Early buzz on Sundance

I went to the premiere screening at the Library Theater and it was packed to the hilt -- crowds outside, celebrities who weren't in the low-budget film showed up to see it and be seen by the news crews (as I recall Jennifer Aniston or one of her other Friends was there ...), they were scalping tickets for $100 a piece. Then they showed the movie, and it bombed. After that you couldn't give away tickets to the subsequent screenings ... the buzz had been lost.

This year so far, probably the biggest buzz surrounds the "secret" comedy project Paper Heart, starring Michael Cera (Superbad and Juno) and his girlfriend Charlyne Yi (Knocked Up). Chris Rock, apparently, is screening a doc about African-American hairstyles. Also intriguing is an adaptation of the late David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, directed by John Krasinski. Then there is the surprise choice for opening film: Mary and Max, an Australian claymation flick about an unlikely friendship between an obese, middle-aged man and a little girl.

What has me most excited, as usual, is the documentary lineup -- it is hard to see how documentaries could go terribly wrong with subjects like these:


Crude, dir. by Joe Berlinger - tells the story of the largest oil-related environmental lawsuit in the world, when Ecuadorian Indians accused a Chevron/Texaco subsidiary of dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic materials into unlined pits along the Amazon river from 1972 to 1992.

Dirt! The Movie, dir. by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow - purports to be a comic documentary exploring the increasingly antagonistic relationship between humans and their soil under their feet.

When You’re Strange, dir. by Tom di Cillo - the first ever feature-length documentary about the Doors, by the director of the indie-hit Living in Oblivion.


We Live in Public, dir. by Ondi Timoner - the director of the exceptional indie rock doc Dig! explores the impact of the internet on human interaction, through the eyes of maverick web pioneer, Josh Harris.

Let’s Make Money, dir. by Erwin Wagenhofer - examines the complex and shocking affects of the global flow of money.

Nollywood Babylon, dir. by Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal - explores the bustling home-grown movie industry in Nigeria.

Tyson, dir. by James Toback - this documentary about the former boxing champion allegedly pulls no punches, and was highly acclaimed when it premiered at the Cannes film festival.

There's lots more where these came from.  This is more than enough to get me excited.  We'll let you know what we think when we see them.  For more on our class and coverage, check out our website.

Sundance announced its lineup for the 2009 festival over the last couple of weeks, and there is much to anticipate. Of course the write-ups on films by the festival programmers are aimed to make each sound utterly remarkable and groundbreaking, but experience teaches that it's not all good. So it's always a bit tricky to figure out what will be worth watching.  As they say at the festival: follow the "buzz."  But it's not so simple.

I remember that the first year I brought a group to Sundance (in 2003) the biggest excitement surrounded an edgy street-racing film called Quattro Noza, that was billed as "Stan Brakhage meets The Fast and Furious" (apparently the director, Joey Curtis, studied with the late experimental filmmaker at CU-Boulder).

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