Selections from Sundance 09

Pamela Crimbchin

In the midst of the Golden Globes, the Grammys and other award season favorites, there is one celebration that tends to get overlooked. While it’s confined to Utah, the Sundance Film Festival is known for bringing some of best independent films of the past to light. This year’s fest looks to be no different, so we’ve decided to give you the scoop on the best bets for the 2009 indie flicks.

A brief history lesson

The Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent cinema festival in the U.S., takes place every January in Utah. The festival acts as a showcase for new work from American and international independent filmmakers and is made up of competitions for dramatic and documentary films and feature-length short films, as well as a non-competitive showcase.

According to a Jan. 16 L.A.Times article titled “23 Facts About 23 (Official) Years of Sundance,” the festival began in 1978 as the Utah/U.S. Film Festival in an effort to attract more filmmakers to Utah. It was founded by Sterling van Wegener and John Earle (not Robert Redford!) with Redford acting as the festival board’s first chairman.

The article states in 1985, the Sundance Institute, which was created by Redford in 1981, took over management of the festival, which was experiencing financial difficulties.

The festival has changed significantly over the decades. It saw several name changes over the years, and it wasn’t until 1991 that the name Sundance Film Festival stuck. Name changes aside, the event has gone from a low-profile venue for independent creators from outside the Hollywood realm to a media extravaganza for actors, directors from studios that are subsidiaries of the major studios, paparazzi and luxury-goods company sponsors giving gifts to the attendees.

In recent years, the festival strove to distance itself from these distractions, and in 2007 and 2008, buttons were handed out to filmmakers that read, “Focus on Film.” – Denise Wright


Recent college graduate James Brennan thought the summer of 1987 would be his dream tour of Europe, but after his parents tell him they can no longer pay for his trip, James is forced to take a summer job at a local amusement park.

Amidst the screaming children, roaring roller coaster and less than edible corn dogs, James, played by Jesse Eisenberg, finds love and a summer he will never forget.

The film is directed and written from personal experiences by “Superbad” director Greg Mottola. James and his love interest, Em, played by actress Kristen Stewart of “Twilight,” are joined by an array of other comical actors and actresses including, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, Martin Starr and Kristen Wiig. *Premiere Competition

‘Paper Heart’

While on a search for answers and advice about romance, love skeptic Charlyne Yi finds herself being courted by real-life boyfriend and “Juno” actor Michael Cera.

Cera and comedian/actress Yi play themselves in this semi-scripted documentary. Yi and director Nicholas Jasenovec ask passersby, professionals, couples and an array of characters, including “Pineapple Express” actor Seth Rogen, one of the harder questions in life: Does love really exist? *U.S. Dramatic Competition

‘I Love You Phillip Morris’

Texas policeman Steve Russell, played by Jim Carrey, accepts his homosexuality and decides to turn to fraud and cons when he meets the man of his life, Philip Morris, played by Ewan McGregor.

The movie is based on a true story and follows Steve through his realization of being gay, finding true love and flamboyant escapes in order to get back to Philip after a prison transfer.

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, co-writers of “Bad News Bears” and “Bad Santa,” co-directed the film. *Premiere Competition

‘Big Fan’

Everyone has a crazy uncle or friend of the family who is so obsessed with a football team that it takes over, not only his or her wardrobe and interior decor, but ultimately, his or her life. “Big Fan” follows New York Giants fan Paul Aufiero, played by Patton Oswalt, as his faithfulness to the team is tested.

Paul and friend Sal, played by Kevin Corrigan, see Giants linebacker Quantrell Bishop, played by Jonathan Hamm, at a gas station when they decide to follow his car to a strip club. After a misunderstanding, Paul and Sal find themselves in a violent altercation with the quarterback that makes Paul question his favorite team.

Writer and Director Robert Siegel is the former editor-in-chief of The Onion and writer of the recent Golden Globe winner “The Wrestler.” *U.S. Dramatic Competition

‘Brief Interviews with Hideous Men’

Sarah Quinn, played by Julianne Nicholson, like many women after a breakup, is looking for answers. This leads the anthropology doctoral candidate to incorporate her recent breakup into her dissertation by interviewing many different men with repulsive characteristics.

Throughout the interviews, Nicholson learns more about men and herself than she ever expected.

The film is based on the collection of 23 short stories by David Wallace, also titled “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” and is screenwritten and directed by “Office” star John Krasinski. *U.S. Dramatic Competition

Contact ALL correspondent Pamela Crimbchin at [email protected].