RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It's a big week for movies. Oscar nominations are out, and one of the industry's most important film festivals is underway. Actors, directors, studio execs - the glamorous folks - they are all at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Hardworking critics are there too, including Kenneth Turan, who joins us now to talk about some of the films. Hi, Ken.
KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel. How you doing?
MARTIN: Good. It's tough work, but someone's got to do it, huh?
TURAN: (Laughter) A lot of snow, one thing - a lot of trudging through the snow.
MARTIN: Lot of snow, funny that in the winter in Utah. All right, so let's get to the movies. Every year at Sundance, there's one film that everybody is just abuzz talking about. What's that movie this year?
TURAN: Well, this year everyone's talking about a documentary called "Icarus" because this film began one way and went in a totally different direction. It started as a personal film by a cycling enthusiast who loves to bicycle and wanted to do a film. He wanted to experiment with performance-enhancing drugs and see what it did to him and see if he'd be detected. He ends up meeting the head of Russia's Anti-Doping Agency, and this man over the course of the film becomes involved in this huge scandal that's front page news on The New York Times. He becomes a key source for this international doping scandal. And to go from this lighthearted personal film to, like, the heart of international intrigue...
TURAN: ...Is a journey that you never expect to go on.
MARTIN: Wow. All right, so that's definitely top of my list for viewing. What other documentaries should we be looking out for?
TURAN: Yes. Well, there is a warm-hearted film, you know, and everyone is looking for a warm-hearted film because of all the snow. It's called "Step." This is the festival where "20 Feet From Stardom" started, and this is a similar vibe. It takes place in a Baltimore leadership school for young women. It's about a step dance team, and how they try and be good at step and also graduate and get into college. It's just a heartening story. It's directed by Amanda Lipitz, a woman. It's her first film, and it's just fun. You know, as I'm talking about it, I'm looking forward to seeing it again.
MARTIN: And lastly, Ken, I have wondered this. I mean, there's so many different film festivals around the country, around the world, really, and Sundance continues to be such a preeminent festival. And I know it takes place in Park City, and it's kind of this party scene, but what is it about the movies that are showcased there or the directors? What is it about the festival that makes it so unique still?
TURAN: You know, one of the things that draws me back every year is really the wide range of dramatic films that they show here. I mean, Sundance has a reputation for kind of showing angsty films about young people confused about their identity, and those are here for sure, but there's really a lot of other subject matter here that's really unusual. I mean, this year there were three films that were so different from each other and so different from what we usually see.
There's a film called "Walking Out," it's a powerful father-son wilderness survival story that's very beautiful to look at and very emotionally moving. There's a film called "Novitiate," which takes place behind the walls of a convent in the 1950s and '60s about the novitiate's relationship to Christ, really something you don't get out of Hollywood. And then there's this little film called "Columbus," which is set in the city of Columbus, Ind., which has a lot of famous modernist architecture, and the architecture becomes a character in the film. It's a personal drama, but really you see these amazing buildings, and they're as interesting as a story, and the story is interesting. So this kind of range is really what makes Sundance Sundance.
MARTIN: All right. Kenneth Turan, he reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times, and we talked to him from Park City where he is watching all the movies for us at Sundance. Thanks so much, Ken.
TURAN: Thank you, Rachel.
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