31 January, 2012
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
They call it the Sundance alchemy…..the strange and rather unknowable process by which films with advanced buzz fall flat and titles that come out of nowhere become the next big indie flings. Such was the case at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where several of the higher profile films did not get the love from audiences, critics or distributors, and where a few unheralded films walked away with the lion’s share of prizes and, most importantly, distribution contacts that will insure that they will get seen by a wider public in the months ahead.
The two most high-profile films before the festival — LAY THE FAVORITE, directed by Stephen Frears and starring Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and the latest Brooklyn tale from iconic indie director Spike Lee, RED HOOK SUMMER, both landed with a critical thud and are still looking for buyers (Lee did not help matters by lashing out against the Hollywood and indie establishment for not understanding or supporting works about the African-American experience). Several highly touted comedies, including the romcom CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER, starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg, and BACHELORETTE, a mean-girl marriage comedy starring Kirsten Dunst that many were hoping would be the indie answer to the mega-hit BRIDESMAIDS, also did not get any critical love (although both will most likely end up with modest distribution deals). The documentary opener THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, about a billionaire and his trophy wife that spawned a defamation suit before the Festival even began was dismissed by many critics as reality television fodder about big boobs, big expense accounts and the outrageous spending habits of the privileged 1%.
But this Sundance alchemy thing can work both ways. A film shot in Louisiana that had very little advance buzz and which, based on the Festival’s description of it as a mythological tale, had buyers rolling their eyes, became in just a few short days the toast of Sundance, winning major awards and securing a tasty deal with Fox Searchlight, arguably the most aggressive indie distributor on the block. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, a visually arresting drama tinged with magical realism about a 6-year-old named Hushpuppy in the outer reaches of bayou country, became an instant must-see after an early audience gave it a standing ovation, and critics drooled. All subsequent public screenings were immediately sold out and press and industry clamored for a repeat Press and Industry screening, which finally happened last Thursday. The built up demand required standing on line in advance of the screening for over an hour, but what awaited was definitely worth the wait…..maybe not the most commercial movie to come out of Sundance, but certainly the most inspiring and most original.
Other standouts that entered the Festival with either little heart or negative buzz also shined. ROBOT AND FRANK, starring Oscar nominee Frank Langella as a retired jewel thief and his robot caretaker and THE SURROGATE, a beautifully acted humanist tale about a man living in an iron lung who longs to lose his virginity at age 40, featured peak performances by John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy…..the kind that will be remembered at next year’s awards season. Other films that made this a memorable Sundance include the raunchy phone sex comedy FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL…, with hilarious performances by Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller; THE WORDS, an intense and personal journey of a writer’s deception and his ultimate redemption with an all-star cast that included Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Zoe Saldana and Olivia Wilde; SIMON KILLER, a highly atmospheric whodunit by New York wunderkind Antonio Campos; MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, a dramatically intense relationship drama about a woman trying to salvage her family and identity when her husband is incarcerated, with strong direction by Ava DuVernay; and ARBITRAGE, a crackerjack thriller set against the economic meltdown with strong performances by Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and last year’s Sundance “it girl” Brit Marling.
Documentaries were especially strong, with films exploring the crisis in health care, the failed drug war, the scandal of rape in the armed services, the legacy of a disappeared 1970s rocker and the downward spiral of American cities and institutions, among the primetime topics observed. International films were politely received with none emerging with distribution deals (so far) but expect to see these films branch out to the international film circuit and find audiences beyond Park City.
At Saturday evening’s gala awards ceremony, which in true Sundance style was a relaxed affair that was livestreamed for an international audience, the big winners were BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD for Best U.S. Drama, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN for Best U.S. Documentary, VIOLETA WENT TO HEAVEN (Chile) as Best World Cinema Drama and THE LAW IN THESE PARTS(Israel) as Best World Cinema Documentary. A more complete list of winners follows, with many worthy titles that will be making their way through the international film festival circuit, and also, hopefully to big screens and small screens via VOD in the months ahead. For more information on them, visit: http://www.sundance.org/festival
SUNDANCE 2012 AWARD WINNERS
The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary: THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (Eugene Jarecki)
The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic: BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Benh Zeitlin)
The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary: THE LAW IN THESE PARTS (Israel, Ra'anan Alexandrowicz)
The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic: VIOLETA WENT TO HEAVEN (Chile, Andrés Wood)
The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary: THE INVISIBLE WAR (Kirby Dick)
The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic: THE SURROGATE (Ben Lewin)
The World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary: SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (Sweden, United Kingdom, Malik Bendjelloul)
The World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic: VALLEY OF SAINTS (India, Musa Syeed)
The Best of NEXT Audience Award: SLEEPWALK WITH ME (USA, Mike Birbiglia)
The U.S. Directing Award: Documentary: THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES (Lauren Greenfield)
The U.S. Directing Award: Dramatic: MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (Ava DuVernay)
The World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary: 5 BROKEN CAMERAS (Israel, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi)
The World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic: TEDDY BEAR (Denmark, Mads Matthiesen)
The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (USA, Derek Connolly)
The World Cinema Screenwriting Award: YOUNG & WILD (Chile, Marialy Rivas, Camila Gutiérrez, Pedro Peirano, Sebastián Sepúlveda)
The U.S. Documentary Editing Award: DETROPIA (Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady)
The World Cinema Documentary Editing Award: INDIE GAME (Canada, Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky)
The Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary: CHASING ICE (Jeff Orlowski)
The Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic: BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Benh Zeitlin)
The World Cinema Cinematography Award: Documentary: PUTIN’S KISS (Denmark, Lise Birk Pedersen)
The World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic: MY BROTHER THE DEVIL (UK, Sally El Hosaini)
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for an Agent of Change: LOVE FREE OR DIE (Macky Alston)
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance: AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY (Alison Klayman)
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Independent Film Producing: Andrea Sperling and Jonathan Schwartz for SMASHED AND NOBODY WALKS
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting: THE SURROGATE (John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy and cast)
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Artistic Vision: CAN (Turkey, Rasit Celikezer)
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize for its Celebration of the Artistic Spirit: SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (Sweden/UK, Malik Bendjelloul)
Yahoo Short Film Audience Award: THE DEBUTANTE HUNTERS (USA, Maria White)
27 January, 2012
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
Two short films from the United Kingdom and one from Kosovo were among the winners announced yesterday of the Short Film Competition section at the Sundance Film Festival. Sixty five films from around the world were presented in this year’s program from over 7500 submissions, in curated packages and as stand-alone short films presented before feature screenings. They represent the new generation of filmmaking talent who will undoubtedly return to Sundance in future years with feature length films in competition.
The Short Film jurors are Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt-Head for MTV and King of the Hill for FOX TV; Dee Rees, Sundance Institute Directing Lab Fellow and writer/director of the award-winning short film PARIAH, and Shane Smith, Director of Public Programmes at TIFF Bell Lightbox. The Short Film program at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival is presented by Yahoo! As part of the sponsorship, a selection of nine short films that premiered at the Festival are currently featured on Yahoo! Screen. Through January 27, film buffs can watch the films and vote for their favorite. Yahoo! will present the winning filmmaker with the inaugural Yahoo! Audience Award and $5,000 at the Festival’s closing Awards Ceremony.
This year’s Short Film winners include:
The Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking: FISHING WITHOUT NETS (U.S.A., Director: Cutter Hodierne, Screenwriters: Cutter Hodierne, John Hibey) — A story of pirates in Somalia, told from the perspective of the pirates themselves.
The Jury Prize in Short Film, U.S. Fiction: THE BLACK BALLOON (U.S.A., Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie) — The Black Balloon strays from the herd and experiences what life as an individual is like. He explores New York City in the deepest way, seeing all of its characters.
The Jury Prize in Short Film, International Fiction: THE RETURN (Kosovo, Director: Blerta Zeqiri, Screenwriter: Shefqet Gjocaj) — A man comes back from a Serb prison to his wife and son. Much has changed since he was declared missing and continuing where they left off four years ago may not be as easy as it seems.
The Jury Prize in Short Film, Non-Fiction: THE TSUNAMI AND THE CHERRY BLOSSOM (U.S.A., Director: Lucy Walker) — Survivors in the areas hardest hit by Japan's recent tsunami find the courage to revive and rebuild as cherry blossom season begins. A visual haiku about the ephemeral nature of life and the healing power of Japan's most beloved flower.
The Jury Prize in Animated Short Film: A MORNING STROLL (United Kingdom, Director: Grant Orchard) — When a New Yorker walks past a chicken on his morning stroll, we are left to wonder which one is the real city slicker.
The Special Jury Award for Comedic Storytelling: THE ARM (U.S.A., Directors and screenwriters: Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos, Jessie Ennis) — In an attempt to keep up with social pressure in a technologically advanced world, Chance starts a texting relationship with Genevieve, a girl he meets at a yogurt shop.
The Special Jury Award for Animation Direction: ROBOTS OF BRIXTON (United Kingdom, Director: Kibwe Tavares) — The trials and tribulations of young robots surviving at the sharp end of inner city life, living the predictable existence of a populous hemmed in by poverty, disillusionment and mass unemployment.
The 2012 Sundance Film Festival runs through January 29 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah. A complete list of films and events is available at www.sundance.org/festival
26 January, 2012
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
It is probably safe to say that John Cooper, the Director of the Sundance Film Festival, dreams in 24 frames per second. He has said in various interviews over the years that film has been part of his DNA going way back to childhood, although his first immersion in the arts was in live theater, ranging from performance to design. He spent the obligatory years in New York City, the center of live performing arts, but in 1989, by chance (or fate), he volunteered at the Sundance Institute’s Summer Labs and fell in love with the process, energy and mission of the Institute. He became a member of the Festival’s programming team that same year, beginning an almost 25 year association with the Festival. In 1989, the Sundance Film Festival was quite a different beast and the indie landscape was far more modest. However, in that same year, a small indie film titled SEX, LIVES AND VIDEOTAPE by an unknown director named Steven Soderbergh exploded at the Cannes Film Festival, and its success was about to change all that. Suddenly indie film was white hot and Sundance was well positioned to become the organization that would become the keeper of the holy grail of emerging indie talent.
Cooper (as he known by friends and colleagues) returned to California to become part of the Festival programming team, which at that time consisted of two people. In the Festival’s early years, he created the short film program and quickly transitioned into programming documentaries and feature films. Working under the leadership of Sundance founder Robert Redford and Festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore, he focused on efforts to expand the Festival’s boundaries by helping introduce the New Frontier On Main initiative, where contemporary artists intersect with new technologies, as well as boosting the Festival’s content-rich website and leading the initiative to expand the Festival’s audience via strategic relationships with online platforms such as iTunes, Netflix and Xbox 360. Since 2005, he spearheaded what was then known as the Sundance Institute Art House Project (now known as Sundance USA), a national initiative of 18 art houses from across the country designed to connect regional audiences to the Sundance’s films and filmmakers. He also introduced a new section to the program called Next, focused on low- or no-budget films and ratcheted up the World Cinema competition sections to give them equal footing with the core American Indies program.
After serving as the Festival’s Director of Programming since 2003, Cooper got the opportunity of a lifetime in 2009, when longtime Festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore accepted a job as chief creative officer of Tribeca Enterprises, which among other things, sponsors the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Speculation was rampant at the time about who would succeed Gilmore in the high profile role, with fears that a Hollywood studio honcho might be anointed and shift the Festival into a decidedly more commercial direction. Well, the good news is that the Institute, with Redford’s apparent blessing, saw that they had the right person for the job was already in their midst, and elevated Cooper into the position. As Festival Director, he oversees creative direction of the Festival and has final decision on all films and events. The first Festival that he was completely in charge of in January 2010 was viewed as a return to Sundance’s roots, with “less commercial, more independent” serving as his mantra. While the Festival continues to include films that bring out celebrity talents, the films chosen in the past three years (including the class of 2012) seem to bear out his ethos of presenting smaller and tougher films that challenge audiences to think as well as just react.
For this year, he has incorporated the theme of LOOK AGAIN to encourage people to embrace a new generation of filmmakers and storytelling techniques. When asked about the motivation behind this campaign, Cooper shared that “LOOK AGAIN refers to opening yourself up to a new perspective and renewed vitality – to re-examine the power of film as an art form. I love to watch audiences celebrate the new slate each year. I think audiences at this year’s Festival are going to discover a diverse range of exciting stories both in narrative and documentary. As the Rolling Stones sang “you just might find….you get what you need!” This creative approach comes at a time when indie films are facing a crisis in terms of finding distribution and making back their even modest investments. While new distribution platforms are showing promise, the economic crisis and the possible move towards a more conservative government do not harken well for art cinema. “In these challenging economic times, filmmakers have had to be more resourceful and truly independent in their approaches to filmmaking”, Cooper said in the Festival’s announcement press release. “Looking at this year‘s submissions, the result is more fully realized visions and stronger stories; we are proud to see the Festival emerging as a key indicator of the health and creativity of our filmmaking community”.
The onus for the quality of the overall event is now shared between American indie titles and a strong representation of world cinema offerings. In fact, the World Cinema competitions for narrative features and documentaries contain an impressive number of world premieres. In industry terms, that means that more international filmmakers and sales agents are opting to premiere at Sundance instead of Berlin or other non-American venues. “My staff and I have stepped up our commitment to international outreach in the past few years, and our international friends are catching on to the opportunities we have to offer, including networking meetings and social gatherings designed just for them”, Cooper offered. “As with U.S. films, we have a rich history of supporting work that is sometimes overlooked by others….yet when those films find audiences it is magical.”
For the third Festival under his artistic direction, Cooper has settled into his role and can see his personal influences converging with the realities of the marketplace and the continued enthusiasm of film artists who are driven to tell their stories. But even in a “dream job”, the challenges are great and the position requires him to say NO much more than he says YES (the Festival screens less than 10% of the films that are submitted to it…..onerous odds, indeed). “The rejection process is heartbreaking”, Cooper shared. “It is hard to ignore the struggle and dreams that go into making any film. I often tell filmmakers that though our Festival may be a “quick” path for them to achieve their goals, it is not the only one.” However difficult that process may be for a man who is not afraid to show his more tender and emotional side, the rewards of the “dream job” are also great. “It is rewarding knowing that the Festival works – that it is a platform for creating real impact both for films and the independent community.” Cooper concluded. “There’s something special about standing backstage with a filmmaker at their world premiere, both of us knowing their life is going to change and not even having to talk about it.”
25 January, 2012
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
Far from the red carpet glamour, the throngs trying to party crash on Main Street, the critics and programmers waiting on lines, there is another Sundance Film Festival taking place behind closed doors. While the Festival does not have an official market, as do such other events as Berlin and Cannes, there is definitely market business going on in private hotel suites and luxurious mountaintop villas. These are the precincts where sleep deprived sales agents hawk their wares to domestic distributors and international buyers…a private world of buy and sell that only becomes apparent once news breaks about a deal struck after a long night of push/pull. A year after one of the most hectic Sundances in a decade, the stage is set for a repeat performance, although the pace so far has not been as frenetic. Much of this has to do with the continuing economic doldrums (even Hollywood box office was off over 5%) and the not so spectacular performance of last year’s festival faves (including such films as MARGIN CALL, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, CRAZY IN LOVE, OUR IDIOT BROTHER and THE DETAILS). However, expectations are high for what seems to be another slate with potential.
The usual American buyers are here at the Sundance Film Festival in force, including such companies as Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, The Weinstein Company, Focus Features, Magnolia, IFC Films, Music Box, Strand Releasing, Zeitgeist Films and Roadside Attractions. They are being joined by Sundance newcomers Film District, CBS Films, Open Road Films, LD Distribution, Adopt Films, Angle Films, Big Air Studios, Drafthouse Films, OWN Documentary Film Club and several scouts for new companies yet to be named. This influx of new buyers is being stimulated by the increased potential of VOD and digital download for indie product. Last year’s MARGIN CALL made as much money via VOD platforms as it did in theaters. Armed with that maturing revenue stream, buyers are more confident about buying films that will attract younger audiences who are more invested in new technology streams. Buyers from most European countries are also here in force, as they see films that they may eventually purchase at the European Film Market in Berlin next month.
Star-heavy projects always attract attention and this year buyers may circle around such films as ARBITRAGE (Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon), LAY THE FAVORITE (Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones), RED LIGHTS (Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy), PREDISPOSED (Jesse Eisenberg, Melissa Leo) and THE WORDS (Bradley Cooper, Olivia Wilde). A lot depends on these films’ reception here and so far none of the above has exactly caught fire. The key mantra is to be aggressive but not spend too much because that zealousness to overspend can bite you in the ass if the film underperforms. Sundance is strewn with the corpses of films that were bought for ridiculous sums with great flourish that tanked at the box office. These days, buyers are more cautious from the outset.
The other two genres generating strong interest are an unusual strong slate of comedies (such as BACHELORETTE, CELESE AND JESSE FOREVER, LIBERAL ARTS, FOR A GOOD TIME CALL…., SLEEPWALK WITH ME, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED and THE COMEDY) and the horror/gore/sci fi films that make up the Midnight section. What company would not want to buy the next PARANORMAL ACTIVITY or THE DEVIL INSIDE, two micro-budget films that scored millions at the box office. This year, interest is settling in for the genre titles EXCISION, THE PACT, BLACK ROCK and VHS. Most of the deals already announced are for comedy and genre titles, a trend that could continue through the end of the Festival. Many of the more serious dramas or hard-hitting documentaries are being well received critically but may find it more difficult to find traditional theatrical releases. Asking prices from sales agents is said to be more modest than in year’s past, but many films will have to wait months to find out what kind of releases they will receive. In the meantime, the tension mounts and the negotiating behind closed doors continues, as Sundance moves into its prime time. For information on these and other films, visit: www.sundance.org/festival
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
In the first major acquisition of a non-American title at the Sundance Film Festival, Sony Pictures Classics, the specialty division of parent company Sony Pictures, has taken the North American rights to the musical documentary SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN. The film, a Swedish/UK co-production directed by Malik Bendjelloul, tells the tale of Rodriguez, a 1970s rock n roller who quickly fell out of favor and died, but was rediscovered by avid fans in South Africa. The film follows two South African fans who go on a journey to find out more about their musical idol. The film is competing in the World Cinema Documentary competition.
24 January, 2012
by Sandy Mandelberger, North America Editor
It is now pretty clear that Vikings made landfall in North America several centuries before Columbus collided with the West Indies. If they had colonized the land, we would all be blonds and speaking Norwegian. Such, my children, are the vagaries of history. Well a new invasion from the Scandinavian nation is about to commence at the Sundance Film Festival, where a strong sampling of films from Norway, Sweden and Denmark are literally making waves. Denmark is represented with the highest number in the group, with such North American premieres as the narrative feature TEDDY BEAR, directed by Mads Matthiesen, which tells the story of a painfully shy 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives with his mother and sets off to Thailand in search of love; ½ REVOLUTION by co-directors Omar Shargawi and Karim El Hakim, in which the two filmmakers capture the reality of the Egyptian revolution as it occurred out of view from the world’s media in the alleyways and streets away from the square – and in the process were arrested by the secret police; THE AMBASSADOR by documentarian Mads Brügger in which he portrays a very white European man who buys his way into being a diplomat in one of Central Africa’s most failed nations; PUTIN’S KISS by director Lise Birk Pedersen, which profiles 19-year-old Marsha, a model spokesperson in a strongly nationalistic Russian youth movement that aims to protect the country from its enemies; and SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN by director Malik Bendjelloul, the true story of a 1970s rock icon who disappeared into oblivion under mysterious circumstances.
From Sweden comes the documentary BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS! from director Fredrik Gertten, which offers a behind-the-scenes story of a full-scale attack on freedom of speech, when the Dole Fruit Company set out to attack a film company that has brought some ugly truths to the screen about the company. Norway is represented by OSLO, AUGUST 31, an intense yet intimate drama of a drug addict’s attempt to go sober, poignantly directed by Festival favorite Joachim Trier. Scandinavian short films are scattered throughout the program, offering further evidence of the continued strength of Scandinavian cinema and the emergence of a new generation of film auteurs.
21 January, 2012
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
The world comes to the Sundance Film Festival from January 19 to 29. In the past several years, the Festival, which first made its reputation with American Indie cinema, has put as much emphasis on its World Cinema competitions, including sections for Dramatic Feature and Documentary Feature. By laying out a red carpet for international filmmakers and industry professionals, Sundance has been able to go mano-a-mano with such prestigious European-based film festivals as Berlin, Cannes and Venice. And since Sundance insists on world or international premieres (as do the three biggie festivals mentioned above), there has been a very interesting shift in the marketing strategies of international sales agents and distributors, who now see Sundance as key to their international promotion efforts. If a film hits it big in Sundance, and secures a U.S. or North American deal, then the stage is set for these companies to hawk the film at the European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival (which follows just a few weeks later) and also at Cannes in May.
So, Sundance has taken advantage of its January dates to encourage international film sellers and buyers to make their way up to the mountains of Park City as their first stop of the new year. This is quite a sea change in strategy (European films premiering in Utah before they premiere in Europe) but one that has expanded the reach of the Sundance Film Festival and which offers attending professionals and general public a chance to review the cinema output around the globe. Below is the list of dramatic and documentary films competing at Sundance, with descriptions provided by the Festival.
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
4 SUNS (Czech Republic, Director and screenwriter: Bohdan Sláma) — Immature Fogi attempts to straighten up and accept his responsibilities as a new husband and father, as well as role model to his troubled son from a previous relationship, but finds himself unable to change his nature, leaving him to watch haplessly as his family begins to crumble. Cast: Jaroslav Plesl, Aňa Geislerová, Karel Roden, Jiří Mádl, Klára Melíšková. World Premiere
ABOUT THE PINK SKY (Japan, Director and screenwriter: Keiichi Kobayashi) — A high school girl finds a wallet full of money and tracks down its owner, leading to unexpected consequences for the girl and her friends. Cast: Ai Ikeda, Ena Koshino, Reiko Fujiwara, Tsubasa Takayama, Hakusyu Togetsuan. International Premiere
CAN (Turkey, Director and screenwriter: Rasit Celikezer) — A young married couple live happily in Istanbul, but their decision to illegally procure a child threatens their future together. Cast: Selen Ucer, Serdar Orcin, Berkan Demirbag, Erkan Avci. World Premiere
FATHER’S CHAIR (Brazil, Director: Luciano Moura, Screenwriters: Elena Soarez, Luciano Moura) — Following the trail of his runaway teen son, Theo confronts his own identity as a son, a father and a man along the way. Cast: Wagner Moura, Lima Duarte, Mariana Lima. World Premiere
L (Greece, Director: Babis Makridis, Screenwriters: Efthymis Filippou, Babis Makridis) — A man who lives in his car gets caught up in the undeclared war between motorcycle riders and car drivers. Cast: Aris Servetalis, Makis Papadimitriou, Lefteris Mathaios, Nota Tserniafski, Stavros Raptis. World Premiere
THE LAST ELVIS (Argentina, Director: Armando Bo, Screenwriters: Nicolás Giacobone and Armando Bo) — A Buenos Aires Elvis impersonator who believes that he is the reincarnation of the King struggles to shake free from reality and live his musical dream. Cast: John McInerny, Griselda Siciliani, Margarita Lopez. World Premiere
MADRID 1987 (Spain, Director and screenwriter: David Trueba) — The balance of power and desire constantly shifts during the meeting of an older journalist and a young student, of two generations completely foreign to one another. Cast: José Sacristán, María Valverde, Ramon Fontserè. International Premiere
MY BROTHER THE DEVIL (United Kingdom, Director and screenwriter: Sally El Hosaini) — A pair of British Arab brothers trying to get by in gangland London learn the extraordinary courage it takes to be yourself. Cast: James Floyd, Saïd Taghmaoui, Fady Elsayed. World Premiere
TEDDY BEAR (Denmark, Director: Mads Matthiesen, Screenwriters: Mads Matthiesen, Martin Pieter Zandvliet) — Dennis, a painfully shy 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives with his mother, sets off to Thailand in search of love. Cast: Kim Kold, Elsebeth Steentoft, Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard, David Winters, Allan Mogensen. World Premiere
VALLEY OF SAINTS (India, Director and screenwriter: Musa Syeed) — Gulzar plans to run away from the war and poverty surrounding his village in Kashmir with his best friend, but a beautiful young woman researching the dying lake leads him to contemplate a different future Cast: Gulzar Ahmad Bhat, Mohammed Afzal Sofi, Neelofar Hamid. World Premiere
VIOLETA WENT TO HEAVEN (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Director: Andrés Wood, Screenwriters: Eliseo Altunaga, Rodrigo Bazaes, Guillermo Calderón, Andrés Wood) — A portrait of famed Chilean singer and folklorist Violeta Parra filled with her musical work, her memories, her loves and her hopes. Cast: Francisca Gavilán, Thomas Durand, Luis Machín, Gabriela Aguilera, Roberto Farías. International Premiere
WISH YOU WERE HERE (Australia, Director: Kieran Darcy-Smith, Screenwriters: Felicity Price, Kieran Darcy-Smith) — Four friends embark on a carefree holiday, but only three return home. Who knows what happened on that fateful night? Cast: Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer, Felicity Price, Antony Starr. World Premiere.
WRONG (France, Director and screenwriter: Quentin Dupieux) — Dolph searches for his lost dog, but through encounters with a nympho pizza-delivery girl, a jogging neighbor seeking the absolute, and a mysterious righter of wrongs, he may eventually lose his mind… and his identity. Cast: Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, Steve Little, William Fichtner. World Premiere
YOUNG & WILD (Chile, Director: Marialy Rivas, Screenwriters: Marialy Rivas, Camila Gutiérrez, Pedro Peirano) — 17-year-old Daniela, raised in the bosom of a strict Evangelical family and recently unmasked as a fornicator by her shocked parents, struggles to find her own path to spiritual harmony. Cast: Alicia Rodríguez, Aline Kuppenheim, María Gracia Omegna, Felipe Pinto. World Premiere
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
½ REVOLUTION (Denmark, Directors: Omar Shargawi, Karim El Hakim) — In January 2011, two filmmakers captured the reality of the Egyptian revolution as it occurred out of view from the world’s media in the alleyways and streets away from the square – and in the process were arrested by the secret police. North American Premiere
5 BROKEN CAMERAS (Palestine, Israel, France, Directors: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi) — A Palestinian journalist chronicles his village’s resistance to a separation barrier being erected on their land and in the process captures his young son’s lens on the world. International Premiere
THE AMBASSADOR (Denmark. Director: Mads Brügger) — What happens when a very white European man buys his way into being a diplomat in one of Central Africa’s most failed nations? Welcome to the bizarre and hidden world of African diplomacy, where gin and tonics flow and diamond hustlers and corrupt politicians run free. North American Premiere
BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS! (Sweden, Director: Fredrik Gertten) — The behind-the-scenes story of a full-scale attack on freedom of speech. When Dole set its sights on the WG Film production Bananas!* in May 2009, confusion was the method, aggression was the tactic and media control was the story. North American Premiere
CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT (Canada, China, Director: Yung Chang) — In central China, where a coach recruits poor rural teenagers and turns them into Western-style boxing champions, the top students face dramatic choices as they graduate – should they fight for the collective good or for themselves? A metaphor for the choices everyone in the New China faces now. World Premiere
GYPSY DAVY (Israel, U.S.A., Spain, Director: Rachel Leah Jones) — How does a white boy with Alabama roots become a Flamenco guitarist in Andalusian boots? A tale of self-invention and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of the cost to others. International Premiere
THE IMPOSTER (United Kingdom, Director: Bart Layton) — In 1994 a 13-year-old boy disappears from his home in San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half years later he is found alive thousands of miles away in Spain with a shocking story of kidnap and torture. But all is not what it seems in this tale that is truly stranger than fiction. World Premiere
INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE (Canada, Directors: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky) — Follow the dramatic journeys of indie game developers as they create games and release those works, and themselves, to the world. World Premiere
THE LAW IN THESE PARTS (Israel, Director: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz) — Israel’s 43-year military legal system in the Occupied Palestinian Territories unfolds through provocative interviews with the system’s architects and historical footage showing the enactment of these laws upon the Palestinian population. International Premiere
PAYBACK (Canada, Director: Jennifer Baichwal) — Based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling book, Payback explores how debt is a central organizing principle in our lives – influencing relationships, societies, governing structures and the very fate of this planet. World Premiere
PUTIN’S KISS (Denmark, Director: Lise Birk Pedersen) — 19-year-old Marsha is a model spokesperson in a strongly nationalistic Russian youth movement that aims to protect the country from its enemies. When she starts recognizing the organization’s flaws, she must take a stand for or against it. North American Premiere
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (Denmark, United Kingdom, Director: Malik Bendjelloul) — Rodriguez was the greatest ‘70s US rock icon who never was. Hailed as the greatest recording artist of his generation he disappeared into oblivion – rising again from the ashes in a completely different context many miles away. World Premiere.