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Dance card fills up with star vehicles

Category: Dear Frankie News
Article Date: December 3, 2003 | Publication: Daily Variety | Author: TODD McCARTHY
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A diverse assortment of American and international pictures fills out the star-laden Premieres section of the Sundance Film Festival, while some new works from seldom-represented nations dot the extensive World Cinema and World Documentary categories.

The Jan. 15 opening-night feature, which will unspool for the first time at the Eccles Theater in Park City rather than in Salt Lake City, will be Stacy Peralta's "Riding Giants," a look at three generations of surfing pioneers beginning in the '50s. Peralta's previous feature, hit skateboard docu "Dogtown and Z-Boys," debuted at Sundance in 2001, and "Giants" is the first doc selected for fest's opening slot.

Set for the Salt Lake City preem the following night is director Chris Eyre's "Edge of America," an inspirational cross-cultural story about a black high school teacher who begins coaching a Native American girls basketball team on a reservation. Eyre's previous pics, "Smoke Signals" and "Skins," also bowed at Sundance.

Other notable Premieres section entries are Walter Salles' "The Motorcycle Diaries," toplining Gael Garcia Bernal as Che Guevara on the road in 1954; Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial "The Dreamers"; the thriller "The Butterfly Effect," starring Ashton Kutcher; Brad Anderson's dark character study "The Machinist," starring Christian Bale; Matthew Bright's comic "Tiptoes," in which Gary Oldman plays a dwarf; Michael Clancy's offbeat comedy "Eulogy," with Hank Azaria, Jesse Bradford and Zooey Deschanel; Tom Cairns' study of marital dissolution, "Marie and Bruce," co-starring Julianne Moore and Matthew Broderick; and Angela Robinson's "D.E.B.S.," a high-camp lesbian takeoff on "Charlie's Angels."

Rare finds

World Cinema section will present global bows of pictures from such little-heard-from countries as the Congo, Guatemala and Peru as well as new works from Cuba, Burkina Faso, Thailand, Singapore and numerous other nations.

Lineup for the Special Screenings section will be announced in the next couple of days.

PREMIERES

? "Bright Young Things," British writer-director Stephen Fry's adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel "Vile Bodies," about society and scandal in the early '30s, with an ensemble cast including Emily Mortimer, Stephen Campbell Moore, James McAvoy, Michael Sheen, Fenella Woolgar, Peter O'Toole, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Broadbent. Premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.

? "The Butterfly Effect," written and directed by J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress, a thriller about a man fighting personal demons that deals with chaos theory. Ashton Kutcher, who exec produced, stars alongside Eric Stoltz and Amy Smart. A New Line Cinema release.

? "D.E.B.S.," written and directed by Angela Robinson and based on her short film that previously showed at Sundance. This highly stylized sendup of "Charlie's Angels" features lots of digital effects backing up Sara Foster, Jordana Brewster, Meagan Goode, Devon Aoki, Jill Ritchie, Jimmie Simpson, Geoff Stultz, Holland Taylor and Michael Clark Duncan. It's a Screen Gems release.

? "Dear Frankie," directed by Shona Auerbach and written by Andrea Gibb, a Scottish film about a mother who invents a make-believe parent for her deaf son. Miramax release toplines Emily Mortimer, Gerard Butler and Jack McElhone.

? "The Dreamers," directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and adapted by Gilbert Adair from his novel, a sexually hot look at three young cinephiles, an American guy and a French brother and sister, set in Paris during the political upheavals of 1968. Michael Pitt, Eva Green, Louis Garrel and Robin Renucci star in this Fox Searchlight release, which has been trimmed to qualify for an R rating since its Venice Film Festival premiere.

? "Edge of America," directed by Chris Eyre and written by Wally Holtzman, has a black coach making winners out of the girls basketball team on an Indian reservation. Utah-shot feature stars James McDaniel, Irene Bedard, Tim Daly and Wes Studi. A Showtime production.

? "Employee of the Month," directed by Mitch Rouse and written by Rouse and Jay Leggets, a comedy caper toplining Steve Zahn as a man who loses his home, job and fiancee within 24 hours. Also stars Matt Dillon and Christina Applegate.

? "Eulogy," written and directed by Michael Clancy, an offbeat ensemble comedy about three generations of a dysfunctional family gathered to attend a grandfather's funeral. With Hank Azaria, Jesse Bradford, Zooey Deschanel, Glenne Headly, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Kelly Preston, Ray Romano, Rip Torn and Debra Winger. A Lions Gate Films release.

? "Gettin' the Man's Foot Outta Your Baadasssss!," directed by Mario Van Peebles and written by Dennis Haggerty and Van Peebles, a look by the younger Van Peebles at the making of father Melvin's groundbreaking indie film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song." Features Mario Van Peebles, Cleo Khlio Thomas, T.K. Carter, Ossie Davis and Nia Long. Sony Pictures Classics release was first shown at the Toronto Film Festival under the title "How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass!"

? "Iron Jawed Angels," directed by Katja Von Garnier ("Bandits") and written by Sally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, Raymond Singer and Jennifer Friedes. This HBO Films offering tells the true story of the suffragists in early 20th-century U.S. whose struggle resulted in the 23rd Amendment giving women the right to vote. With Hilary Swank, Frances O'Connor, Julia Ormond, Anjelica Huston, Molly Parker, Bob Gunton, Patrick Dempsey, Laura Fraser, Brooke Smith, Vera Farmiga, Lois Smith, Margo Martindale and Joseph Adams.

? "Love in Thoughts," directed by Achim von Borries and written by Hendrik Handloegten and von Borries, a German feature about the complicated romantic relationships among four high school students in 1920s Berlin. Toplines Daniel Bruehl, August Diehl, Anna Maria Muehe, Jana Pallaske and Thure Lindhardt.

? "The Machinist," directed by Brad Anderson and written by Scott Alan Kosar, a Spanish-U.S. co-production about a man's search for meaning in the wake of a severe trauma. Dark, stylized work stars Christian Bale, who lost more than 50 pounds for the role, alongside Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, John Sharian and Michael Ironside.

? "Marie and Bruce," directed by Tom Cairns and adapted by Wallace Shawn and Cairns from Shawn's play, which looks at the day on which a woman decides to leave her husband. Julianne Moore, Matthew Broderick, Bob Balaban, Julie Hagerty and Griffin Dunne star in the Manhattan Films release.

? "The Motorcycle Diaries," directed by Walter Salles and written by Jose Rivera, a Spanish-language U.S.-U.K. co-production taken from the journals written by Che Guevara during his eye-opening journeys with companion Alberto Granado in 1954. Stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo De La Serna, Ulises Durmont and Facundo Espinosa.

? "Never Die Alone," directed by Ernest Dickerson and written by James Gibson and Donald Goines from the latter's 1974 novel, an investigation by a reporter into the death of a young drug-dealing gangster. Genre exercise from Fox Searchlight stars Jennifer Sky, David Arquette and DMX.

? "Redemption," directed by Vondie Curtis Hall, stars Jamie Foxx as the founder of L.A. gang the Crips, who underwent a spiritual change in prison, and Lynn Whitfield as the novelist who helps him.

? "Riding Giants," directed by Stacy Peralta and written by Peralta and Sam George, the story of surfing from the '50s through today. This documentary look at risk-taking and cultural mythology features Laird Hamilton, Greg Noll and Jeff Clark.

? "The Saddest Music in the World," directed by Guy Maddin and written by Kazuo Ishiguro, Maddin and George Toles. Highly stylized Canadian pic imagines an international contest in Winnipeg during the Great Depression to determine the source of the strains of the title. This IFC release, which preemed at Toronto, stars Mark McKinney, Isabella Rossellini, Maria de Medeiros, David Fox and Ross McMillan.

? "Saved," directed by Brian Dannelly and written by Dannelly and Michael Urban, is an oddball dark comedy about transgressive behavior, including a girl's pregnancy, at a small Baptist high school. MGM release from United Artists features Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit and Mary-Louise Parker.

? "Tiptoes," directed by Matthew Bright and written by Bill Weiner, a "dwarfs comedy" about a full-sized couple with dwarfism in their genes deciding about having a baby. Stars Gary Oldman, Kate Beckinsale, Matthew McConaughey and Patricia Arquette. Previously shown at the Deauville Film Festival.

? "Touch of Pink," written and directed by Ian Iqhal Rashid, a "Topper"-esque comedy about a young gay Muslim who moves from London to Toronto and receives coaching from the ghost of Cary Grant, played by Kyle MacLachlan, about how to deal with his conservative mother and the Muslim community.

? "Trauma," directed by Marc Evans and written by Richard Smith, starring Colin Firth in a tortured man's search for his wife. British production features Mena Suvari and Brenda Fricker.

? "Sky Blue," directed by Moon-saeng Kim, a long-in-the-works South Korean animated feature previously known as "Wonderful Days." Futuristic piece uses innovative toon techniques to tell a story of the threat to humanity during an epic struggle to regain a great love.

? "Zatoichi," directed by Takeshi Kitano, a resurrection of the legendary blind swordsman in a bloody actioner from the Japanese auteur. Miramax release stars Kitano, Tadanobu Asano, Michiyo Ogusu, Yui Natsukawa and Guadalcanal Taka.

MIDNIGHT

? "Azumi," directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, a Japanese swordfighting epic about children trained by the Tokugawa shogun to become the ultimate assassins.

? "Grand Theft Parsons," directed by David Caffrey, a U.S.-U.K. co-production inspired by bizarre true events after the death of musician Gram Parsons. With Johnny Knoxville, Christina Applegate, Robert Forster, Gabriel Macht and Michael Shannon.

? "Haute Tension" (High Tension), directed by Alexandre Aja, a French slasher. Shown at the Toronto Film Festival.

? "Home of Phobia," directed and written by Ryan Shiraki, a "political correctness comedy" about a freshman's unusual approach to negotiating standards at college. Toplines Sam Huntington, Heather Matarazzo, Mike Erwin, Kaitlin Doubleday, Jud Tyler, Rachel Drato and John Goodman.

? "Overnight," directed by Mark Brian Smith, a doc that charts the meteoric rise and catastrophic fall of Troy Duffy, an indie filmmaker who was briefly hot several years ago when he made a film for Miramax, "The Boondock Saints," that was then barely released.

? "The Park," directed by Andrew Lau, an effects-laden 3-D picture from Hong Kong about a young man who searches for a missing brother at the former site of an amusement park.

? "Raspberry Reich," directed and written by Bruce La Bruce, a series of sexual escapades involving a revolutionary East German who plots the downfall of an industrialist.

? "Saw," directed by James Wan, a thriller in which a doctor and a junkie are trapped in a game fashioned by a serial killer. Stars Danny Glover, Carey Elwes and Michael Emerson.

WORLD CINEMA

? "Carandiru," directed by Hector Babenco, dissects life among prisoners at Brazil's notorious prison leading up to a 1992 riot. Sony Pictures Classics release debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.

? "The Con Game," directed and written by Alberto (Chicho) Durant, the world premiere of a Peruvian film about a swindler and seven unscrupulous people who come under his influence.

? "Donau, Duna, Donaj, Dunav, Dunarea," directed by Goran Rebic, an Austrian ensembler that uses a cruise down the Danube to examine the theme of ethnic mixing.

? "15," directed and written by Royston Tan, a tough look at disaffected teens on the fringes of Singaporean society.

? "Good Bye, Lenin!," directed by Wolfgang Becker, the German hit about the son of a comatose East German woman who, when she comes to after the fall of the Berlin Wall, goes to enormous lengths to make it seem that Germany is still divided. Sony Pictures Classics release was premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.

? "A Good Lawyer's Wife," directed and written by Sangsoo Im, a South Korean feature about the changes tragedy wreaks on a young couple who have both taken lovers. Shown at Toronto.

? "La Grande Seduction" (Seducing Doctor Lewis), directed by Jean-Francois Pouliot, about a small Quebec fishing town whose citizens must a find a doctor to move there so that a plastics company will build a factory. The biggest-grossing local film ever in Quebec.

? "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," directed by Mike Hodges and written by Trevor Preston, a British gangster saga about the return to London of a long-absent hitman. Paramount Classics release stars Clive Owen, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Malcolm McDowell and Charlotte Rampling. Screened at Moscow, Edinburgh and Toronto.

? "Le Jardin de papa," directed and written by Zeka Laplaine, a rare feature from the Democratic Repuplic of Congo. A tense, sexy, violent story of political thuggery centered on a young French couple whose inadvertant involvement in an accident while on their honeymoon in Africa sparks political and social tensions in a small town.

? "Kounandi," directed and written by Apolline Traore, a 50-minute film from Burkina Faso about a female dwarf rejected by her native village and a married man.

? "Last Life in the Universe," directed by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, an offbeat tale from Thailand about the relationship of a suicidal Japanese man and a Thai woman. Shown at Toronto.

? "Love by Mistake," directed by Gerardo Chijona, a Spanish-Cuban bedroom farce that offers commentary on contempo conditions in Havana.

? "The Missing Half," directed and written by Benoit Mariage, an eccentric story about a woman pregnant with twins who wants to abort one of them. French drama preemed at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

? "Mon Idole," directed by Guillaume Canet, a big French hit about submission-domination games that ensue when a TV producer invites a young admiring employee over for the weekend.

? "Nina's Tragedies," directed and written by Savi Gavison, an Israeli feature done in a magical realist style in which a 14-year-old boy recounts the myriad woes of his broken family. The top award winner at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

? "The Principles of Lust," directed and written by Penny Woolcock, a highly erotic British drama about an aspiring writer faced with two divergent life-defining choices.

? "Remember Me," directed by Gabriele Muccino, a light Italian comedy about the crises in a middle-class household.

? "The Return," directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, about two brothers in Russia and the journey they take with a man who returns after a long absence and claims to be their father. This Kino Intl. release won the top prize at Venice.

? "Seven Times Lucky," directed and written by Gary B. Yates, a Canadian caper film with many twists about a con man, played by Kevin Pollak, who meets his match in a beautiful grifter.

? "Silence of the Sea," directed and written by Vahid Mousaian, about an Iranian expatriate's thwarted effort to return to his homeland.

? "A Silent Love," directed by Federico Hidalgo, an Argentine living in Montreal, about an Internet marriage between an aging Canadian professor and a young Mexican woman.

? "Silent Waters," directed and written by Sabiha Sumar, a Pakistani feature about a mother and son during the establishment of the Muslim state in 1947 and the imposition of martial law in 1979.

? "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and ... Spring," directed by Kim Ki-duk, the South Korean maverick filmmaker's contemplative tale of a priest and his disciple on a floating monastery during the course of seasons and years. Sony Pictures Classics release was highly acclaimed at Venice and Toronto fests.

? "Stander," directed by Bronwen Hughes, a Canadian-South African-British co-production about a South African policeman who defies the system by setting off a crime spree. A Newmarket release.

? "Take My Eyes," directed by Iciar Bollain, a tale of domestic abuse in a small town in Spain.

? "A Thousand Peace Clouds Encircle the Sky," directed and written by Julian Hernandez, a semi-experimental romantic melodrama about a teenager coping with being gay in the macho world of Mexico City's street life.

? "The Three Step Dancing," directed by Salvatore Mereu, a semi-ethnographic Italian feature that looks at traditions in Sardinia as seen through the four seasons and four separate stories.

? "What Sebastian Dreamt," directed and written by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, a Guatemalan film with a magical tone about the fallout that occurs among locals when a young Spaniard bans hunting on the property he moves into in the rainforest.

WORLD DOCUMENTARY

? "The Basque Game: Skin Against Stone," directed by Spanish feature helmer Julio Medem, an analysis of the very complicated politics on all sides of the Basque separatist movement. A controversial entry at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

? "The Big Durian," directed by Amir Muhammad, a hybrid documentary from Malaysia about the 1987 rampage with an M-16 by a Malaysian soldier in Kuala Lumpur that sparked nationwide panic.

? "The Corporation," directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, an anti-capitalist probe into the increase and consequences of corporate expansion and profiteering. Shown at the Toronto Film Festival.

? "Disbelief," directed by Andrei Nekrasov, whose "Lubov and Other Nightmares" was shown at Sundance in 2002, an analysis of Russian life and politics through the pinning of a Moscow bombing on Chechnyen rebels.

? "The Garden," directed by Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash, which looks at male teen Palestinian prostitutes working the streets of downtown Tel Aviv.

? "Investigation Into the Invisible World," directed by French filmmaker Jean Michel Roux, a very visual piece about the supernatural and the Icelandic belief in elves, ghosts and spirits. Shown at the Toronto fest.

? "Journeyings and Conversations," directed by Arvind Sinha, a verite presentation of the people and activities at Calcutta's Howrah Train Station, one of the busiest in the world.

? "Repatriation," directed by South Korean helmer Kim Dong-won, who spent 10 years compiling this study of North Korean spies who spent up to 30 years in South Korean prisons when they wouldn't renounce their country and were finally repatriated to their homeland.

? "Screaming Men," directed by Mika Ronkainen, a formally conceived Finnish-Danish portrait about the performance art of the Finnish Screaming Male Choir, a black suit-sporting and rubber tie-adorned group that amuses and unnerves auds with screaming renditions of often patriotic tunes.

FRONTIER

? "Below the Belt," directed by Sundance vet Robert M. Young, a post-industrial, pre-apocalyptic, existential comedy about a young man at odds with the multinational life-sucking corporation that employs him. Experimental work is loaded with low-budget digital special effects and stars Xander Berkeley, Tom Bower and Robert Knott.

? "Loma Lynda," directed by Jason Bognacki, a performance piece that creates "emotionally intense and moody soundscapes to interpretive film."

? "Missing," directed by Kang-sheng Lee, a metaphorical story from Taiwan about a grandmother who loses her grandson in a park on the same day that a teenager learns his grandfather is missing.

? "Tarnation," directed by Jonathan Caouette, an autobio video diary by a young gay man forced to return from New York City to his childhood home in rural Texas to care for his schizophrenic mother.

? "War," directed by Jake Mahaffy, a very experimental work about four characters who look for meaning through daily rituals on the disappearing landscape of American family farms.

NATIVE FORUM

? "The Land Has Eyes," directed by Vilsoni Hereniko, from Fiji, about a woman who takes inspiration from a mythological warrior as a way to escape the shame of being the poor daughter of a convicted thief.

? "Ngatahi --- Know the Links," directed by Dean Hapeta, from Aotearoa/New Zealand, a rap-u-mentary about indigenous arts in 10 countries.

? "Our Nationhood," directed by Alanis Obomsawin, from Canada, a feature docu about the historical stand-off between the Listuguj M'igmaq First nation and the Quebecois authorities.

Copyright 2003 Reed Elsevier Inc.

 


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