Just about every film at Sundance is a world premiere. So why is there a “Premieres” section, and how is it different than the Competition or the Spotlight or the New Frontiers or the NEXT or…okay, I think that’s all of them. Sundance describes Premieres as “a showcase of some of the most highly anticipated dramatic films of the coming year from new and established directors” and Documentary Premieres as “about big subjects or by master filmmakers that showcase the power of the form.”
Basically, what it really means is here’s where you find the attention-grabbers at Sundance. These are the big honking movies, the movies featuring Hollywood directors and talent coming down from their Valhalla of craft services and video village to get their hands dirty with the independents. These are the movies that have the biggest red carpets and the majority of the press coverage (see this post).
True to form, it’s a pretty star-studded Premieres lineup for 2012. Chris Rock joins Julie Delpy for “2 Days in New York,” the sequel to her 2007 film “2 Days in Paris.” “How I Met Your Mother”‘s Josh Radnor returns to Sundance, where his “Happythankyoumoreplease” was a big hit in 2009, with “Liberal Arts,” co-starring Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, and last year’s Sundance It-Girl, Elizabeth Olsen. Director Stephen Frears reteams with his “High Fidelity” co-screenwriter D.V. Devincintis for “Lay the Favorite,” a movie about “geeky older men who have found a way to work the sportsbook system in Las Vegas to their advantage” with Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Rebecca Hall. And Spike Lee comes to Park City with “Red Hook Summer,” a story of “a young Atlanta boy [who] spends his summer in Brooklyn with his grandfather, who he’s never seen before” that also features Lee himself returning to the character Mookie that he played in “Do the Right Thing.”
On the documentary side of things, Ice-T directs “Something From Nothing” about the art of rap and “Dogtown and Z-Boys” director Stacy Peralta has a new skateboarding doc, “Bones Brigade.” But the most discussed film in the Doc Premieres will surely be Amy Berg’s “West of Memphis,” a new documentary on the infamous West Memphis 3 murders in Arkansas which premieres at Sundance the same month “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory,” the last installment in the long-running documentary series that first brought the case into the public’s consciousness, premieres on television. The New York Times recently covered the rivalry and competition between the two films for access to suspects, victims, and witnesses of the crime; read more about it there. The fact that “Paradise Lost” co-director Joe Berlinger will be at Sundance with his latest film, an untitled project on singer Paul Simon, means you are going to see a lot of questions about those two movies.
The full list of premieres is below. And you can find all our “premiere” Sundance 2012 coverage here.
“2 Days in New York” / France (Director: Julie Delpy, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau) — Marion has broken up with Jack and now lives in New York with their child. A visit from her family, the different cultural background of her new boyfriend, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, and her upcoming photo exhibition make for an explosive mix. Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alex Nahon.
“Arbitrage” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nicholas Jarecki) — A hedge-fund magnate is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire before the depths of his fraud are revealed. An unexpected, bloody error forces him to turn to the most unlikely corner for help. Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Nate Parker.
“Bachelorette” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Leslye Headland) — Unresolved issues between four high school friends come roaring back to life when the least popular of them gets engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in New York City and asks the others to be bridesmaids in her wedding. Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer.
“California Solo” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Marshall Lewy) — A former Britpop rocker has long settled for an unfettered life working on a farm outside of L.A. When he’s caught driving drunk and faces deportation, he must confront past and current demons in his life to stay in the country. Cast: Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite, A Martinez, Danny Masterson.
“Celeste and Jesse Forever” / U.S.A. (Director: Lee Toland Krieger, Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack) — Celeste and Jesse met in high school, married young, and at 30, decide to get divorced but remain best friends while pursuing other relationships. Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts.
“For A Good Time, Call…” / U.S.A. (Director: Jamie Travis, Screenwriters: Katie Anne Naylon & Lauren Anne Miller) — Lauren and Katie move in together after a loss of a relationship and a loss of a rent controlled home, respectively. When Lauren learns what Katie does for a living the two enter into a wildly unconventional business venture. Cast: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber, James Wolk.
“GOATS” / U.S.A. (Director: Christopher Neil, Screenwriter: Mark Jude Poirier) — Ellis leaves his unconventional desert home to attend the disciplined and structured Gates Academy. There, he re-connects with his estranged father and for the first time questions the family dynamics. Cast: David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Graham Phillips, Justin Kirk, Ty Burrell.
“LAY THE FAVORITE” / U.S.A. (Director: Stephen Frears, Screenwriter: D.V. Devincintis) — An adventurous young woman gets involved with a group of geeky older men who have found a way to work the sportsbook system in Las Vegas to their advantage. Cast: Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rebecca Hall.
“Liberal Arts” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Josh Radnor) — When 30-something Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them. Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro, Elizabeth Reaser.
“Price Check” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Walker) — Pete is having trouble resolving a happy marriage and family life with rising debt and a job he hates. When his new boss pulls him into the maelstrom that is her life, money and opportunities come his way, but at what price? Cast: Parker Posey, Eric Mabius, Annie Parisse, Josh Pais, Cheyenne Jackson.
“Red Hook Summer” / U.S.A. (Director: Spike Lee, Screenwriters: James McBride, Spike Lee) — A young Atlanta boy spends his summer in Brooklyn with his grandfather, who he’s never seen before. Cast: Clark Peters, Jules Brown, Toni Lysaith, James Ransone, Thomas Jefferson Byrd.
“Red Lights” / U.S.A., Spain (Director and screenwriter: Rodrigo Cortés) — Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic. Cast: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones.
“Robot and Frank” / U.S.A. (Director: Jake Schreier, Screenwriter: Christopher Ford) — A curmudgeonly older dad’s grown kids install a robot as his caretaker. Cast: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler.
“Shadow Dancer” / United Kingdom (Director: James Marsh, Screenwriter: Tom Brady) — When a widowed mother is arrested in an aborted bomb plot she must make hard choices to protect her son in this heart-wrenching thriller. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Aiden Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, with Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen.
“The Words” / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal) — Aspiring writer Rory Jansen finds another man’s haunting memories in a collection of lost stories and claims them as his own, propelling him to literary stardom. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde with Zoe Saldana.
Hit RECord at the Movies with Joseph Gordon-Levitt — Be a part of the process by joining Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the global hitRECord community for a special one-time-only interactive exploration of the power of making things together. Gordon-Levitt will showcase works that have been created from the collaborative hitRECord production company and invite the audience to engage, interact and contribute to the event using their digital devices. The event will be recorded, with footage posted on their website for all to enjoy and be inspired by. hitRECord, which launched with an installation in the New Frontier section of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, returns to the Festival to showcase the project’s evolution and potential for creative experimentation.
“About Face” / U.S.A. (Director: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders) — An exploration of beauty and aging through the stories of the original supermodels. Participants including Isabella Rossellini, Christie Brinkley, Beverly Johnson, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Paulina Porizkova, Jerry Hall and Christy Turlington weigh in on the fashion industry and how they reassess and redefine their own sense of beauty as their careers progress.
“BONES BRIGADE: An Autobiography” / U.S.A. (Director: Stacy Peralta) — When six teenage boys came together as a skateboarding team in the 1980s, they reinvented not only their chosen sport but themselves too – as they evolved from insecure outsiders to the most influential athletes in the field.
“The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia” / U.S.A. (Director: James Redford) — While following a Dyslexic high school senior struggling to achieve his dream of getting into a competitive college, “The D Word” exposes myths about Dyslexia and reveals cutting edge research to elucidate this widely misunderstood condition.
“ETHEL” / U.S.A. (Director: Rory Kennedy) — This intimate, surprising portrait of Ethel Kennedy provides an insider’s view of a political dynasty, including Ethel’s life with Robert F. Kennedy and the years following his death when she raised their eleven children on her own.
“A Fierce Green Fire” / U.S.A. (Director: Mark Kitchell) — A definitive history of one of the most important movements of the 20th century, “A Fierce Green Fire” chronicles the environmental movement’s fascinating evolution from the 1960s to the present.
“SOMETHING FROM NOTHING: THE ART OF RAP” / United Kingdom (Director: Ice-T, Co-Director: Andy Baybutt) — Through conversations with Rap’s most influential artists – among them Chuck D, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eminem, MC Lyte, Mos Def, and Kanye West – Ice-T explores the roots and history of Rap and reveals the creative process behind this now dominant art form.
“Untitled Paul Simon Project” / U.S.A. (Director: Joe Berlinger) — Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the incredible journey of his historic “Graceland” album, including the political backlash he sparked for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa, designed to end Apartheid.
“West of Memphis” / U.S.A. (Director: Amy Berg) — Three teenage boys are incarcerated for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. 19 years later, new evidence calls into question the convictions and raises issues of judicial, prosecutorial and jury misconduct – showing that the first casualty of a corrupt justice system is the truth.