LA Film Festival Features Diverse Slate of Films, Directors

While the rest of Hollywood lags behind, the LA Film Festival continues to break the mold with its robustly diverse programming.

The festival begins Wednesday and includes a slate in which 42% of the films playing are directed by women and 40% by filmmakers of color.

The festival includes the directorial debut of actress Lea Thompson, who directs herself and her daughters Zoey and Madelyn Deutch in “The Year of Spectacular Men” and Whitney Cummings’ ensemble relationship pic “The Female Brain,” with Sofia Vergara and James Marsden.

Festival Director Jennifer Cochis says the numbers are due to exhaustive outreach, a diverse programming staff and a shared goal of amplifying underrepresented voices.

The festival begins Wednesday in Culver City with the premiere of Colin Trevorrow’s “The Book of Henry.” (AP)

Haneke’s ‘Amour’ Wins Top Prize at Cannes

Michael Haneke has won the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize for a second time with his film about love and death, “Amour.”

The festival jury awarded the second-place Grand Prize to Matteo Garrone’s Italian satire “Reality” and Ken Loach’s whiskey-tasting comedy “The Angels’ Share” won the third-place Jury Prize.

Acting prizes went to Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen for “The Hunt” and jointly to Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan for Romanian movie “Beyond the Hills.”

The festival wrapped up Sunday in the French Riviera resort. (AP)

Sundance Film Fest Opens With 4 Films, New Snow

A fresh dusting of snow over Park City heralded the beginning of the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday.

Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford opened the festival by characterizing the slate of 117 feature films as products of “dark and grim” times and the “suffering from a government that’s in paralysis.”

“Even though the work reflects hard times, there’s not paralysis here,” the 75-year-old filmmaker said at an afternoon news conference. “They’re breathing life into fresh, new stories.”

The selection of films are “as diverse as they can be” and no overriding theme has emerged, said festival director John Cooper.

“Independent film is the theme,” he said.

For 11 days every January, Sundance becomes the focal point of the independent film world as established directors and stars mix with up-and-coming talent, while theatrical distributors prowl the festival looking for the next indie hit, and film lovers just have a good time being the first audiences to see new movies.

“You can’t make a film with a festival in mind, and it’s not something I would have expected or taken for granted. But it’s always kind of the dream in the back of your mind,” said Lauren Greenfield, who premiered her debut documentary “Thin” at Sundance in 2006 and returns this time with one of the opening-night films, “The Queen of Versailles,” chronicling the housing-bust story of a couple that tried to build a palatial 90,000-square-foot (27,000-meter) mansion.

“I think it’s this really magical environment, a place that’s such a nurturing, supportive influence for independent films. Even when you’re out there making your film, I think that you think about Sundance, and it just kind of gives you motivation.”

Also opening Thursday is “Hello I Must Be Going,” actor-turned-director Todd Louiso’s U.S. dramatic entry that centers on a love story between a 19-year-old man and a 35-year-old divorcee, and stars Melanie Lynskey; the world-cinema drama “Wish You Were Here,” a dark story of a vacation gone wrong from Australian filmmaker Kieran Darcy-Smith that stars Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer; and Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul’s world-cinema documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” a portrait of promising 1970s singer-songwriter Rodriguez and his fade into obscurity.

Sundance also is a launch place for films that already have distributors, who show off their films hoping to build buzz among audiences and the legions of cinema journalists and bloggers who attend the festival.

“All the film press in North America is at Sundance to discover films,” said Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, which is showing director Nadine Labaki’s Lebanese drama “Where Do We Go Now?” and Gareth Huw Evans’ Indonesian action tale “The Raid” at the festival. “Sundance is like the best place to set up a film for release. You have instant press junkets at Sundance.”

Among the more established filmmakers showcasing their work at the festival are Spike Lee with his urban drama “Red Hook Summer,” in which he reprises the character he played in “Do the Right Thing”; Stephen Frears with his sports-wagering caper “Lay the Favorite,” starring Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Rebecca Hall; documentary veteran Joe Berlinger with his Paul Simon portrait “Under African Skies”; and Julie Delpy with her relationship comedy “2 Days in New York,” in which she stars with Chris Rock.

The Sundance Film Festival has grown tremendously over its 28 years, but Redford said the institute’s mission remains the same: to support and encourage independent filmmakers and provide a platform for their work to be seen.

“There are those people who say, ‘Why give money to art? It means nothing,'” Redford said. “I think it means a lot. And we’re here to try and prove how much it does mean. So we can only do what we can do, but we’re going to keep doing it.

The Sundance Film Festival continues through Jan. 29. (AP)

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Online:

http://www.sundance.org/festival

Penn, McDormand, Giamatti Join Sundance Cast List

Films featuring Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Paul Giamatti, Jesse Eisenberg, Tracy Morgan and Melissa Leo are among late additions to next month’s Sundance Film Festival.

Organizers for Robert Redford’s independent-film showcase said Monday they have added four titles to the previously announced lineup of more than 100 movies.

The new films are: director Paolo Sorrentino’s rock-star-on-a-road-trip tale “This Must Be the Place,” with Penn and McDormand; Philip Dorling and Ron Nyswaner’s “Predisposed,” with Eisenberg, Leo and Morgan in a comic romp about a piano prodigy, his troubled mom and a drug dealer; Don Coscarelli’s horror comedy “John Dies at the End,” featuring Giamatti; and Joachim Trier’s “Oslo, August 31st,” a drama about a Norwegian man in crisis.

The festival runs Jan. 19-29 in Park City, Utah.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Sundance Film Festival Comes to London

Robert Redford says he is planning to launch a four-day version of the Sundance Film Festival in London.

The Academy Award-winning actor, director and producer said Tuesday that Sundance London will “bring a particular slice of American culture to life” in the capital and present films from American filmmakers as well as current American music.

Sundance London will feature film screenings, live music performances, discussions and panels.

The festival will be held from April 26 to April 29, 2012, at the O2 arena, which is owned by AEG Europe.

Redford, who rose to fame in films including “The Sting” and “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid,” founded the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah to promote independent filmmaking. 

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Cannes Fest Names 20 Films in Competition

Image: Cannes Film Festival 2009 poster

This year’s Cannes film festival will pit a roster of festival veterans, including four former winners of the glamorous film competition’s top prize, against challengers from emerging cinema hotbeds from China to the Philippines.

Quentin Tarantino, Ken Loach, Jane Campion and Lars von Trier, each of whom has won top honors at the prestigious festival on the French Riviera, are all presenting their newest films in the competition scheduled to run from May 13 to 24.

Tarantino, who won the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, for “Pulp Fiction” in 1994, is in the competition with “Inglourious Basterds,” an action flick starring Brad Pitt featuring Jewish soldiers dishing out chaos among the Nazis.

Festival President Gilles Jacob said the 62nd edition of the Cannes festival would focus particularly on independent cinema. Speaking at a news conference in Paris, Jacob, who has been involved in shaping the festival’s selection of films for over three decades, said he wanted to counter the idea that independent cinema was dead.

“There’s a trend emerging, especially among certain Anglo-Saxon commentators, that takes as established fact the death of auteur cinema …,” Jacob said. “These films supposedly have no more viewers, so they are becoming extinct.”

Jacob said that the 20 films in competition for the Palme d’Or as well as another 19 films in a secondary competition called “Un Certain Regard” would demonstrate that creative, inventive and energetic filmmaking survives, even if it is more likely to be found today in Bucharest, Tel Aviv and Hong Kong than in Los Angeles, New York or Paris.

Another former Palme d’Or winner in competition this year is Britain’s Ken Loach, with “Looking for Eric,” starring soccer great Eric Cantona. Cantona plays himself in a film about a soccer fan who imagines the former Manchester United goal scorer helps him deal with life’s difficulties.

Loach’s film “The Wind that Shakes the Barley,” won Cannes’ top prize in 2006.

Jane Campion, the New Zealand director whose “The Piano” took the Palme d’Or in 1993, is back with her new film “Bright Star,” about 19th century English poet John Keats’ love affair with his muse Fanny Brawne.

Denmark’s Lars von Trier, who won a Palme d’Or for “Dancer in the Dark” in 2000, will try for another top prize with “Antichrist,” a horror movie that depicts Satan, rather than God, as the world’s creator. It stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

This year’s competition also features Cannes veterans Pedro Almodovar and Michael Haneke.

Spain’s Almodovar, who won Best Director at Cannes in 1999, will present his new film “Broken Embraces.” It recounts the tale of a writer and director telling the story of an accident that left him blind 14 years earlier and a torrid relationship with an actress — played by Penelope Cruz.

Austrian director Haneke, whose “The Piano Teacher” won Cannes’ second-highest award in 2001, is in the competition with “The White Ribbon.” The black-and-white film is set in a German village on the eve of World War I.

Park Chan-wook, the South Korean director who took Cannes’ Grand Prix, the second-highest award, in 2004 with his gory “Oldboy,” is back in competition with his new film, “Thirst” — about a priest who becomes a vampire.

Another Asian entry comes from Johnnie To, the prolific Hong Kong director who has shown four of his films at Cannes since his “Breaking News” was screened out-of-competition in 2004.

This time To is in contention for top honors with “Vengeance,” a thriller starring French rock legend Johnny Hallyday as a father who tries to avenge the death of his daughter, her husband and their children.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee’s new movie “Taking Woodstock,” is set against the background of the Woodstock music festival 40 years ago.

Sundance Movie Selection Announced

sundance-web

Films featuring Chris Rock, Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Paul Giamatti and Emily Watson are among those competing for top honors at January’s Sundance Film Festival.

Rock appears in the documentary “Good Hair,” director Jeff Stilson’s examination of African-American hairstyles, which was among 64 films announced Wednesday in Sundance’s four competitions for U.S. and world cinema.

Brosnan and Sarandon star in director Shana Feste’s “The Greatest,” about a couple coping with the loss of their teenage son, while Giamatti and Watson are among the cast of Sophie Barthes’ “Cold Souls,” centering on an actor in an existential crisis.

The festival that showcases independent film runs Jan. 15-25 in Park City, Utah.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)