The Sundance Seven: Seven Films Drawing Early Buzz on Opening Day in Park City
Sundance officially kicked off today. The annual 10-day festival crams teeming hordes of paparazzi, boatloads of celebrities and limos full of cut-throat film execs into a small ski resort and forces them to watch a slate full of over 118 high-quality, low-budget independent and foreign films.
From a Kevin Smith horror flick about a nutso preacher to a documentary on “A Tribe Called Quest,” here are seven films drawing early buzz in Park City.
1. “Red State” – "Clerks" and "Cop Out" director Kevin Smith is a master of stirring up press, and with this horror film, it’s no different. Smith reportedly held a live auction for potential distributors for the film at Sundance and didn’t pre-screen the film for the press, which has caused all kinds of media broo-hah-hah. The film stars John Goodman and recent Golden Globe nominee Melissa Leo, who wowed in “The Fighter.” The plot concerns a group of kids who meet a crazy preacher inspired by Westboro Baptist Church’s Fred Phelps.
2. "Fight for Your Right Revisited": Seth Rogen, Danny McBride (aka Kenny Powers in "Eastbound and Down"), and Elijah Wood play Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys in this heavily hyped short film about what kinda poo-flinging monkey business happened after the making of the Beasties' "Fight for Your Right to Party" video. Rainn Wilson, Will Ferrell, Susan Sarandon, Jack Black and the original Beastie Boys reportedly make cameos.
3. "Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”: a passion project for dedicated hip-hop fan Michael Rapaport following the rise of one of the rap game's most formative and well-respected acts. "I wanted it to be a classic rock-and-roll-style documentary," Rapaport told MTV. "If you grew up listening to hip-hop and you were around A Tribe Called Quest, it was a part of your life." True that, Michael. True that.
4. "The Untitled Sam Levinson Project": a film shot in Michigan about two siblings attending an anarchic family wedding. Though the title is still TBD, the film stars a cornucopia of A-List heavy weights, including Demi Moore, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Bosworth, Thomas Haden Church and Ellen Barkin.
5. “Higher Ground”: “Up in the Air” star Vera Farmiga directed this pic (her first, while pregant no less) about a mother who joins a fundamentalist Christian community. Farmiga joins “Winter’s Bone” and “Deadwood” star John Hawkes in the film.
6. “The Ledge”: Liv Tyler, Terence Howard and Charlie Human (from the FX series “Sons of Anarchy”) helm this new film about a man who says he has to jump from a ledge by noon. It’s written and directed by Matthew Chapman, one of the writers on “Runaway Jury.”
7. "The Future": "Me and You and Everyone We Know" writer/director/actress Miranda July's second film has a Friday night slot at the festival's largest venue. She won a Special Grand Jury prize for her first film, and this story, about a couple who dramatically change their lives in anticipation of adopting a cat, has all the tell-tale signs of a similarly quirky potential award winner.
While Sundance in years past was driven largely by the success of smaller but oftentimes still star-driven films, the past couple years have demonstrated that Sundance festival films that have seemingly come from nowhere can draw praise from the press and go on to command large audiences and multiple awards.
As Festival John Cooper said at a pre-launch press conference, "you look back at some of our more difficult films here, like 'Precious'  and 'Winter’s Bone,' from last year. We keep getting proof that there’s a hunger for an alternative kind of entertainment.”