Park City, Utah and the sundance kid

Kathryn Brostowitz

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Park City, Utah kicked off its annual Sundance Film Festival this past Thursday, and the event is scheduled to last until Sunday. 

Every year, the small Utah city is a hotbed of film producers looking for what will hopefully be the next big movie.  According to “The Wrap” writer Steve Pond, this is the first year that all of the movies being showcased at Sundance have yet to obtain any prospective buyers.  This means all of the production companies that attend the screenings have an equal chance of winning the bid on any of the movies. 

Each year, there are over 4,000 independent films submitted to the Sundance Film Festival. The festival chose 117 films for screenings with 45 first time moviemakers submitting selected works.

Critics claim there are multiple films anticipated to do well when the bidding wars begin. 

“Bachelorette,” written by Leslye Headland and starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan, has been dubbed “the next ‘Bridesmaids’” which was nominated for multiple Golden Globes and a BAFTA Award.  One of the few issues with “Bachelorette” is the overwhelming similarity between it and the already successful “Bridesmaids.”

Another movie generating serious buzz is “Red Lights,” written and directed by Rodrigo Cortés and starring Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver and Elizabeth Olsen.  Cortés wowed audiences last year with his movie “Buried,” and this year’s paranormal thriller is expected to do even better.

Critics have also been talking about “Smashed,” written and directed by James Ponsoldt and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Nick Offerman and 2012 Golden Globe winner Octavia Spencer.  The movie has been compared to, though many critics claim it is better than, 2010’s competitor “Blue Valentine” which went on to snag a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Numerous other films from past years have been nominated for prestigious awards after their debut at Sundance, including “The Kids Are All Right,” “Precious,” and “Winter’s Bone” which were all nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

While the films receive special recognition, the acting performances are reportedly just as noteworthy.

“The Surrogate” is a movie about a man with an iron lung who hires a sex surrogate to lose his virginity.  Actor John Hawkes, who has starred in previous Sundance movies and shared the spotlight with breakout actresses such as Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” and Elizabeth Olson in “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” This time, Hawkes received a standing ovation at the end of the film.  To study for the part, Hawkes watched a documentary created by writer and director Ben Lewin, who himself had an iron lung and had to see a sex therapist.

As America’s most famous film festival, The Sundance Film Festival has made many transformations since its original debut in 1978. 

The event was initially called The Utah/United States Film Festival and was held in Salt Lake City.  Unsuccessful in the first year of operation, it didn’t generate profit until the following year.  Though few people attended the festival that first year, it showcased iconic independent films such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Midnight Cowboy.”

The festival’s main sight was moved from Salt Lake City to Park City, Utah in 1981 in order to increase popularity.  Park City reportedly had more tourist activity than Salt Lake City, so there was a greater chance of attendees.  The festival has since been held at a Park City ski resort, further generating an out of town attendance, though there are still small showings in surrounding parts of Utah including Salt Lake City and Ogden. 

The Utah/United States Film Festival gained even more popularity in 1985 when it was taken over by the Sundance Institute; a non-profit organization founded by Robert Redford and named for his character in the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”  The festival was officially renamed The Sundance Film Festival six years later. 

As the 2012 Sundance Film Festival continues, students can follow along with the filmmakers, featured celebrities, competing films, and more by going to www.sundance.org.

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