The inaugural Sundance London film festival is set to sound a declaration of American independence on the banks of the Thames, showcasing 14 features that premiered at the event's regular Park City, Utah base in January. Potential highlights include 2 Days in New York, Julie Delpy's follow-up to her 2006 hit 2 Days in Paris, and Eugene Jarecki's award-winning drugs documentary The House I Live In.
John Cooper, director of the Sundance film festival, explains that London was the obvious choice. "We're a mission-driven organisation, so we are always looking to extend the audience for American independent films. London is the perfect venue. We have a long history with UK films, and probably show more British titles than any other films from outside the US. So there's a natural affinity. But I'm also interested to explore the differences between UK and US independent cinema." Assuming the London event is successful, Cooper isn't ruling out the prospect of rolling the Sundance brand out to other international venues.
Sundance London kicks off on 26 April with an onstage conversation between Sundance founder Robert Redford and the musician T-Bone Burnett. The opening event sets the tone for a festival that offers a mix of movies and live performance.
"That was our one specific principle in arranging the schedule," says Trevor Groth, director of programming. "We looked for films with a specific association with music. So we have Under African Skies, about Paul Simon's return to South Africa, and Shut Up and Play the Hits, the documentary about LCD Soundsystem." The schedule also makes room for a concert by Placebo as well as Tricky and Martina Topley-Bird's performance of their classic 1995 album Maxinquaye.
Other films on the bill include Nobody Walks, Finding North, the acclaimed documentary The Queen of Versailles and An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, an eccentric psychological love story by the New York artist Terence Nance. Groth admits that the latter is one of his personal favourites. "It's the film that truly shows what an independent voice can say," he says. "Nance has taken live action and animation and he's merged all these styles to wonderfully good effect."
Launched in 1978, the Sundance film festival remains the world's premiere showcase for independent cinema and has helped launch the careers of directors such as Steven Soderbergh, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky and Quentin Tarantino. Despite criticism that the event has occasionally risked becoming a victim of its own success, the organisers feel that Sundance has largely managed to stay true to its roots.
"If you show interesting work, the rest corrects itself," insists Cooper. "It really is that simple. I've been working at Sundance since 1989 and we've obviously seen a lot of changes in that time. But the mission has always stayed the same. It's a festival for artists who are outside the mainstream. Despite all the changes in exhibition and distribution, there is still something great about just getting people together in one place. That's why festivals still matter. It has to happen on a bricks-and-mortar, person-to-person basis. That's where the fresh ideas take root."
The inaugural Sundance London film festival runs 26-29 April at the O2 arena.
Sundance London full lineup
2 Days in New York (Director: Julie Delpy)
Chasing Ice (Director: Jeff Orlowski)
Filly Brown (Directors: Youssef Delara, Michael D Olmos)
Finding North (Directors: Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush)
For Ellen (Director: So Yong Kim)
The House I Live In (Director: Eugene Jarecki)
Liberal Arts (Director: Josh Radnor)
LUV (Director: Sheldon Candis)
Nobody Walks (Director: Ry Russo-Young)
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (Director: Terence Nance)
The Queen of Versailles (Director: Lauren Greenfield)
Safety Not Guaranteed (Director: Colin Trevorrow)
Shut Up and Play the Hits (Directors: Dylan Southern, Will Lovelace)
Under African Skies (Director: Joe Berlinger)
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