Sundance 2013 Finding Your Level | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Sundance 2013 Finding Your Level 

How to find your kind of films at Sundance

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Level 1:
Prince Avalanche (Premieres)

David Gordon Green needs to get back some indie cred, and Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch might help him do it. The director transitioned from the masterful poetry of George Washington and All the Real Girls to the raunchy pot comedy Pineapple Express. Then his latest two efforts—The Sitter and Your Highness—were met with considerably less enthusiasm. Hopefully he rediscovered his immense talent while making this humorous character study about two highway road workers.

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Level 2:
Crystal Fairy (World Dramatic)

If anyone can help Michael Cera get away from his trademark cute-and-awkward roles, Chilean director Sebastián Silva—the 2009 World Dramatic Competition Grand Prize winner The Maid, and 2010’s Old Cats—is a good bet to do it. He has a gift for inspiring excellent performances while creating sly, funny examinations of human nature. On Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Cera described this road movie as “kind of meandering” in its study of two Americans who travel Chile together. Cera and Silva also collaborated on the darker Magic Magic, in the Park City at Midnight category.

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Level 3:
Hell Baby (Midnight)

If most of the horror films in the Midnight section look a little too frightening, this exorcism comedy starring Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb might temper the scares with laughs. Writers/directors/actors Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon worked on the ’90s sketch-comedy show The State and Comedy Central’s Reno 911. Erstwhile collaborators like Michael Ian Black also appear in this tale of a couple in New Orleans who bring in a crack team from the Vatican to save their demonic baby.

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Level 1:
S-VHS (Midnight)

Indie or mainstream, all horror hits get a sequel. And so Sundance 2012’s Midnight discovery V/H/S—which had a theatrical release locally—continues with another collection of short, faux-found-footage horror stories. Those who didn’t care much for the first film can still be hopeful; there are several new filmmakers contributing to this one.

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Level 2:
We Are What We Are (Midnight)

If you like to go into a horror movie knowing what you’re getting, here’s one with a tested story and a tested director. We Are What We Are is a remake of the 2010 Mexican film by Jorge Michel Grau, about a family that tries to continue its cannibalistic rituals after its patriarch dies. A couple years back, director Jim Mickle made the apocalyptic vampire tale Stake Land, so horror junkies may be familiar with his work.

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Level 3:
Charlie Victor Romeo (New Frontier)

The 1999 play Charlie Victor Romeo depicted doomed lives in crashing airplanes. Its script came only from black-box transcripts, without sensationalism or augmented drama. Now, Robert Berger and Karlyn Michelson are trying to bring the terror to the cinema with stereoscopic 3-D recreations of the crashes. The question is, have they created a truly unique 3-D experience or just another 2-D film with debris flying in your face?

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Level 1:
The Gatekeepers (Spotlight)

Instead of guessing which Sundance entries might be up for Oscars next year, see one that already received a nomination this year. Dror Moreh’s engaging documentary revolves around Shin Bet, Israel’s anti-terrorist apparatus. In rare interviews, several of the organization’s past leaders discuss the strategic, political and social implications of their work. Some of the interviewees received vehement criticism during their terms, and it’s fascinating to hear their side of the story and thoughts on how Shin Bet’s policies have shaped Israeli-Palestinian relations.

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Level 2:
99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film (U.S. Documentary)

The Occupy movement was often criticized for its inability to communicate a cohesive, consistent message. Cue this documentary with footage from a huge range of sources, which examines the nationwide movement against out-of-control corporate power. The film’s four directors face a big challenge in weaving together content created by filmmakers from around the country; the publicity used to say “over 60” filmmakers, now the tally is a convenient 99. If they get a grasp on this varied movement that refused to be streamlined, it’ll be one hell of a collaboration. 

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Level 3:
Fire in the Blood (World Documentary)

Years after drug cocktails brought the AIDS virus under control in the United States, millions continued to die in Third World countries while pharmaceutical companies blocked low-cost drugs. First-time director Dylan Mohan Gray, from India, traveled the globe to tell the story of the people who fought to halt the growing death count. This is an ambitious topic for an unestablished director, but if done well it could have a big emotional payoff.

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Also in Sundance Film Festival 2013 Guide:

By the Book: What to expect from films based on source material

Track Records: Let directors' previous works guide you

Music Makers: Who's playing Sundance this year

Slamdance: Carving out its own Park City space

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