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Arts and Entertainment

Homecoming Sundance Style: 2011 Premiere and Documentary Premieres Announced

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Photo by Joey Maloney via Flickr

Photo by Joey Maloney via Flickr
Get ready for the pep rally, root for your team to beat Valley and prepare to pull those pranks on the rival’s because it is homecoming time at the Sundance Film Festival. Not really but with several big name filmmakers making their return to Sundance, it is hard not to get excited to see what many of the festival’s notable alums, now later in their careers, have to say about the world of Independent Cinema. Sidenote: a football team at a school of all filmmakers would most likely be one of the worst teams in history....just sayin’.

Much commentary was made about the apparent lack of “star power” in the announcement of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival’s competition films. However, the films in the Premiere category, just announced this afternoon, look to remedy that. Al Pacino, Channing Tatum, Kevin Spacey, Tracey Morgan, Katie Holmes, Zooey Deschanel, Pierce Brosnan among other name talent will appear on screen in films from the Premiere category.

Generally, the category boasts larger films, usually with distribution secured pre-festival, but that nonetheless have themes and stories that play to the heart of independent cinema and the spirit of the festival. Little Miss Sunshine, The Runaways, Motorcycle Diaries and Alpha Dog are just a few of the films that have made their premieres at Sundance in recent years before going on to larger runs in theaters. As stated before, this year’s selections also mark the return of several notable filmmakers who have helped shape the festival over the past years.

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Kevin Smith, who’s debut film Clerks bowed at Sundance in 1995 and forever changed the independent film world, makes his return to Park City with his newest feature, Red State. A political horror film about a group of misfits who encounter extreme fundamentalism in Middle America. The film stars Michael Parks, Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, John Goodman and Melissa Leo. In an email to Slashfilm, Smith said that he plans “to pick the RED STATE distributor right there - IN THE ROOM - auction style. Might even bring up a professional auctioneer to make it fun and unintelligible.” This would be a welcome change to the usual Q&A session that takes place after most films.

Mark Pellington, who has directed Music Videos for everyone from the Foo Fighters to U2, as well as Arlington Road and ‘08 Sundance selection Henry Poole Is Here, returns with I Melt With You. A film that centers around four friends who gather every year to celebrate their friendship. This year they are unexpectedly forced to confront a forgotten promise they made 25 years earlier. As they examine choices they've made, they realize that what they said they would do with their lives and what they have done are entirely different. Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe, Christian McKay and Carla Gugino star.

In July, Google/Youtube in partnership with Producer Ridley Scott (Gladiator) and Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King Of Scotland) announced an innovative interactive film making challenge, inviting anyone, anywhere on July 24th, 2010 to “film the ordinary -- a sunrise, the commute to work, a neighborhood soccer match, or the extraordinary -- a baby’s first steps, your reaction to the passing of a loved one, or even a marriage.” Life In A Day, the result of the experiment, will be unveiled as a Premere at Sundance.

Closing the festival is a film loaded with top talent. The Son of No One, the story of two men in post-9/11 New York who are forced to relive two murders they committed as young boys. Their lives start to unravel by the threat of the revelation of these shocking and personal secrets. Dino Montiel, yes another returning director, helmed the film that features Al Pacino, Channing Tatum, Katie Holmes, Tracy Morgan, Ray Liotta and Juliette Binoche.

A few notable Sundance Alums return in the Documentary Premiere category, also announced today. Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock returns with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. "A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement is financed and made possible by branding, advertising and product placement."

Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, who made their Sundance debut with the doc Party Monster in 1999 (and also with the feature adaptaion in ‘03, come to Park City with Becoming Chaz. Born biologically female, Chastity Bono invites the viewer into a deeply personal journey as he transitions from female to male, embracing his true self, which is Chaz.

The full list of films in the Premiere and Documentary Premiere Categories can be viewed HERE.

The Sundance Film Festival runs January 20-30 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.