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Sundance Selections: What Does It Mean



The 2012 Sundance Film Festival made its first program announcements yesterday--and as usual, it can be hard to know what to get excited about. ---

Four days of slowly-trickling program announcements began Nov. 30 with the announcement of the competition films, both for U.S. drama and documentary and world drama and documentary. That's 64 titles, but because Sundance is such a wonderful showcase annually of new and emerging filmmakers, there's not always a track record to go by. Here are at least a few titles that might be more worth getting excited about than others, based on what the talent involved has delivered previously.

Simon Killer: Among the U.S. Dramatic Competition entries, this one might offer the biggest tingle of anticipation. Writer/director Antonio Campos' brilliant, little-seen 2010 drama Afterschool presented one of the creepier indictments of a culture of perpetual voyeurism, with a uniquely unsettling style. The plot summary from the press release -- "A recent college graduate goes to Paris after breaking up with his girlfriend of 5 years. Once there, he falls in love with a young prostitute and their fateful journey begins." -- should be less relevant that what Campos could do with any narrative.

For Ellen: Writer/director So Yong Kim made one of the best films of the 2006 Dramatic Competition in the immigrant-themed drama In Between Days. Now she's working with a cast including Paul Dano, Jon Heder and Jena Malone for a story of a musician fighting his estranged wife for custody of their daughter.

Detropia: The filmmaking team behind terrific observational documentaries including Jesus Camp and 12th & Delaware takes a look at the people and disintegrating economic base of the city of Detroit.

The Invisible War: Director Kirby Dick has made some of Sundance's most provocative documentaries over the years, including Twist of Faith and This Film Is Not Yet Rated. He takes on another potentially incendiary subject, exploring the rape of soldiers within the U.S. military.

Payback: The World Documentary competition includes the latest from Jennifer Baichwal, who made the magnificently visual Manufactured Landscapes in 2006. The subject matter here -- an adaptation of Margaret Atwood's non-fiction book about the centrality of debt in our lives -- seems like a tough one to make cinematic, but Baichwal could have the skills to pull it off.