“Queen of Versailles” to open Sundance 2012

The Sundance Film Festival has unveiled the 16 American documentaries and 12 World Cinema documentaries in competition for 2012, with Lauren Greenfield's The Queen of Versailles (pictured) chosen to be the opening day U.S. documentary.
November 30, 2011

The Sundance Film Festival has unveiled the 16 American documentaries and 12 World Cinema documentaries in competition for 2012, with Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles (pictured) chosen to be the opening day U.S. documentary.

The film’s inclusion in the festival line-up was exclusively revealed by realscreen yesterday, along with the inclusions of The House I Live In, Putin’s Kiss, China Heavyweight, 5 Broken Cameras and The Ambassador, all of which are confirmed today as having made the cut.

Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugar Man, about a 1970s rock icon who disappeared into oblivion, will be the opening day World Cinema documentary. On Sundance’s first day (January 19), the festival screens just one narrative film and one documentary from both the U.S. and World Cinema competitions, as well as one shorts program.

For the 2012 festival, 110 feature-length films were selected in all (including fiction titles), representing 31 countries and 44 first-time filmmakers, including 26 in competition. These films were selected from 4,042 feature-length film submissions composed of 2,059 U.S. and 1,983 international feature-length films. In total, 88 films at the festival will be world premieres.

John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival, said: “In these challenging economic times, filmmakers have had to be more resourceful and truly independent in their approaches to filmmaking.

“Looking at this year’s submissions, the result is more fully realized visions and stronger stories; we are proud to see the Festival emerging as a key indicator of the health and creativity of our filmmaking community. The overall quality of the films in the 2012 Competition section will make for an exciting festival and a remarkable year ahead for independent film audiences everywhere.”

The full list of films in competition, with descriptions provided by Sundance and edited by realscreen, follows:

The world premieres of 16 American documentary films.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry / U.S., China (Director: Alison Klayman) — Renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has garnered international attention as much for his ambitious artwork as his political provocations and increasingly public clashes with the Chinese government.

The Atomic States of America / U.S. (Directors: Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce) — In 2010, the United States announced construction of the first new nuclear power plant in more than 32 years. A year later, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Fukushima Power Plant in Japan sparking a fierce debate in the U.S. over the safety and viability of nuclear power.

Chasing Ice / U.S. (Director: Jeff Orlowski) — Science, spectacle and human passion mix in this stunningly cinematic portrait as National Geographic photographer James Balog captures time-lapse photography of glaciers over several years providing tangible visual evidence of climate change.

DETROPIA /U.S. (Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady) — The woes of Detroit are emblematic of the collapse of the U.S. manufacturing base. This is the dramatic story of a city and its people who refuse to leave the building, even as the flames are rising.

ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare / U.S. (Directors: Matthew Heineman, Susan Froemke) — What can be done to save our broken medical system? Powerful forces are trying to maintain the status quo in a profit-driven medical industry, but a movement to bring innovative methods of prevention and healing is finally gaining ground – potentially saving the health of a nation.

Finding North /U.S. (Directors: Lori Silverbush, Kristi Jacobson) — A crisis of hunger looms in America and is not limited to the poverty stricken and uneducated. Can a return to policies of the 1970s save our future?

The House I Live In / U.S. (Director: Eugene Jarecki) — For over 40 years, the War on Drugs has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet, drugs are cheaper, purer and more available today than ever. Where did we go wrong and what is the path toward healing?

How to Survive a Plague / U.S. (Director: David France) — The untold story of the intensive efforts that turned AIDS into a manageable condition – and the improbable group of (mostly HIV-positive) young men and women whose amazing resilience broke through a time of rampant death and political indifference.

The Invisible War / U.S. (Director: Kirby Dick) — An investigative and powerfully emotional examination of the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the U.S. military, the institutions that cover up its existence and the profound personal and social consequences that arise from it.

Marina Abramović The Artist is Present / U.S. (Director: Matthew Akers) — Marina Abramović prepares for a major retrospective of her work at The Museum of Modern Art in New York hoping to finally silence four decades of skeptics who proclaim: ‘But why is this art?’

ME at the ZOO / U.S. (Directors: Chris Moukarbel, Valerie Veatch) — With 270 million hits to date, Chris Crocker, an uncanny young video blogger from small town Tennessee, is considered the Internet’s first rebel folk hero and at the same time one of its most controversial personalities.

The Other Dream Team / Lithuania, U.S. (Director: Marius Markevicius) — The 1992 Lithuanian National Basketball Team went from the clutches of Communism to the Summer Olympics in Barcelona – a testament to the powerful role of sports as a catalyst for cultural identity.

The Queen of Versailles / U.S. (Director: Lauren Greenfield) — Jackie and David were triumphantly constructing the biggest house in America – a sprawling, 90,000-square-foot palace inspired by Versailles – when their timeshare empire is impacted by the economic crisis.  Their story reveals the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream. (DAY ONE FILM)

Slavery By Another Name / U.S. (Director: Sam Pollard) — As slavery came to an end with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, a new system of involuntary servitude took its place with shocking force, brutalizing, terrorizing and ultimately circumscribing the lives of hundreds of thousands of African Americans well into the 20th century.

Love Free or Die: How the Bishop of New Hampshire is Changing the World / U.S. (Director: Macky Alston) — One man whose two defining passions are in conflict: An openly gay bishop refuses to leave the Church or the man he loves.

We’re Not Broke / U.S. (Directors: Karin Hayes, Victoria Bruce) — As American lawmakers slash budgets and lay off employees, leaving many people scrambling to survive, multibillion-dollar corporations are concealing colossal profits overseas to avoid paying U.S. income tax. Fed-up Americans are taking their frustration to the streets.

Twelve documentaries by some of the most courageous and extraordinary filmmakers working today.

½ REVOLUTION / Denmark (Directors: Omar Shargawi, Karim El Hakim) — In January 2011, two filmmakers captured the reality of the Egyptian revolution as it occurred out of view from the world’s media in the alleyways and streets away from the square – and in the process were arrested by the secret police. North American Premiere

5 Broken Cameras / Palestine, Israel, France (Directors: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi) — A Palestinian journalist chronicles his village’s resistance to a separation barrier being erected on their land and in the process captures his young son’s lens on the world. International Premiere

The Ambassador / Denmark (Director: Mads Brügger) — What happens when a very white European man buys his way into being a diplomat in one of Central Africa’s most failed nations? Welcome to the bizarre and hidden world of African diplomacy, where gin and tonics flow and diamond hustlers and corrupt politicians run free. North American Premiere

BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!* / Sweden (Director: Fredrik Gertten) — The behind-the-scenes story of a full-scale attack on freedom of speech. North American Premiere

China Heavyweight / Canada, China (Director: Yung Chang) — In central China, where a coach recruits poor rural teenagers and turns them into Western-style boxing champions, the top students face dramatic choices as they graduate – should they fight for the collective good or for themselves? A metaphor for the choices everyone in the New China faces now. World Premiere

Gypsy Davy / Israel, U.S., Spain (Director: Rachel Leah Jones) — How does a white boy with Alabama roots become a Flamenco guitarist in Andalusian boots? A tale of self-invention and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of the cost to others. International Premiere

The Imposter / United Kingdom (Director: Bart Layton) — In 1994, a 13-year-old boy disappears from his home in San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half years later he is found alive thousands of miles away in Spain with a shocking story of kidnap and torture. But all is not what it seems in this tale that is truly stranger than fiction. World Premiere

Indie Game: The Movie / Canada (Directors: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky) — Follow the dramatic journeys of indie game developers as they create games and release those works, and themselves, to the world. World Premiere

The Law in These Parts / Israel (Director: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz) — Israel’s 43-year military legal system in the Occupied Palestinian Territories unfolds through provocative interviews with the system’s architects and historical footage showing the enactment of these laws upon the Palestinian population. International Premiere

Payback / Canada (Director: Jennifer Baichwal) — Based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling book, Payback explores how debt is a central organizing principle in our lives – influencing relationships, societies, governing structures and the very fate of this planet. World Premiere

Putin’s Kiss / Denmark (Director: Lise Birk Pedersen) — 19-year-old Marsha is a model spokesperson in a strongly nationalistic Russian youth movement that aims to protect the country from its enemies. When she starts recognizing the organization’s flaws, she must take a stand for or against it. North American Premiere

Searching for Sugar Man / Denmark, United Kingdom (Director: Malik Bendjelloul) — Rodriguez was the greatest ’70s US rock icon who never was. Hailed as the greatest recording artist of his generation he disappeared into oblivion – rising again from the ashes in a completely different context many miles away. World Premiere. (DAY ONE FILM)

Sundance takes place January 19-29 in Park City, Utah.

CORRECTION: Information contained within this story was originally culled from press materials from various sources, including the initial Sundance film synopsis which has since been corrected, that, realscreen has since been informed, contained factual inaccuracies – specifically pertaining to the film Queen of Versailles, the financial status of its subjects, the Siegels, and the impact of the financial crisis of 2008 upon both David Siegel’s timeshare business and the house the couple was having built. This story has been updated with the correct information.


About The Author