Even for film buffs, it's not always easy to get a read on what to expect from Sundance, what with its plethora of rookie filmmakers and otherwise unknown quantities. But here are at least a few clues to point you toward titles that may ultimately be your cup of tea.
1. Returning Alums. Ever year, at least a few of the slots are filled with films whose directors have already made an appearance at Sundance. For 2013, the dramatic-film returnees include Lynn Shelton (Humpday) with Touchy Feely, James Ponsoldt (Smashed) with The Spectacular Now and Cherien Dabis (Amreeka) with May in the Summer. Documentary familiar faces are Jehane Noujaim (Startup.com, Control Room) with the World Documentary about Egyptian revolutionaries The Square, Kim Longinotto (The Day I Will Never Forget) returns to the plight of Third-World girls in Salma, and Carl Deal and Tia Lessin (Trouble the Water) dig into Republican politics in Citizen Koch. But the standout returnee is Shane Carruth, whose mind-bending 2004 science-fiction time-travel tale Primer has primed viewers for his long-awaited follow-up, Upstream Color.
2. Go by the book. Utahns may already be aware that local author Shannon Hale's novel Austenland is one of the literary adaptations in the 2013 Dramatic Competition lineup, directed by Napoleon Dynamite co-writer Jerusha Hess. But it's not the only one. Check out Tim Tharp's novel The Spectacular Now or the David Sedaris short story "C.O.G." (in his collection Naked) to see if they intrigue you enough to try the movie version.
3. Don't ignore NEXT. The micro-budget sidebar program often gets ignored, but success stories like 2012's Sleepwalk With Me have emerged. Among the known quantities with features in NEXT are "mumblecore" veteran Andrew Bujalski with Computer Chess and Matthew Porterfield with I Used to Be Darker.
4. Think topical. Plenty of people are intrigued by documentaries addressing subjects that are all over the news. The story of a band jailed in Russia gets a showcase in Pussy Riot -- A Punk Prayer, while income inequality is a major part of both 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film and Inequality for All.
More announcements will come today and next week.