Sundance 2012: “Focus Forward” doc premieres unveiled

New efforts from Jessica Yu and Gary Hustwit will be among five short documentaries that will premiere next week at Sundance in Park City, as part of the Cinelan and GE's "Focus Forward - Short Films, Big Ideas" joint venture initiative.
January 19, 2012

New efforts from Jessica Yu and Gary Hustwit will be among five short documentaries that will premiere next week at Sundance in Park City, as part of the Cinelan and GE’s “Focus Forward – Short Films, Big Ideas” joint venture initiative.

As previously reported, the 18-month program will see a number of big-name documentarians producing 30 three-minute shorts focused on “the incredible human power of ideas and invention,” include Alex Gibney, Joe Berlinger, Barbara Kopple, Lixin Fan, Liz Garbus, Steve James, Ross Kauffmann and Cinelan co-founder Morgan Spurlock.

The first five three-minute films in the “Focus Forward” initiative will be presented at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday (January 24) and online at The shorts will also be paired with features in the U.S. Documentary Competition and World Cinema Documentary Competition sections at Sundance.

Following Sundance, additional shorts in the initiative will continue to screen at numerous film festivals around the globe, including Berlinale, Tribeca and IDFA, among others.

The first five films in the series, with synopses courtesy of Cinelan, are:

Meet Mr. Toilet (dir: Jessica Yu)

Oscar-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu (In the Realms of the Unreal) introduces us to Jack Sim, AKA Mr. Toilet, who uses unorthodox methods as he travels the globe raising awareness about the lack of sanitation in underdeveloped countries.

Hilary’s Straws (dir: Phil Cox)

UK director Phil Cox (The Bengali Detective) unveils a moving mini-portrait of Hilary Lister, a quadriplegic champion sailor whose metal-and-circuit-board navigational tool, invented with friends, led her to conquer the oceans of the world.

The Landfill (dir: Jessica Edwards and Gary Hustwit)

Training their eye on a facility in Delaware County, New York, Edwards and Hustwit (Helvetica) challenge the way we look at landfills, not as an ever-growing problem, but as a possible source of renewable energy.

Heart Stop Beating (dir: Jeremiah Zagar)

Jeremiah Zagar (In a Dream) tells the story of Billy Cohn and Bud Frazier, two visionary doctors from the Texas Heart Institute who in March 2011 successfully replaced a dying man’s heart with a “continuous flow” device they developed, proving that life was possible without a pulse or a heartbeat.

Newtown Creek Digester Eggs: The Art Of Human Waste (dir: David W. Leitner)

Cinematographer/filmmaker David W. Leitner (Trembling Before G-d) looks at the unusual marriage of form and function at the jaw-droppingly beautiful Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn, New York.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.