This week, Park City welcomed a flurry of starved audiences in need of their yearly indie film fix – 115 features to be exact – that would inspire, touch, and propel them through the slew of mind-numbing mainstream blockbusters sure to bombard the screens in 2011.
The Sundance Film Festival, a program of the Sundance Institute, introduces audiences to the most innovative and unique stories, giving filmmakers a chance to get their work out to a greater public and get noticed.
Robert Redford, founder and president of the institute, has been spearheading the movement for 30 years. He was recently joined by Festival Director John Cooper who saw the creation of the NEXT section, highlighting low to no-budget films and the inauguration of Sundance Film Festival U.S.A., where filmmakers traveled to eight cities around the country to present their films, according to the festival's website.
The forecast this year looks as promising as ever, with a couple of films sparking our immediate interest and possibly whetting our spiritual appetites.
Making his directorial debut this year with "Tyrannosaur," British actor Paddy Considine, famous for his roles in "The Hot Fuzz" and "Dead Man's Shoes," explores the idea of love and friendship, found in the darkest of places.
Carrying on from his BAFTA award-winning short in 2007, "Dog Altogether," Considine continues the story of the short with the same duo playing the same roles. He assures that "Tyrannosaur," however, is its own beast.
Joseph, played by Peter Mullan, a tormented, self-destructive man plagued by violence, finds hope of redemption in Hannah (Olivia Colman), a Christian charity shop worker he meets one day while fleeing an altercation. Initially derisive of her faith and presumed idyllic existence, Joseph nonetheless returns to the shop and soon realizes that Hannah's life is anything but placid. Their relationship develops to reveal that Hannah is hiding a secret of her own with devastating results on both of their lives.
An unconventional love story, "Tyrannosaur" transcends its bleak circumstances through Joseph and Hannah's vigorous impulse toward redemption.
The title "Tyrannosaur" is used as "a metaphor for beasts, the things that haunt us, the abusive relationships, the violence, the doubt, but it's also a very unlikely love story," Considine clarifies, and it's one that we can't wait to, excuse the language, rip apart.
George Ratcliff writes and directs the comedic thriller, which uses an offbeat mystery to examine the religious process of America, the megachurches and the people that inhabit them.
An adaptation of Larry Beinhart's novel with the same name, "Salvation Boulevard" takes a satirical look at Christian fanaticism – one guilty pleasure at a time," according to Sundance.
Reverend Dan (Pierce Brosnan) is a charismatic preacher who has captivated a city with his charm. Ex-deadhead and recovering hippie Carl (Greg Kinnear) is one of the loyal sheep of his flock. When Dan finds himself in a compromising situation, Carl is called into service in a most unconventional way. The megachurch is cast into shadow, and a hellish storm begins brewing that could jeopardize its entire existence. The road to hell – in this case, Salvation Boulevard – is paved with good intentions – gone hysterically wrong.
In other words, what do you get when you mix a Christian detective, a Jewish lawyer, an Islamic kid, and an atheist college professor together – besides a hot mess of a melting pot?
…We're not really sure either. But we can't wait to find out.
"Position Among the Stars"
"Stand Van De Sterren" or "Positing among the Stars" is the concluding part of Leonard Retel Helmrich's trilogy on Indonesia, which follows the Christian-Islamic Sjamsuddin family.
Using the Single Shot Cinema technique – with long, uninterrupted shots and no interviews or voiceover – the Dutch director "concludes his in-depth portrait of Indonesia seen through the eyes of one family living in the slums of Jakarta."
The film won the IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary.
Grandmother Rumidjah, a poor old Christian woman, weathers a changing society and the influence of globalization reflected in the lives of her juvenile granddaughter, Tari, and her sons, Bakti and Dwi, who are Muslims. Modern-day Indonesia is entrenched in a tug-of-war between Christianity and Islam, young and old, rich and poor, and beset by encroaching globalization that threatens the simple life that Rumidjah knows so well.
Forgoing interviews and voiceover narration, "Position Among the Stars" allows each exquisite detail to come together and construct a rich mosaic of Indonesia today. The result is poignant, breathtaking, and a singularly stellar vérité triumph.
Having over 300 hours of footage to choose from, let's hope that all 110 minutes of the movie are just the perfect combination.
Cheers to another year of indie artists who ditch the mold of conformity and dare to do something different. It's the only way we audiences will be able to hang on for another year until the next reunion.
The Sundance Film Festival wraps up the festivities on January 30.
On the Web: http://www.sundance.org/