The latest edition of Sundance Film Festival concluded recently. I watched the following movies sitting at my home, movies which have won awards in some previous editions of the festival, to celebrate my own Sundance in Andheri Film Festival. It was an extremely rewarding experience because of the following reasons:
- Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995/ USA) by Todd Solondz was the Opening Film of my festival. I've seen coming-of-age dramas or dramedies, but this one was a coming-of-age black comedy. It won the Grand Jury (Dramatic) Prize at Sundance and launched the career of writer-director Todd Solondz ('Happiness', 'Storytelling' and 'Life During Wartime') whose work appears to be really interesting.
- Primer (2004/ USA) by Shane Carruth had won the Grand Jury Prize and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at Sundance. It is unlike any science-fiction movie I have seen and I hardly understood much of it. Shance Carruth wrote, directed, produced, edited and scored for the movie and also played the lead role. He made the film for only $7,000 and it eventually gained a cult status. I have seen Carruth's next film as well, 'Upstream Color' and do not remember much except it was interesting and unique and not too comprehensible as well. A perfect Sundance-kinda guy!
- The Road Home (2000/ China) by Zhang Yimou is a beautiful romantic-drama that moved me deeply with its simplicity. Also stunningly picturized, the film won Audience Award (World Cinema) at Sundance and went on to win Jury Grand Prix and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Berlin. This was my ninth film by the Chinese master. I should soon watch 'The Story of Qiu Ju' (1992), his most acclaimed work I am yet to see and take that score to 10. 'The Road Home' also was the debut film of actress Zhang Ziyi ('Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon', 'Hero' and 'Memoirs of a Geisha').
- You Can Count on Me (2000/ USA) by Kenneth Lonergan won the Grand Jury and the Script award at Sundance. Featuring a young(er) Mark Ruffalo, as endearing as always, the film went on to earn two Oscar nominations - for actress Laura Linney and for Lonergan's original screenplay. It marked the directorial debut of Lonergan who since then has earned three more Oscar nominations - for co-writing 'Gangs of New York' and for writing-directing the recent 'Manchester by the Sea'.
- The VVitch (2015/ USA-Canada) by Robert Eggers won him the Directing Award at Sundance and established him as the name to look out for after this powerful debut. It will be interesting to see him work in genres other than horror and pick themes that are not as bleak as this atmospheric supernatural film of his. However, I won't mind if he keeps telling the stories of the dark side if he is going to do it so well.
- Frozen River (2008/ USA) by Courtney Hunt went on to win Oscar nominations for Hunt ("Original Screenplay") and actress Melissa Leo after winning the Grand Jury prize at Sundance. The director's second fim came eight years later. 'The Whole Truth' (2016) has not been received too well. Guess I'll wait for Hunt's next.
- The Believer (2001/ USA) by Henry Bean won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance and launched then 20-year old Ryan Gosling as a leading man. A powerful film about a Jewish neo-Nazi, it was the kind of drama I love to watch, introducing me to worlds I was not too aware of. This has been a common feature among these movies - showing me new stuff, about life and cinema, and 'The Believer' was the perfect Closing Film for my tiny festival.