The grand finale of the 26th Sundance Festival championed by Robert Redford to support independent cinema ran from January 21-31 in Park City. Despite the agonizing but expected closure of Miramax, it appears that the deals sealed at Sundance this year confirms there is a place for such cinema among audiences. There was substantial check signing activity, which is always welcome news for film makers.
There were a few significant deals inked. Lisa Cholodenko’s (High Art, Six Feet Under), “The Kids Are Alright” sold to Focus Features for just under $5 million. Despite it’s unappealing title, it’s a comedy about a lesbian couple’s children establishing contact with their biological father. Bittersweet is the only way to describe this film. Poignant with lots of laughs and no cheese. Look out for it later this year.
Joel Schumacher’s nasty, teen horror/thriller ‘Twelve” was snapped up by Hannover for $2 million, while Lionsgate gobbled up the rights to Ryan Reynold’s thriller “Buried” for $3.2 million. These are respectable figures in a market cautiously reeling from the deep sting of last year. There wasn’t the glut of films that have previously blinded distributors.
Spaniard Andrea Puig Rodridgo was the talk of the town with her entertaining short called “My Invisble Friend”. Jake Scott’s “Welcome To The Rileys” about a grief-stricken Indiana couple, starring James Gandolfini, also caused waves at the festival.
IFC paid over $1 million for US rights to “The Killer Inside Me”, Brit vet’s drama about a disturbed cop. This stars Casey Affleck and Jessica Alba. The Weinsteins took US rights to Blue Valentine, a courtship drama about a couple tracing their relationship issues to their dating days. This gem stars Ryan Gosling (I’m still reeling over his striking performance in Lars and The Real Girl) and Michelle Williams (Heath Ledger’s widow).
It was also refreshing to see documentaries taking a slice of the sales pie with titles including “Joan Rivers – A Piece of Work” and “Teenage Paparazzo”. Mark Ruffalo’s Jesus DJ spoof “Sympathy For Delicious” also generated some heat.
The dramatic grand jury prize winner was awarded to fellow Melbournian David Michod’s crime family drama “Animal Kingdom”. Ten films have found homes, and counting.
So, the indie film machine is gradually creaking back to life.