Documentaries to Catch – Sundance 2013
Park city, UT — The Sundance Institute continues its mission of discovering and developing independent artists and building indie audiences with a fresh slate of innovative documentaries. Here’s a list of some documentaries we’re excited to see at the Sundance Film Festival:
“AMERICAN PROMISE” – U.S. Documentary Competition
Directed by Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson
Set against the backdrop of a persistent educational achievement gap that dramatically affects African-American boys at all socioeconomic levels across the country, AMERICAN PROMISE puts a face to the unique social and emotional needs of these boys and poignantly calls into question the commonly held assumptions about access, resources and what really influences academic performance. This intimate documentary follows the 12-year journey of two African-American families pursuing the promise of opportunity through the education of their sons.
“BLOOD BROTHER” – U.S. Documentary Competition
Directed by Steve Hoover
Rocky went to India as a disillusioned tourist. When he met a group of children with HIV, he decided to stay. He never could have imagined the obstacles he would face, or the love he would find.
“CITIZEN KOCH” – U.S. Documentary Competition
Directed and Written by Carl Deal and Tia Lessin
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 lifted a century-long ban on restricted corporate election spending, unleashing a new era of unbridled special-interest campaign finance. Citizen Koch examines the mushrooming struggle between money and democracy through the dramatic lens of the 2011 standoff in Wisconsin when Governor Scott Walker, bankrolled by out-of-state billionaires, stripped state employees of their union rights.
Among a million outraged Wisconsinites, we meet individuals struggling with their Republican political loyalties as they decide whether to join the grassroots-fueled recall of Walker, a GOP rising star and Tea Party favorite. Meanwhile, on a national level, former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer watches his Republican presidential campaign fizzle as he refuses, on principle, donations of more than $100 and gets outspent and drowned out by Super PAC–funded opponents. Combining intimate vérité scenes and a big-picture–style investigative exposé, Citizen Koch probes behind the headlines to penetrate one of the core issues of our time: Who really has the power in America— private donors or the voting public?
“DIRTY WARS” – U.S. Documentary Competition
Directed by Richard Rowley and Written by Jeremy Scahill and David Riker
It’s the dirty little secret of the War on Terror: all bets are off, and almost anything goes. We have fundamentally changed the rules of the game and the rules of engagement. Prior to 9/11, it was customary for America to sound a formal declaration of war on a given country before attacking. Today drone strikes, night raids, and U.S. government–condoned torture occur in hidden corners across the globe, generating unprecedented civilian casualties.
Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill traces the rise of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the most secret and elite fighting force in U.S. history, exposing covert operations carried out by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. No target is off-limits for the JSOC “kill list,” even if the person is a U.S. citizen. Director Richard Rowley takes us on a chilling ride with fearless whistle-blower Scahill. Dirty Wars is a battle cry for the soul and conscience of an America few of us know exists.
“THE INSTITUTE” – Slamdance Documentary Feature
Dir.: Spencer McCall
“The Institute” Examines a San Francisco based ‘alternate reality game’, where thousands of participants got more than they bargained for. Told from the players’ perspectives, the film looks over the precipice at an emergent new art form where the real world and fictional narratives merge to create unforeseen and often unsettling consequences.
“TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM” – U.S. Documentary Competition
Directed and Written by Morgan Neville
What would a pop song be without the riffs, refrains, and harmonies of its backup vocalists? Although these singers are usually relegated to the margins, and few, if any, become household names, their work has defined countless songs that remain in our hearts and collective consciousness. Twenty Feet from Stardom juxtaposes interviews with industry legends (Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, and others) and the relative unknowns who support them like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, and Judith Hill as they illuminate the art of melding their own distinct voices with lead vocals and reveal their desires for careers as solo artists.
Twenty Feet from Stardom traces the backup singers’ history—from those Phil Spector–produced pop tunes and soul-inspired British Explosion acts (Joe Cocker, the Rolling Stones) of the 1960s, to their reversal of fortune when the recording industry changed in the 1990s, and into today. Filmmaker Morgan Neville’s unprecedented look at the moving personal journeys of these normally uncelebrated artists pays tribute to their indelible role in popular music.
“PANDORA’S PROMISE” – Documentary Premiere
Directed and Written by Robert Stone
The atomic bomb, the specter of a global nuclear holocaust, and disasters like Fukushima have made nuclear energy synonymous with the darkest nightmares of the modern world. But what if everyone has nuclear power wrong? What if people knew that there are reactors that are self-sustaining and fully controllable and ones that require no waste disposal? What if nuclear power is the only energy source that has the ability to stop climate change?
Prolific documentarian Robert Stone and environmentalists, scientists, and energy experts share the reasons why they have changed their minds from being fiercely anti– to strongly pro–nuclear energy. The film directly attacks popularly held reasons to oppose nuclear energy, including fear of another disaster like Chernobyl, the problem of waste, and the weakness of clean alternatives like wind and solar energy. Whatever your stance, Stone’s compelling film opens Pandora’s box and promises to change the conversation for years to come. With the world’s unquenchable thirst for energy and its resulting threat to our environment, the stakes may be nothing less than the survival of the planet.
For tickets and screening times, visit the Sundance Film Festival website at http://www.sundance.org/festival/