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Sundance 2013: The biggest storylines out of this year's festival

January 29, 2013|By Steven Zeitchik
  • Ryan Coogler accepts a prize for his 'Fruitvale' at the Sundance Film Festival
Ryan Coogler accepts a prize for his 'Fruitvale' at the Sundance… (Sundance Film Festival )

With the U.S. film world’s most high-profile and most snow-blanketed event behind us, it's time for some score-carding. Which movies won big and which missed their moment at the Sundance Film Festival? Which trends took hold and which will be gone with the first spring thaw? Also, is Sam Rockwell being replaced by Josh Radnor as the actor contractually obligated to be in every third Sundance film?

Now that John Cooper has given his final screening introduction and the last of the Hollywood interlopers have fled Park City, here are some post-Sundance story lines to watch.

To The Barricades. The Occupy movement is now well over a year old, and the film world is very much starting to take notice. Documentaries and features alike, from nonfiction films like "Inequality for All" and “Occupy: The Movie” to corporate thrillers  such as "The East," emerged at this year’s festival, the first of a coming wave of movies peddling these themes. Will they touch the zeitgeist anew? Get ready for the year of the wealth disparity and youthful activism, coming soon to a theater near you.

FULL COVERAGE: Sundance Film Festival 2013

Bay Area Business. Sundance’s great strength is its ability to take a movie few had an eye on before the fest and, for a variety of reasons--serious themes, emerging filmmaker, compelling back story—launch it into the spotlight. “Fruitvale,” 26-year-old Ryan Coogler’s fact-based tale of the last day in the life of BART shooting victim Oscar Grant, fit this year's bill, for all those reasons and more. The movie, which won both grand jury and audience prizes this weekend, was the major story out of Sundance. What distributor Harvey Weinstein will be able to do with it come the 2013-2014 award season will help write the tale's next chapter.

The Women. Coming into the festival, it was silly to lump together the eight female directors in competition and others across the slate. But many outlets—we’re guilty too—did just that. As it turns out, of course, the movies directed by women ran pretty much the same gamut as the films helmed by men—comedies and dramas, hits and misses. There were mixed receptions for Anne Fontaine’s “Two Mothers” and Cherien Dabis’ “May in the Summer,” for instance, and acclaim for Jill Soloway’s “Afternoon Delight” and Lake Bell’s “In a World.” Beneath the debate about the individual movies and the larger trends, though it was worth noting an important point—there are a lot more female directors coming out of the indie world than the studio one.

VIDEO: Sundance 2103 Video guide

Agenting. No, not the sales kind. The actual kind. Two documentaries, “Dirty Wars” and “Manhunt,’ both looked at the brave and fraught world of the Central Intelligence Agency. Both will enjoy commercial exposure in the coming months, via Sundance Selects and HBO, respectively. In this filmgoing season of “Zero Dark Thirty,” the films provide real-life counterpoints, and show moviedom’s willingness to engage seriously with U.S. foreign policy in a way few news reports do.

 Quick Escape. Let’s be honest. One of the reasons audiences have been coming to Sundance for years is to see someone try to stick it to The Man. Few have done it with more brio than Randy Moore, the first-time director whose “Escape From Tomorrow” became the talk of the festival with his guerilla-style movie shot at Disney theme parks in Orlando and Anaheim. But this story is far from done. Will anyone be willing to distribute the film? Will Disney break its silence, and if so, will the company also sue? And how many more guerilla-style exercises will we see now that high-quality cameras are getting so small? Moore thinks that it’s going to "explode.” Judging by this year’s Sundance, we wouldn’t doubt it.

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