Films That Lit Up the Sundance Film Festival

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Several films stood out at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Movie buyers attending the festival are hoping that they can identify the one that will be the next Little Miss Sunshine.


The 10-day Sundance Film Festival comes to a close tomorrow. WEEKEND EDITION's entertainment critic Elvis Mitchell joins us now from Park City, Utah where he's been for the past week and a half. Elvis, I know - you're on the jury, right?

ELVIS MITCHELL: Sorry, I'm just brushing the snow off myself. How are you, Scott?

SIMON: I'm fine, thank you. Any hidden gems that you've seen?

MITCHELL: There are quite a few, specially in the documentary category. And there have been a couple here this year that have already sold for lots of money and we'll be seeing them soon. One of them is one of the competition documentaries called "My Kid Can Paint That" about this four-year-old girl who's a prodigy painter. And it's already been picked up by Sony Picture Classics. And there's also a really great documentary called "In the Shadow of the Moon," which is really heroic, just about the moon mission. And Buzz Aldrin was actually here this week. So sure, it's a big deal to see Nas on the streets or maybe to see -oh, I don't know, Ryan Reynolds. But I was more excited to see that Buzz Aldrin was walking around the lobby of my hotel.

SIMON: This has been a year for record sales, I gather, at Sundance.

MITCHELL: Yeah. We've got to keep in mind that "Little Miss Sunshine," which was bought out of here last year by For Searchlight for $10 million, made $100 million last year so everybody's now trying to find the next "Little Miss Sunshine." So you've had sales for what I'd like to call the indie sitcom, movies like "Little Miss Sunshine" or "Garden State" or "Napoleon Dynamite."

There's another film that will probably fall into that realm called "Waitress," which is a low-budget romantic comedy about waitresses starring Kerri Russell. And there a few others too. There's a really sweet little movie called "Son of Rambow." People have said it's like a Wes Anderson film, but it sweetly reminds me of Bill Forsyth, the director of "Gregory's Girl."

SIMON: The Scottish director, yeah.

MITCHELL: The Scottish director. It has a same kind of surprise and trust in the actors. A lot of money was spent on that, and I'm thinking the studio that bought it probably is hoping that it will not only catch the "Little Miss Sunshine" audience but also the audience of those British comedies of the mid-'90s like "The Full Monty" that caught audiences off guard and made a lot of money.

SIMON: And Elvis, I realize you're on the jury and have to be careful about this. But what about the concern that some people have had that the commercial side of Sundance has become so successful that there are some films that are left behind that just can't crack the structure?

MITCHELL: Well, that's an interesting question, Scott, because I think that by virtue of it being a competition, we can't pretend that this is some comedy where people just sort of pass films around. And when it becomes a competition, you're saying that one film is better than the others. So the next extrapolation of that is that it's going to be better then there's probably some commercial aspect to it.

I think for the last few years, Sundance has tacitly been considered to be the AAA farm team for the majors. I think that Robert Redford wants to pretend that Sundance is not a market. I think in fact he should acknowledge that it is a market and make a division between the films that come here to sell and the films that are in the competition, that are statements by filmmakers and actors that express something deep within them they've been dying to get done.

MITCHELL: Elvis Mitchell, our entertainment critic here on WEEKEND EDITION, hosts the public radio program "The Treatment" on KCRW. This is NPR News.

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