Sundance Film Festival unveils ambitious slate for 2014
05:00 AM, Dec 09, 2013
Hollywood actors are continuing to step behind the camera to find directing success at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
David Cross (Hits) and William H. Macy (Rudderless) will show off their first directing efforts with Sundance premieres, organizers announced Monday. The Park City, Utah, independent film festival is scheduled for January 16-26.
The actors will join John Slattery, who will make his directorial debut, God’s Pocket, as part of the 16-film dramatic competition.
“We have three actors getting behind the camera for the first time, and all very different films,” says the festival’s director of programming, Trevor Groth. “Like our (festival) founder Robert Redford, these actors are artists who have a desire to tell their own stories as well.”
As the festival completes the announcements for the 2014 schedule (the schedule for Short Films will be released Tuesday), here’s a look at some of the other emerging trends.
Differing roles: This year’s lineup features Hollywood actors stepping into roles that differ greatly from their previous work.
John Lithgow and Alfred Molina star as longtime lovers who finally decide to tie the knot in Love Is Strange. Ryan Reynolds sheds his all-American persona as a disturbed factory worker in the genre-bending The Voices.
“This film is going to surprise everyone,” says Groth of Voices. “It’s really one of the strange films of the festival.”
Keira Knightley portrays a 28-year-old woman stuck in permanent adolescence in Laggies. Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd play a couple in They Came Together, a spoof of romantic comedies.
The competition section features Kristen Stewart as a Guantanamo Bay prison guard in Camp X-Ray. Saturday Night Live alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader play twins in Skeleton Twins. But for novelty, all of these might be topped by Michael Fassbender in Frank.
“He’s the leader of a cult band with an interesting trait,” says John Cooper, director of the festival. “He never lets anyone see him without this big ceramic head on.”
Dramatic sports: Many sides of sports show up in the just-announced documentary premiere section, which includes Happy Valley, director Amir Bar-Lev’s exploration into the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal at Penn State. When the scandal broke in 2011, opinions were divided about what legendary coach Joe Paterno knew about the long-brewing problem.
“(The film) digs deep into the very complicated story,” says Groth. “A little time has passed and this film will allow people to make the more informed decisions and not as emotional ones on this issue. It’s still going to push buttons for sure.”
The Battered Bastards of Baseball looks at Bonanza star Bing Russell’s (Kurt’s dad) ownership of the minor league Portland Mavericks in the 1970s, and what happened when the team started winning thanks in part to Russell’s promotional stunts.
In the competition section, No No: A Dockumentary looks at Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Dock Ellis, who famously hurled a no-hitter in the 1970s while under the influence of LSD.
Hold the sex, please: With offerings including Kink (a bondage documentary) and Lovelace (about porn star Linda Lovelace), 2013’s Sundance festival was possibly the raunchiest on record. The upcoming schedule is remarkably bare by comparison.
“Not every year can be about sex,” says Cooper. “That’s probably a little more of a coincidence. Things go in cycles.”
Big-name spotlight: The documentary premieres section features a returning Kennedy, Rory, who brings her documentary Last Days in Vietnam about the final tough choices during the fall of Saigon. Mitt Romney returns to the spotlight in Mitt, director Greg Whiteley’s behind-the-scenes look of at Romney’s run for president.
In the dramatic premiere section, Nick Offerman: American Ham features the Parks and Recreation actor’s one-man show at New York’s historic Town Hall. The film listing promises “anecdotes, songs, woodworking/oral sex techniques.”
For a complete listing of films, go to www.sundance.org/festival.