Canada’s neighbours to the south have had the market cornered on ski resort film festivals since the late 1970s. Now in its 35th year, Park City, Utah’s annual Sundance Film Festival kicks off this week, drawing independent films and filmmakers from around the world to the mountain town.
Sundance has always been an incubator for great American indie flicks, with films like “Clerks,” “Bottle Rocket,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “Precious” all owing their subsequent success (both at the box office and come awards time) to strong showings at the intimate festival.
Canada has had a long history with the festival as well. Maybe it’s the snow or just the laid-back attitude of the fest that draws us there, but Canuck actors and movies have always found a place at Sundance. Last year, Chinese Canadian documentarian Yung Chang’s boxing doc “China Heavyweight” made a splash at the Utah fest, as did Winnipeg-based doc makers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky with their slickly produced video game documentary “Indie Game: The Movie.” The latter film won Sundance’s Best Editing prize and secured the pair a deal with big time Hollywood producer Scott Rudin.
The year 2013 might not be as big for Canadians at the festival, but there are definitely still quite a few actors and projects from the Great White North headed to Sundance this week.
“Crystal Fairy” – “Arrested Development” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” actor (and Brampton, Ont. native) Michael Cera unexpectedly comes to Sundance as the star of the Chilean film “Crystal Fairy.” Cera plays a “boorish American twentysomething” visiting Chile in writer/director Sebastián Silva’s drug-fueled road movie. The goofy Cera (not to be confused with Jesse Eisenberg) will probably never be a leading man in Hollywood (or even Canada for that matter), but kudos to the young comedic actor for consistently working on unconventional projects like this one.
“Stories We Tell” – Although Toronto actor-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley’s latest movie “The Stories We Tell” has already played in limited release across Canada and at a number of international film festivals (Venice, Telluride), the highly personal documentary has yet to have a real venue to shine at south of the 49th parallel. Will Sundance be that place? This year’s fest will mark Polley’s fourth Park City appearance; the filmmaker previous visited Utah with her short films “Don’t Think Twice” and “I Shout Love,” and her feature debut “Away From Her.” In addition to screening “Stories We Tell” multiple times, Polley will also be part of the festival’s anticipated “Imitation of Life” panel next week.
“Le météore” (“Meteor”) - You didn’t really think there would be a film festival with Canadians in attendance who weren’t Quebecois, did you? Montreal’s François Delisle (“2 fois une femme“) is one of two filmmakers from la Belle Province with a movie at Sundance this year. “Meteor” is an experimental drama that links the lives of three people to a single point in time.
“S-VHS” – A U.S.-Canada co-production, “S-VHS” (the follow-up to last year’s horror anthology “V/H/S”) includes a short horror film by “Hobo with a Shotgun” director and Nova Scotia native Jason Eisener.
“When I Walk” – Another American-Canadian co-production, “When I Walk” is 25-year-old director Jason DaSilva’s documentary about living and working with multiple sclerosis.
“Le Futur Proche” (“The Near Future”) – The lone Canadian representative in Sundance’s short film programme, Quebec director Sophie Goyette’s short “The Near Future” follows a pilot whose life is changed by a phone call.
The 35th Sundance Film Festival begins on Jan. 17 in Park City, Utah and runs until Jan. 27.