The Sundance Film Festival can seem like a most indecipherable hybrid: It’s a movie-industry gathering, a wannabe Mardi Gras, a celebrity pit stop.
It's also, of course, a place where some of the most memorable films of our time began their auspicious lives. Without Sundance, we’d never know about the youngsters who disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville Md., "Vote for Pedro" would be little more than a junior-high electoral slogan. And Al Gore would just be just another ex-vice president.
This year's festival, which kicks off Thursday in Park City, Utah, promises its own intrigue. There are no shortage of worthy films -- from dense docs to poignant dramedies to post-midnight pulp. Here are a few storylines to keep an eye on:
Better than the 1%. The Occupy movement is now more than a year old, and the films that tap into its vibe are thick on the ground. "The East," from the indie darlings Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, is a much-anticipated scripted story about anti-corporate activists (some would call them terrorists) on a dangerous mission. "99%--The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film" has emerging filmmakers from around the country telling the story of the movement from the inside. And "Inequality for All" is a documentary about wealth gaps as explained by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich—and that, speaking of Al Gore, will try to do for the economy what "An Inconvenient Truth" did for the environment.