Documentaries To Reign At Sundance
Jonathan Demme, the Academy Award-winning director of "The Silence of the Lambs," is showing "Neil Young: Heart of Gold," which captures the rocker in concert accompanied by Emmylou Harris in Nashville last year.
Singer Justin Timberlake joins Emile Hirsch, Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone in Nick Cassavetes' "Alpha Dog," a tragic tale of rivalry and violence among young drug peddlers. Musician Tom Waits is among the cast of "Wristcutters: A Love Story," Goran Dukic's offbeat film about a dreary afterlife reserved for people who have killed themselves.
An institution of the movie industry takes its knocks in Kirby Dick's "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," a study of the Motion Picture Association of America's system for rating films. The ratings board has come under frequent fire as overly prudish on sex and permissive on violence, with some critics and filmmakers likening it to a censorship panel.
"After watching what happened for 20 years with the ratings board and all the criticism from critics, filmmakers, even people around the country, and nothing changing at all, I felt it was really time to set out to make a film," said Dick, a 2004 Oscar nominee for his documentary "Twist of Faith."
"The most unfortunate thing about the system is the secrecy of the board. That was one of the things I wanted to break through with my film."
Among other Sundance highlights: Finn Taylor's "The Darwin Awards," with Winona Ryder and Joseph Fiennes in a twisted comedy about people accidentally killed in idiotic ways; Dito Montiel's "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," starring Robert Downey Jr. and Rosario Dawson in a mean-streets drama set in 1980s Queens; Laurie Collyer's "Sherrybaby," featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal as a prison parolee trying to rebuild her life; and Isabel Coixet's "The Secret Life of Words," with Tim Robbins and Sarah Polley in the story of a nurse tending a temporarily blinded man on an oil rig in the Irish Sea.
As Sundance has grown from its roots as Robert Redford's little place of discovery and nurturing for new talent, celebrity hoopla and corporate marketing gimmicks often have overshadowed the films. Critics say Sundance has gone commercial, yet defenders insist such trappings are outside festival organizers' control.
"There's a bunch of, for lack of a better description, carpetbaggers attending the festival," said Kevin Smith, who established himself with "Clerks" at Sundance in 1994. "This parasitic community that kind of attaches itself to the festival but has nothing to do with the festival. But the festival takes the knocks for it. ...
"I've always had an incredibly warm feeling about the place," said Smith, who returns to Sundance as executive producer of buddy Malcolm Ingram's documentary "Small Town Gay Bar," about oases that homosexuals find in the Deep South. "I went there as a dude with a job at a convenient store and left there as a dude with a film career. That place changed my life in a matter of about four days."
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