Sundance Film Fest 2008: Premiere Section Showcases Name Directors and Stars

November 29, 2007–The Premieres section of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival showcases films with stars venturing outside the mainstream, as well as works by name directors doing offbeat non-studio like films.

The Premiere Program this year includes 24 entries. It opens Januray 17 with the previously announced world premiere of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's first feature, “In Bruges,” a thriller about two London hitmen, starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes.

Closing night on January 26 is world preem of Bernard Shakey's “CSNY Deja Vu,” which takes the occasion of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's “Freedom of Speech Tour” to analyze the band's political and musical contributions and to compare the Vietnam era, when the group emerged, to the current climate during the Iraq War.

The Spectrum sidebar, which is now split between a dramatic section and a documentary spotlight, as well as the expanded New Frontier program and the Park City at Midnight lineup.

Among the directors with films in Premieres are Michel Gondry, Barry Levinson, Boaz Yakin, Mark Pellington (with two films, “Henry Poole Is Here” and “U2 3D”), Michael Keaton and Brad Anderson.

Star actors making appearances are Robert DeNiro, Sean Penn, Maria Bello, William Hurt, Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis, Dennis Quaid, Ellen Page, Ben Kingsley, Ewan McGregor, Sean Combs, Julianne Moore, Charlize Theron, Brian Cox, John Malkovich, Matthew Broderick, Jacqueline Bisset, Meg Ryan, Jack Black and Mia Farrow.

PREMIERES

In addition to “In Bruges” and “CSNY Deja Vu,” titles are:

“Assassination of a High School President,” directed by Brett Simon and written by Kevin Jakubowski, a Catholic high school noir about a student journalist who uncovers a scandal. With Reece Thompson, Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Michael Rapaport, Kathryn Morris and Josh Pais.

“Be Kind Rewind,” directed and written by Michel Gondry, a flight of fancy that concerns a man whose magnetized body erases all the tapes in a friend's videostore, whereupon they endeavor to remake such lost films as “Back to the Future,” “The Lion King” and “Robocop.” Toplines Mos Def, Jack Black, Mia Farrow and Danny Glover. A New Line Cinema release.

“The Deal” (Canada), directed by Steven Schachter and written by William H. Macy and Schachter, a romantic comedy about a suicidal vet Hollywood producer who cons a studio into making a big-budget pic without a script and starring a black action star newly converted to Judaism. Stars Macy, Meg Ryan and LL Cool J.

“Death in Love,” directed and written by Boaz Yakin, centers on a 40-year-old bachelor with a complicated life who tries to sort out his personal relationships in the shadow of his mother's concentration camp experience. With Josh Lucas, Jacqueline Bisset and Adam Brody.

“Diminished Capacity,” directed by Terry Kinney and written by Sherwood Kiraly, a dysfunctional family comedy that depicts a road trip taken by a man who wants to sell an ultra-rare baseball card to finance his uncle's waning years. Features Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda and Virginia Madsen.

“The Escapist” (Ireland), directed by Rupert Wyatt and written by Wyatt and Daniel Hardy, a dramatic caper about a lifer prisoner who hatches a clever escape with the help of some misfits so he can make peace with his ailing daughter. Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes and Seu Jorge head the cast.

“The Great Buck Howard,” directed and written by Sean McGinly, a road movie about a law school dropout who becomes personal assistant to a has-been magician trying to make a comeback. Produced by Tom Hanks, this Salt Lake City opening night attraction stars Colin Hanks, John Malkovich and Emily Blunt.

“The Guitar,” directed by debuting helmer Amy Redford and written by New York indie stalwart Amos Poe, looks at a woman whose surfeit of bad news — she's fired, dumped by her boyfriend and diagnosed with a terminal disease–causes her to quickly pursue her dreams. Features Saffron Burrows, Isaach De Bankole and Paz De La Huerta.

“Henry Poole Is Here,” directed by Mark Pellington and written by Albert Torres, a study of faith and survival that centers on a man whose final days, which he wants to spend alone, are interrupted by a neighbor's discovery of a “miracle.” With Luke Wilson, Radha Mitchell and Cheryl Hines.

“Incendiary” (U.K.), directed and written by Sharon Maguire (“Bridget Jones' Diary”), about the reactions of a young mother to a terrorist attack in London. Features Michelle Williams, Ewan McGregor and Matthew Macfadyen.

“The Merry Gentleman,” directed by first-time helmer Michael Keaton and written by Ron Lazzeretti, which focuses on the unusual relationship between a woman who witnesses a murder and a depressed hitman. Toplines Kelly Macdonald and Keaton.

“A Raisin in the Sun,” directed by Kenny Leon and adapted by Paris Qualles from the play by Lorraine Hansberry, a filmed TV version of the recent Broadway revival starring Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald.

“Savage Grace,” directed by Tom Kalin (“Swoon”) and written by Howard A. Rodman, about the bizarre intimacy between a wealthy mother and her only child played out among the indolent rich in late '60s Europe. With Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane and Eddie Redmayne. An IFC release.

“Sleepwalking” (Canada/U.S.), directed by Bill Maher and written by Zac Stanford, about a young man jolted into responsibility when his abandoned niece is threatened with life in a foster home. Features Nick Stahl, AnnaSophia Robb and Charlize Theron. An Overture Films release.

“Smart People,” directed by Noam Murro and written by Mark Jude Poirier, about a self-involved literature professor forced to examine his life when his brother unexpectedly turns up. Stars Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page and Ashton Holmes. A Miramax release.

“Towelhead” (formerly known as “Nothing Is Private”), the feature directorial debut of writer Alan Ball (“American Beauty,” “Six Feet Under”), which charts an Arab-American girl's tricky journey through adolescence and early sexuality in Texas. Warner Independent release toplines Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Toni Collette and Summer Bishil.

“Transsiberian” (Spain), directed by Brad Anderson and written by Anderson and Will Conroy, a revival of the classic train murder mystery genre set aboard a journey from China to Moscow. Stars Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Kate Mara, Thomas Kretschmann, Eduardo Noriega and Ben Kingsley.

“U2 3D,” directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington, a 3-D concert pic of U2's “Vertigo” tour shot at seven different shows.

“The Visitor,” directed and written by Tom McCarthy, explores the growing connection between a college professor and an immigrant couple he discovers occupying his Manhattan apartment. Features Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbass, Haaz Sleiman and Danai Gurira. An Overture Films release.

“What Just Happened,” directed by Barry Levinson and written by Art Linson, an inside-Hollywod comedy about a producer trying to keep sane while beset by his difficult director, star, executive, agent and second wife. Features Robert DeNiro, Bruce Willis, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Stanley Tucci and John Turturro.

“The Year of Getting to Know Us,” directed and written by Patrick Sisam, a dysfunctional family comedy about a commitment-phobe whose sick father helps him make sense of his own childhood. With Jimmy Fallon, Chase Ellison, Lucy Liu, Sharon Stone and Tom Arnold.

“The Yellow Handkerchief,” directed by Udayan Prasad and written by Eric Dignam, about a former con's encounter with two disillusoned young folk on the road in Louisiana. Toplines Maria Bello, William Hurt, Eddie Redmayne and Veronica Russell.

SPECTRUM

Dramatic Section

“August,” directed by Austin Chick (“XX/XY”) and written by Howard A. Rodman, about a dotcom entrepreneur coping with the market collapse of August 2001. Stars Josh Hartnett, Adam Scott and Naomie Harris.

“Baghead,” directed and written by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass (“The Puffy Chair”), a comedy in which two couples intent on writing the great American screenplay find their log cabin retreat stalked by a man with a bag on his head. With Steve Zissis, Ross Partridge and Greta Gerwig.

“Birds of America,” directed by Craig Lucas and written by Elyse Friedman, which focuses on the gathering of three neurotic siblings at the family manse. Features Matthew Perry, Ginnifer Goodwin and Ben Foster.

“Blind Date,” directed by Stanley Tucci and written by Tucci and David Schechter, a remake of the Dutch film by the late Theo van Gogh about a married couple who, having suffered a tragedy, are only able to relate to one another as different characters through personal ads. With Tucci, Patricia Clarkson and Thijs Romer.

“Bottle Shock,” directed by Randall Miller and written by Jody Savin and Miller, which centers on the world of California wine making and the infamous “Judgment of Paris” blind wine tasting event of 1976. Stars Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman and Chris Pine.

“Chronic Town,” directed by Tom Hines and written by Michael Kamsky, a dark comedy about a substance-abusing taxi driver during an Alaskan winter. With JR Bourne, Emily Wagner and Dan Butler.

“Goliath,” directed by David Zellner and Nathan Zellner and written by the former, a look at a man who hopes to find salvation by locating his missing cat after his entire life has collapsed around him. Features David Zellner, Caroline O'Connor and Nathan Zellner.

“A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy,” directed and written by Dennis Dortch, an art film comprised of six vignettes about sexuality and relationships among blacks in Los Angeles. With Kathryn Taylor, Valley Jones and Chonte' Harris.

“Love Comes Lately” (Germany/Austria), directed and written by Jan Schutte, about the active love life of an 80-year-old man, based on Isaac Bashevis Singer stories. Toplines Otto Tausig, Rhea Perlman and Tovah Feldshuh.

“Momma's Man,” written and directed by Azazel Jacobs, an offbeat portrait of a man whose attitudes toward his wife and child change after being forced to stay with his parents. With Flo Jacobs, Ken Jacobs and Dana Varon.

“Quid Pro Quo,” directed and written by Carlos Brooks, an unusual look at a paraplegic radio reporter who becomes interested in a mysterious woman while researching a story about able-bodied people who secretly yearn to be paralyzed. Stars Nick Stahl, Vera Farmiga and Kate Burton.

“Red,” directed by Trygve Diesen and written by Stephen Susco, a genre piece about a man who seeks justice after three teenagers shoot his old dog. Features Brian Cox, Tom Sizemore and Kim Dickens.

SPECTRUM

Documentary Spotlight

“Anvil! The True Story of Anvil,” directed by Sacha Gervasi, a mockumentary-like true account of fiftysomething Canadian heavy-metal practitioners Robb Reiner and Lips who, after a desultory European tour with their band Anvil, decide to record a 13th album in a final attempt to fulfill their boyhead dreams of stardom.

“The Black List,” directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and written by Elvis Mitchell, in which journo Mitchell interviews numerous black leaders from different fields to take the temperature of black America today.

“Kicking It,” directed and written by Susan Koch, about an assortment of homeless people whose lives are changed by participating in the Homeless World Cup soccer match in South Africa.

“The Linguists,” directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel Miller and Jeremy Newberger and written by Miller, about two linguists who travel the world documenting languages on the verge of extinction.

“Made in America,” directed by Stacy Peralta (“Dogtown and Z-Boys,” “Riding Giants”) and written by Peralta and Sam George, a comprehensive history of the Crips and Bloods street gangs of South Los Angeles.

“Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden” (France), directed by Morgan Spurlock and written by Jeremy Chilnick and Spurlock, a search by the filmmaker for the elusive terrorist.

“Young@ Heart” (U.K.), directed by Stephen Walker, in which a senior citizens' choir performs tunes by classic and contempo pop musicians.

NEW FRONTIER

“Casting a Glance,” directed and written by James Benning, an experimental look at the Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson's enormous sculpture that has evolved over 30 years in conjunction with the ebb and flow of the Great Salt Lake.

“Eat, for This Is My Body” (France/Haiti), directed and written by Michelange Quay, a meditation on racial conquest and liberation in Haiti. With Sylvie Testud.

“Fear(s) of the Dark” (France), directed by Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Callou, Romain Slocombe, Pierre Di Sciullio, Lorenzo Mattotti and Jerry Kramsky, an animated feature comprising six works by graphic artists and cartoonists addressing their phobias and nightmares.

“Half-Life,” directed and written by Jennifer Phang, about a family confronting hidden issues against the backdrop of impending global cataclysms.

“Reversion,” directed and written by Mia Trachinger, in which a woman genetically stripped of morality tries to continue her romance with a man.

“Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, Parts 4 and 5,” a collection of the most recent shorts by artist Yang Fudong, which focus on seven thinkers in the ancient Chinese Wei and Jin dynasties.

PARK CITY AT MIDNIGHT

“Adventures of Power,” directed and written by Ari Gold, a comedy about the struggles of a small-town dreamer to become the world's great air-drummer. Stars Adrian Grenier, Jane Lynch and Jimmy Jean-Louis.

“The Broken,” directed and written by Sean Ellis, a horror item that commences when a woman on a London street sees herself driving by in her own car. Toplines Lena Heady, Richard Jenkins and Asier Newman.

“Donkey Punch” (U.K.), directed by Olly Blackburn and written by Blackburn and David Bloom, about the fallout among several young adults on a yacht in the Mediterranean after one of them dies in a freak accident. Features Robert Boulter, Sian Breckin and Tom Burke.

“Funny Games,” directed and written by Michael Haneke, an American remake by the Austrian filmmaker of his own 1997 shocker. Stars Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt and Devon Gearhart. A Warner Independent release.

“George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead,” directed and written by Romero, in which students making an indie horror film suddenly find themselves trapped with real zombies. With Nick Alachiotis, Matt Birman and George Buza.

“Hell Ride,” directed and written by Larry Bishop, a biker revenge pic, presented by Quentin Tarantino, that's a homage to '60s AIP chopper mellers. Toplines Larry Bishop, Dennis Hopper and Michael Madsen.

“Otto; or, Up With Dead People” (Germany/Canada), directed and written by Bruce LaBruce, in which a lonely gay zombie searches for love and meaning in contempo Berlin. With Jey Crisfar, Katharina Klewinghaus, Susanne Sachsse and Marcel Schlutt.

“Timecrimes” (Spain), directed and written by Nacho Vigalondo, a sci-fier about a man who meets himself when he travels back in time, precipitating a terrible crime. Features Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernandez and Barbara Goenaga.