Fest Focus: Wrapping 2011, Anticipating Sundance 2012

Fest Focus: Wrapping 2011, Anticipating Sundance 2012

Nov 29, 2011

Now that the major fall film festivals are done, it’s time to clear the decks and prepare for next year. But before we do …

Wrapping 2011

Planet of Snail

Film festival season never ends, it just changes with the seasons. The major fall fests, the ones that influence the U.S. theatrical scene the most -- Venice, Telluride, and Toronto -- were completed in September, with the New York Film Festival setting the tone for awards season in October, and AFI Fest in Los Angeles serving up a tasty roundup of past buzz titles and new contenders earlier this month.  

Before we pass on to the new year, however, we need to note another major festival which just completed its run. The 24th International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) wrapped up yesterday, with attendance this year estimated at 200,000. Described as “pretty much the Grand Poobah of documentary fests” by Indiewire, the festival draws huge throngs of the public to its screenings, as well as many industry insiders who come looking for new offerings by international filmmakers.

Planet of Snail (pictured above), by South Korean filmmaker Seung-Jun Yi, won this year’s top prize; the documentary revolves around a man and a woman who are both deaf and blind, calling themselves “snails” because they must rely on their tactile senses. An acquisition deal for Sushi: The Global Catch was also announced during the fest, the film explores "the tradition, growth and future" of a very popular cuisine; Kino Lorber plans a spring 2012 release.

In other festival news, filmmaker Peter Weir has joined the jury for the Dubai International Film Festival, which will be held from December 7-14. The fest will host the world premiere of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which was partially shot on location in Dubai, with star Tom Cruise and director Brad Bird in attendance on opening night. More than 170 films from 56 countries will be screened during the festival.

Brazilian director Oscar Maron Filho suffered a cardiac arrest and subsequently died while attending the International Film Festival of India in the coastal state of Goa this past weekend. He was attending the fest in support of his documentary Mario Filho, The Creator of Crowds. The 42nd edition of the festival, which is a major showcase of films from Asia, continues through December 3.

Anticipating Sundance 2012

2006 Sundance Film FestivalTomorrow, the first titles for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival will be announced. It’s a big chunk of the program: U.S. Documentary and Dramatic Competition films, as well as the World Cinema Documentary and Dramatic Competition selections, with the balance of the titles rolling out over the following few days.

As a reminder, last year’s U.S. Dramatic Competition included Another Earth, Gun Hill Road, Higher Ground, Homework (retitled The Art of Getting By), The Ledge, Like Crazy, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Pariah, Take Shelter, and Terri, all of which made some kind of impression on the indie film scene during the year. The two documentary competition programs featured Beats, Rhymes, and Life, Being Elmo, Buck, How to Die in Oregon, If a Tree Falls, Page One, The Redemption of General Buck Naked, Project Nim, and Senna; the World Cinema Dramatic Competition debuted The Guard, Kinyarwanda, and Tyrannosaur.

That’s not just a recitation of titles, it’s a listing of films that are (mostly) good enough to compete for year-end awards. So, yes, Sundance is important. What we’ll be seeing in the next 24 hours is no less than an unveiling of a giant stone tablet, out of which will be carved the release plans for a key segment of the independent film scene in 2012.

In anticipation, David Hudson at the Daily Mubi points to two lists. The first is a straightforward compilation by filmmaker and writer Michael Tully at Hammer to Nail of “films that I am very excited to see and am confident will be making a splash in 2012.” His list includes both known commodities (the Duplass brothers, Todd Rohal, So Yong Kim, Ira Sachs) and complete unknowns; some are completed projects that he's seen, while others he's only heard about. It's a peek, a preliminary list, the kind of thing that festival programmers are wont to do in compiling a wish list of things to see, and, as such, is very intriguing.

At Ioncinema, Eric Lavallee casts a wider net with 80 possibilities, including new projects by directors Julie Delpy (who previously made Two Days in Paris), Katie Aselton (The Freebie), and Craig Zobel (Great Wall of Sound). Stars include Jesse Eisenberg, James Franco, Jesse Weixler, Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth, Brit Marling, Abbie Cornish, David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Christopher Walken, Sharon Stone, Penn Badgeley, Imogen Poots, and on and on. It's an informed list, based on production information that's been made available over the past year. As Lavallee allows, many of the films will either not be ready in time or will not make the final cut, but it's a great, sprawling snapshot of what's coming down the pipeline next.

A more focused list of predictions can be found at Shadow and Act, where ten pictures, either directed by black filmmakers of featuring black actors in lead roles, are highlighted, with the honor of highest-profile title going to The Man with the Iron Fists, directed by and starring RZA,. with Russell Crowe and Pam Grier also appearing.

Check back tomorrow to see who made it and what films we might be seeing at other film festivals and local art houses during 2012!

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