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Park City opening week end buzz

The 2007 Sundance Film Festival opened with the premiere of director Brett Morgan’s animated feature “Chicago 10”. The director is an alumni of the festival and first appeared here with his biopic of legendary producer Robert Evans “The Kid Stays in the Picture”.
This feature combines motion capture animation and archival footage to explore trial of 10 activists accused of inciting riots during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The film looks into the heart of the sixties radical ‘yippie’ movement and does a great job of re-introducing Vietnam – era politics to a new generation.

The opening film was in synch with the much heavier tone of this years fest. At the opening ceremonies founder Robert Redford declared “Sundance is a film festival, not a market”. While the programmers intentions are sincere the reality is Sundance has become the premiere North american festival market and launching pad for emerging directors as well as an internationally recognized brand.
In the days leading up to the festival the bloggers and trade papers claimed this was looking like the softest market in recent years. Despite the predictions Sundance wrapped opening weekend with several substantial sales including Fox Searchlight’s acquisition of two films; $9 million for both "Waitress", a comedy written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly, and George Ratliff's competition feature "Joshua."
Warner Independent made the next announcement, snapping up Cherie Nowlan's "Clubland" for multiple territories in a deal pegged at $4 million. Not to be left out of the action, ThinkFilm grabbed North American rights to David Sington's "In The Shadow of the Moon" and will release the film in association with Discovery Films in a multi-million dollar pact, according to insiders. In total, thats more than $15 million spent in deals announced in the first few days. The flurry of business confirming the festivals credibility as a marketplace.

The festivals Premiere Section is usually a good place to see the coming years independent gems, presented by the director and cast. Tamara Jenkins presented “The Savages” to the audience and announced that she had just finished editing her cut a few hours earlier. The film delves into the dark relationships between an estranged brother (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and sister (Laura Linney) as they grapple with caring for their dying father. Laura Linney is completely absorbing as a frustrated playwright who makes one mistake in an effort another to numb her pain. On a lighter note, prolific screenwriter Mike White (Nacho Libre, School of Rock) stepped behind the camera to direct Molly Shannon, Peter Saarsgard and John C. Reilly in his irreverent comedy ‘Year Of The Dog”. Mike claims the idea for the film was born while he and Molly were struggling with a failed Television show and a neighborhood cat passed away. The result is a film filled with one absolutely hilarious scene after another, authentic dialogue and bizarre but believable characters.

In the 13 years since Slamdance arrived in Park City as an option to the more established Sundance Film Festival, the less publicized festival has offered a shot for emerging filmmakers whose work may never be released commercially. This is particularly true of the shorts program, with the festival releases on DVD each year. Directors Jared Hess, Marc Forster and Christopher Nolan are all Slamdance shorts alumni. This year a record 3,600 filmmakers submitted work to Slamdance and competed for 102 festival slots. Among the shorts we caught this year were Yves Hofer's “Dentist Visit” (http://www.hopefilm.com); a wry tale of a young mans discovery that his dead father had a mistress, and his decision to pay her a visit. Yves is developing the short into a feature film. Another short that stood out from the crowd was John Nijhawans “A Hooker & A Dirt Road” (http://thehookermovie.com) Johns screening went awry when the projector failed but the festival organizers rallied to set up an additional screening which quickly sold out. John is a Brooklyn based filmmaker and is currently developing an experimental feature he will shoot on 16mm later this year.
The rest of Slamdances 2007 line up as well as information about the festival can be found at http://www.slamdance.com/

Photo’s by Desiree Asher
Article by Dane Allan Smith

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