The 2000 edition of the Sundance Film Festival will see the launch of Phase One of the House of Docs. Hoping to increase awareness of documentary films at the festival, the House will encourage press coverage and hold workshops. Phase Two aims for a year-round documentary home at the Sundance Institute.
The Park City, Utah, festival is oft considered to be the best place to premiere an American feature-length documentary. Gaining kudos at Sundance can spell the difference between obscurity and the bright lights of temporary fame. Past prize winners have gone on to win Academy Awards and/or been picked up for theatrical distribution.
The following highlights from this year’s 16 competing documentaries include a mix of alumni and newcomers.
New to the festival is first-time director Marc Singer with Dark Days, a radical look at a community living underground in Manhattan train tunnels. To film the doc, Singer lived with the homeless group for two years, enlisting his subterranean neighbors to work as the film crew. With a soundtrack by DJ Shadow, the film was produced by Singer and Ben Friedman.
Neophyte director/producer James Ronald Whitney tells a very personal tale in Just Melvin, a chronicle of his family’s life with a molesting grandfather.
Emmy Award-winning director/producer Tod S. Lending brings Nomadic Pictures’ Legacy to the festival. Told through the voices of three generations of women, this look at how one family living in the Chicago projects broke the cycle of welfare and violence was produced with financial aid from HBO.
Among the repeat performers are Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, co-directors and coproducers of Paragraph 175, a film examining the Nazi persecution of homosexuals in pink triangle camps. Epstein first came to Sundance in 1985 with his Oscar-winning The Life and Times of Harvey Milk.
The directing team of Susan Todd and Andrew Young return to Sundance with Americanos: Latino Life in the United States, produced by Olmos Productions, which looks at the American Dream through the perspective of the many Latino communities in the U.S.
And directors/producers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato follow up their 1998 Sundance success of PARTY MONSTER: The Michael Alig Story with the World of Wonders production of The Eyes of Tammy Faye, another view of the infamous tele-evangelist. Narrated by RuPaul, the film will be presented by Bailey, Barbato and Tammy Faye Bakker-Messner.