The Sundance Film Festival is one of the biggest and best places for film lovers from all over the world to congregate and enjoy amazing cinema. In the fourteen years I’ve attended Sundance, the festival has grown to accommodate bigger crowds and independent filmmakers looking to share their projects with an energetic festival audience.
This year Sundance is trying something different, they are expanding their walls outside of their homebase in the beautiful snowy mountains of Park City, Utah and branching out to a surprising and welcome destination, London.
Sundance London officially launches its maiden voyage today and the plan is to take select films from this year’s Sundance US program and showcase them across the pond. After all, most Londoners don’t have access to a lot of the featured films let alone go to Sundance in the first place. What better way to bring an established and beloved festival to a new audience.
The Sundance offspring runs this year from April 26th to the 29th and is playing favorites from the current Sundance US lineup that just wrapped in late January. Some highlights include Joe Berlinger’s Paul Simon documentary “Under African Skies,” quirky time travel story “Safety Not Guaranteed,” the infuriating documentary “The House I Live In” which profiles the war on drugs and Julie Delpy’s culture-clash comedy “2 Days in New York.”
To celebrate the beginning of Sundance London here is a brief sample of ten great films from my previous Sundance 2012 coverage in January. Some of these are profiled in the London schedule and some are destined for US theatrical release within the next few months. Keep an eye out for these ten Sundance gems that continue to push independent cinema forward.
10) FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL…
After financial tragedy strikes, two mismatched girls are forced to share an expensive apartment and realize the only way they can pay the rent is through phone sex. It’s a raunchier version of TV’s “2 Broke Girls” with more wit and less one-liners.
9) SHADOW DANCER
Andrea Riseborough commands the screen as a member of the IRA circa 1990 who joins forces with MI5 to protect the future of her son. Clive Owen co-stars as her government handler in director James Marsh’s (“Man on Wire,” “Project Nim”) slow-burn thriller.
8) CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER
Is it possible to be friends with your ex after a bad breakup? That’s the question at the heart of “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” the new film from returning Sundance champion Lee Toland Krieger (“The Vicious Kind”).
Five directors (Joe Swangerg, Ti West, Adam Wingard, Glenn McQuaid and Radio Silence) each bring their own sense of mayhem to this horror anthology built around abandoned videotapes rediscovered by vandals looking for easy money. Each segment is vastly different and some are undoubtedly stronger than others but as a whole, “V/H/S” brings a lot of fun to the horror genre.
6) FILLY BROWN
The story of an underdog overcoming immense odds to fulfill a dream is one of the oldest clichés in the book yet it manages to keep being remade over and over. The secret to keeping this formula fresh is time and energy. “Filly Brown’s” underdog wants to sing her way out of poverty and break out of her stereotypical past but it’s Gina Rodriguez who stars as the titular singer that catapults the A-B-C storytelling beats into a fresh and very watchable underdog tale.
5) THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES
Filming a documentary that showcases a filthy rich family with enough money to blow on cars, jewelry and $100 million dollar homes may not play well in these economic times. But patience and perspective create an unexpected twist in the narrative as the family’s once-lavish lifestyle is threatened by the financial crisis.
4) ROOM 237
Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” has been studied by film lovers for its suspense and composition. Documentarian Rodney Ascher takes this last part to the next level as he interviews several noted film buffs, kooks and scholars about the subliminal messages found within “The Shining.” Did Kubrick really hide messages in the film or are these people reading too much into a work of fiction? Some of the evidence is fascinating and might surprise you.
3) INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE
In case you needed me to spell it out for you, “Indie Game: The Movie” is a documentary about the making of, well, an indie video game. Much has been made of successful mainstream video games that dominate store shelves but this film follows a collection of eccentric gamers who continue to create some of the most popular underground video games known today.
2) ROBOT AND FRANK
In the not too distant future, Frank (played by veteran character-actor Frank Langella) is an aging cat-burglar living out the twilight of his life in upstate New York. His constant bouts with memory loss introduce him to a literal robotic assistant to help cope with day-to-day chores. What follows is a surprising and clever bond between new technology and an analog ex-criminal.
The best film of Sundance 2012 is also one of the most controversial. It’s a study of psychological obedience that dares its audience to see past the film’s simple setup and question your mental boiling point. In other words, how far we are willing to go in the name of authority?