The documentary entries at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival were announced recently, and it’s quite an impressive list. There are so many great-sounding docs: I am happy to see the return of Joe Berlinger, the director of Brother’s Keeper, with Crude, a doc about an environmental lawsuit battle being waged in Ecuador. There’s also The September Issue, a film by R.J. Cutler about Vogue editor Anna Wintour, which should be interesting. I’ve spoken with Cutler in the past and I’ve been impressed at how he’s managed to create a doc factory with his Actual Reality production company. I just wonder how he’ll finesse making the film not feel dated, now that the magazine industry is in such a severe recession since he was shooting in 2007 — and because there have been recent rumors that Wintour will be stepping down.
There’s a bunch of other compelling docs to look out for, including Liz Garbus‘ Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech which takes her out of prisons and more intimate settings into a more macro arena; Dirt! The Movie (sounds good to me — I’m there); and I’m definitely going to see Good Hair, in which Chris Rock grapples with the very important political issue of African-Americans and their hair. This could be one of the most popular docs of 2009. In fact, I wonder if Rock tackles the hair on the subject of the other hotly anticipated doc-to-see in 2009, the one about Barack Obama.
But as psyched as I am to see most of the Sundance docs, I couldn’t help thinking about how there were just 16 films picked out of 879 submissions. You’ve got a better chance of getting into Harvard than Sundance. And when I look at the list of 16 filmmakers, I see that there’s just a small handful of really fresh faces, unconnected to the powers-that-be at Sundance. This is not a criticism of the festival, because they are one of the best stages for getting docs a platform to distribution. They do what they can. It’s just a sad testament to those filmmakers without connections or a strong track record or without a famous last name (William Kunstler‘s kids made a movie about him that happens to be in the fest).
Oh, and just a follow-up from my last post about Milk and the ensuing discussion in which I mentioned Proposition 8: it’s worth checking out this short for a laugh.