Does Sundance Festival Still Serve Its Purpose? Sundance Founder Robert Redford admits the festival is now a major media event, but says the primary goal is bringing new talent to the screen. Guests discuss whether the festival succeeds in introducing fresh voices to filmgoers.
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Does Sundance Festival Still Serve Its Purpose?

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Does Sundance Festival Still Serve Its Purpose?

Does Sundance Festival Still Serve Its Purpose?

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

The Sundance Film Festival is underway in Park City, Utah. Once an obscure outlet for little-known independent movies, Sundance is now a hit-maker, one of the few venues that can generate real interest and the kind of buzz that can translate into box office. At the opening news conference last week, festival founder Robert Redford remarked that even though Sundance is now a major media event with all the attendant hoopla, the festival is primarily about film and filmmakers who are bringing fresh new talent to the screen, and he wants that to be the main focus.

The festival opened last Thursday with the screening of "Chicago 10," a documentary about the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the trial of anti-war protesters that followed, and those in attendance can try to see a total of more than 120 dramatic and feature-length films, as well as 70 short films.

Later on in this program, a film about the last remaining American defector in North Korea. It opens at Sundance later today.

But first, the festival. If you've been to the festival in the past as filmmaker, film marketer, or just to watch the movies, we want to hear your story. You'll retain all the screenplay rights. We promise. Give us a call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is

And joining us now is Greg Kirschling, film critic for Entertainment Weekly magazine. He's at the studios of member station KPCW in Park City, Utah. And it's nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. GREG KIRSCHLING (Entertainment Weekly): Well, thanks for having me.

CONAN: So the festival is primarily about film and filmmakers who are bringing fresh new talent to the screen. Is Mr. Redford likely to get his way?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It seems he already is. It's been a relatively quiet start for the festival, I think everyone agrees. The films everyone has noticed so far have been sort of overwhelmingly serious films, not a lot of comedies and, you know, not a lot of actually big star vehicles as we've seen sometimes in the past. You know, it's been an overwhelming number of films grappling with sort of serious topics, and it's been interesting because it's been a little bit deglamorized, it feels like so far this year.

CONAN: Well, there's another that Robert Redford said at that opening news conference, where he said, you know, that after 9/11 that filmmakers had sort of let the leaders lead. No more, he said.

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Yeah, no. There's - it's a big difference. I was here two years ago, and it's - Main Street itself - you know, the main strip of the festival - was packed with people. It seems to be - it seemed less so, almost half empty. It was very, very strange. I think we're seeing a change in the festival. It might be too early to say what exactly is going to happen. We've got another couple of days left, but it's going to be very interesting.

CONAN: Let's talk about one of the movies that has been well-received, at least so far. It's call "Grace Is Gone," and it stars John Cusack. This is a hip - this is a clip from the movie. Let's listen to it.

(Soundbite of movie, "Grace Is Gone")

Mr. JOHN CUSACK (Actor): (As Stanley Phillips) Heidi, Dawn, did you miss that bus?

(Soundbite of door opening)

Unidentified Man: Stanley Phillips? Is your wife Grace Ann Phillips? May we come inside, sir?

CONAN: And that, of course, military officers about to tell Stanley Phillips, as played by John Cusack, that his wife has been killed in Iraq. And this is one of a number of films that, Greg Kirschling, has been described as an anti-war movie that's out in this year's festival.

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Yeah, I guess there is an element of anti-war to it, although it's really a much more personal story. I was actually surprised when I saw the film how much, you know, Iraq is not necessarily at the forefront. You know, the film starts, you know, as we heard, with John Cusack hearing that his wife has died in Iraq. And the rest of the film becomes about the literal journey he takes trying to break the news to his two young daughters. He actually takes them on a cross-country road trip to an amusement park, all the while unable to tell them, you know, the horrible news. That said, the focus is on the trip, not so much, you know - the anti-war message in it is very subtle, very understated. It's a very, very wrenching movie, but it's not an overtly political movie. It's, like I said, you know, very subtle. Iraq is off to the side.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Very much so.

CONAN: Have you seen some of the other movies, the anti-war crop of films at this year's festival? Are they - well, obviously "Grace Is Gone" is not a polemic.

Mr. KIRSCHLING: No, no, it's not a polemic at all. Actually, on the subject of "Grace Is Gone," I spoke to the director yesterday, and I was surprised to hear - the writer-director - I was surprised to hear that for him the idea of the story came actually from going to an amusement park with his, you know, I think with his brother and his two young children. And that, he realized, was grist for a film, seeing a father and his daughters at an amusement park. The Iraq stuff came very much after that.

There are a few other, you know, films dealing with Iraq. I haven't seen any of them yet, but there's any number of other - but mostly focusing on the feature film competition, I've seen a number of good films there so far.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Again, going back to the documentary category, there's a documentary about war protesters back in 1968 that is almost certainly meant to be a reflection on Iraq. It's called "Chicago 10." It's part animation, mixed in with archival footage, and let's listen to this story of the - well, this is an excerpt from the trial of what was then known as the Chicago Seven.

(Soundbite of documentary, "Chicago 10")

Unidentified Man #1: I want to request again, demand again, that I be able to cross-examine the witness. You have Benjamin Franklin and George Washington sitting in pictures behind you and they were slave owners. That's what they were. They owned slaves. And you act in the same manner by denying me my constitutional rights.

Unidentified Man #2: Young man, if you...

Unidentified Man #1: Look, old man, you're being exposed to the public and to the world that you...

Unidentified Man #2: Have him sit down, Mister...

Unidentified Man #1: I want to defend myself. I have the right to speak on behalf of my constitutional rights.

CONAN: And some famous voices there impersonating some of the famous defendants at the Chicago Seven trial.

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely. It's a very unusual film, and it is packed with a lot of voice talent. You know, that clip we heard, it was an animated segment of the movie. Half the film is clips from the actual 1968 riots. The other half is animated recreations, and some of the actors doing the recreating in voice roles include Nick Nolte, Liev Schreiber, and Hank Azaria.

CONAN: If you'd like to join the conversation, we're discussing the Sundance Film Festival with Greg Kirschling. Give us a call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail: If you've got questions about the way movies are marketed these days, this is a good time to ask them. Let's begin with Scott. Scott's with us from Salt Lake in Utah.

SCOTT (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi, Scott, you're on the air.

SCOTT: Oh, OK. My question is, do you feel that the festival - I both worked at the festival and had a short film that I'd shot there in '96, and I feel like it's become much more commercialized. They moved the center of operations from Salt Lake to L.A., and there's more and more commercial films there, and it's not so independent anymore. Do you feel that there is any of that?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Yeah, I feel that people have been feeling that way about the festival for a long time. I think what's interesting and possibly unique about this year is there seems to be a real effort on the - on behalf of the people who run the festival to take it down a notch, to bring it back a bit to those roots where, you know, Main Street wasn't as crowded, where there weren't as many merchandisers coming into town offering swag to celebrities. It seems, yeah, that it has sort of gotten a little bit out of control, is a fairly common consensus that I find and other people do. And it'll be interesting to see where it goes from here. I think we're in the middle of possibly some kind of change for the festival.

CONAN: Scott, I just wanted to ask. You made a film that was shown there?

SCOTT: Well, actually I shot a film when I was at NYU Film School that was in the - it was just a short. It wasn't like a - and then I also worked with the documentary coordinator in 2001 for the documentaries in competition there.

CONAN: So you've sort of worked in and around the festival.


CONAN: Was it a thrill to see your movie up on the screen there?

SCOTT: Oh, yeah, it definitely is. I mean at the time I was a young, you know, a very young filmmaker and going to school, and to see - the audience is really where you get the excitement from, because then you see how they react to something you've been working on for months.

CONAN: Well, good luck with your next film, whatever it is, Scott.

SCOTT: Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call. For most of us, we last saw the actor Paul Dano, he was playing the brother of Abigail Breslin in one particularly memorable scene in the movie "Little Miss Sunshine."

(Soundbite of movie, "Little Miss Sunshine")

Mr. PAUL DANO (Actor): (As Dwayne) I don't care. I'm not getting on that bus again.

Ms. TONI COLLETTE: (As Sheryl) Dwayne, for better or worse, we're your family.

Mr. DANO: No, you're not my family. Okay, I don't want to be your family. I hate you. Divorce, bankrupt, suicide. You're losers.

CONAN: It was a great comedy. Paul Dano in last year's "Little Miss Sunshine." This year he's appearing in another movie at the Sundance Film Festival called "Weapons" from the filmmaker Adam Bhala Lough, but we'll hear from him shortly. But first Paul Dano. Nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today.

Mr. DANO: Yeah, thanks for having me.

CONAN: For "Little Miss Sunshine," well, how long were you cooped up in that van? I could understand not wanting to go in there.

Mr. DANO: Yeah, we spent a few weeks in the desert miserably hot, no air conditioning, no windows down, a smelly cast, but it was fun.

CONAN: It was fun. You came with this film to Sundance last year?

Mr. DANO: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We - yeah, yeah, Premieres, the Premieres category, which is a little bit bigger than, you know, the competition categories and Spectrum and all that.

CONAN: Oh, there's a separate Premieres category.

Mr. DANO: Yeah, I mean, I'd say "Little Miss Sunshine" was one of the bigger films at the festival last year.

CONAN: Did OK at the box office when it was released.

Mr. DANO: Yeah, it did. We had no clue, you know, when we brought it to Sundance if anyone would like it, so it was pretty neat to see people get out there and see it.

CONAN: And when you're talking about the Premiere, is this a red carpet kind of a deal?

Mr. DANO: Well, you know, at all these things, even the smallest of films here, there is some sort of entrance carpet. And I think, you know, small filmmakers and the bigger films are looking for exposure when they come here, certainly.

CONAN: And it obviously got a lot of exposure, and it came out of last year's festival and went on to tremendous success. As you look at this festival, obviously it's about a lot of things, but one of them is about generating excitement about movies.

Mr. DANO: Yeah, this is my fourth time to Sundance, actually. My first time was in 2001. And you know, there certainly is a business aspect to the festival, but I do think that when you look at the films, as much as people talk about the merchandising and the big parties and stuff. If you look at the films that are here, there are films that are as independent as it gets. So in terms of the filmmakers and the creative people that are here, I think there's a tremendous amount of independent film that is here.

CONAN: And you're there in no small part to promote your next movie, too, but do you get a chance to go around and see these other films?

Mr. DANO: Well, I'm only here for three days this time, so I've been trying to, you know, support "Weapons" and get the word out there about the film, so I've only seen one other film since I've been here.

CONAN: So you don't really get to participate in the life that much.

Mr. DANO: Unfortunately not.

CONAN: And by the way, when he said he was there to support "Weapons," again, "Weapons" is the name of his movie and it's not a broader statement about anything in particular. Paul Dano, stay with us.

Also still with us is Greg Kirschling. We're going to take a short break. If you'd like to join our conversation about the Sundance Film Festival - what it's for, what it does, what it does well, what it does badly - give us a phone call. 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is

I'm Neal Conan. We'll be back after the break. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

We're talking about the Sundance Film Festival now underway in Park City, Utah, and some of the films that are generating buzz this year. In a few minutes, writer and director Adam Bhala Lough on the new movie we've been talking about, "Weapons." Still with us right now are Greg Kirschling, who's covering Sundance for Entertainment Weekly, also Paul Dano, who starred in "Little Miss Sunshine" and is in this year's "Weapons." And we want to hear from you. If you've been to the festival in the past as filmmaker, marketer or just to watch the movies, call and tell us your story. 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is

And let's get - this is Jennifer. Jennifer's with us from Louisville in Kentucky.

JENNIFER (Caller): Hi, thanks for having me.

CONAN: Sure.

JENNIFER: I was just calling to find out - I've got a friend who's out there, and he's got his copies of his screenplays in hand. He's an aspiring screenwriter, I guess. And I was just wondering what kind of chances does he really have to run into someone who's interested in, you know, taking a look at new screenplays. And also maybe, Greg or Paul, if you have any tips I could pass on to him -

CONAN: Sure.

JENNIFER: - while he's out there.

CONAN: Greg Kirschling, is Jennifer's friend likely to meet much success?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Oh, you know, I think it's probably tougher than ever to do that, you know, as the festival's gotten bigger and bigger, as we were talking about earlier, you know. It's also become harder and harder to, you know, have an unscripted moment with a, you know, with a deal maker or a filmmaker, an actor or anything like that.

In fact I was interviewing Steve Buscemi yesterday, and he's someone who's kind of a Mr. Sundance. You know, he's been to a lot of festivals. He's sort of, you know, his films are very closely affiliated with the festival. And he can't even really walk down the street here anymore without, you know, without being bombarded so, you know, he doesn't really. It's kind of, you know, he's shepherded from, you know, from, you know, commitment to commitment, and so there aren't that many chances to get your script into the hands, you know, of a guy like that, you know.

But you see them all the time. I keep seeing a gentleman at my bus stop who is just there to meet whoever happens to come, whoever happens to be waiting at the bus stop with him. He doesn't actually have any scripts, but has ideas for scripts and is out here just trying to meet people who can help connect him to people who when he does have scripts will help him get them out there.

CONAN: Paul Dano, is there any advice on where Jennifer's friend can go to press his screenplay into the right hot little hand?

Mr. DANO: Boy, it's a hustle for sure. I mean I do think, you know, trying to find a Steve Buscemi would be an incredibly difficult thing, not just because he has a film here but because he is sort of known. I think, you know, finding somebody smaller and trying to make some kind of personal connection, rather than just throwing something at them on the street is probably the way to go, but how to do that, there's no real way to tell. But I guess, you know, persistence and patience have their virtues so, you know, I definitely think it's worth the hustle because I do know people who have had success doing it.

CONAN: Okay.

JENNIFER: All right, I'll him know. Thanks a lot.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Jennifer.

In 2002 Adam Bhala Lough received critical acclaim for his feature film "Bomb the System," a movie about the lives of young graffiti artists in New York City. This year, his film "Weapons" is playing at the Sundance Film Festival. It's a violent peek into the lives of a group of young men. Here's a clip of them heading out to get revenge for an attack on one of their sisters.

(Soundbite of movie, "Weapons")

Unidentified Man #1: Young wannabe gangster.

Unidentified Man #2: Let's go, dog.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, dog. Let's ride.

CONAN: The film stars Nick Cannon as well as Paul Dano. Adam Bhala Lough is also in the studios of member station KPCW in Park City. He joins us now. Nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. ADAM BHALA LOUGH (Director, "Weapons"): Thank you, my pleasure.

CONAN: And what is it about this new film - is this in the Premiere division or is this in the competition?

Mr. BHALA LOUGH: This film is actually in the competition section.

CONAN: And how important is that, if you do well in the competition section, to marketing your film?

Mr. BHALA LOUGH: Well, I think that it's greatly important because - well, you know, on just a superficial level, you can put the nice little logo on the poster that says winner of such-and-such -

CONAN: Sure, yeah.

Mr. BHALA LOUGH: - at the Sundance Film Festival and hope you sell more DVDs.

CONAN: And hope that people know what the Palme d'Or is.


CONAN: So it can help you sell some - and in terms - is it a risk, though, to enter your film at the competition like that?

Mr. BHALA LOUGH: I don't think so. I think that, you know, at the risk of sounding slightly cheesy, anybody who's in the competition comes out a winner.

CONAN: Anybody who's in the competition comes out a winner. I wonder, Greg Kirschling, is that right?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Well, you know, to a certain extent, yeah. I mean so many films try to get into Sundance and so few actually do that any film that plays here is getting an incredible boost just by being here. So, yeah, in a sense that's very true.

CONAN: And I wanted to ask you, Adam, do you aim a picture for Sundance? In other words, if you're - you know, when you're talking to the people who are providing you with the money to shoot a picture like "Weapons," do you say and we're going to try to open this at Sundance in the next year?

Mr. BHALA LOUGH: I think - that's an interesting question - I think when I'm actually - I'd like to say when I'd actually writing the script, I definitely don't aim for a festival or anything in particular, but when I am actively looking for money, I think that it - Sundance is recognizable, is a recognizable name to a lot of people with money, even people who are not involved in the film industry, maybe somebody who wants to invest in a film who's just wealthy.

And to say that to them, you know, to say we're aiming for Sundance is definitely a great tool in getting them to invest because, you know, it's prestigious and it's a chance to, you know, you can say, well, you know, if we get in, you can come out and bring your family and go skiing and watch a couple of movies.

CONAN: So it's got that appeal, too. I wonder, Paul Dano, does this enter at all into your discussions about what movies in which you'll be pleased to appear?

Mr. DANO: You know, I think the criteria for why you do a film has nothing to do with the end result, so I think, you know, when reading the script "Weapons" and when meeting with Adam and figuring out the rest of the cast and the ideas in the film, I don't think that's on your mind and I don't think it should be. I do think when we finish the film - it's a very independent film - I do think, you know, we knew we would probably have to go to a festival and that, you know, Sundance would probably be the one we'd want to take it. But I don't think in the preliminary process of the process you need to be thinking about that, as an actor at least.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Ryan. Ryan's with us from Phoenix.

RYAN (Caller): Yeah, hi. I just wanted to comment or ask questions to your guests. It seems like over the years, or the course of Sundance, the films have become very, I guess, one-directional, with the sort of dysfunctional family or this year it's sort of the anti-war thing. And also it was - it seemed that Sundance used to be a nice escape or escapism from big Hollywood blockbusters, but now that seems not to be the case.

CONAN: Greg Kirschling, is that a fair characterization?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Well, it's an interesting question. I mean, I don't necessarily agree at all that you'll find only dysfunctional family films, you know, in previous years or this year, or only anti-war films. There's just too many films in the festival, really films of all stripes, you know. A lot of those films don't receive any attention, you know, from major media or what have you, but there's just so many - if you're actually here, you can see, you know, you can see so much.

And, you know, as for a Sundance film being no different than any other film you can see, I - you know, I understand where that point's coming from as well. Most of the films that do make the most noise out of Sundance to the wider, you know, population, you know, are ones that are bought by, you know, studios, boutique labels of big studios, you know, who are looking to, you know, make a lot of money.

I mean "Little Miss Sunshine" is a film that, as we discussed, did make, you know, a lot of money last year coming out of Sundance, you know. That said, "Little Miss Sunshine" is still a very, very unusual movie, you know, to make as much money as it did.

RYAN: Yeah, I'm not saying that those films aren't good. I mean I certainly enjoyed "Little Miss Sunshine." I'm just saying it seems that - and, you know, maybe it's different or it's unfair of me because I'm not at the festival itself and I don't know what it's like there. I can only know what sort of cynical columnists think of it and stuff like that.

CONAN: Yeah, and Adam Bhala Lough, cynical columnists sometimes try to lump all these movies and try to find a trend since they're trying to write an article with no more than 800 words in it. Do you sometimes read the articles about these things that you've been to. I mean, for example, did you get the dysfunctional family memo that that's what your film was supposed to be about this year?

Mr. BHALA LOUGH: Well, no. I mean not really. I don't - I feel like people try and categorize film festivals in the same way they try and categorize films. And, you know, this particular festival, just from walking around and looking around and talking to some of my friends who directed films here and - there's a lot of really crazy, weird, different films here. And it doesn't seem - it seems to defy categorization if you're actually here and you're actually going and seeing movies.

CONAN: Let's get - this is Caleb. Caleb's calling us from Ames, Iowa.

CALEB (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

CALEB: I'd like to ask your guests about the marketing strategy called viral marketing. One of my favorite films that came out in 2005 was "Serenity," and Universal tried to market that - instead of with lots of television ads and trailers in theaters, they used a robust viral marketing strategy, which failed. And I'd like to sort of get your guests' opinion on that as a marketing strategy.

CONAN: Viral marketing can sometimes be a lot cheaper than television advertising as well, but I wonder, Greg Kirschling.

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Yeah, you know, it's - that's sort of another interesting question. You know, I don't think - I think the ways of marketing films at Sundance still feels fairly traditional in that, you know - you know, I'm covering the festival and you, you know, movie stars sit down for interviews and, you know - we're paying more and more attention to, you know, people who are sort of blogging about the event.

But, you know, I guess I don't really know sort of how marketing is going to, you know, how the changes in marketing that are affecting movies like "Serenity" and certainly "Snakes on a Plane," for example, are sort of leaching down into the independent film world. You know, it might be a better question for our, you know, our filmmakers who...

CONAN: Well, I was going to ask Adam Bhala Lough, is this a decision that the filmmaker makes or is it the distributing company makes?

Mr. BHALA LOUGH: I think that it depends on what type of distribution deal you get and how active the filmmaker is in the marketing campaign. I think that a filmmaker brings or has already created a Web site based around the film and then it gets picked up by the distributor, a smart distributor will, you know, keep going with that Web site and let the filmmaker do his thing, especially if he's already achieved a certain fan base through that Web site.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. OK. Caleb, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.

CALEB (Caller): Thank you.

CONAN: And let's see if we can get - this is Mark. Mark's with us from Salt Lake City.

MARK (Caller): How are you guys?

CONAN: Good.

MARK: Great. Hey, just - I think an important point needs to be made. I'm a first time festivalgoer. I saw "Das Fraulein" last night at The Tower here in Salt Lake.

And I think most families are not functional, and you know, mainstream media in America has painted a picture in films where, you know, there's a beginning and a middle and an end and there's, you know - and it's happily ever after.

And I think that a gray position that this festival, I mean at least from my perception, that it takes is that life is dysfunctional and that, you know, things don't always have to make sense. And this is a great forum for people to present ideas that maybe are open-ended and you walk away wondering what's happened to the characters.

And the movie that I saw last night, great movie, great movie.

CONAN: I wonder, Greg Kirschling, did you get a chance to see it?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: No, I haven't seen that one yet. One of the many dozens or hundreds possibly that...

CONAN: You haven't gotten around to yet?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: ...I won't get to see. Yeah.

CONAN: All right, Mark. Well, so far we'll have to go on your review.

MARK: Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. And I'd like to thank our guests, Adam Bhala Lough, the filmmaker of 2002's "Bomb the System" and his entry this year in the competition. Good luck with "Weapons" in the Sundance competition, Adam Bhala Lough.

Mr. BHALA LOUGH: Thanks a lot.

CONAN: And Paul Dano joined us. He's in the cast of that new movie "Weapons" and also in last year's memorable "Little Miss Sunshine." And Paul Dano, thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. DANO: Yeah, thanks for having us.

CONAN: We're talking about the Sundance Film Festival and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And Greg Kirschling, I wanted to ask you, I know you didn't get a chance to see "Fraulein," but some of the other interesting movies that you've had a chance to see so far this year?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Yeah, sure. You know, I've seen about seven or eight films so far. I really enjoyed a film called "The Savages," which stars Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I'm hesitant to say it, but I guess you would call it a dysfunctional family movie. They play siblings who are caring for their elderly father, who's beginning to suffer from dementia.

And it's very much a film, you know, I guess you would say sort of in the "Sideways" vein. It's very painful at times, but it's also very funny. Alexander Payne, who actually directed "Sideways," is one of the producers on "The Savages."

And it's - it already has distribution. It's coming out later this year from Fox Searchlight. But a lot of people have been talking about it as one of the better films here at the festival. So that's definitely one of them, yeah.

CONAN: And is there anything you're particularly looking forward to seeing?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Sure. There are a couple of sort of high profile films that are still to premiere. Tonight, actually, is the premiere of a movie called "Hounddog," which has gotten a lot of pre-Sundance attention, because it stars Dakota Fanning.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KIRSCHLING: And apparently if features a rape scene involving Dakota Fanning, which is what everybody's talking about. So you know, the screening tonight should be packed with people very curious to see, you know, how this film turned out.

And later in the week there's a film premiering called "Chapter 27," which has also gotten some advance attention because it is a movie about Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon. It stars Jared Leto, who actually gained a significant amount of weight for the role. And it features Lindsay Lohan in the supporting part. I think that premiers on Thursday night here at the festival.

CONAN: And let's see if we can get a couple of callers in. Catherine. Catherine with us from Salt Lake City.

CATHERINE (Caller): Yeah. No, I just had a question. As a local, you know, I've grown up around this film festival and it's difficult to know a lot of times what these films are going to be about. And I've been interested in taking my kids, but, you know...

CONAN: Skip that Dakota Fanning movie.

CATHERINE: Yeah, it's hard to find a family friendly - like for instance, my mom took my sister a couple of years ago and maybe she should have known. It was one of those midnight showings and it was - I think it was called "Pink Flamingos" or something and it turned out about three of these people trying to be the nastiest people around.

CONAN: I think we can stop it right there. Yes, indeed. Any family friendly films at this year's festival, Greg?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Oh, gosh. You know, you got me. I, you know, I understand where the caller's coming from, though, because I was on the shuttle bus, you know, in between films the other day, and I saw, you know, a couple of kids; maybe they were, you know, eight, nine, 10 years old talking about what they'd seen.

You know, they'd seen the film "Chicago 10," which is, you know, not necessarily inappropriate for a sophisticated 10-year-old, but it's certainly full of heavy duty stuff and lots of bad language. And I thought for a minute, gosh, what do you do if you're a parent who wants to take your kid to a film at, you know, the Sundance Film Festival.

CONAN: Maybe you can hope they like skiing.

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Luckily there's a lot of other things to do in Park City if you're unlucky in finding a film that's right for your children.

CONAN: Catherine, thanks very much for the call. We wish you well in your search.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CATHERINE: Great. Thanks.

CONAN: Goodbye. Finally, Park City - a lot of us have been to Salt Lake City. Park City, what's it like? Are there great parties? Is it a good time there?

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Yeah. You know, it's definitely a great sight for a film festival. You know, like I said, the main strip of town is Main Street and it's, you know - it's a sloping street, you know, full of, you know, shops and nice restaurants. You know, absolutely packed with people. You know, your best chance of seeing somebody famous if, you know, you're into that thing is just walking up and down Main Street; chances are you'll bump into somebody.

You know, even though, as I've said, it feels a little less, you know, busy everywhere than it has in years past to me, there's still a million things going on, you know, lots of parties to go to every night if you are lucky enough to wangle your way in; not the easiest thing to do in the world.

It's very hard to get into the parties. It's actually pretty hard to get in the screenings too, but, you know, if you're lucky enough to have access, you know, it's a great place to be. I've met a lot of people just from Park City or locally who work it out and go see a lot of films here and they have a great time.

CONAN: Greg Kirschling, hope you have a great time too. Thanks very much.

Mr. KIRSCHLING: Thanks for having me.

CONAN: Greg Kirschling is a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly. He joined us from member station KPCW in Park City, Utah.

When we come back from a short break, we'll get the story behind another movie at Sundance, the documentary "Crossing the Line," about the last American defector in North Korea. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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