After announcing a documentary competition slate last Wednesday that was surprisingly light on big names, the Sundance Film Festival announced a new section on Thursday called Documentary Premieres (seemingly replacing the inclusion of nonfiction films in last year's Spotlight section) and voila, there were some of the big names we'd been expecting. New films from Morgan Spurlock, Steve James, Eugene Jarecki, Liz Garbus, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato were all announced as heading to Park City for their World Premieres.
Last year's festival had some wondering if the US Documentary Competition should feature films from a trio of Oscar winners (Davis Guggenheim's WAITING FOR 'SUPERMAN', Alex Gibney's CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY and Leon Gast's SMASH HIS CAMERA). I asked documentary programmers about it when we spoke last year, just after the line-up was announced. Reportedly, others continued to rasie this issue to Sundance programmers.
In Sundance's press release announcing the Premiere line-up, Festival Director John Cooper addressed the topic head on: "The decision to create a Documentary Premieres section was a natural evolution to shine a light on films with prominent filmmakers or anticipated subjects without distracting from documentaries in competition."
Here's this year's Documentary Premieres line-up (with descriptions provided by the festival) followed by nonfiction features screening in other announced sections of this year's fest.:
BECOMING CHAZ / U.S.A.
Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato
Born biologically female, Chastity Bono invites the viewer into a deeply personal journey as he transitions from female to male, embracing his true self, which is Chaz.
BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD / U.S.A.
Directed by Liz Garbus
The drama of late chess-master Bobby Fischer's career was undeniable,as he careened from troubled childhood, to World Champion and Cold War icon, to a fugitive on the run.
GRANITO / U.S.A.
Directed by Pamela Yates
A documentary film intertwines with Guatemala's turbulent history and emerges as an active player in a nation's struggle to heal itself and serve up justice.
THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD / U.S.A.
Directed by Morgan Spurlock
A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement is financed and made possible by branding, advertising and product placement.
THE INTERRUPTERS / U.S.A.
Directed by Steve James
From the award-winning director of Hoop Dreams comes a story of ex-gang members who are now protecting their communities from the violence they themselves once employed.
REAGAN / U.S.A., United Kingdom
Directed by Eugene Jarecki
Reagan examines the enigmatic career of one of the revered architects of the modern world - icon, screen star, and two-term president Ronald Reagan.
REBIRTH / U.S.A.
Directed by Jim Whitaker
Weaving together five stories of individuals whose lives were profoundly altered by the 9/11 attack with unprecedented time-lapse footage of Ground Zero composed over ten years, what emerges is a chronicle of grief's evolution and a nation healing.
THESE AMAZING SHADOWS / U.S.A.
Directed by Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton
The history and importance of the National Film Registry unfolds in a roll call of American cinema treasures that reflects the diversity of film, and indeed the American experience itself.
In addition, the Premiere section features the first film that was announced for this year's festival (and generated a small bit of controversy over how the film was positioned:
LIFE IN A DAY / United Kingdom
Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Life in a Day is a historic global experiment to create the world's largest user-generated feature film. On July 24, 2010, professional and amateur filmmakers captured a glimpse of their lives on camera and uploaded the footage to YouTube, serving as a time capsule for future generations.
In the new Native Showcase:
GRAB / U.S.A.
Directed by Billy Luther
Three families in the Laguna Pueblo tribe prepare for Grab Day, when they throw groceries from a rooftop to the community waiting below - an annual community-wide prayer of abundance, thanks and renewal.
In Park City at Midnight:
CORMAN'S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL / U.S.A.
Directed by Alex Stapleton
Tracks the triumphant rise of Hollywood's most prolific writer-director-producer, the true godfather of independent filmmaking.
In New Frontier:
THE NINE MUSES / United Kingdom
Directed by John Akomfrah
An allegorical fable divided into overlapping musical chapters, this film retells the history of mass migration to post-war Britain through the suggestive lens of Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey.
!WOMAN ART REVOLUTION / U.S.A.
Directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson
One part of a transmedia project that includes the interactive video installation RAW WAR presented at New Frontier, this seminal documentary depicts the history of women artists who have used art as an activist practice to fight oppression and protest gender and racial exclusion - creating what many historians feel is the most significant art movement of the late-20th century.