Documentaries Shine At This Year's Sundance

Hollywood stars, independent film producers and movie critics have been swarming Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival wraps up this weekend. Two documentaries that Kenneth Turan recommends are Secrets of the Tribe and Cane Toads: The Conquest, which is a 3D movie. A dramatic film that is expected to do well is Winter's Bone.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


This week, Park City, Utah has been swarming with Hollywood stars, independent film producers and movie critics, including our own Kenneth Turan. The Sundance Film Festival wraps up this weekend and Ken is cramming in as many moves as he possibly can before the curtain falls.

Morning, Ken. Thanks for taking a few minutes to talk with us.

KENNETH TURAN: Its good to be here.

SHAPIRO: Okay. Well, it seems as though documentaries always shine at Sundance. What are some of the best youve seen this year?

TURAN: Well, its really true. I think this year has been even a better year than usual. Its like I feel like Im getting a postgraduate education in the world by going to documentaries here. One of my favorites was called Secrets of the Tribe. Its a look at a tribe in South America, the Yanomami, that for hundreds of years were unknown to civilization. And once they were discovered, waves of cultural anthropologists went in. And its about the interaction between the anthropologists and tribe and what it did to the tribe. Its quite fascinating.

SHAPIRO: What about a documentary Ive heard about from Australia that sounds a bit irreverent - on cane toads? Is that right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

TURAN: Its called Cane Toads: The Conquest.

SHAPIRO: "The Conquest."

TURAN: And not only is it about cane toads, its in 3D. If youve never seen a cane toad, seeing one in 3D is quite a momentous way to be introduced. This is an Australian documentary filmmaker named Mark Lewis who does wonderful films involving animals.

The cane toad is kind of a love it or hate it beast in Australia. And this film really examines how it got to Australia and why people have such passionate feelings about it. Its quite droll.

SHAPIRO: And then there is another irreverent movie I just have to ask you about thats not a documentary, but it combines jihadis with slapstick humor?

TURAN: Yes. This is kind of in the category of a film you never thought youd see. But, I mean, if theres a film you never thought youd see, youll see it at Sundance. Its called Four Lions. Its a British film made by a man named Chris Morris whos quite well-known in Britain as a comedian. And it is exactly as you describe it.

Its jihadists who are bumbling, shall we say. And, you know, you laugh at moments, because its so kind of insane a concept, but finally it doesnt sustain for feature length. But it certainly is something to talk about.

SHAPIRO: All right. Well, tell about some of the dramatic films youve seen.

TURAN: Well, the one that really made the biggest impact on me was a film actually also from Australia called Animal Kingdom. Its by a first time director called David Michod. And its kind of an operatic gangster film.

Its about a young 17-year-old boy who goes to live with his trio of really frightening criminal uncles and their even more frightening criminal mother. And its quite a film. For a first film its very, very impressive. The guys name is David Michaud. And I think well be seeing a lot more of him.

SHAPIRO: And just to be clear, when you say an operatic gangster film, this is not a movie musical?

TURAN: No, theyre not singing. Theyre not singing. Its just very kind of deeply emotional and you really feel the passions.

SHAPIRO: Well, a lot of huge movies have come out of Sundance. Last year, the movie Precious was a breakout hit. Any this year that look like theyre going to be big winners?

TURAN: Nothing that big this year. You know, besides Precious, also An Education came out - debuted here last year. And, you know, its very unusual to have a year when two really big Oscar contending films come out at Sundance. I think we get a little spoiled. We expect this every year. Therell be sales. Therell be films that do okay, but films like that are just not here this year.

SHAPIRO: Well, Ken, is there one movie that youve seen that you home or expect we will all be talking about year from now?

TURAN: Well, one of the films that I think will probably win something this year is in the dramatic competition, which is kind of a Sundance centerpiece. Its a film called Winter's Bone. Its kind of a mystery story, a quest of a young woman who has to find her father.

And its set in a very vivid culture. Its set in a mountain culture of the Ozarks. And the film goes to great pains to make itself feel authentic. And that really helps the story, helps us become involved.

SHAPIRO: Thanks and enjoy the rest of the festival.

TURAN: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. And you can find continuing coverage of Sundance at NPRs pop culture blog, Monkey See. Its at

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.