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in Filmmaking
on Nov 28, 2007

The Sundance Film Festival has announced their films in competition for the 2008 edition. Leafing through the line-up you’ll notice there are many first-timers (including DP Ellen Kuras) in this year’s bunch. Though there are a few familiar names: Alex Gibney, Jonathan Levine, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. There’s also a doc on the great Hunter Thompson and an adaptation of Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk‘s novel, Choke. The full list titles are below. The festival will run Jan. 17-27.

Documentary Competition

AN AMERICAN SOLDIER (Director and Screenwriter: Edet Belzberg)
Uncle Sam wants you! A compelling exploration of army recruitment in the United States told through the story of Louisiana Sergeant, First Class Clay Usie, one of the most successful recruiters in the history of the U.S. Army. World Premiere
“American Teen,” Director and Screenwriter: Nanette Burstein
This irreverent cinema verite chronicles four seniors at an Indiana high school and yields a surprising snapshot of Midwestern life.

BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER* (Director: Christopher Bell, Screenwriters: Christopher Bell, Alexander Bruno, Tamsin Rawady)
A filmmaker explores America’s win-at-all-cost culture by examining his two brothers’ steroids use…and his own.

FIELDS OF FUEL (Director and Screenwriter: Josh Tickell)
America is addicted to oil and it is time for an intervention. Enter Josh Tickell, a man with a plan and a Veggie Van, who is taking on big oil, big government, and big soy to find solutions in places few people have looked.

FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER (Director: Irena Salina)
Water is the very essence of life, sustaining every being on the planet. FLOW confronts the disturbing reality that our crucial resource is dwindling and greed just may be the cause.

Fueled by a raging libido, Wild Turkey, and superhuman doses of drugs, Thompson was a true “free lance,” goring sacred cows with impunity, hilarity and a steel-eyed conviction for righting wrongs. Focusing on the good doctor’s heyday, 1965 to 1975, the film includes clips of never-before-seen (nor heard) home movies, audiotapes, and passages from unpublished manuscripts.

THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO (Director and Screenwriter: Lisa F. Jackson)
Jackson travels to remote villages in the war zones of the Congo to meet rape survivors, providing a piercing, intimate look into the struggle of their lives.

I.O.U.S.A. (Director: Patrick Creadon)
Few are aware that America may be on the brink of a financial meltdown. I.O.U.S.A. explores the country’s shocking current fiscal condition and ways to avoid a national economic disaster.

NERAKHOON (THE BETRAYAL) (Director: Ellen Kuras; Co-Director: Thavisouk Phrasavath; Screenwriters: Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath)
The epic story of a family forced to emigrate from Laos after the chaos of the secret air war waged by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Kuras has spent the last 23 years chronicling the family’s extraordinary journey in this deeply personal, poetic, and emotional film.

THE ORDER OF MYTHS (Director: Margaret Brown)
In 2007 Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras is celebrated…and complicated. Following a cast of characters, parades, and parties across an enduring color line, we see that beneath the surface of pageantry lies something else altogether.

PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE (Director: Steven Sebring)
An intimate portrait of music icon Patti Smith that mirrors the essence of the artist herself.

ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (Director: Marina Zenovich; Screenwriters: Marina Zenovich, Joe Bini, P.G. Morgan)
This film examines the public scandal and private tragedy which led to legendary director Roman Polanski’s sudden flight from the United States.

SECRECY (Directors: Peter Galison, Robb Moss)
Amidst the American hunger for instantaneous news and up-to-date “facts,” this unflinching film uncovers the vast, invisible world of government secrecy.

SLINGSHOT HIP HOP (Director: Jackie Reem Salloum)
The voice of a new generation rocks and rhymes as Palestinian rappers form alternative voices of resistance within the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

TRACES OF THE TRADE: A STORY FROM THE DEEP NORTH (Director: Katrina Browne; Co-Directors: Alla Kovgan, Jude Ray; Screenwriters: Katrina Browne, Alla Kovgan)
History finally gets rewritten as descendants of the largest slave-trading family in early America face their past, and present, as they explore their violent heritage across oceans and continents.

TROUBLE THE WATER (Directors: Tia Lessin, Carl Deal)
An aspiring rap artist and her streetwise husband, armed with a video camera, show what survival is all about when they are trapped in New Orleans by deadly floodwaters, and seize a chance for a new beginning.

Dramatic Competition

AMERICAN SON (Director: Neil Abramson; Screenwriter: Eric Schmid)
Before being deployed for active duty, a young Marine takes a four-day Thanksgiving leave to return home to Bakersfield, California. There he meets a young woman, tries to connect with old friends, and confronts his volatile home life. Cast: Nick Cannon, Melonie Diaz, Matt O’Leary, Jay Hernandez, Tom Sizemore, Chi McBride.

ANYWHERE, U.S.A. (Director: Anthony (Chusy) Haney-Jardine; Screenwriters: Anthony (Chusy) Haney-Jardine, Jennifer MacDonald)
Told in three segments ranging from satirical to tragic, the film is a wildly original look at American manners, prejudices, and family dynamics. Cast: Perla Haney-Jardine.

BALLAST (Director and Screenwriter: Lance Hammer)
A riveting, lyrical portrait of an emotionally frayed family whose lives are torn asunder by a tragic act in a small Mississippi Delta town. Cast: Michael J. Smith Sr., Jim Myron Ross, Tara Riggs, Johnny McPhail.

CHOKE “Choke,” Director and Screenwriter: Clark Gregg
An adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s (“Fight Club”) novel, CHOKE is the sardonic story about mother and son relationship, fear of aging, sexual addiction, and the dark side of historical theme parks. Cast: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, Brad Henke.

DOWNLOADING NANCY (Director: Johan Renck; Screenwriters: Pamela Cuming, Lee Ross)
The tale of an unhappy wife whose online search for someone to put her out of her misery results in a torturous love affair. Cast: Maria Bello, Jason Patric, Rufus Sewell, Amy Brenneman.

FROZEN RIVER (Director and Screenwriter: Courtney Hunt)
Set in rural upstate New York on a Mohawk Reservation bordering Canada, a mother left to care for her teenage son finds herself lured into the world of illegal immigrant smuggling. Cast: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott, Michael O’Keefe, Mark Boone, Jr.

GOOD DICK (Director and Screenwriter: Marianna Palka)
The tale of a lonely girl drawn from her isolated life and solitary apartment by a doting young video store clerk who strives to capture her affections. Cast: Jason Ritter, Marianna Palka, Tom Arnold, Mark Webber, Martin Starr, Eric Edelstein.

THE LAST WORD (Director and Screenwriter: Geoff Haley)
An off-beat romantic comedy about a solitary writer who makes his living composing other people’s suicide notes. After meeting the sister of a recently deceased client, he finds his reclusive life and secret career upended by an unusual romance. Cast: Winona Ryder, Wed Bentley, Ray Romano.

THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH (Director and Screenwriter: Rawson Marshall Thurber)
Based on Michael Chabon’s novel, the film chronicles the defining summer of a recent college graduate who crosses his gangster father and explores love, sexuality, and the enigmas surrounding his life and his city. Cast: Jon Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Rawson Marshall Thurber, Sienna Miller, Mena Suvari, Nick Nolte.

NORTH STARR (Director and Screenwriter: Matthew Stanton)
After witnessing the brutal murder of his best friend, a young African-American man flees the badlands of Houston and finds himself in Trublin, a backward, racially intolerant town where he meets an unlikely kindred spirit who takes him under his wing. Cast: Jerome Hawkins, Matthew Stanton, Chris Sullivan, Isaac Lamb, Zach Johnson, Wayne Campbell.

PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND (Director and Screenwriter: Daniel Barnz)
Confounded by her clashes with the seemingly rule-obsessed world, a little girl takes her already dysfunctional family down the rabbit hole when she seeks enlightenment from her unconventional drama teacher. Cast: Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Pullman, Campbell Scott, Peter Gerety.

PRETTY BIRD (Director and Screenwriter: Paul Schneider)
A comic tale of three would-be entrepreneurs who set out to invent a rocket belt. The clash of their mismatched personalities soon dissolves the business into a morass of recriminations, retaliations, kidnapping, and murder in this parable of American dreams and delusions. Cast: Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti, Kristen Wiig, David Hornsby.

SLEEP DEALER (Director: Alex Rivera; Screenwriters: Rivera, David Riker)
Set in a near-future, militarized world marked by closed borders, virtual labor and a global digital network that joins minds and experiences, three strangers risk their lives to connect with each other and break the barriers of technology. Cast: Luis Fernando Pena, Leonor Varela, Jacob Vargas.

SUGAR (Directors and Screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck)
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who last teamed up for “Half Nelson,” chronicle the journey of Dominican baseball star Miguel “Sugar” Santos recruited from his native country to play in the U.S. minor leagues. Cast: Algenis Perez Soto.

SUNSHINE CLEANING (Director Christine Jeffs; Screenwriter: Megan Holley)
Struck by financial hardship, an ambitious mother and her unmotivated sister become entrepreneurs in the field of biohazard removal and crime scene clean-up. Cast: AmyA Adams, Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn, Alan Arkin.

THE WACKNESS (Director and Screenwriter: Jonathan Levine)
During a sweltering New York summer, a troubled teenage drug dealer trades pot for therapy sessions with a drug-addled psychiatrist, and in the process falls for the doctor’s daughter. Cast: Josh Peck, Ben Kingsley, Famke Janssen, Olivia Thirlby, Mary Kate Olsen, Method Man.

World Cinema Documentary Competition

ALONE IN FOUR WALLS (Allein In Vier Wanden) / Germany, Director: Alexandra Westmeier
Adolescent boys struggle to grow up in a home for delinquents in rural Russia where life behind bars may be better than the release to freedom.

THE ART STAR AND THE SUDANESE TWINS / New Zealand, Director and Screenwriter: Pietra Brettkelly
Vanessa Beecroft is obsessively determined to adopt Sudanese twin orphans. Her consuming passion drives her marriage to a breaking point and fuels her controversial art, raising troubling questions about exploitation, culture clash, and the imposition of the West on Africa.

BE LIKE OTHERS / United Kingdom, Director: Tanaz Eshaghian
An intimate and unflinching look at life in Iran, seen through the lens of those living at its fringes, “Others” is a provocative look at a generation of young Iranian men choosing to under go sex change surgery.

A COMPLETE HISTORY OF MY SEXUAL FAILURES / United Kingdom, Director: Chris Waitt; Screenwriters: Chris Waitt and Henry Trotter
Chris is a useless boyfriend. Determined to find out why, he consults his ex-girlfriends, medical practitioners, producers, and mother to find out how women really see him. Has this journey made him potential boyfriend material or is he staring a life of loneliness square in the face?

DEREK JARMAN / United Kingdom, Director: Isaac Julien
A film involving two courageous and innovative artists: one the subject and one the filmmaker, provides a cinematic journey that illuminates the work and enduring importance of the late Derek Jarman.

DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT / Pakistan, Directors and Screenwriters: Sabiha Sumar and Sachithanandam Sathananthan
From on-the-street interviews to audiences with religious leaders to dinner with the President of Pakistan, the film takes the temperature of a culture on issues from politics to women’s rights.

DURAKOVO: THE VILLAGE OF FOOLS (Durakovo: Le Village Des Fous) / France, Director and Screenwriter: Nino Kirtadze
Russian nationalism percolates in a castle outside Moscow, where Mikhail Morozov rules autonomously over young initiates, laying the groundwork for a rapidly growing right-wing movement.

IN PRISON MY WHOLE LIFE / United Kingdom, Director: Marc Evans; Screenwriters: Marc Evans, William Francome
A curious young filmmaker attempts to understand the true story behind award-winning journalist Mumia Abu Jamal’s death row sentence, and comes to startling realizations about American history and its justice system. With William Francome, Noam Chomksy, Alice Walker, Mos Def, Smoof, Snoop Dogg, Angela Davis.

MAN ON WIRE / United Kingdom, Director and Screenwriter: James Marsh
In 1974, Philippe Petit, a young Frenchman, dances on a wire suspended between New York’s Twin Towers. Consequently, Philippe is arrested and thrown into jail for what would become known as “the artistic crime of the century.”

pUUJEE / Japan, Director and Screenwriter: Kazuya Yamada
Against the backdrop of a magnificent but harsh natural landscape, a Japanese photojournalist encounters Puujee, a young girl who tames wild horses on the Mongolian plains.

RECYCLE / Jordan, Director and Screenwriter: Al Massad
A Jordanian family man living in the hometown of Muslim leader Al-Zarqawi struggles to support his family and define his identity in a tense political climate.

STRANDED: I’VE COME FROM A PLANET THAT CRASHED ON THE MOUNTAINS / France, Director and Screenwriter: Gonzalo Arijon
For the first time ever, survivors of the famous 1974 Andes plane crash tell in their own words their harrowing story of survival.

Acclaimed doctor James Orbinski, former head of Doctors Without Borders, returns to Africa to confront the harsh reality of conditions there and explores what it means to be a humanitarian.

UP THE YANGTZE / Canada, Director and Screenwriter: Yung Chang
At the edge of the Yangtze River, not far from the Three Gorges Dam, young men and women take up employment on a cruise ship, where they confront rising waters and a radically changing China.

THE WOMEN OF BURKMAN (Les Femmes de la Baukma) / Canada, Director and Screenwriter: Isaac Isitan
Amidst Argentina’s financial collapse, workers take over a Buenos Aires men’s clothing factory and continue producing clothing on a self-management model. As the formerly poor become business managers, their lives are changed forever.

YASUKUNI / Japan, Director and Screenwriter: Li Ying
Controversy abounds as Japanese officials honor the deceased at the legendary Yasukuni shrine, where swords used to kills Chinese soldiers were famously forged. Few know about the shrine’s eerie past and the mysterious sword inside. Cast: Kariya Naoji, Sugawara Ryuken, Gaojin Sumei.

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

ABSURDISTAN / Germany, Director: Veit Helmer; Screenwriters: Veit Helmer, Zaza Buadze, Gordan Mihic, Ahmet Golbol
This inventive and allegorical comedy centers on two childhood sweethearts who seem destined for one another until the women of their isolated village, angered by male indifference toward the water shortage, go on a sex strike that threatens the young couple’s first night of love. Cast: Maximilian Mauff, Kristyna Mlerova.

BLUE EYELIDS (Parapados Azules) / Mexico, Director: Ernesto Contreras
When Marina wins a beach getaway trip for two, her desperate search for someone to take with her leads to a complicated relationship and the revelation that she might be better off on her own. Cast: Cecilia Suarez, Enrique Arreola, Ana Ofelia Murguia, Tiare Scanda, Luisa Huertas.

CAPTAIN ABU RAED / Jordan, Director and Screenwriter: Amin Matalqa
An aging airport janitor who is mistaken for an airline pilot by a group of poor neighborhood children weaves fantastical stories to offer hope for a sad, and sometimes unchangeable, reality. Cast: Nadim Sawalha, Hussein Al-Sous, Rana Sultan, Uday Al-Qiddissi, Ghandi Saber.

THE DRUMMER (Jin. Gwu) / Hong Kong, Director and Screenwriter: Kenneth Bi
A young man transforms from a reckless youth and gangster into a mature adult through the inspiration of Zen drumming. Cast: Jaycee Chan, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Josie Ho, Roy Cheung, Lee Sinje, Kenneth Tsang.

I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A GANGSTER / France, Director and Screenwriter: Samuel Benchetrit
Told in four vignettes, this existential comedy relates the exploits of four aspiring criminals who hope to improve their lot, but find that they might not have what it takes for a life of crime. Cast: Sergi Lopez, Jean Rochefort, Alain Bashung, Anna Mouglalis.

JUST ANOTHER LOVE STORY (Kaerlighed Pa Film) / Denmark, Director and Screenwriter: Ole Borendal
Jonas’s quiet life as a suburban family man takes an unexpected twist when he causes a car crash that leaves a young woman with amnesia. When he is mistaken for her boyfriend, Jonas’s decision to play the role gradually unravels his life. Cast: Anders W. Berthelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Charlotte Fich, Dejan Cukic, Ewa Froeling.

KING OF PONG (Ping Pongkingen) / Sweden, DirectorJens Jonsson; Screenwriters: Jens Jonsson, Hans Gunnarson
An ostracized and bullied teenage boy who excels only in ping pong descends into an acrimonious struggle with his younger, more popular brother when the truth about their family history and their father surfaces over the course of their spring break. Cast: Georgi Staykov, Ann-Sofie Normi, Frederik Nilsson, Jerry Johansson.

MANCORA Spain/Peru, Director: Ricardo de Montreuil; Screenwriter: Oscar Torres
A young man mourning the death of his father, his estranged stepsister and her arrogant husband all set out for adventures in the lush, picturesque beach town of Mancora, Peru.

MEGANE (Glasses)/ Japan, Director and Screenwriter: Naoko Ogigami
Taeko’s southern vacation becomes a life-changing experience when she discovers a unique beach community unified by surprising and perhaps odd traditions in this comedic film. Cast: Satomi Kobayashi, Mikako Ichikawa, Ryo Kase, Ken Mitsuishi, Masako Motai.

MERMAID (Rusalka) / Russia, Director and Screenwriter: Anna Melikyan
The fanciful tale of an introverted little girl who grows up believing she has the power to make wishes come true. She must reconcile this belief with reality when, as a young woman, she journeys to Moscow and grapples with love, modernity and materialism. Cast: Masha Shalaeva, Evgeniy Ciganov, Maria Sokolova, Nastya Doncova.

PERRO COME PERRO (Dog Eat Dog) / Colombia, Director: Carlos Moreno; Screenwriters: Alonso Torres, Carlos Moreno
In the crime world of Colombia, there is an unwritten code. When Victor and Eusebio, two hoods who bungle a shake-down job, break that code, they unwittingly sign their own death sentence. Cast: Marlon Moreno, Oscar Borda, Alvaro Rodriguez, Blas Jaramillo, Paulina Rivas.

RIPRENDIMI (Good Morning Heartache) / Italy, Director: Anna Negri; Screenwriters: Anna Negri, Giovanna Mori
A modern young couple with a new baby are forced to deal with the almost comedic pain of breaking up while being the subject of a documentary that quickly crosses professional lines into their private lives. Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Marco Foschi, Valentina Lodovini, Stefano Fresi, Alessandro Averone.

STRANGERS/ Israel, Directors and Screenwriters: Erez Tadmor, Guy Nattiv
An Israeli man and a Palestinian woman meet serendipitously during the carefree atmosphere of the World Cup finals in Germany, drawing them out of the stark reality of their lives and into a passionate affair. Cast: Liron Levo, Lubna Azabal, Dominique Lollia, Patrick Albenque, Abdallah el Akal, Roger Dumas.

UNDER THE BOMBS (Sous Les Bombes) / Lebanon, Director: Philippe Aractingi; Screenwriters: Philippe Aractingi, Michel Leviant
In the wake of Israel’s 2006 bombardment of Lebanon, a determined woman finds her way into the country convincing a taxi cab driver to take a risky journey through the scarred region in search of her sister and her son. Cast: Nada Abou Farhat, Georges Khabbaz, Bshara Atallah, and Rawia Elchab.

THE WAVE (Die Welle) / Germany, Director: Dennis Gansel; Screenwriters: Dennis Gansel and Peter Thorwarth
A high school teacher’s unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship spins horribly out of control when he forms a social unit with a life of its own. Cast: Juergen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt, Jennifer Ulrich, Christiane Paul.

THE WIND AND THE WATER (Burgua Dii Bo) / Panama, Directors and Screenwriters: A collective collaboration
A young indigenous teen seeking his fortune in Panama City struggles to acclimate to chaotic urban life, where he becomes enamored with a girl from a wealthy, assimilated family. Later, he encounters his crush once again–but this time the landscape and tradition define their interaction.

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