By Lauren Clarke-Bennett
For its 30th year The Sundance Film Festival under the guidance of the iconic Robert Redford (who has just garnered a Golden Globe Nomination for best actor in ‘All Is Lost’) will entertain, amaze and educate through their stellar 2014 line-up of highly scrutinized films. But before the myriad of filmmakers, movie lovers, stars, media and celebrity seekers descend upon the sacred streets of Park City, Utah, from January 16th to January 26th, a transformation takes place that mirrors the changing of a Hollywood set between scenes.
From the hanging of the flags that read Sundance on main street, to the delivery trucks, to the added buses and routes, to the changeover of the stores from local businesses to venues for the different films and companies that descended on the town to promote their wares, one is filled with anticipation of the onslaught of glitterati that will forcibly take over the town.
Touted to be the most important film festival in the United States, this year, Sundance again promises to deliver a host of show stoppers. With a stellar roster that includes the premier of Zach Braff’s (Scrubs) ‘Wish I Was Here’ starring Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Jim Parsons and Ashley Greene – how can it not be a vintage year!
The immortal Phillip Seymour Hoffman promises to give yet another ace performance in Anton Corbijn’s psychological spy thriller ‘A Most Wanted Man’ alongside the talented cast consisting of Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe and Robin Wright. Keira Knightley and Sam Rockwell will grace the screen with stunning performances in Lynn Shelton’s, coming-of-age comedy, ‘Laggies’ about a 28-year-old woman who is having a hard time growing up while all her friends are taking the leap into maturity. Ryan Reynold stars in the genre-warping film ‘The Voices’ where a sweet but quirky lead character with a talking dog and cat vies for affection from a fellow worker and winds up in a murderous twist, is sure to delight. And finally David Wain’s spoof on a romantic comedy, ‘They Came Together’, starring Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd and Ed Helms pledges to deliver a laugh out loud performance to eager festival-goers.
In The US Dramatic competition category, Kristen Stewart takes on a meaty roll as a new military recruit and proves she has what it takes to be a consummate actor, in ‘Camp X-Ray’, where she is stationed at Guantanamo Bay and battles the moral dilemma of right and wrong. Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson and Sam Shepard star in an old style action film, ‘Cold In July’, that shows how one life and death split decision can lead to horrific consequences. ‘Life After Beth’ a film that fuses a love story with a zombie flick starring Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan will leave you dying for more and ‘Infinitely Polar Bear’ tells the heart wrenching story of two little girls being raised by a bi-polar father who is incapable of taking care of himself much less his children but somehow through love and tolerance, less than perfect circumstances can prove to have positive consequences.
At Sundance, the importance of music, both as subject matter and an accessory has been a huge part of the Festival itself. Besides the host of music venues such as The Fender Lounge where top musicians stop by to play to industry insiders and the ASCAP Music Cafe where filmmakers go to experience seasoned and emerging artists to possibly hire for upcoming projects, this year there are close to fifteen feature films that’s subject matter, hinges on music.
In the premiering comedy flick Frank, starring Michael Fassbender with Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Scoot McNairy, a wannabe musician joins an eccentric pop band only to realize he may not be able to hack it. Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn create movie magic with their chemistry in ‘Song One’ about a sister trying to find a way to wake her musician brother from a coma and awakens herself in the process. Also ‘Finding Fella’ documents the life of the mega talented yet persecuted Fela Kuti who’s Afrobeat sound of the 1970s and ’80s caused an uproar in Africa but gained huge popularity through-out the world.
According to their website, since 1981, Sundance Institute has evolved to become an internationally-recognized nonprofit organization that actively advances the work of risk-taking storytellers worldwide. Originally founded by Robert Redford in the mountains of Sundance, Utah, Sundance Institute has always provided a space for independent artists to explore their stories free from commercial and political pressures. By providing year-round creative and financial support for the development of original stories for the screen and stage, Sundance Institute remains committed to its mission to discover and develop independent artists and audiences across the globe.
This year’s 2014 Festival will present 119 feature-length films, representing 37 countries and 54 first-time filmmakers. The films were selected from 12, 218 submissions, 2,014 were from the U.S. and 2,043 were international. Over the years Sundance has been the first stop for groundbreaking films like ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, ‘Fruitvale Station’, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, ‘An Education’, ‘Sex, Lies, and Videotape’, ‘Reservoir Dogs’, ‘The Cove’, ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, ‘Precious’, and ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ with many more to come.
So if you like film and want to be on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest, get your ticket, book a place and come to one of the most exciting film events in the world.