Many filmmakers and movie fans are en route to the 2013 Sundance Film Festival today. This year's event begins tomorrow evening with a handful of anticipated works, including the potentially confusable titles Crystal Fairy and Who Is Dayani Cristal? Will either of them be the latest Sundance success story? Will any of this year's premiere selections be nominated for Oscars like 2012 veterans Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Sessions and all five of the documentary feature contenders?
As always, it's an exciting time right before the fest, when films we've barely even heard of are unsuspectingly waiting to touch our hearts and stun our senses and immediately explode onto the world stage and into the film-history books. Optimists will hope to find the next Reservoir Dogs, Hoop Dreams, Clerks or, to name something from this generation, Super Size Me or Primer. They'll even be happy to look beyond just the debuts for simply a breakout, like Memento.
Plenty of classics have played at the Sundance Film Festival, especially if we can count its old incarnation of the U.S. Film Festival. That first year in 1978, there were screenings of Sweet Smell of Success, Mean Streets and A Streetcar Named Desire, for instance. Other non-premieres that we might associate more with Sundance include Blood Simple, Stranger Than Paradise, The Times of Harvey Milk, Sherman's March, Trust, Crumb and Welcome to the Dollhouse.
So, let's try to at least stick to titles that really broke out of the festival, in which case the best fiction work for me is either Big Night, which premiered there in 1996, or American Psycho, which debuted at Sundance in 2000. The best nonfiction work is much more difficult to pin down. There's Hoop Dreams, as mentioned, and also Man on Wire, Capturing the Friedmans, Grizzly Man and Bus 174 (which debuted in Sao Paolo but made its mark at Sundance), none of which are easily comparable to one another.
What is the best film ever to come out of the Sundance Film Festival?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
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