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“25 NEW FACES” AT SUNDANCE

Every summer Filmmaker runs a feature entitled “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in which we try to apply our long-lead editorial approach to talent spotting. We identify promising new writers, directors and actors who are flying well below the industry radar, and several of our pics usually show up at Sundance each year.

Here are Filmmaker‘s “25 New Faces” picks in this year’s festival.

The advance industry buzz on The Clearing has been all over the map, but Justin Haythe’s screenplay was the best I read a couple of years ago. It’s a terse, emotionally rich drama about a kidnapping-gone-awry that, like In the Bedroom, is ultimately a dissection of marriage in America. The film is directed by Dutch-born producer Pieter Jan Brugge, whose credits include Bulworth, The Insider, and Heat, and is premiering, strangely, as a “work in progress” out-of-competition. Starring Robert Redford, Willem Dafoe and Helen Mirren, it will be interesting to see how Redford’s iconic All-American screen persona gels with the bitter truths of Haythe’s script.

Writer-director Angela Robinson makes it to the festival with her first feature, D.E.B.S. Produced by L.A. indie producing heroes Andrea Sperling and Jasmine Kosovic, the film is a lesbian-themed riff on a Charlie’s Angels/Man from U.N.K.L.E. spy flick.

Josh Marston made our “25” list with his screenplay Maria Full of Grace, an honest and moving story of a Colombian woman who travels to the States as a drug mule. Marston premieres the film — produced by Paul Mezey for HBO — in Competition.

Greg Pak’s own movie Robot Stories opens in theaters in February, but this 2003 “25” pick shows up at Sundance with the screenplay for Harry Davis’s American Spectrum selection MVP. And fellow 2003 “New Face” Jessica Sharzer — director of the award-winning short Wormhole — makes her feature debut with Speak. Brought to Sharzer by Showtime after execs there saw her short, the feature — which Sharzer did a rewrite on — was produced under the cable channel’s “Six-Figure Film” program.

Two below-the-line “25” selections — cinematographer Tim Orr, and production designer Judy Becker — worked together previously on Peter Sollett’s Raising Victor Vargas. This year, they’ve teamed up again on Mark Milgard’s Dandelion, which stars the usually amazing Taryn Manning (Eight Mile, Crazy/Beautiful) and premieres in the American Spectrum section. Becker adds one more Sundance credit to her resume with Garden State, Zack Braff’s comedy.

Finally, one 2003 “25” pick won’t be at Sundance because her film’s already a theatrical hit. Director Patty Jenkins’s Monster is, as you’ve no doubt heard, fantastic, but if you get a chance to catch a screening with a Jenkins Q&A, do so — Jenkins is articulate, purposeful and, in person, a walking object-lesson on the qualities first-time directors must have to inspire confidence in those who’ll finance (and star in) their films.

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