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DocGeeks » Festivals » Updated: Sundance Film Festival announces documentary line-up

Updated: Sundance Film Festival announces documentary line-up

Last night in Park City (UT) Sundance Institute announced the films selected for the documentary competitions of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. As ever the selection looks great with documentaries by both new and established directors. See the full list of films here.

The Sundance Film Festival, which will take place from 19 January through to 29 January in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah, is known to set the film calendar for the coming year. No less than 17 documentaries announced yesterday are world premieres and you will certainly hear more from them soon.

Robert Redford, founder and president of Sundance Institute said: “We are, and always have been, a festival about the filmmakers. So what are they doing? What are they saying? They are making statements about the changing world we are living in. Some are straight-forward, some novel and some offbeat but always interesting. One can never predict. We know only at the end, and I love that.”

Last year’s festival brought us The Interrupters, Project Nim, We Were Here (now shortlisted for an Academy Award), Buck, Page One and Hell and Back Again – to name just a few. The first documentaries to be shown at the festival will be The Queen of Versailles and Searching for Sugar Man.

Some names on the list might sound familiar. The Danish documentary The Ambassador recently opened the IDFA in Amsterdam and it was also there that the film 5 Broken Cameras won both the Audience as well as the Special Jury Award. The documentary 1/2 Revolution received a special mention at Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX festival.

Six of the films selected have previously pitched at Channel 4’s BRITDOC Good Pitch event, including Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which found a brand partner at the last event in London and now has its world premiere at Sundance.

In addition to the two competition categories mentioned here, the festival also presents feature-length films in six out-of-competition sections. Park City at Midnight will screen one documentary and at the New Frontier the audience can watch Bestiairy and Room 237. Films in the Documentary Premieres sections will be announced next Monday (5 December).

John Cooper, director of the festival, said: “In these challenging economic times, filmmakers have had to be more resourceful and truly independent in their approaches to filmmaking. Looking at this year’s submissions, the result is more fully realized visions and stronger stories; we are proud to see the Festival emerging as a key indicator of the health and creativity of our filmmaking community. The overall quality of the films in the 2012 Competition section will make for an exciting Festival and a remarkable year ahead for independent film audiences everywhere.”

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

The world premieres of 16 American documentary films.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry / U.S.A., China (Director: Alison Klayman) — Renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has garnered international attention as much for his ambitious artwork as his political provocations and increasingly public clashes with the Chinese government. (Good Pitch Alumni)

The Atomic States of America / U.S.A. (Directors: Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce) — In 2010, the United States announced construction of the first new nuclear power plant in more than 32 years. A year later, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Fukushima Power Plant in Japan sparking a fierce debate in the U.S. over the safety and viability of nuclear power.

Chasing Ice / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Orlowski) — Science, spectacle and human passion mix in this stunningly cinematic portrait as National Geographic photographer James Balog captures time-lapse photography of glaciers over several years providing tangible visual evidence of climate change.

Detropia / U.S.A. (Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady) — The woes of Detroit are emblematic of the collapse of the U.S. manufacturing base. This is the dramatic story of a city and its people who refuse to leave the building, even as the flames are rising.  (Good Pitch Alumni)

Still from Escape Fire

Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare / U.S.A. (Directors: Matthew Heineman, Susan Froemke) — What can be done to save our broken medical system? Powerful forces are trying to maintain the status quo in a profit-driven medical industry, but a movement to bring innovative methods of prevention and healing is finally gaining ground – potentially saving the health of a nation.

Finding North / U.S.A. (Directors: Lori Silverbush, Kristi Jacobson) — A crisis of hunger looms in America and is not limited to the poverty stricken and uneducated. Can a return to policies of the 1970s save our future?  (Good Pitch Alumni)

The House I Live In / U.S.A. (Director: Eugene Jarecki) — For over 40 years, the War on Drugs has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet, drugs are cheaper, purer and more available today than ever. Where did we go wrong and what is the path toward healing?

How to Survive a Plague / U.S.A. (Director: David France) — The untold story of the intensive efforts that turned AIDS into a manageable condition – and the improbable group of (mostly HIV-positive) young men and women whose amazing resilience broke through a time of rampant death and political indifference. (Good Pitch Alumni)

The Invisible War / U.S.A. (Director: Kirby Dick) — An investigative and powerfully emotional examination of the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the U.S. military, the institutions that cover up its existence and the profound personal and social consequences that arise from it. (Good Pitch Alumni)

Marina Abramović The Artist is Present / U.S.A. (Director: Matthew Akers) — Marina Abramović prepares for a major retrospective of her work at The Museum of Modern Art in New York hoping to finally silence four decades of skeptics who proclaim: ‘But why is this art?’

Me at the Zoo / U.S.A. (Directors: Chris Moukarbel, Valerie Veatch) — With 270 million hits to date, Chris Crocker, an uncanny young video blogger from small town Tennessee, is considered the Internet’s first rebel folk hero and at the same time one of its most controversial personalities.

The Other Dream Team / Lithuania, U.S.A. (Director: Marius Markevicius) — The 1992 Lithuanian National Basketball Team went from the clutches of Communism to the Summer Olympics in Barcelona – a testament to the powerful role of sports as a catalyst for cultural identity.

The Queen of Versailles / U.S.A. (Director: Lauren Greenfield) — Jackie and David were triumphantly constructing the biggest house in America – a sprawling, 90,000-square-foot palace inspired by Versailles – when their timeshare empire collapses and their house is foreclosed. Their rags-to-riches-to-rags story reveals the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream.

Slavery By Another Name / U.S.A. (Director: Sam Pollard) — As slavery came to an end with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, a new system of involuntary servitude took its place with shocking force, brutalizing, terrorizing and ultimately circumscribing the lives of hundreds of thousands of African Americans well into the 20th century.

Love Free or Die: How the Bishop of New Hampshire is Changing the World / U.S.A. (Director: Macky Alston) — One man whose two defining passions are in conflict: An openly gay bishop refuses to leave the Church or the man he loves.  (Good Pitch Alumni)

We’re Not Broke / U.S.A. (Directors: Karin Hayes, Victoria Bruce) — As American lawmakers slash budgets and lay off employees, leaving many people scrambling to survive, multibillion-dollar corporations are concealing colossal profits overseas to avoid paying U.S. income tax. Fed-up Americans are taking their frustration to the streets.

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION 

½ Revolution / Denmark (Directors: Omar Shargawi, Karim El Hakim) — In January 2011, two filmmakers captured the reality of the Egyptian revolution as it occurred out of view from the world’s media in the alleyways and streets away from the square – and in the process were arrested by the secret police. North American Premiere

5 Broken Cameras / Palestine, Israel, France (Directors: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi) — A Palestinian journalist chronicles his village’s resistance to a separation barrier being erected on their land and in the process captures his young son’s lens on the world. The film won both the Audience Award and the Special Jury Award at the IDFA earlier this month. International Premiere 

Still from The Other Dream

The Ambassador / Denmark (Director: Mads Brügger) — What happens when a very white European man buys his way into being a diplomat in one of Central Africa’s most failed nations? Welcome to the bizarre and hidden world of African diplomacy, where gin and tonics flow and diamond hustlers and corrupt politicians run free. North American Premiere

Big Boys Gone Bananas!* / Sweden (Director: Fredrik Gertten) — The behind-the-scenes story of a full-scale attack on freedom of speech. When Dole set its sights on the WG Film production Bananas!* in May 2009, confusion was the method, aggression was the tactic and media control was the story. North American Premiere

China Heavyweight / Canada, China (Director: Yung Chang) — In central China, where a coach recruits poor rural teenagers and turns them into Western-style boxing champions, the top students face dramatic choices as they graduate – should they fight for the collective good or for themselves? A metaphor for the choices everyone in the New China faces now. World Premiere

Gypsy Davy / Israel, U.S.A., Spain (Director: Rachel Leah Jones) — How does a white boy with Alabama roots become a Flamenco guitarist in Andalusian boots? A tale of self-invention and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of the cost to others. International Premiere

The Imposter / United Kingdom (Director: Bart Layton) — In 1994 a 13-year-old boy disappears from his home in San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half years later he is found alive thousands of miles away in Spain with a shocking story of kidnap and torture. But all is not what it seems in this tale that is truly stranger than fiction. World Premiere

Indie Game: The Movie / Canada (Directors: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky) — Follow the dramatic journeys of indie game developers as they create games and release those works, and themselves, to the world. World Premiere

The Law in These Parts / Israel (Director: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz) — Israel’s 43-year military legal system in the Occupied Palestinian Territories unfolds through provocative interviews with the system’s architects and historical footage showing the enactment of these laws upon the Palestinian population. International Premiere

Payback / Canada (Director: Jennifer Baichwal) — Based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling book, Payback explores how debt is a central organizing principle in our lives – influencing relationships, societies, governing structures and the very fate of this planet. World Premiere

Putin’s Kiss / Denmark (Director: Lise Birk Pedersen) — 19-year-old Marsha is a model spokesperson in a strongly nationalistic Russian youth movement that aims to protect the country from its enemies. When she starts recognizing the organization’s flaws, she must take a stand for or against it. North American Premiere

Searching for Sugar Man / Denmark, United Kingdom (Director: Malik Bendjelloul) — Rodriguez was the greatest ‘70s US rock icon who never was. Hailed as the greatest recording artist of his generation he disappeared into oblivion – rising again from the ashes in a completely different context many miles away. World Premiere.

PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT

Shut up and play the hits / United Kingdom (Directors: Dylan Southern, Will Lovelace) — A documentary that follows LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy over a crucial 48-hour period, from the day of their final gig at Madison Square Garden to the morning after, the official end of one of the best live bands in the world.

NEW FRONTIER

Bestiaire / Canada, France (Director: Denis Côté) — The boundaries we place around animals are provocatively and formally explored in this meditation on the relationship between nature and humanity. World Premiere

Room 237 / U.S.A. (Director: Rodney Ascher) — This experimental documentary explores the numerous theories about the real meaning of Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining. World Premiere


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Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentaries and the film production industry. When she is not blogging or watching films, she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.

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