Park City in January was cold, snowy and full of film types premiering, reviewing and seemingly most of all, networking. So what else is new? This year, Filmwax Radio was on the ground interviewing a select group of American filmmakers, some making prestigious debuts and some making triumphant returns to the familiar ground of the Wasatch Range.
This year's lineup at both the juggernaut Sundance Film Festival and its anarchic little sister, Slamdance, included a rock-solid collection of documentaries and narratives, and we talked to a handful of the filmmakers.
Dir. Drake Doremus
First up, Drake Doremus (whose Like Crazy won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance two years ago) returned to Sundance with a taut family drama: Breathe In stars Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan and newcomer Mackenzie Davis.
Jones plays a foreign exchange student who comes to live with a family in upstate New York. Though the couple (Ryan and Pearce) have a daughter who's the same age, Jones instead connects with Pearce, a music teacher and frustrated celloist. The two initiate a slow boil of a relationship that had Sundance audiences on the uncomfortable edge of their will-they-won't-they seat.
Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde
Dir. Suzanne Mitchell
At Slamdance, one of the docs making waves was the portrait of an 87-year-old cowboy poet who has made it his late-in-life mission to allow wild horses to run free. When he was already 62, he established the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota, a 12,000-acre land of rescue for wild mustangs being rounded up by the government; if he had not intervened, they would likely have been penned up or headed to slaughter. The cinematography is majestic, and his story is a how-to for finding one's bliss, at any cost.
The Bitter Buddha
Dir. Steven Feinartz
Comedian Eddie Pepitone has been steadily establishing his cult status for over 30 years. Along the way, his dichotomy of rage and enlightenment has garnered him fandom from the likes of Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis and more -- and the cameos in the movie could fill a who's-who roster of modern comedians. The Bitter Buddha will premiere in theaters and on VOD later this month. Find out more.
Dirs. Martha Shane & Lana Wilson
Late-term abortion is not an easy subject, even to think about, but these first-time filmmakers have created a sensitive portrait of those involved on both sides -- the families making this heart-wrenching decision (in most cases, due to the very poor health and low life-expectancy of the fetus) and the doctors who offer the procedure. And since the brutal murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, by an anti-abortion extremist, there are only four left in the U.S. The film does not avoid the controversy; rather, it dives right in to show the courage and commitment of these medical professionals.
Cutie and the Boxer
Dir. Zachary Heinzerling
Zachary Heinzerling won the U.S. Documentary Directing award at Sundance for his debut feature, an unconventional love story about two dynamic artists: the boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his long-unrecognized wife, Noriko, who met in the United States over 40 years ago after emigrating separately from Japan. Heinzerling's background in cinematography is on display in this whimsical, beautiful, and sometimes sad portrait of the couple, who bicker, compete, and ultimately complement each other, both in art and in life.
Dirs. Tia Lessin & Carl Deal
Lessin and Deal made an impact in 2008 with Trouble the Water, their unnerving documentary about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. This time around, they offer a searing exploration of the landscape-altering campaign finance reform laws -- and what they are doing to the (long-gone?) sanctity of our national election system. Bonus feature: the unflappably determined (and full-of-integrity) Buddy Roemer, whose 2012 campaign for president might just have escaped your radar. (And that's their point.)
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