Robert Redford's annual celebration of independent film launched last night with a screening of Nicole Holofcener's Friends With Money, a story of the lives of liberal women on the West Side of Los Angeles. Featuring Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand, and Catherine Keener, the film was a good metaphor for the strange combination that Sundance provides of Los Angeles and New York culture in the Park City, Utah snow.
Soon after I arrived I found myself walking in front of a Hummer with New York Publicist Lizzie Grubmann inside. Grubmann, famed for cursing out a valet and then backing her SUV into a crowd, was not exactly what we came to Sundance to see. But if you can push through the glitz and fur, Sundance promises to have one of the best slates of new films in years.
Documentaries getting a lot of buzz this year include The Ground Truth: After the Killing Fields, Patricia Foulkrod's film chronicling the post-traumatic stress syndrome of soldiers returning from Iraq. Also on the subject of Iraq, James Longley's Iraq in Fragments, is one of the first Iraq films to feature Kurdish protagonists. Lauren Greenfield's Thin is the story of eating disorders in America. With the recent coverage of Lindsay Lohan's problems with food, it's far past time to have an artful documentary treatment of this issue.
This morning's shorts programs included Tiffany Shlain's The Tribe, an audience favorite (Disclosure: the author has a small cameo in the film). The Tribe tells the story of Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, and uses it as a metaphor of how Jews, and all tribes, deal with their outsider status. The hilarious Robin's Big Date tells the story of how Batman tries to steal Robin's potential girlfriend. And Ha Ha Ha America, which received mixed reviews from the audience, is told from the sarcastic viewpoint of the Chinese and thanks America for following their hillbilly President as he makes China an economic powerhouse.
Ted Sarandos, the head of Acquisitions at Netflix, has been continuing to pick up the most diverse slate of films in the industry. The 4 million members of Netflix are in for some treats in the coming year. At the same time, filmmakers are buzzing about the new move towards simultaneous theatrical and DVD distribution through companies like Mark Cuban's 2929 pictures, who recently released Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, a favorite at last year's Sundance festival.
More reports are coming soon. Let me know if there are any films you want reviewed.