So, thanks to a fast talking friend, I ended up in Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival.
I’m warning you now – for actual film coverage and movie reviews, go straight to the pros. Tambay, as always, is holding it down for Shadow and Act, and she’s already got a review up of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which is the photo illustrating this post.
I’m trying to fit at least 6 movies into the my time here (along with some interviews and some gate crashing), so here’s what I’m eyeing:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Hushpuppy, an intrepid six-year-old girl, lives with her father, Wink, in “the Bathtub,” a southern Delta community at the edge of the world. Wink’s tough love prepares her for the unraveling of the universe; for a time when he’s no longer there to protect her. When Wink contracts a mysterious illness, nature flies out of whack—temperatures rise, and the ice caps melt, unleashing an army of prehistoric creatures called aurochs. With the waters rising, the aurochs coming, and Wink’s health fading, Hushpuppy goes in search of her lost mother.
Starring: Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper
Rory Jansen, a struggling writer, aspires to be the next great literary voice. When he discovers a lost manuscript in a weathered attaché case, he realizes he possesses something extraordinary that he desperately wishes he had created. Rory decides to pass the work off as his own and finally receives the recognition he desperately craves. However, he soon learns that living with his choice will not be as easy as he thought as he faces a moral dilemma that will make him take a hard look at the man he has become.
Starring:Gina Rodriguez, Jenni Rivera
Majo” Tonorio, a.k.a. Filly Brown, is a raw, young Los Angeles hip-hop artist who spits from the heart. When a sleazy record producer offers her a crack at rap stardom, Majo faces some daunting choices. With an incarcerated mother, a record contract could be the ticket out for her struggling family. But taking the deal means selling out her talent and the true friends who helped her to the cusp of success.
Starring: Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton
Woody, an adorable 11-year-old boy awaiting the return of his missing mother, lives with his grandmother and Uncle Vincent, who is fresh off an eight-year prison stint. For Woody, the confident, charismatic Vincent is a titan among men. When Vincent notices that Woody could learn a thing or two about becoming a man, he brings him along as he ventures forth to open his own business. But when legit life fails to support Vincent’s vision, and his old Baltimore crime boss, Mr. Fish, haunts him, the pace of little Woody’s manhood lesson accelerates.
Middle of Nowhere
Director/Screenwriter: Ava DuVernay
What happens when love takes you places you never thought you would go? When her husband, Derek, is sentenced to eight years in a California prison, Ruby drops out of medical school to maintain her marriage and focus on ensuring Derek’s survival in his violent new environment. Driven by love, loyalty, and hope, Ruby learns to sustain the shame, separation, guilt, and grief that a prison wife must bear. Her new life challenges her to the very core of her identity, and her turbulent path propels her in new, often frightening directions of self-discovery.
Detroit’s story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century— the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now . . . the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos.
With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, DETROPIA sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Ai Weiwei is known for many things—great architecture, subversive in-your-face art, and political activism. He has also called for greater transparency on the part of the Chinese state. Director Alison Klayman chronicles the complexities of Ai’s life for three years, beginning with his rise to public prominence via blog and Twitter after he questioned the deaths of more than 5,000 students in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The record continues through his widely publicized arrest in Beijing in April of 2011. As Ai prepares various works of art for major international exhibitions, his activism heats up, and his run-ins with China’s authorities become more and more frequent.
My Brother The Devil
Director/Screenwriter: Sally El Hosaini
Fourteen-year-old Mo is a lonely, sensitive boy whose hunger for the rant and banter of buddies makes him prone to tread dangerous territories. He idolizes his handsome older brother, Rashid, a charismatic, well-respected member of a local gang, whose drug dealing enables “Rash” to provide for his family. Aching to be seen as a tough guy himself, Mo takes a job that unlocks a fateful turn of events and forces the brothers to confront their inner demons. It turns out that hate is easy. It is love and understanding that take real courage.
Searching for Sugar Man
Director/Writer: Malik Bendjelloul
Rodriguez was the greatest ’70s U.S. rock icon who never was. His albums were critically well-received, but sales bombed, and he faded away into obscurity among rumors of a gruesome death. However, as fate would have it, a bootleg copy of his record made its way to South Africa, where his music became a phenomenal success. In a country suppressed by apartheid, his antiestablishment message connected with the people.
2 Days In New York
Starring: Chris Rock, Julie Delpy
Marion and Mingus live cozily—perhaps too cozily—with their cat and two young children from previous relationships. However, when Marion’s jolly father (played by director Delpy’s real-life dad), her oversexed sister, and her sister’s outrageous boyfriend unceremoniously descend upon them for a visit, it initiates two unforgettable days that will test Marion and Mingus’s relationship. With their unwitting racism and sexual frankness, the French triumvirate hilariously has no boundaries or filters . . . and no person is left unscathed in its wake.
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Screenwriter: Rashida Jones; Starring: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack
Celeste and Jesse met in high school and got married young. They laugh at the same jokes and finish each other’s sentences. They are forever linked in their friends’ minds as the perfect couple—she, a high-powered businesswoman and budding novelist; he, a free spirit who keeps things from getting boring. Their only problem is that they have decided to get divorced. Can their perfect relationship withstand this minor setback?
Mosquita y Mari
Director/Screenwriter: Aurora Guerrero
With this auspicious feature film debut, Aurora Guerrero explores the complexities of a budding friendship between two Chicana high schoolers in Los Angeles’s Huntington Park. Yolanda is stellar in her studies and makes her parents proud, while Mari has just moved to town with her undocumented family. On her first day of school, Mari is assigned to be Yolanda’s study partner. After a rocky start, the two find a bond that confuses them at times. Guerrero’s steady direction allows more intimate understanding of the girls’ aspirations and their families’ expectations.
I’m also heading over to the New Frontier Section, which is the interactive exhibits.
I’m checking out:
And other films that look good, but I probably won’t have time to catch:
Finding North - A documentary on hunger, focusing on the working poor
The House I Live In – On the cost of the War on Drugs
The Invisible War – On rape in the armed forces
Slavery By Another Name – On the ways in which slavery “persisted as a practice many decades after its supposed abolition.”
We’re Not Broke – On corporations exploiting loopholes in tax law
1/2 Revolution – video camera testimony from Egypt’s uprising in 2011
5 Broken Cameras – A Palestinian and Israeli co-production exploring the escalation of violence around the settlements
Payback – A cinematic exploration of the themes in Margaret Atwood’s book of essays.
Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap – Ice-T’s documentary on rap music
Also, there’s an alternate festival called Slamdance, which has a Stan Lee doc. How many hours are in the day again?
It is ticket war out this piece. Apparently, there’s a magic red pass where you can just roll into whatever you want, but I am not cool/prestigious enough to get one. In my hand I have tix for: “Luv”, “Filly Brown,” “5 Broken Cameras,” and “The House I Live In.” I think I can buy a ticket to “Celeste and Jesse.” I’ve got a request in for “Searching for Sugar Man.” And I need to get in line tomorrow to request “2 Days in New York” for Saturday. I’m going to try to catch “Slavery by Another Name” and “Mosquita y Mari” in the screening rooms, though those are first come first serve. Wish me luck, y’all. – LDP