Thursday, December 3, 2009


The Sundance FIlm Festival, a.k.a. the golden ticket of independent filmmaking, recently announced the complete roster for its upcoming 2010 edition. It includes a good number of Latino films from the U.S., as well as Spanish and Latin American fare. Even Colombia and Bolivia (the latter rarely, if ever, has a film in the festival). Here are all the selected films by category:


Secrets of the Tribe/Brazil (Director: José Padilha)—Scandal and infighting abound in the academic Anthropology community regarding the representation and exploitation of indigenous Indians in the Amazon Basin. World Premiere

Sins of My Father/Argentina,Colombia (Director: Nicolas Entel)—The life and times of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar are recounted through the eyes of his son, who fled Colombia to move beyond his father’s legacy. North American Premiere (I'm pulling for this one since my good friend Juan Aceves did the sound work on it!)


Contracorriente (Undertow)/Colombia, France, Germany, Peru (Director and screenwriter: Javier Fuentes-Leon)—An unusual ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside, a married fisherman struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his town’s rigid traditions. Cast: Cristian Mercado, Manolo Cardona, Tatiana Astengo North American Premiere

The Man Next Door (El Hombre de al Lado)/Argentina (Directors and Screenwriters: Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat)—A small incident over two neighbors common wall sparks a conflict which affects the intimacy of the view over the chimney; the protagonist sparks a conflict and with a paranoiac obsession destroys everyday life. Cast: Rafael Spregelburd, Daniel Araoz, Eugenia Alonso, Ines Budassi, Lorenza Acuna. International Premiere

Me Too (Yo también)/Spain (Directors and screenwriters: Álvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro)—A 34-year-old college-educated man with Down syndrome and his free-spirited co-worker forge an unconventional relationship. Cast: Pablo Pineda, Lola Dueñas, Antonio Naharro, Isabel Garcia Lorca, Pedro Alvarez Ossorio. International Premiere

Southern District (Zona Sur)/Bolivia (Director and screenwriter: Juan Carlos Valdivia)—In La Paz, Bolivia, in a villa surrounded by beautiful gardens, an upper-class family experiences final halcyon days of luxury as social change penetrates their bubble. Cast: Ninón del Castillo, Pascual Loayza, Nicolás Fernández, Juan Pablo Koria, Mariana Vargas. North American Premiere


Abel/Mexico (Director: Diego Luna; Screenwriters: Diego Luna and Agusto Mendoza)—A peculiar young boy, blurring reality and fantasy, assumes the responsibilities of a family man in his father’s absence. Cast: José María Yazpik, Karina Gidi, Carlos Aragon, Christopher Ruiz-Esparza, Gerardo Ruiz-Esparza.. World Premiere


Memories of Overdevelopment / USA (Director and Screenwriter: Miguel Coyula)—Live action mixes with animation and newsreel footage of historical events to form a collage that emulates the way personal memory works for a misanthropic Cuban intellectual. An adaptation of a novel by Cuban author Edmundo Desnoes. Cast: Ron Blair. World Premiere

Oddsac/USA (Director: Danny Perez)—Perez)—An earthy, psychedelic experimental narrative infused with the band, Animal Collective’s aural and musical sensibilities. World Premiere


Buried/Spain,USA (Director: Rodrigo Cortes; Screenwriter: Chris Sparling)—A U.S. contractor working in Iraq awakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap. Cast: Ryan Reynolds. World Premiere


Mother & Child/USA/Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Rodrigo García)—The lives of three women—a physical therapist, the daughter she gave up at birth three decades ago, and an African American woman seeking to adopt a child of her own intersect in surprising ways. Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Naomi Watts, David Morse, Annette Bening, Amy Brenneman U.S. Premiere
This year, Sundance decided to start a new category called "Next" to highlight films made on microbudgets that were being left out in previous editions of the festivals. The criticism that I've heard time and time again from filmmakers is that if your submission is unsolicited it's practically impossible to get into Sundance. In other words, without an agent or a friend with power in Hollywood your film doesn't stand a chance. Presumably, the films included in the "Next" category came from average Joes with no connections. But is that enough for Sundance to combat their elitist reputation? Looking at the competition categories, there are a number of films that easily exceed the $1 million dollar budget mark. The question is, why do they need to make special categories for lower-budget films? Does the quality and artistry of a film really depend on the money required to make it? I think Sundance still needs to do more. For starters, how about publishing a list that lets the public know which films were selected via regular submissions versus the ones that were pushed by rep agencies like Cinetic. Until there's more transparency, Sundance will remain, at least in my mind, an exclusive playground for a select few.

1. Sundance Film Festival marquee
2. Poster: "Los pecados de mi padre" ("The Sins of My Father")
3. "Zona Sur" ("Southern District")
4. "Mother and Child"