Sundance 2009 Competition Films Line-Up Announced
by Alex Billington
December 3, 2008
Every new year brings us another Sundance Film Festival and with 43 more days left until the 25th Annual Sundance kicks off, the first half of this year's line-up has officially been announced. Featured in four different competition categories are 64 individual films that will be showing at world's greatest film festival in January. The remaining half of the line-up, which will boast both the world premieres and midnight selection, will be announced tomorrow. There are some very interesting choices this year, including a film with Olivia Thirlby and Kat Dennings together and a film written and directed by "The Office" star John Krasinski. Even if you're not attending, I suggest you check out the full list below.
U.S. Dramatic Competition:
This year's 16 films were selected from 1,026 submissions.
Adam (Director and Screenwriter: Max Mayer) — A strange and lyrical love story between a somewhat socially dysfunctional young man and the woman of his dreams. Cast: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison, Mark Linn-Baker.
Amreeka (Director and Screenwriter: Cherien Dabis) — When a divorced Palestinian woman and her teenage son move to rural Illinois at the outset of the Iraq war, they find their new lives replete with challenges. Cast: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Yussuf Abu-Warda, Alia Shawkat, Joseph Ziegler.
Arlen Faber (Director and Screenwriter: John Hindman) — A reclusive author of a groundbreaking spiritual book awakens to new truths when two strangers enter his life. Cast: Kat Dennings, Lauren Graham, Olivia Thirlby, Jeff Daniels, Tony Hale.
Big Fan (Director and Screenwriter: Robert Siegel) — The world of a parking garage attendant who happens to be the New York Giants' biggest fan is turned upside down after an altercation with his favorite player. Cast: Patton Oswalt, Michael Rapaport, Kevin Corrigan, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Matt Servitto.
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Director and Screenwriter: John Krasinski) — When her boyfriend leaves with little explanation, a doctoral candidate in anthropology tries to remedy her heartache by interviewing men about their behavior. Cast: Julianne Nicholson, John Krasinski, Timothy Hutton, Dominic Cooper, Christopher Meloni, Rashida Jones.
Cold Souls (Director and Screenwrtier: Sophie Barthes) — In the midst of an existential crisis, a famous American actor explores soul extraction as a relief from the burdens of daily life. Cast: Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn, Dina Korzun, Emily Watson, Lauren Ambrose, Katheryn Winnick.
Dare (Director: Adam Salky; Screenwriter: David Brind) — Three very different teenagers discover that, even in the safe world of a suburban prep school, no one is who she or he appears to be. Cast: Emmy Rossum, Zach Gilford, Ashley Springer, Ana Gasteyer, Alan Cumming, Sandra Bernhard, Rooney Mara.
Don't Let Me Drown (Director: Cruz Angeles; Screenwriters: Maria Topete and Cruz Angeles) — Two Latino teens whose lives are affected by the attack on the World Trade Center discover that love is the only thing that keeps them from drowning. Cast: E.J. Bonilla, Gleendilys Inoa, Damián Alcázar, Ricardo Chavira, Gina Torres.
The Greatest (Director and Screenwriter: Shana Feste) — After the tragic loss of their teenage son, a family is again thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a young woman. Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Carey Mulligan, Johnny Simmons, Aaron Johnson, Mike Shannon.
Humpday (Director and Screenwriter: Lynn Shelton) — A farcical comedy about straight male bonding gone a little too far. Cast: Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore, Lynn Shelton, Trina Willard.
Paper Heart (Director: Nicholas Jasenovec; Screenwriters: Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi) — Even though performer Charlyne Yi doesn't believe in love, she bravely embarks on a quest to discover its true nature--a journey that takes on surprising urgency when she meets unlikely fellow traveler, actor Michael Cera. Cast: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Jake Johnson.
Peter and Vandy (Director and Screenwriter: Jay DiPietro) — Juxtaposing a couple's romantic beginnings with the twisted-manipulative-regular couple they have become, Peter and Vandy is a contemporary Manhattan love story with no beginning and no end. Cast: Jess Weixler, Jason Ritter, Jesse L. Martin, Tracie Thoms.
Push (Director and Screenwriter: Lee Daniels) — Based on the acclaimed, best-selling novel by Sapphire, Push is the redemptive story of Precious Jones, a young girl in Harlem struggling to overcome tremendous obstacles and discover her own voice. Cast: Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mo’Nique Imes, Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey.
Sin Nombre (Director and Screenwriter: Cary Joji Fukunaga) — A teenage Mexican gang member maneuvers to outrun his violent past and elude unforgiving former associates in this thriller set among Central American migrants seeking to cross over to the United States. Cast: Edgar Flores, Paulina Gaitan, Kristyan Ferrer, Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Luis Fernando Peña, Diana García.
Taking Chance (Director: Ross Katz; Screenwriters: LtCol Michael R. Strobl, USMC (Ret.) and Ross Katz) — Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming. Cast: Kevin Bacon, Blanche Baker.
Toe to Toe (Director and Screenwriter: Emily Abt) — The story of an inter-racial friendship put to the test by the intense pressures of a competitive Washington, D.C. prep school. Cast: Sonequa Martin, Louisa Krause, Silvestre Rasuk, Leslie Uggams, Gaius Charles, Ally Walker.
U.S. Documentary Competition:
This year's 16 films were selected from 879 submissions.
Art & Copy (Director: Doug Pray; Screenwriter: Timothy J. Sexton) — Rare interviews with the most influential advertising creative minds of our age illustrate the wide-reaching effect advertising and creativity have on modern culture.
Boy Interrupted (Director: Dana Perry) — An intimate look at the life, mental illness and death of a young man told from the point of view of the filmmaker: his mother.
The Cove (Director: Louie Psihoyos; Screenwriter: Mark Monroe) — Dolphins are dying, whales are disappearing, and the oceans are growing sick. The horrors of a secret cove nestled off a small, coastal village in Japan are revealed by a group of activists led by Ric O’Barry, the man behind Flipper.
Crude (Director: Joe Berlinger) — The inside story of the “Amazon Chernobyl” case in the rainforest of Ecuador, the largest oil-related environmental lawsuit in the world.
Dirt! The Movie (Directors: Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow) — The story of the relationship between humans and dirt, Dirt! The Movie humorously details how humans are rapidly destroying the last natural resource on earth.
El General (Director: Natalia Almada) — As great-granddaughter of Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles, one of Mexico’s most controversial revolutionary figures, filmmaker Natalia Almada paints an intimate portrait of Mexico.
Good Hair (Director: Jeff Stilson) — Comedian Chris Rock turns documentary filmmaker when he sets out to examine the culture of African-American hair and hairstyles.
Over the Hills and Far Away (Director: Michel Orion Scott) — Over the Hills and Far Away chronicles the journey of the Isaacson family as they travel through Mongolia in search of a mysterious shaman they believe can heal their autistic son.
The Reckoning (Director: Pamela Yates; Screenwriters: Peter Kinoy, Paco de Onís, Pamela Yates) — A battle of monumental proportions unfolds as International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo faces down warlords, genocidal dictators and world superpowers in bringing perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice.
Reporter (Director: Eric Daniel Metzgar) — Set in Africa, this documentary chronicles, in verité fashion, the haunting, physically grueling and shocking voyage of Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, Nicholas D. Kristof.
The September Issue (Director: R.J. Cutler) — With unprecedented access, director R.J. Cutler and his crew shot for nine months as they captured Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and her team preparing the 2007 VogueSeptember issue, widely accepted as the "fashion bible" for the year's trends.
Sergio (Director: Greg Barker) — Sergio examines the role of the United Nations and the international community through the life and experiences of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights, including interviews with those who knew and worked with him over the course of his extraordinary career.
Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech (Director: Liz Garbus) — An exploration of the history and current state of free speech in America narrated by the filmmaker's father, First Amendment attorney Martin Garbus.
We Live in Public (Director and Screenwriter: Ondi Timoner) — We Live in Public is the story of the Internet’s revolutionary impact on human interaction as told through the eyes of maverick web pioneer, Josh Harris and his transgressive art project that shocked New York.
When You're Strange (Director and Screenwriter: Tom DiCillo) — The first feature documentary about The Doors, When You're Strange enters the dark and dangerous world of one of America’s most influential bands using only footage shot between 1966 and 1971.
William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (Directors: Sarah Kunstler and Emily Kunstler) — With clients including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and the Chicago 10, the late civil rights attorney William Kunstler was one of the most famous lawyers of the 20th century. Filmmakers Emily and Sarah Kunstler explore their father’s life from movement hero to “the most hated lawyer in America.”
World Cinema Dramatic Competition:
This year's 16 films were selected from a record 1,012 submissions.
Before Tomorrow (Le Jour Avant Lendemain) / Canada (Directors: Madeline Piujuq & Marie-Helene Cousineau) — A wise old woman fights to survive impossible circumstances with her young grandson in the Canadian arctic. Cast: Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Paul-Dylan Ivalu, Madeline Piujuq Ivalu, Mary Qulitalik, Tumasie Sivuarapik.
Bronson / UK (Director: Nicolas Winding Refn; Screenwriter: Brock Norman Brock) — Bronson traces the transformation of Mickey Peterson into Britain's most notorious, dangerous, and charismatic prisoner, Charles Bronson. Cast: Tom Hardy.
Carmo, Hit the Road / Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Murilo Pasta) — A lonely, handicapped smuggler and a beautiful girl embark on a reckless ride through a South American border landscape. Cast: Mariana Loureiro, Fele Martínez, Seu Jorge.
The Clone Returns (Kuron Wa Kokyo-Wo Mezasu) / Japan (Director and Screenwriter: Kanji Nakajima) — A Japanese astronaut who dies during a mission is subsequently resurrected as a clone and returns to his childhood home. Cast: Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Eri Ishida, Hiromi Nagasaku.
Dada's Dance / China (Director: Zhang Yuan; Screenwriter: Li Xiaofeng) — Dada is a flirtatious young woman who lives with her mother in a small town. Having to fend off the constant advances of her mother's boyfriend who tells her she is adopted, she undertakes a journey in search of her birth mother. Cast: Li Xinyun, Li Xiaofeng, Gai Ge, Chen Jun.
An Education / UK (Director: Lone Scherfig; Screenwriter: Nick Hornby) — In the early 60s, a sharp 16-year-old with sights set on Oxford meets a handsome older man whose sophistication enraptures and sidetracks both her and her parents. Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson.
Five Minutes of Heaven / UK (Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel; Screenwriter: Guy Hibbert) — Two men from the same town but from different sides of the Irish political divide discover that the past is never dead--in fact it isn't even past. Cast: Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca.
A French Gigolo (Cliente) / France (Director and Screenwriter: Josiane Balasko) — An attractive, successful 50-something woman regularly treats herself to the sexual services of young men selected on Internet sites. When one particular escort becomes a habit, the relationship gets a bit more complicated. Cast: Nathalie Baye, Eric Caravaca, Isabelle Carré, Josiane Balasko.
Heart of Time (Corazon Del Tiempo) / Mexico (Director and Screenwriter: Alberto Cortes) — In La Esperanza de San Pedro, Chiapas, in the midst of the Zapatista struggle, a young woman makes serious waves when she falls in love with a revolutionary fighter from the mountains. Cast: Rocío Barrios.
Louise-Michel / France (Directors: Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern) — When a French factory is abruptly closed by its corrupt management, a group of disgruntled female workers pool their paltry compensation money and hire a hit man to knock off the corrupt executive behind the closure. Cast: Yolande Moreau, Bouli Lanners.
Lulu and Jim (Lulu und Jimi) / Germany (Director: Oskar Roehler) — Bright garish colors, rock and roll and wild dance numbers mark this road movie about lovers fleeing from the evil powers of a 1950s deeply bigoted German society. Cast: Jennifer Decker, Ray Fearon, Katrin Saß, Rolf Zacher, Udo Kier.
Maid (La Nana) / Chile (Director and Screenwriter: Sebastian Silva) — When her mistress brings on another servant to help with the chores, a bitter and introverted maid wreaks havoc on the household. Cast: Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedón, Mariana Loyola, Alejandro Goic, Andrea García-Huidobro.
One Day in a Life (Un Altro Pianeta) / Italy (Director and Screenwriter: Stefano Tummolini) — One languid summer day, a man heads to the beach in search of sunshine and bit of peace, but finds himself tangled up in the dramas of an eclectic group of nearby sunbathers.Cast: Antonio Merone, Lucia Mascino.
Unmade Beds / UK (Director and Screenwriter: Alexis Dos Santos) — Two young foreigners find romance in the vibrant, artistic underground of London's East End. Cast: Deborah Francois, Fernando Tielve.
Victoria Day / Canada (Director and Screenwriter: David Bezmozgis) — Over the course of one week in 1988, the search for a missing teammate, parental expectations, a burgeoning sexual awakening and the rock concert of the century all threaten to jolt a sixteen year old into adulthood. Cast: Mark Rendall, Sergiy Kotelenets, Nataliya Alyexeyenko, Holly Deveaux, John Mavrogiannis.
Zion and His Brother (Zion Ve-Achiv) / France/Israel (Director and Screenwriter: Eran Merav) — The disappearance of a young boy sends a wedge between two teenage brothers whose loyalty had been unshakeable, in this gritty story of a working class Tel Aviv single-parent family. Cast: Reuven Badalov, Ronit Elkabetz, Tzahi Grad.
World Cinema Documentary Competition:
This year's 16 films were selected from 744 submissions.
211:Anna / Italy (Directors:Paolo Serbandini & Giovanna Massimetti) — The story of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and human rights activist who risked her life to report the truth about the Chechen conflict and President Vladimir Putin.
Afghan Star / Afghanistan/UK (Director: Havana Marking) — After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan: millions are watching and voting for their favorite singer. This film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing.
Big River Man / USA (Director: John Maringouin) — An overweight, wine-swilling Slovenian world-record-holding endurance swimmer resolves to brave the mighty Amazon--in nothing but a Speedo.
Burma VJ / Denmark (Director: Anders Ostergaard) — In September 2007, Burmese journalists risking life imprisonment to report from inside their sealed-off country are suddenly thrown onto the global stage as their pocket camera images of the Saffron Revolution make headlines everywhere.
The End of the Line / UK (Director: Rupert Murray) — Based on the book by journalist Charles Clover, The End of the Line reveals the devastating effect that global overfishing is having on fish stocks and the health of our oceans.
The Glass House / USA (Director: Hamid Rahmanian) — The Glass House follows four teenage girls striving to overcome drug addiction, abandonment and abuse by attending a rehabilitation center in Tehran.
Kimjongilia / France/USA (Director: N.C. Heikin) — Defectors from North Korea finally speak out about the terrifying reality of their lives--and escapes.
Let's Make Money / Austria/China/South Africa/Spain/Switzerland/U.S.A. (Director: Erwin Wagenhofer) — From the factories of India, to financial markets in Singapore, to massive housing developments in Spain and offshore banks in Jersey, Let's Make Money reveals complex and shocking workings of global money flow.
Nollywood Babylon / Canada (Directors: Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal) — Welcome to the wacky world of Nollywood, Nigeria's bustling home-grown movie industry.
Old Partner / South Korea (Director: Chung-ryoul Lee) — A humble octogenarian farmer lives out his final days with his spitfire wife and his loyal old ox in the Korean countryside.
Prom Night in Mississippi / Canada (Director: Paul Saltzman) — When a small-town Mississippi high school resolves to hold its first integrated senior prom, strong emotions fly and traditions are challenged to their core.
The Queen and I (Drottningen och jag) / Sweden (Director: Nahid Persson Sarvestani) — Swedish filmmaker Sarvestani, an Iranian exile who helped overthrow the Shah's regime in 1979, confronts her own assumptions and complex truths about Iran when she enters the life of the Shah's widow.
Quest for Honor / Kurdistan/USA (Director: Mary Ann Bruni) — A former teacher and tireless activist works with local lawmen, Kurdish government agencies and her colleagues to investigate and eradicate honor killings in the tribal regions of Kurdistan.
Rough Aunties / UK (Director: Kim Longinotto)—Fearless, feisty and unwavering, the 'Rough Aunties' protect and care for the abused, neglected and forgotten children of Durban, South Africa.
Thriller in Manila / UK (Director: John Dower)—A tale of betrayal stoked by the racial politics of 1970s America, Thriller in Manila chronicles the most intense and bitter sporting rivalry ever: the 1975 final match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
Tibet in Song / USA (Director: Ngawang Choephel)—Through the story of Tibetan music, this film depicts the determined efforts of Tibetan people, both in Tibet and in exile, to preserve their unique cultural identity. Choephel served six years of an 18-year prison sentence for filming in Tibet.
Reader Feedback - 4 Comments
Andrew on Dec 3, 2008
no benjamin button?
Scott McHenry on Dec 3, 2008
I was already looking forward to "Brief Interviews", but now I can add "Arlen Faber" to that list - what a freakin' cast! Also, my new most-pumped-for movie of 2009 (sorry, "Watchmen") is "Big Fan". The plot sounds great, it's from the writer of the brilliant "The Wrestler", and look at who's playing the leading role... PATTON OSWALT!!!! A drama with PATTON OSWALT! I am so excited.
Josh on Dec 3, 2008
A few interest me, but nothing I'm truly EXCITED for. And where are the horror films this year? Overall a solid-looking lineup though.
Michael on Dec 4, 2008
Sorry, no commenting is allowed at this time.