At Sundance, a declaration for independents
Sunday, January 16, 2000

At Sundance, a declaration for independents

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Visitors from across the globe will converge on Park City, Utah, this week for an annual ritual loved, feared, envied and reviled by independent filmmakers — the Sundance Film Festival.

        Though international films are represented among the several hundred features and short films showcased at the 10-day event, which starts Thursday, it gives center stage to American independent films.

        It is common to hear Sundance slammed for commercialism; and in fact it is a magnet for film-company buyers shopping for low-cost, high-profit bargains such as last year's surprise hit The Blair Witch Project.

        The presence of so many industry insiders also draws film commissioners eager to recruit new film projects. Cincinnati and Cleveland will both be represented at Sundance as potential filming locations. Likewise, organizers of the Ohio Independent Film Festival will scout for talent to showcase.

        At least half the festival calendar is filled with foreign films, documentaries and shorts that have little commercial future and are chosen chiefly for artistic or social merit. Among those entries is Picture Day, a short film by Dayton filmmaker Steve Bognar.

        Inevitably, the films that draw the most initial attention are those with star power, in front of or behind the cameras. Among this year's anticipated entries are:

        • American Psycho — The grisly novel by Bret Easton Ellis as adapted by Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) was the center of a wild show-biz soap opera last year when the lead role was taken, briefly, by Leonardo DiCaprio. He bowed out before cameras rolled, and Christian Bale returned to play the yuppie killer.

        • Animal Factory from Steve Buscemi, the beloved character actor (Fargo) who also directed Tree's Lounge, is scheduled as a “surprise” screening. Edward Furlong and Willem Dafoe star.

        • Also on the schedule as a “surprise” is My Generation, from the now-legendary documentary maker Barbara Kopple; the subject is Woodstock, all three editions.

        • Stanley Tucci, who graduated from actor to filmmaker at Sundance with Big Night, returns this year with Joe Gould's Secret.

        • Sofia Coppola never amounted to much as an actress (her father Francis Ford Coppola has barely lived down his decision to cast her in The Godfather Part III), but as the director of The Virgin Suicides, she is expected to get plenty of attention at Sundance.

        • Rated X features actor-director Emilio Estevez and his brother Charlie Sheen as a pair of notorious California pornographers.

        When not seeing movies or attending parties, festival-goers will also have a choice of panels on topics ranging from digital technology to erotic movies in the 21st century.

        Enquirer film critic Margaret A. McGurk will be covering the Sundance Film Festival. Look for her reports beginning next Sunday.


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