of competition and premieres, Sundance offers
many more films in its many side programs,
including American Spectrum, World Cinema,
Park City at Midnight, Frontier and the Native
The American Spectrum category offers a second
chance for unknown filmmakers who didn’t make competition. Last year’s American Showcase
category, started to prevent films by established directors from filling
up American Spectrum, ended after only two years in exchange for more
The interesting and amusing
documentary “Dirty Work” by David
Sampliner and Tim Nackashi humorously examines
the world of jobs most people won’t do—extracting
bull semen, reconstructing a corpse for a funeral
viewing and cleaning septic tanks.
Other talked-about films include Kevin Willmott’s “CSA: The
Confederate States of America,” a pseudo-documentary about life
in a universe where the south won the Civil War, Matthew Bonifacio’s
examination of obesity, “Lbs.” and “Metallica: Some
Kind of Monster,” which sees the metal stars in group therapy.
The Frontier section, which has showed interesting,
experimental or strange works like the excellent “Decasia” again will showcase films
that push the envelope of cinema. “Tarnation,” Jonathan Caouette’s
experimental docudrama-documentary-musical autobiography of sorts, has
received some word of mouth. Jake Mahaffy’s “War” looks
at U.S. farmers in conflict on a decaying land.
World Cinema has housed breakthrough
films like “Whale Rider.” While
the festival’s insistence on being the
first to play the films in the United States
works against the section and there might be
some tepid films, others come with high recommendations.
Brazilian director Hector Babenco’s “Carandiru,” which
played at Cannes, offers an interesting, if
episodic, portrait of a Brazilian prison. Icíar
Bollaín’s “Take My Eyes,” from
Spain, offers a refreshingly authentic look
at domestic violence after many Hollywood thrillers
have trivialized the subject matter.
Wolfgang Becker’s award-winning
German film “Good Bye, Lenin!” is
a comedy about the final days of the German
Democratic Republic that has already been a
hit in other parts of the world and has distribution.
The Russian film “The Return,” which
triumphed at the Venice Film Festival, “A
Thousand Peace Clouds Encircle The Sky” and “Silent
Waters,” from Pakistan, also arrive with
awards and acclaim.
Started last year, the World Documentary category enhances Sundance’s
strong documentary program. With its humorous archival clips and interviews,
the sharp Canadian examination of “The Corporation” has distinctly
U.S.-related subject matter.
“The Big Durian” examines the racism in Mayalsia through a 1988 rampage
a soldier went on—and somehow does it with a bit of humor.
Mika Ronkainen’s striking “Screaming
Men” looks at the amusing antics of a
troop of Finnish performance artists who scream
everything from national anthems to famous
French director Jean Michel Roux looks at the
odd Icelandic belief in ghosts, elves and
many, many other things in “Investigation into
the Invisible World,” which even has a former Icelandic president
saying that she hasn’t seen any elves, but she has heard about
The Midnight series shows
films with more of a cult appeal. These include
the over-the-top Japanese samurai film “Azumi” and “Grand
Theft Parsons,” the fictional account
of the body snatching of The Byrds’ Gram
Parsons. There are also several suspense/thriller
films like Alexandre Aja’s “Haute
Tension” and James Wan’s “SAW.”
The shorts programs often
contain interesting projects. The sixth program
consists of four fascinating documentaries
including “Foo Foo Dust,” a heartbreaking
study of the drug addiction of a mother and
Of the films I’ve
seen prior to the festival, the number that
suck is significantly lower than in festivals
past. If the trend continues, we could be
in for quite a good 10 days.