Sundance 2008 Competition Line-Up Announced
The 2008 Sundance Film Festival starts in officially 50 more days and with today's announcement, I am truly excited. They've announced the first half of their line-up for 2008 which includes 64 films that are in four different competition categories. The remaining half, which will boast the world premieres and midnight movie selection, will be announced tomorrow. Some of last year's competition films were my favorite of the entire fest, and I will be honest in saying there's quite an impressive line-up to look forward to this year. Sundance is one of the greatest events for movie lovers the entire year and going over this list, it confirms my speculation that 2008 may yet be one of the best.
American Son - Directed by Neil Abramson (Soldier Child, Ringmaster). 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.
Anywhere, U.S.A. - Directed by Anthony Haney-Jardine. Told in three segments ranging from satirical to tragic, the film is a wildly original look at American manners, prejudices, and family dynamics. Cast: Perla Haney-Jardine.
Ballast - Directed by 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 - Directed by Clark Gregg (What Lies Beneath screenplay). 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 - Directed by Johan Renck (Madonna's "Nothing Really Matters"). 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 - Directed by 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 - Directed by 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 - Directed by 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 - Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story). 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.
North Starr - Directed by Matthew Stanton. After witnessing the brutal murder of his best friend, a young African American man flees the badlands of Houston and finds himself in Trublin, a backward, racially intolerant town where he meets an unlikely kindred spirit who takes him under his wing. Cast: Jerome Hawkins, Matthew Stanton, Chris Sullivan, Isaac Lamb, Zach Johnson, Wayne Campbell.
Phoebe in Wonderland - Directed by 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.
Pretty Bird - Directed by Paul Schneider (actor in Lars and the Real Girl, Assassination of Jesse James). A comic tale of three would-be entrepreneurs who set out to invent a rocket belt. The clash of their mismatched personalities soon dissolves the business into a morass of recriminations, retaliations, kidnapping, and murder in this parable of American dreams and delusions. Cast: Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti, Kristen Wiig, David Hornsby.
Sleep Dealer - Directed by Alex Rivera (The Sixth Section). Set in a near-future, militarized world marked by closed borders, virtual labor and a global digital network that joins minds and experiences, three strangers risk their lives to connect with each other and break the barriers of technology. Cast: Luis Fernando Peña, Leonor Varela, Jacob Vargas.
Sugar - Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson). Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who last teamed up for Half Nelson, chronicle the journey of Dominican baseball star Miguel "Sugar" Santos recruited from his native country to play in the U.S. minor leagues. Cast: Algenis Perez Soto.
Sunshine Cleaning - Directed by Christine Jeffs (Sylvia, Rain). Struck by financial hardship, an ambitious mother 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 - Directed by Jonathan Levine (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane). 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.
An American Soldier - Directed by Edet Belzberg. Uncle Sam really wants you! A compelling exploration of army recruitment in the United States told through the story of Louisiana Sergeant, First Class Clay Usie, one of the most successful recruiters in the history of the U.S. Army.
American Teen - Directed by Nanette Burstein. This irreverent cinema vérité chronicles four seniors at an Indiana high school and yields a surprising snapshot of Midwestern life.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster - Directed by Christopher Bell. A filmmaker explores America’s win-at-all-cost culture by examining his two brothers' steroids use...and his own.
Fields Of Fuel - Directed by Josh Tickell. 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 - Directed by 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.
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson - Directed by Alex Gibney. Fueled by a raging libido, Wild Turkey, and superhuman doses of drugs, Thompson was a true "free lance," goring sacred cows with impunity, hilarity, and a steel-eyed conviction for writing wrongs. Focusing on the good doctor's heyday, 1965 to 1975, the film includes clips of never-before-seen (nor heard) home movies, audiotapes, and passages from unpublished manuscripts.
The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo - Directed by 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. - Directed by 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) - Directed by Ellen Kuras. 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.
The Order of Myths - Directed by Margaret Brown. In 2007 Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras is celebrated...and complicated. Following a cast of characters, parades, and parties across an enduring color line, we see that beneath the surface of pageantry lies something else altogether.
Patti Smith: Deam of Life - Directed by Steven Sebring. An intimate portrait of music icon Patti Smith that mirrors the essence of the artist herself.
Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired - Directed by Marina Zenovich. 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 - Directed by 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.
Slingshot Hip Hop - Directed by Jackie Reem Salloum. The voice of a new generation rocks and rhymes as Palestinian rappers form alternative voices of resistance within the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.
Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North - Directed by Katrina Browne. 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 in the Water - Directed by 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.
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Absurdistan (Germany) - Directed by Veit Helmer. 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, Kristyna Mlérova.
Blue Eyelids (Párpados Azules) (Mexico) - Directed by Ernesto 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 Suàrez, Enrique Arreola, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Tiaré Scanda, Luisa Huertas.
Captain Abu Raed (Jordan) - Directed by 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.
The Drummer (Ji. Gwu) (Hong Kong / Taiwan / Germany) - Directed by Kenneth Bi. A young man transforms from a reckless youth and gangster into a mature adult through the inspiration of Zen drumming. Cast: Jaycee Chan, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Josie Ho, Roy Cheung, Lee Sinje, Kenneth Tsang.
I Always Wanted to be a Gangster (J'ai Toujours Rêvé D'être un Gangster) (France) - Directed by 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) - Directed by Ole Borendal. Jonas's 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's 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) - Directed by Jens Jonsson. 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.
Máncora (Spain / Peru) - Directed by Ricardo de Montreuil. A young man mourning the death of his father sets out with his estranged stepsister and her arrogant husband for adventures in the lush, picturesque beach town of Máncora, Peru.
Megane (Glasses) (Japan) - Directed by Naoko Ogigami. Taeko's southern vacation becomes a life-changing experience when she discovers a unique beach community unified by surprising and perhaps odd traditions in this comedic film. Cast: Satomi Kobayashi, Mikako Ichikawa, Ryo Kase, Ken Mitsuishi, Masako Motai.
Mermaid (Rusalka) (Russia) - Directed by 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.
Perro Come Perro (Dog Eat Dog) (Columbia) - Directed by Carlos Moreno. In the crime world of Colombia, there is an unwritten code. When Víctor and Eusebio, two hoods who bungle a shake-down job, break that code, they unwittingly sign their own death sentence. Cast: Marlon Moreno, Oscar Borda, Alvaro Rodríguez, Blas Jaramillo, Paulina Rivas.
Riprendimi (Good Morning Heartache) (Italy) - Directed by Anna Negri. 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.
Strangers (Israel) - Directed by Erez Tadmor & Guy Nattiv. An Israeli man and a Palestinian woman meet serendipitously during the carefree atmosphere of the World Cup finals in Germany, drawing them out of the stark reality of their lives and into a passionate affair. Cast: Liron Levo, Lubna Azabal, Dominique Lollia, Patrick Albenque, Abdallah el Akal, Roger Dumas.
Under the Bombs (Sous Les Bombes) (Lebanon) - Directed by Philippe Aractingi. In the wake of Israel's 2006 bombardment of Lebanon, a determined woman finds her way into the country convincing a taxi cab driver to take a risky journey through the scarred region in search of her sister and her son. Cast: Nada Abou Farhat, Georges Khabbaz, Bshara Atallah, and Rawia Elchab.
The Wave (Die Welle) (Germany) - Directed by Dennis Gansel. 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.
The Wind and The Water (Burwa Dii Ebo) (Panama) - A collective collaboration. A young indigenous teen seeking his fortune in Panama City struggles to acclimate to chaotic urban life, where he becomes enamored with a girl from a wealthy, assimilated family. Later, he encounters his crush once again--but this time the landscape and tradition define their interaction.
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Alone in Four Walls (Allein in Vier Wänden) (Germany) - Directed by 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.
The Art Star and The Sundanese Twins (New Zealand) - Directed by Pietra Brettkelly. Vanessa Beecroft is obsessively determined to adopt Sudanese twin orphans. Her consuming passion drives her marriage to a breaking point and fuels her controversial art, raising troubling questions about exploitation, culture clash, and the imposition of the West on Africa.
Be Like Others (United Kingdom) - Directed by 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) - Directed by Chris Waitt. 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?
Derek (United Kingdom) - Directed by Isaac Julien. A film involving two courageous and innovative artists—one the subject and one the filmmaker—provides a cinematic journey that illuminates the work and enduring importance of the late Derek Jarman.
Dinner With the President (Pakistan) - Directed by Sabiha Sumar & Sachithanandam Sathananthan. From on-the-street interviews to audiences with religious leaders to dinner with the President of Pakistan, the film takes the temperature of a culture on issues from politics to women’s rights.
Durakovo: The Village of Fools (Durakovo: Le Village Des Fous) (France) - Directed by 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.
In Prison My Whole Life (United Kingdom) - Directed by Marc Evans. A curious young filmmaker attempts to understand the true story behind award-winning journalist Mumia Abu Jamal’s death row sentence, and comes to startling realizations about American history and its justice system. With William Francome, Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Mos Def, Smoof, Snoop Dogg, Angela Davis.
Man on Wire (United Kingdom) - Directed by 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) - Directed by 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.
Recycle (Jordan) - Directed by Al Massad. A Jordanian family man living in the hometown of Muslim leader Al-Zarqawi struggles to support his family and define his identity in a tense political climate.
Stranded: I've Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains (France) - Directed by Gonzalo Arijon. For the first time ever, survivors of the famous 1974 Andes plane crash tell in their own words their harrowing story of survival.
Triage: Dr. James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma (Canada) - Directed by 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) - Directed by 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) - Directed by 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.
Yasukuni (Japan) - Directed by Li Ying. Controversy abounds as Japanese officials honor the deceased at the legendary Yasukuni shrine, where swords used to kill Chinese soldiers were famously forged. Few know about the shrine’s eerie past and the mysterious sword inside. Cast: Kariya Naoji, Sugawara Ryuken,Gaojin Sumei.