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2009 Sundance Film Festival - 25th Festival - An Amazing Blend of Art and Entertainment
MARY AND MAX From First-Time Feature Director Adam Elliot to Open Silver Anniversary Festival in Park City, Utah
By Gregg Schwenk

Park City, UT--2009 Sundance Film Festival will screen 118 feature-length films including 89 world premieres, 17 North American premieres, and 4 U.S. premieres representing 21 countries with 42 first-time filmmakers. The Festival which opens on January 15 in Park City with the world premiere of Mary and Max, a clay animation feature film from Academy Award-winning short film creators Adam Elliot and producer Melanie Coombs. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette and narrated by Barry Humphries, Mary and Max is the tale of two unlikely pen pals  Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York. The story is based on the director's own pen-friendship that has also lasted over twenty years.

The screening of the Closing Film on January 23, the second Friday of the Film Festival, will signal the start of the final weekend. This year's Closing Film is the world premiere of Earth Days, a history of our environmental undoing seen through the eyes of nine Americans whose work and actions launched the modern environmental movement. The Salt Lake City Gala on Friday, January 16 will feature the world premiere of The September Issue, screening in Documentary Competition. With unprecedented access, director R.J. Cutler and his crew shot for nine months to capture Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and her team preparing the 2007 Vogue September issue, widely accepted as the  fashion bible  for the year's trends.

 Whether personal reflective pieces or larger films with established talent, the films screening out of competition have enormous possibility for success down the line,  said Geoffrey Gilmore, Director, Sundance Film Festival.  Across all the categories there are some truly excellent films in this year's Festival. 

Added John Cooper, Director of Programming, Sundance Film Festival,  There are some terrific acting ensemble works in Premieres section and I am counting on some surprise commercial interest in Midnight and Spectrum this year.

To showcase the diversity of contemporary independent cinema, the Sundance Film Festival Premieres section offers the latest work from American and international directors and world premieres of highly anticipated films.

Films screening in Premieres are 

500 Days of Summer/USA. (Director  Marc Webb; Screenwriters  Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber):  When an unlucky greeting card copywriter is dumped by his girlfriend, the hopeless romantic shifts back and forth through various periods of their 500 days  together  in hopes of figuring out where things went wrong. Cast  Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. World Premiere

Adventureland/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Greg Mottola):  In 1987, a recent college graduate takes a nowhere job at his local amusement park and discovers the job is perfect preparation for the real world. Cast  Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader. World Premiere

Brooklyn's Finest/ USA (Director  Antoine Fuqua; Screenwriter  Michael C. Martin):  After enduring vastly different career paths, three unconnected Brooklyn cops wind up at the same deadly location. Cast  Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Don Cheadle, Ellen Barkin. World Premiere

Earth Days/USA (Director  Robert Stone): The history of our environmental undoing through the eyes of nine Americans whose work and actions launched the modern environmental movement. World Premiere. Closing Night Film

Endgame/UK (Director  Pete Travis; Screenwriter  Paula Milne): A political thriller in which a businessman initiates covert discussions between the African National Congress and white intellectuals to try and find a peaceful solution to the Apartheid regime. Cast  William Hurt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jonny Lee Miller, Mark Strong. World Premiere

I Love You Philip Morris/USA (Directors and Screenwriters  Glenn Ficarra and John Requa): The true story about con artist and imposter Steven Jay Russell, a married father whose exploits land him in the Texas criminal justice system. Based on the novel by Houston Chronicle crime reporter Steve McVicker. Cast  Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro. World Premiere

The Informers/USA (Director  Gregor Jordan; Screenwriters  Bret Easton Ellis and Nicholas Jarecki): A drama based on Bret Easton Ellis' novel, set in the 1980s, focusing on wealthy Angelinos consumed by a decadent lifestyle. Cast  Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke. World Premiere

In the Loop/UK (Director  Armando Iannucci; Screenwriters  Armando Iannucci and Jesse Armstrong): A fast-paced film about Britain and America's special relationship in the lead-up to a war no one seems to be able to stop. Cast  Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini, Tom Hollander. World Premiere

Manure/USA (Director  Michael Polish; Screenwriters  Mark Polish and Michael Polish): A comic tale centered on manure salesmen in the early 1960s. Cast  Téa Leoni, Billy Bob Thornton, Kyle MacLachlan. World Premiere

Mary and Max/Australia (Director and Screenwriter  Adam Elliot): The tale of two unlikely pen pals  Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York. Cast  Philip Seymour Hoffman (voice):, Toni Collette (voice):, Barry Humphries (voice):. World Premiere, Opening Night Film

The Messenger/USA (Director  Oren Moverman; Screenwriters  Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman): Two soldiers from different generations form a unique bond as they cope with their assignment with the Army Casualty Notification department. Cast  Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, Jena Malone, Eamonn Walker. World Premiere

Moon/UK (Director  Duncan Jones; Screenwriter  Nathan Parker): Before returning to Earth after three years on the moon, things go horribly wrong for astronaut Sam Bell. Cast  Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey. World Premiere

Motherhood/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Katherine Dieckmann): A mother of two from Manhattan is having a day that would challenge even the toughest maternal multi-tasker. Cast  Uma Thurman, Minnie Driver, Anthony Edwards. World Premiere

Rudo and Cursi (Rudo y Cursi):/Mexico (Director and Screenwriter  Carlos Cuarón): Two siblings rival each other inside the world of professional soccer. Cast  Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, Guillermo Francella. U.S. Premiere

Shrink/USA (Director  Jonas Pate; Screenwriter  Thomas Moffett): Unable to come to grips with a recent personal tragedy, Los Angeles' top celebrity psychiatrist loses faith in his ability to help his patients. Cast  Kevin Spacey, Keke Palmer, Mark Webber, Dallas Roberts, Saffron Burrows. World Premiere

Spread/USA (Director  David Mackenzie; Screenwriter  Jason Dean Hall): A handsome young man survives in Los Angeles by seducing wealthy older women. Cast  Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche. World Premiere

A tribute to the abundance of compelling new voices and the creative spirit in independent filmmaking, the Spectrum program presents out-of-competition dramatic and documentary films from some of the most promising filmmakers in the world today.

Dramatic films screening in Spectrum are 

Against the Current/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Peter Callahan): Facing the anniversary of his pregnant wife's tragic death, thirty-five-year old Paul Thompson enlists the help of two friends to help him swim the length of the Hudson River. Cast  Joseph Fiennes, Justin Kirk, Elizabeth Reaser, Mary Tyler Moore, Michelle Trachtenberg. World Premiere

The Anarchist's Wife (La Mujer del Anarquista):/Germany/Spain (Directors  Marie Noelle and Peter Sehr; Screenwriters  Marie Noelle and Ray Loriga): During the Spanish Civil War an idealistic young lawyer combating Franco's Fascist troops is separated from his wife and children. Cast  Maria Valverde, Juan Diego Botto, Nina Hoss, Ivana Baquero, Jean-Marc Barr. North American Premiere

Barking Water/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Sterlin Harjo): Irene and Frankie have had a tumultuous relationship for forty years. As Frankie lies on his deathbed, Irene comes back to him one last time to break him from the hospital and take him home. Cast  Richard Ray Whitman, Casey Camp- Horenik. World Premiere

Children of Invention/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Tze Chun): Two young children living illegally in a model apartment outside Boston are left to fend for themselves when their mother is arrested for unwittingly taking part in an illegal pyramid scheme. Cast  Cindy Cheung, Michael Chen, Crystal Chiu. World Premiere

Everything Strange and New/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Frazer Bradshaw): Trapped by a life he never intended, a man struggles to navigate family, sexuality and drug addiction. Cast  Jerry McDaniel, Beth Lisick, Rigo Chacon Jr., Luis Saguar. World Premiere

Helen/Canada/Germany (Director and Screenwriter  Sandra Nettelbeck): A successful music professor fights her own clinical depression. Cast  Ashley Judd, Goran Visnijic. World Premiere

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle/USA (Director and Screenwriter  David Russo): After losing his high-paying job, Dory takes a gig as a night janitor in order to pay rent. Alone late at night inside a market research firm, he discovers something worse than his new job cleaning toilets - a conniving corporate executive has made him the subject of a bizarre experiment. Cast  Marshall Allman, Vince Vieluf, Natasha Lyonne, Tania Raymonde, Tygh Runyan. World Premiere

Johnny Mad Dog/France (Director  Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire; Screenwriters  Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire and Jacques Fieschi): A fifteen-year-old kid-soldier fighting in Africa is armed to the hilt and inhabited by the mad dog he dreams of becoming. Cast  Christophe Minie, Daisy Victoria Vandy. North American Premiere

La Mission/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Peter Bratt): A traditional, Latino father in San Francisco's Mission District struggles to come to terms with his teenage son's homosexuality. Cast  Benjamin Bratt, Erika Alexander, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Talisa Soto Bratt, Jesse Borrego. World Premiere

Lymelife/USA. (Director  Derick Martini; Screenwriters  Derick Martini and Steven Martini): Set in the 1970s, a unique take on the dangers of the American dream seen through the innocent eyes of a fifteen- year-old boy. Cast  Alec Baldwin, Kieran Culkin, Timothy Hutton, Cynthia Nixon, Emma Roberts. U.S. Premiere

The Missing Person/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Noah Buschel): Private detective John Rosow is hired to tail a man on a train from Chicago to Los Angeles. En route, Rosow uncovers that the man's identity is one of the thousands presumed dead after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Cast  Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan, Frank Wood. World Premiere

Once More with Feeling/USA (Director  Jeff Lipsky; Screenwriter  Gina O'Brien):A comedy about a psychiatrist who undergoes a midlife crisis and pursues his long-lost ambition of becoming a singer through karaoke. Cast  Drea de Matteo, Linda Fiorentino, Chazz Palminteri, Susan Misner, Lauren Bittner. World Premiere

The Only Good Indian/USA (Director  Kevin Willmott; Screenwriter  Tom Carmody): Set in early 1900s Kansas, a teenage Native American boy is taken from his family and forced to attend an Indian  training  school to assimilate into White society. Cast  Wes Studi, Winter Fox Frank, J. Kenneth Campbell. World Premiere

Pomegranates and Myrrh (Al Mor wa al Rumman):/Palestinian Territories (Director and Screenwriter  Najwa Najjar): The wife of a Palestinian prisoner searches for freedom. Cast  Ali Suliman, Yasmine Al Massri, Ashraf Farah, Hiam Abbass. North American Premiere

The Vicious Kind/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Lee Toland Krieger): Suffering insomnia and testy by nature, Caleb Sinclaire reluctantly picks up his brother Peter at college and brings him and his new girlfriend Emma home to his estranged father's house for Thanksgiving. Cast  Brittany Snow, Adam Scott, J.K. Simmons, Alex Frost. World Premiere

World's Greatest Dad/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Bobcat Goldthwait): A comedy about a high school poetry teacher who learns that the things you want most may not be the things that make you happy. Cast  Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, Alexie Gilmore, Tom Kenny, Geoffrey Pierson. World Premiere

The films screening in Spectrum  Documentary Spotlight are 

It Might Get Loud/USA (Director  Davis Guggenheim): The history of the electric guitar from the point of view of three legendary rock musicians. Cast  The Edge, Jimmy Page, Jack White. U.S. Premiere

No Impact Man/USA (Directors  Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein): The documentary follows the Beavan family as they abandon their high consumption Fifth Avenue lifestyle in an attempt to make a no- net environmental impact for the course of one year. Cast  Michelle Conlin, Colin Beavan. World Premiere

Passing Strange/USA (Director  Spike Lee; Lyrics  Stew; Music  Stew and Heidi Rodewald): A musical documentary about the international exploits of a young man from Los Angeles who leaves home to find himself and 'the real'. A theatrical stage production of the original Tony-Award winning book by Stew. Cast  De Adre Aziza, Daniel Breaker, Eisa Davis, Colman Domingo, Stew. World Premiere

Tyson/USA (Director  James Toback): An intimate look at the complex life of former heavyweight
champ Mike Tyson. Cast  Mike Tyson. North American Premiere

Why We Laugh  Black Comedians on Black Comedy/USA (Director  Robert Townsend; Quincy Newell): Using rare archival clips along with provocative interviews with many of today's leading comedians and social critics, Why We Laugh celebrates the incredible cultural influence and social impact black comedy has wielded over the past 400 years. Cast  Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Steve Harvey, Dick Gregory. World Premiere

Wounded Knee/USA (Director  Stanley Nelson; Screenwriter  Marcia Smith): In 1973, American Indian groups took over the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota to draw attention the 1890 massacre. Though the federal government failed to keep many of the promises that ended the siege, the event succeeded in bringing to the world's attention the desperate conditions of Indian reservation life. World Premiere

The Yes Men Fix the World/France/ USA (Directors  Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno and Kurt Engfehr): A pair of notorious troublemakers sneak into corporate events disguised as captains of industry, then use their momentary authority to expose the biggest criminals on the planet. Cast  Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno. World Premiere

Park City at Midnight offers eight films that are likely to amuse, surprise, or shock the bleary-eyed viewer and offer a lively last stop in the nightly film-going circuit.

The films screening in Park City at Midnight this year are 

Black Dynamite/USA (Director  Scott Sanders; Screenwriters  Michael Jai White, Scott Sanders, and Byron Minns): When  The Man  murders his brother, pumps heroin into local orphanages, and floods the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor, 1970s African-American action legend Black Dynamite is the one hero willing to take him on. Cast  Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Byron Minns, James McManus. World Premiere

The Carter/USA (Director  Adam Bhala Lough): An in-depth, intimate look at the artist Dwayne  Lil' Wayne  Carter Jr, proclaimed by many as the  greatest rapper alive  Cast  Lil' Wayne, Brian Williams, Cortez Bryant. World Premiere

Død Snø (Dead Snow):/Norway (Director  Tommy Wirkola; Screenwriters  Tommy Wirkola and Stig Frode Henriksen): A group of teenagers had all they needed for a successful ski vacation; cabin, skis, snowmobile, toboggan, copious amounts of beer and a fertile mix of the sexes. Certainly, none of them anticipated not returning home alive! However, the Nazi-zombie battalion haunting the mountains had other plans. Cast  Vegard Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Jenny Skavlan, Jeppe Beck Laursen. North American Premiere

Grace/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Paul Solet): After losing her unborn child, Madeline Matheson insists on carrying the baby to term. Following the delivery, the child miraculously returns to life, but when the baby develops a desperate appetite for human blood, Madeline is faced with a mother's ultimate decision. Cast  Jordan Ladd, Samantha Ferris, Gabrielle Rose, Malcom Stewart, Stephen Park, Serge Houde. World Premiere

The Killing Room/USA (Director  Jonathan Liebesman; Screenwriters  Gus Krieger and Ann Peacock): Four individuals sign up for a psychological research study only to discover that they are now subjects of a brutal, classified government program. Cast  Chloe Sevigny, Peter Stormare, Clea DuVall, Timothy Hutton, Nick Cannon. World Premiere

Mystery Team/USA (Director  Dan Eckman; Screenwriters  Dominic Dierkes, Donald Glover, and DC Pierson): A group of kid detectives called The Mystery Team struggle to solve a double murder to prove they can be real detectives before they graduate from high school. Cast  Dominic Dierkes, D.C. Pierson, Donald Glover, Aubrey Plaza, Bobby Moynihan. World Premiere

Spring Breakdown/USA (Director  Ryan Shiraki; Screenwriters  Ryan Shiraki and Rachel Dratch):  Three thirtysomething friends attempt to break the monotony of their uninspired lives by vacationing at a popular spring break getaway for college students. Cast  Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler, Parker Posey, Will Arnett, Rachel Hamilton. World Premiere

White Lightnin'/ UK (Director  Dominic Murphy; Screenwriters  Shane Smith and Eddy Moretti): The outrageous cult story of Jesco White, the dancing outlaw. Cast  Ed Hogg, Carrie Fisher, Muse Watson, Wallace Merck, Clay Steakley. World Premiere

The Festival's Frontier section explores the experimental world of filmmaking. Utilizing new directions in filmmaking and innovative aesthetic approaches, work in the Frontier category challenges and provokes audiences.

Lunch Break/Exit/USA (Director  Sharon Lockhart): Lunch Break and Exit yield from Lockhart's timely new film and photographic series about the bleak state of U.S. labor. In Lunch Break, a single tracking shot through a long corridor where workers take their lunch hour at the massive shipyard, Bath Iron Works in Maine, reveals how 42 workers spend their lunch break. In Exit, the frame constantly fills with teaming workers each day as they head for home after a long day s work.

O'er the Land/USA (Director  Deborah Stratman): A meditation on our national psyche and the milieu of elevated threat,  O'er the Land  addresses gun culture, national identity, wilderness, consumption, patriotism and the possibility of personal transcendence.

Stay the Same Never Change/USA (Director and Screenwriter  Laurel Nakadate): A mix of visual fact and narrative fiction starring a group of amateur actors in Kansas City. Whether it's a family man looking for beauty or a young woman obsessed with polar bears and Oprah, the characters in this humorous film reveal quiet lives full of sadness and desire. Cast  Dirk Cowan, Julie Potratz, Emily Boullear, Cyan Meeks, Tate Buck. World Premiere

Where is Where?/(Director  Eija Liisa-Ahtila):Where is Where? is an experimental, four channel film based on an incident which happened during the struggle for independence in Algeria. As a reaction to the acts of violence committed by the French, two young Algerian boys murder their friend, a French boy of the same age. The film starts from the present day when the Death enters the house of a poet who is attempting to write about the incident. World Premiere

Artist Spotlight  The Works of Maria Marshall/USA (Director  Maria Marshall): Maria Marshall's disturbing and gorgeously composed video projections provoke the psychological dimensions of cinema. Often violent and always visually charming, Marshall often uses her two sons in the main roles of her films. Her work tackles fundamental subjects of motherhood, socialization and life experience and takes us back to the world of childhood as a pretext in order to evoke the anxiety of adults.

You Won't Miss Me/USA (Director  Ry Russo-Young): A portrait of a modern day rebel, Shelly Brown, a twenty-three year-old alienated urban misfit recently released from a psychiatric hospital. Cast  Stella Schnabel, Rene Ricard. World Premiere


For the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, 118 feature-length films were selected including 89 world premieres, 17 North American premieres, and 4 U.S. premieres representing 21 countries with 42 first- time filmmakers, including 28 in competition. These films were selected from 3,661 feature- length film submissions composed of 1,905 U.S. and 1,756 international feature-length films.

2009 Sundance Film Festival Sponsors
The 2009 Sundance Film Festival Sponsors help sustain not only the Festival but also the year-round programs of the non-profit Sundance Institute. Their support is crucial to the Institute's mission of nurturing independent artists, inspiring risk-taking, and encouraging diversity in the arts. This year's Festival Sponsors include  Presenting Sponsors - Entertainment Weekly, HP and Honda; Leadership Sponsors - American Express, Delta Air Lines, DIRECTV, Google, Microsoft Corporation and; Sustaining Sponsors - Blockbuster Inc., FilterForGood, a partnership between Brita and Nalgene, the National Milk Mustache  got milk?  Campaign, Le Tourment Vert Absinthe Francaise, L Oréal Paris, The New York Times, Ray-Ban, Sony Electronics, Inc., Stella Artois, Timberland, and Utah Film Commission. Sundance Channel is the Official Television Network of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival is the premier showcase for U.S. and international independent film, held each January in and around Park City, Utah. Presenting approximately 120 dramatic and documentary feature-length films in seven distinct categories and between 60 and 80 short films each year, the Sundance Film Festival has introduced American audiences to some of the most ground-breaking films of the past two decades, including sex lies and videotape, Maria Full of Grace, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, An Inconvenient Truth, Trouble the Water and Central Station.

Sundance Institute
Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, Sundance Institute is a not-for-profit organization that fosters the development of original storytelling in film and theatre, and presents the annual Sundance Film Festival. Internationally recognized for its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, film composers, playwrights and theatre artists, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Angels in America, Spring Awakening, Boys Don't Cry and Born into Brothels.


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Gregg Schwenk is a writer, educator, and entrepreneur. He reports on a number of various subjects including: film, art, technology and politics. Mr. Schwenk is an adjunct professor at CSUF's Center for Entertainment and Tourism located in Orange County, California. He is also a consultant and advisor to several entertainment and technology firms. In 2005, Mr. Schwenk was appointed by the US Secretary of Commerce, to the District Export Council. He has a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and completed the Advanced Management Program at USC.

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