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The Reeler Blog

Gondry, Haneke, Spurlock to Bow at Sundance

By S.T. VanAirsdale

If, as it has been suggested, the Sundance Film Festival's 2008 competition line-up is some sort of upbeat indie throwback, bloodthirsty industry types will love the fest's Spectrum, Premieres, New Frontier and Midnight section programs announced today.

The Pride of Passaic: Mos Def and Jack Black in Be Kind Rewind, premiering in January at the Sundance Film Festival (Photo: New Line Cinema)

The slate includes world premieres of locally produced, heavily anticipated films by Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind) and Michael Haneke (Funny Games) as well as Morgan Spurlock's globe-trotting Super Size Me follow-up Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? Among the other titles by and/or about New Yorkers:

--Savage Grace, Tom Kalin's controversial Cannes alum chronicling incest and murder among heirs to the Bakelite fortune, heads to Park City for its US premiere;

--The Guitar, written by East Village icon Amos Poe and directed by Amy Redford (yes, they're related), features Saffron Burrows as a terminally ill New Yorker who loses pretty much everything and "throws caution to the wind to pursue her dreams";

--Actor-director Tom McCarthy follows The Station Agent with The Visitor, about a Manhattan professor who develops a relationship an immigrant couple he finds squatting in his apartment;

--Azazel Jacobs offers the world premiere of his latest feature Momma's Man, starring his parents, avant-garde heroes Ken and Flo Jacobs;

--Photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders joins Elvis Mitchell for The Black List, a "series of living portraits" profiling 20 leaders of African American culture in the United States.

In other news, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson head to Belgium for Blind Date, the second (after Steve Buscemi's Interview) of three American Theo van Gogh remakes, while Craig Lucas returns to Park City with the world premiere of the sibling dramedy Birds of America. Reece Thompson of Rocket Science returns for his second consecutive New Jersey high school quirkfest, Assassination of a High School President (also starring Bruce Willis), and Matthew Broderick and Alan Alda team up for the "baseball memorabilia and love" story Diminished Capacity. Last but not least, writer-director Boaz Yakin will bow Death in Love, the Josh Lucas-Jacqueline Bisset starrer that yields what must be the single greatest program synopsis in the history of film festivals:

A self-assured but neurotic 40-year-old bachelor attempts to make sense of his complicated life as he negotiates his sexual relationships in the shadow of his mother’s concentration camp experience.

Am I there or am I there? In non-NYC news, George Romero will hit his first Sundance with Diary of the Dead, which has nothing on what promises to be the festival's first gay zombie movie, Otto (Up With Dead People). Charlize Theron and Dennis Hopper will be on hand with Sleepwalking, while the new Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert doc CSNY Déjà vu will close the fest. Expect U2 to show up at some point for their new U2 3D. The screen adaptation of the Sean Combs/Phylicia Rashad revival of A Raisin in the Sun will premiere as well.

Finally, it bears mentioning that Alan Ball's botched abortion of a directorial debut Nothing is Private (from whose Toronto premiere I'm still recovering) will also screen, apparently retitled with the name of its source novel, Towelhead. Way to go, Sundance -- please glance at my byline for the proper spelling of my name in case you need it for Ball's restraining order.

After the jump, the complete list of today's program announcements. Check back with The Reeler Dec. 5 for a look at the fest's short film selections -- always rich with New York talent.



To showcase the diversity of contemporary independent cinema, the Sundance Film Festival Premieres section offers the latest work from American and international directors and world premieres of highly anticipated films.

Films screening in Premieres are:

Be Kind Rewind / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Michel Gondry)—When a man whose body accidentally becomes magnetized unintentionally erases every tape in his friend's video store, the pair set out to remake the lost films, including Back to the Future, The Lion King, and Robocop. Cast: Jack Black, Mia Farrow, Danny Glover. World Premiere

CSNY Déjà vu / U.S.A. (Director: Bernard Shakey; Screenwriters: Neil Young, Mike Cerre)—The war in Iraq is the backdrop as the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young "Freedom of Speech Tour" crisscrosses North America. Echoes of Vietnam-era anti-war sentiment abound as the band connects with today's audiences. Cast: David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Mike Cerre, Stephen Colbert. World Premiere, Closing Night Film

The Deal / Canada (Director: Steven Schachter; Screenwriters: William H. Macy, Steven Schachter)—A long-time Hollywood producer on the verge of suicide cons a major studio into financing a $100-million film based on a non-existent script, starring a black action star who has converted to Judaism. Cast: William H. Macy, Meg Ryan, LL Cool J. World Premiere

Death in Love / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Boaz Yakin)—A self-assured but neurotic 40-year-old bachelor attempts to make sense of his complicated life as he negotiates his sexual relationships in the shadow of his mother’s concentration camp experience. Cast: Josh Lucas, Jacqueline Bisset, Adam Brody. World Premiere

Diminished Capacity / U.S.A. (Director: Terry Kinney; Screenwriter: Sherwood Kiraly)—Learning that his senile uncle harbors a priceless baseball card, Cooper embarks on a road trip intent on selling it to save money for his uncle's later years. He and his friends become entangled in the oddball world of baseball memorabilia and love. Cast: Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, Virginia Madsen. World Premiere

The Escapist / Ireland (Director: Rupert Wyatt; Screenwriters: Rupert Wyatt and Daniel Hardy)— A convict twelve years into a life sentence is determined to make peace with his sick daughter. He develops an ingenious escape plan, recruiting a band of misfits to put it into action. Cast: Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Seu Jorge. World Premiere

The Great Buck Howard / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Sean McGinly)—When a law school dropout answers an advertisement to be a personal assistant he unknowingly signs on to work for a belligerent has-been magician struggling to resurrect his career. This leads to a journey across the country staging the comeback of a lifetime. Cast: Colin Hanks, John Malkovich, Emily Blunt. World Premiere

The Guitar / U.S.A. (Director: Amy Redford; Screenwriter: Amos Poe)—The life of a woman is transformed after she is diagnosed with a terminal disease, fired from her job and abandoned by her boyfriend. Given two months to live, she throws caution to the wind to pursue her dreams. Cast: Saffron Burrows, Isaach De Bankole, Paz De La Huerta. World Premiere

Henry Poole is Here / U.S.A. (Director: Mark Pellington; Screenwriter: Albert Torres)— Henry Poole abandons his fiancée and family business to spend what he believes are his remaining days alone. The discovery of a "miracle" by a nosy neighbor ruptures his solitude and restores his faith in life. Cast: Luke Wilson, Radha Mitchell, Cheryl Hines. World Premiere

In Bruges / United Kingdom (Director and Screenwriter: Martin McDonagh)— Two London hitmen are ordered to take a forced vacation in Bruges, Belgium. This is the suspenseful, twisted tale of how their time in exile goes awry. Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes. World Premiere, Opening Night Film

Incendiary / United Kingdom (Director and Screenwriter: Sharon Maguire)—A spirited young mother juggles grief and love in the aftermath of a dramatic terrorist attack in London. Cast: Michelle Williams, Ewan McGregor, Matthew MacFadyen. World Premiere

Merry Gentleman / U.S.A. (Director: Michael Keaton; Screenwriter: Ron Lazzeretti) — After fleeing an abusive marriage, a young woman sets off to start a new life. When she finds herself an unwitting witness to a murder she stumbles into a curious friendship with a depressed hit man. Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Michael Keaton. World Premiere

A Raisin in the Sun / U.S.A. (Director: Kenny Leon; Screenwriter: Paris Qualles)—After moving to Chicago’s South Side in the 1950s, a black family struggles to deal with poverty, racism, and inner conflict as they strive for a better life. Adapted for the screen from Lorraine Hansberry's play, this is a moving portrait of dreams deferred. Cast: Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald. World Premiere

Savage Grace / U.S.A. (Director: Tom Kalin, Screenwriter: Howard A. Rodman)—The true story of the beautiful and charismatic Barbara Daly, who married above her class to Brooks Baekeland, heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. Their only child is a failure in his father's eyes, and as he matures and becomes increasingly close to his lonely mother, the seeds for tragedy are sown. Cast: Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane, Eddie Redmayne. U.S. Premiere

Sleepwalking / Canada/ U.S.A. (Director: Bill Maher; Screenwriter: Zac Stanford )— A young man ill equipped to raise his abandoned niece is forced to take responsibility when faced with the prospect of losing her to a foster home. Cast: Nick Stahl, AnnaSophia Robb, Charlize Theron. World Premiere

Smart People / U.S.A. (Director: Noam Murro; Screenwriter: Mark Jude Poirier)—An acerbic and self-absorbed literature professor has alienated his son and turned his daughter into an overachieving, friendless teen. When his brother unexpectedly shows up at his door, the man is forced is to confront his own life. Cast: Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, Ashton Holmes. World Premiere

Assassination of a High School President / U.S.A. (Director: Brett Simon; Screenwriter: Kevin Jakubowski)—A rookie journalist for the school paper unravels a mysterious plot involving the class president, drugs, and a ring of stolen test scores in this noir caper set at a quirky Catholic High School. Cast: Reece Thompson, Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Michael Rapaport, Kathryn Morris, Josh Pais. World Premiere

Towelhead (a k a Nothing is Private) / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Alan Ball) — The life of a 13-year-old Arab-American girl, is illuminated as she navigates her way through the confusing and frightening path of adolescence and sexual awakening. Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Toni Collette, Summer Bishil. U.S. Premiere

Transsiberian / Spain (Director: Brad Anderson; Screenwriters: Brad Anderson and Will Conroy)—A Trans-Siberian train journey from China to Moscow becomes a thrilling chase of deception and murder when an American couple encounters a mysterious pair of fellow travelers. Cast: Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Kate Mara, Thomas Kretschmann, Eduardo Noriega and Ben Kingsley. World Premiere

U2 3D / U.S.A. (Directors: Catherine Owens, Mark Pellington)—A 3-D presentation of U2’s global “Vertigo” tour. Shot at seven different shows, this production employs the greatest number of 3-D cameras ever used for a single project. World Premiere

The Visitor / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Tom McCarthy)—A college professor becomes embroiled in the lives of a young immigrant couple he discovers squatting in his Manhattan apartment. Confronted with adversity, these strangers become inextricably bound together. Cast: Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbass, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira. U.S. Premiere

What Just Happened? / U.S.A. (Director: Barry Levinson; Screenwriter: Art Linson)—A comedy about a desperate movie producer who is trying to survive a crazed director, a shameless actor, a clueless executive, a battered agent, and above all a broken second marriage while struggling to maintain a shred of dignity. Cast: Robert DeNiro, Bruce Willis, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro. World Premiere

The Year of Getting to Know Us / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Patrick Sisam)— A commitment-phobic man reunites with his estranged, ailing father and comes to terms with his own childhood. Cast: Jimmy Fallon, Chase Ellison, Lucy Liu, Sharon Stone, Tom Arnold. World Premiere

The Yellow Handkerchief / U.S.A. (Director: Udayan Prasad; Screenwriter: Erin Dignam)—In a twist of fate, a recently released convict and a pair of disillusioned young people meet on a road trip through Louisiana and transform one another along the way. Cast: Maria Bello, William Hurt, Eddie Redmayne, Veronica Russell. World Premiere


A tribute to the abundance of compelling new voices and the creative spirit in independent filmmaking, the Spectrum program presents out-of-competition dramatic and documentary films from some of the most promising filmmakers in the world today. For 2008, Sundance Film Festival features a new sidebar, Spectrum: Documentary Spotlight. Unfulfilled dreams, storybook heroes, joyful octogarians and gangsters with a heart are revealed in these new films.

The films screening in Spectrum: Documentary Spotlight are:

Anvil... The TRUE Story of Anvil / U.S.A. (Director: Sacha Gervasi)—At 14, best friends Robb Reiner and Lips made a pact to rock together forever. Their band, Anvil, hailed as the "demi-gods of Canadian metal," influenced a musical generation that includes Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, despite never hitting the big time. Following a calamitous European tour, Lips and Robb, now in their fifties, set off to record their 13th album in one last attempt to fulfill their boyhood dreams. World Premiere

The Black List / U.S.A. (Director: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders; Screenwriter: Elvis Mitchell)— Journalist Elvis Mitchell interviews twenty African American leaders ranging from athletes and academics to politicians, social activists, and artists, providing a series of living portraits—a unique glimpse into the zeitgeist of black America--and redefining traditional notions of a "blacklist." World Premiere

Kicking It / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Susan Koch)—The lives of homeless people are changed forever through an international soccer competition. This film follows six players as they set off for Cape Town, South Africa to play in the Homeless World Cup. World Premiere

The Linguists / U.S.A. (Directors: Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, Jeremy Newberger; Screenwriter: Daniel Miller)—David and Greg are "The Linguists," who document languages on the verge of extinction. In the rugged landscapes of Siberia, India, and Bolivia, their resolve is tested by institutionalized racism and violent economic unrest. World Premiere

Made in America / U.S.A. (Director: Stacy Peralta; Screenwriters: Stacy Peralta, Sam George)—With a first-person look at the notorious Crips and Bloods, this film examines the conditions that have lead to decades of devastating gang violence among young African-Americans growing up in South Los Angeles. World Premiere

Where In the World Is Osama Bin Laden? / France (Director: Morgan Spurlock; Screenwriters: Jeremy Chilnick and Morgan Spurlock)—Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock explores every nook and cranny of the Middle East on a quest to find the world's most wanted man. World Premiere

Young @ Heart / United Kingdom (Director: Stephen Walker)—A choir of Massachusetts senior citizens delights audiences worldwide with their covers of songs by everyone from The Clash and Coldplay to Jimi Hendrix and Sonic Youth.

Dramatic films screening in Spectrum are:

August / U.S.A. (Director: Austin Chick; Screenwriter: Howard A. Rodman)—An aggressive young dot-com entrepreneur struggles to keep his head above water as the bottom falls out of the market in August of 2001. Cast: Josh Hartnett, Adam Scott, Naomie Harris. World Premiere

Baghead / U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass)—Two couples retreat to a log cabin to write the great American screenplay only to find themselves stalked by a mysterious man with a bag on his head. Cast: Steve Zissis, Ross Partridge, Greta Gerwig. World Premiere

Birds of America / U.S.A. (Director: Craig Lucas; Screenwriter: Elyse Friedman)—Three siblings couldn’t be more different or more neurotic. But when they find themselves converging at the family manse, they become surprisingly indispensable to one another. Cast: Matthew Perry, Ginnifer Goodwin, Ben Foster. World Premiere

Blind Date / U.S.A. (Director: Stanley Tucci; Screenwriters: Stanley Tucci, David Schechter) A married couple has suffered a tragedy and now the only way they can relate to one another is by meeting as different characters through a series of personal ads. A remake of the original work by the late Dutch director Theo van Gogh. Cast: Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thijs Romer. World Premiere

Bottle Shock / U.S.A. (Director: Randall Miller; Screenwriters: Jody Savin, Randall Miller)—The story of the early days of California wine making featuring the now infamous, blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 that has come to be known as "Judgment of Paris." Cast: Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine. World Premiere

Chronic Town / U.S.A. (Director: Tom Hines; Screenwriter: Michael Kamsky)—A bittersweet slice-of-life comedy about a cab driver with substance abuse problems as he weathers a cold Alaskan winter with his cadre of friends and lovers. Cast: JR Bourne, Emily Wagner, Dan Butler. World Premiere

Goliath / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: David Zellner)—Faced with a demotion, a pending divorce, and less-than-friendly neighbors, a man pins his hopes for salvation on finding his missing cat, Goliath. Cast: David Zellner, Caroline O'Connor, Nathan Zellner. World Premiere

A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Dennis Dortch)— Six progressive vignettes explore sexuality and relationships in the black community of Los Angeles. Cast: Kathryn Taylor, Valley Jones, Chonte' Harris. World Premiere

Love Comes Lately / Germany/ Austria (Director and Screenwriter: Jan Schütte)—An eighty-year-old man continues to pursue his love life with youthful vigor, risking his relationship with the woman he loves. Based on the short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Cast: Otto Tausig, Rhea Perlman, Tovah Feldshuh. U.S. Premiere

Momma's Man / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Azazel Jacobs)— A man who has avoided his wife and child at home has a change of heart after an imposed stay in his own parents' loft. Cast: Flo Jacobs, Ken Jacobs, Dana Varon. World Premiere

Quid Pro Quo / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Carlos Brooks)—A paraplegic New York public radio reporter becomes involved with a mysterious woman while researching a story about able-bodied people who secretly yearn to be paralyzed. Cast: Nick Stahl, Vera Farmiga, Kate Burton. World Premiere

Red / U.S.A. (Director: Trygve Diesen; Screenwriter: Stephen Susco)—When a 14-year old dog, the best friend of a reclusive man, is shot maliciously by three teenagers, the owner demands accountability, no matter what the cost. Based on the novel "Red" by Jack Ketchum. Cast: Brian Cox, Tom Sizemore, Kim Dickens. World Premiere


New Frontier represents film at the crossroads of art, environment, culture and new media. This year’s line-up includes a program of six feature-length films from France, Haiti, and the United States. In addition to the films screening in New Frontier, the program draws focus to new work that is at the forefront of the intersection between art, new technology and the moving image. It also includes performances and conversation at New Frontier on Main, a specially designed art space across from the Egyptian Theatre in Park City. The complete lineup for New Frontier on Main will be announced December 6.

The films screening in New Frontier are:

Casting a glance / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: James Benning)— An experiential look at Robert Smithson’s monumental sculpture, the Spiral Jetty, as it has evolved over 30 years in concert with the ebb and flow of the Great Salt Lake.

Eat, for this is my body (Mange, ceci est mon corps) / France/ Haiti (Director and Screenwriter: Michelange Quay)— A dreamlike meditation on the evolution of racial conquest and liberation in Haiti. Cast: Sylvie Testud. U.S. Premiere

Fear(s) of the Dark (Peur[s] du noir) / France (Directors: Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Callou, Romain Slocombe, Pierre Di Sciullio, Lorenzo Mattotti, Jerry Kramsky)—Six leading graphic artists and cartoonists have breathed life into their phobias and nightmares in this animated feature. North American Premiere

Half-Life / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Jennifer Phang)— As troubling signs of global cataclysms accelerate, a family comes to terms with issues long swept under the rug. World Premiere

Reversion / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Mia Trachinger)— In a world in which the past, present and future simultaneously unfold, a woman whose genetic mutation leaves her devoid of morality struggles to preserve her romance with the man she loves. World Premiere

Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest Parts 4 and 5 / U.S.A. (Artist: Yang Fudong)— A rare screening of the artist's most recently completed films in his celebrated series based on the history of seven intellectuals in the ancient Chinese Wei and Jin Dynasties.


Park City at Midnight offers eight films that are likely to amuse, surprise, or shock the bleary-eyed viewer and offer a lively last stop in the nightly film-going circuit. Films presented in Park City at Midnight at previous Sundance Film Festivals include: The Blair Witch Project, Super Troopers, Saw, Old Boy and American Hardcore.

The films screening in Park City at Midnight this year are:

Adventures of Power / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Ari Gold)— In his quest to become the world's greatest air-drummer, a small-town dreamer must overcome obstacles and ridicule to save the day. Cast: Adrian Grenier, Jane Lynch, Jimmy Jean-Louis. World Premiere

The Brøken / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Sean Ellis)—On a busy London street a woman sees herself driving by in her own car. Stunned, she trails the mystery woman as events take an eerie turn into a living nightmare. Cast: Lena Heady, Richard Jenkins, Asier Newman. World Premiere

George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: George A. Romero)— When a group of film students making an indie horror film find themselves trapped in a world being consumed by flesh-eating zombies, they cleverly switch gears and use the camera to document the world crumbling around them. Cast: Nick Alachiotis, Matt Birman, George Buza. U.S. Premiere

Donkey Punch / United Kingdom (Director: Olly Blackburn; Screenwriters: Olly Blackburn, David Bloom)— After meeting at a nightclub in a Mediterranean resort, seven young adults decide to continue partying aboard a luxury yacht in the middle of the ocean. But when one of them dies in a freak accident the others argue about what to do, leading to a ruthless fight for survival. Cast: Robert Boulter, Sian Breckin, Tom Burke. World Premiere

Funny Games / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Michael Haneke)—A family settles into its vacation home, which happens to be the next stop for a pair of young, articulate, white-gloved serial killers on an excursion through the neighborhood. Cast: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Devon Gearhart.

Hell Ride / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Larry Bishop)— Quentin Tarantino presents this bloody, sexy tale of motorcycle revenge. It's a modern-day take on 1960s motorcycle flicks, with bikers who hit the road to avenge the death of one of their old ladies at the hands of a rival motorcycle gang. Cast: Larry Bishop, Dennis Hopper, Michael Madsen. World Premiere

Otto (Up With Dead People) / Germany/Canada (Director and Screenwriter: Bruce LaBruce)— A lonely gay zombie searches for love and meaning in contemporary Berlin. Cast: Jey Crisfar, Katharina Klewinghaus, Susanne Sachsse, Marcel Schlutt. World Premiere

Time Crimes (Los Cronocrímenes) / Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Nacho Vigalondo)— A man accidentally travels back to the past, only to meet himself there. He also encounters a series of mysteries—pieces of an unpredictable jigsaw puzzle of terror, drama and supsense—that all lead to an unthinkable crime. Cast: Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernández, Bárbara Goenaga.


Posted at November 29, 2007 1:28 PM

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