions in places few people have looked.
FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER (Dir.: Irena Salina) – Water is the very essence of life, sustaining every being on the planet. Flow confronts the disturbing reality that our crucial resource is dwindling and greed just may be the cause.
THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO (Dir./Scr.: Lisa F. Jackson) – Jackson travels to remote villages in the war zones of the Congo to meet rape survivors, providing a piercing, intimate look into the struggle of their lives.
I.O.U.S.A. (Dir.: Patrick Creadon) – Few are aware that America may be on the brink of a financial meltdown. I.O.U.S.A. explores the country's shocking current fiscal condition and ways to avoid a national economic disaster.
NERAKHOON (THE BETRAYAL) (Dir.: Ellen Kuras; Co-Dir.: Thavisouk Phrasavath; Scr.: Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath) – The epic story of a family forced to emigrate from Laos after the chaos of the secret air war waged by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Kuras has spent the last 23 years chronicling the family's extraordinary journey in this deeply personal, poetic, and emotional film.
PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE (Dir.: Steven Sebring) – An intimate portrait of poet, painter, musician and singer Patti Smith that mirrors the essence of the artist herself.
ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (Dir.: Marina Zenovich; Scr.: Marina Zenovich, Joe Bini, P.G. Morgan) – Marina Zenovich's new documentary examines the public scandal and private tragedy which led to legendary director Roman Polanski's sudden flight from the United States.
SECRECY (Dir.: Peter Galison, Robb Moss) – Amidst the American hunger for instantaneous news and up-to-date “facts,” this unflinching film uncovers the vast, invisible world of government secrecy.
TRACES OF THE TRADE: A STORY FROM THE DEEP NORTH (Dir.: Katrina Browne; Co-dir.: Alla Kovgan, Jude Ray; Scr.: Katrina Browne, Alla Kovgan) – History finally gets rewritten as descendants of the largest slave-trading family in early America face their past, and present, as they explore their violent heritage across oceans and continents.
TROUBLE THE WATER (Dir.: Tia Lessin, Carl Deal) – An aspiring rap artist and her streetwise husband, armed with a video camera, show what survival is all about when they are trapped in New Orleans by deadly floodwaters, and seize a chance for a new beginning.
U.S. Dramatic Competition
Each film in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival's U.S. Dramatic Competition is a World Premiere.
AMERICAN SON (Dir.: Neil Abramson; Scr.: Eric Schmid) – Before being deployed for active duty, a young Marine takes a four-day Thanksgiving leave to return home to Bakersfield, California. There he meets a young woman, tries to connect with old friends, and confronts his volatile home life. Cast: Nick Cannon, Melonie Diaz, Matt O'Leary, Jay Hernandez, Tom Sizemore, Chi McBride.
BALLAST (Dir./Scr.: Lance Hammer) – A riveting, lyrical portrait of an emotionally frayed family whose lives are torn asunder by a tragic act in a small Mississippi Delta town. Cast: Michael J. Smith Sr., Jim Myron Ross, Tarra Riggs, Johnny McPhail.
CHOKE (Dir./Scr.: Clark Gregg) – An adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's (Fight Club) novel, Choke is the sardonic story about mother and son relationship, fear of aging, sexual addiction, and the dark side of historical theme parks. Cast: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, Brad Henke.
DOWNLOADING NANCY (Dir.: Johan Renck; Scr.: Pamela Cuming, Lee Ross) – The tale of an unhappy wife whose online search for someone to put her out of her misery results in a torturous love affair. Cast: Maria Bello, Jason Patric, Rufus Sewell, Amy Brenneman.
FROZEN RIVER (Dir./Scr.: Courtney Hunt) – Set in rural upstate New York on a Mohawk Reservation bordering Canada, a mother left to care for her teenage son finds herself lured into the world of illegal immigrant smuggling. Cast: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott, Michael O'Keefe, Mark Boone Jr.
GOOD DICK (Dir./Scr.: Marianna Palka) – The tale of a lonely girl drawn from her isolated life and solitary apartment by a doting young video store clerk who strives to capture her affections. Cast: Jason Ritter, Marianna Palka, Tom Arnold, Mark Webber, Martin Starr, Eric Edelstein.
THE LAST WORD (Dir./Scr.: Geoff Haley) – An off-beat romantic comedy about a solitary writer who makes his living composing other people's suicide notes. After meeting the sister of a recently deceased client, he finds his reclusive life and secret career upended by an unusual romance. Cast: Winona Ryder, Wes Bentley, Ray Romano.
THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH (Dir./Scr.: Rawson Marshall Thurber) – Based on Michael Chabon's novel, the film chronicles the defining summer of a recent college graduate who crosses his gangster father and explores love, sexuality, and the enigmas surrounding his life and his city. Cast: Jon Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Rawson Marshall Thurber, Sienna Miller, Mena Suvari, Nick Nolte.
PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND (Dir./Scr.: Daniel Barnz) – Confounded by her clashes with the seemingly rule-obsessed world, a little girl takes her already dysfunctional family down the rabbit hole when she seeks enlightenment from her unconventional drama teacher. Cast: Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Pullman, Campbell Scott, Peter Gerety.
SUNSHINE CLEANING (Dir.: Christine Jeffs; Scr.: Megan Holley) – Struck by financial hardship, an ambitiousmother and her unmotivated sister become entrepreneurs in the field of biohazard removal and crime scene clean-up. Cast: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn, Alan Arkin.
THE WACKNESS (Dir./Scr.: Jonathan Levine) – During a sweltering New York summer, a troubled teenage drug dealer trades pot for therapy sessions with a drug-addled psychiatrist, and in the process falls for the doctor's daughter. Cast: Josh Peck, Ben Kingsley, Famke Janssen, Olivia Thirlby, Mary Kate Olsen, Method Man.
World Cinema Documentary
ALONE IN FOUR WALLS (ALLEIN IN VIER WÄNDEN) / Germany (Dir./Scr.: Alexandra Westmeier) – Adolescent boys struggle to grow up in a home for delinquents in rural Russia where life behind bars may be better than the release to freedom.
BE LIKE OTHERS / Canada / United Kingdom / U.S.A. / Iran (Dir.: Tanaz Eshaghian) – An intimate and unflinching look at life in Iran, seen through the lens of those living at its fringes, Be Like Others is a provocative look at a generation of young Iranian men choosing to undergo sex change surgery.
A COMPLETE HISTORY OF MY SEXUAL FAILURES / United Kingdom (Dir.: Chris Waitt; Scr.: Chris Waitt and Henry Trotter) – Chris is a useless boyfriend. Determined to find out why, he consults his ex-girlfriends, medical practitioners, producers, and mother to find out how women really see him. Has this journey made him potential boyfriend material or is he staring a life of loneliness square in the face?
DURAKOVO: THE VILLAGE OF FOOLS (DURAKOVO: LE VILLAGE DES FOUS) / France (Dir./Scr.: Nino Kirtadze) – Russian nationalism percolates in a castle outside Moscow, where Mikhail Morozov rules autonomously over young initiates, laying the groundwork for a rapidly growing right-wing movement.
MAN ON WIRE / United Kingdom (Dir./Scr.: James Marsh) – In 1974, Philippe Petit, a young Frenchman, dances on a wire suspended between New York's Twin Towers. Consequently, Philippe is arrested and thrown into jail for what would become known as “the artistic crime of the century.”
PUUJEE / Japan (Dir./Scr.: Kazuya Yamada) – Against the backdrop of a magnificent but harsh natural landscape, a Japanese photojournalist encounters puujee, a young girl who tames wild horses on the Mongolian plains.
TRIAGE: DR. JAMES ORBINSKI'S HUMANITARIAN DILEMMA / Canada (Dir.: Patrick Reed) – Acclaimed doctor James Orbinski, former head of Doctors Without Borders, returns to Africa to confront the harsh reality of conditions there and explores what it means to be a humanitarian.
UP THE YANGTZE / Canada (Dir./Scr.: Yung Chang) – At the edge of the Yangtze River, not far from the Three Gorges Dam, young men and women take up employment on a cruise ship, where they confront rising waters and a radically changing China.
THE WOMEN OF BRUKMAN (LES FEMMES DE LA BRUKMAN) / Canada (Dir./Scr.: Isaac Isitan) – Amidst Argentina's financial collapse, workers take over a Buenos Aires men's clothing factory and continue producing clothing on a self-management model. As the formerly poor become business managers, their lives are changed forever.
World Cinema Dramatic
ABSURDISTAN / Germany / Azerbaijan (Dir.: Veit Helmer; Scr.: Veit Helmer, Zaza Buadze, Gordan Mihic, Ahmet Golbol) – This inventive and allegorical comedy centers on two childhood sweethearts who seem destined for one another until the women of their isolated village, angered by male indifference toward the water shortage, go on a sex strike that threatens the young couple's first night of love. Cast: Maximilian Mauff, Kristýna Malérova.
BLUE EYELIDS (PÁRPADOS AZULES) / Mexico (Dir.: Ernesto Contreras; Scr.: Carlos Contreras) – When Marina wins a beach getaway trip for two, her desperate search for someone to take with her leads to a complicated relationship and the revelation that she might be better off on her own. Cast: Cecilia Suárez, Enrique Arreola, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Tiaré Scanda, Luisa Huertas.
CAPTAIN ABU RAED / Jordan (Dir./Scr.: Amin Matalqa) – An aging airport janitor who is mistaken for an airline pilot by a group of poor neighborhood children weaves fantastical stories to offer hope for a sad, and sometimes unchangeable, reality. Cast: Nadim Sawalha, Hussein Al-Sous, Rana Sultan, Uday Al-Qiddissi, Ghandi Saber.
I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A GANGSTER (J'AI TOUJOURS RÊVÉ D'ÊTRE UN GANGSTER) / France (Dir./Scr.: Samuel Benchetrit) – Told in four vignettes, this existential comedy relates the exploits of four aspiring criminals who hope to improve their lot, but find that they might not have what it takes for a life of crime. Cast: Sergi López, Jean Rochefort, Alain Bashung, Anna Mouglalis.
JUST ANOTHER LOVE STORY (KÆRLIGHED PÅ FILM) / Denmark (Dir./Scr.: Ole Bornedal) – Jonas' quiet life as a suburban family man takes an unexpected twist when he causes a car crash that leaves a young woman with amnesia. When he is mistaken for her boyfriend, Jonas' decision to play the role gradually unravels his life. Cast: Anders W. Berthelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Charlotte Fich, Dejan Cukic, Ewa Fröling.
KING OF PING PONG (PING PONGKINGEN) / Sweden (Dir.: Jens Jonsson; Scr.: Jens Jonsson, Hans Gunnarson) An ostracized and bullied teenage boy who excels only in ping pong descends into an acrimonious struggle with his younger, more popular brother when the truth about their family history and their father surfaces over the course of their spring break. Cast: Georgi Staykov, Ann-Sofie Normi, Frederik Nilsson, Jerry Johansson.
MERMAID (RUSALKA) / Russia (Dir./Scr.: Anna Melikyan) – The fanciful tale of an introverted little girl who grows up believing she has the power to make wishes come true. She must reconcile this belief with reality when, as a young woman, she journeys to Moscow and grapples with love, modernity and materialism. Cast: Masha Shalaeva, Evgeniy Ciganov, Maria Sokolova, Nastya Doncova.
RIPRENDIMI (GOOD MORNING HEARTACHE) / Italy (Dir.: Anna Negri; Scr.: Anna Negri, Giovanna Mori) – A modern young couple with a new baby are forced to deal with the almost comedic pain of breaking up while being the subject of a documentary that quickly crosses professional lines into their private lives. Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Marco Foschi, Valentina Lodovini, Stefano Fresi, Alessandro Averone.
THE WAVE (DIE WELLE) / Germany (Dir.: Dennis Gansel; Scr.: Dennis Gansel and Peter Thorwarth) – A high school teacher's unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship spins horribly out of control when he forms a social unit with a life of its own. Cast: Juergen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt, Jennifer Ulrich, Christiane Paul.
Chris Waitt A Complete History of My Sexual Failures image: Optimum Releasing.
“Sundance Movies: From Sexual Failures to Rising Russian Nationalism + Roman Polanski” last updated in July 2018.