Films about the war in Afghanistan and slain former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto were named in the line-up for next year s Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday.
The world s premiere festival for independent films, the Jan. 21-31 festival in Park City, Utah, will once again see a diverse field of competitors in the documentary and dramatic competitions.
A total of 16 films will vie for honors in the US Documentary competition, whittled down from some 862 submissions, organizers said.
Among the films likely to fuel interest are Bhutto, a look at the life and career of the former Pakistan prime minister, who was assassinated in 2007.
Other highlights films include I m Pat Tillman, Amir Bar-Lev s account of how the NFL star-turned-soldier s family fought to uncover the truth surrounding his death in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan in 2004.
The conflict in Afghanistan also forms the backdrop for Restrepo, journalist Sebastian Junger s documentary about a year spent with a US military unit based in one of the country s most strategically important valleys.
In the world cinema competition, entries include Enemies of the People, which follows a young journalist in Cambodia whose family were murdered by the Khmer Rouge as he tracks down the perpetrators of the Killing Fields genocide.
The son of late Colombian cocaine baron Pablo Escobar takes viewers on a tour through his notorious father s life in Sins of My Father.
Dramas featuring Twilight star Kristen Stewart, Natalie Portman and The Sopranos co-stars James Gandolfini and Edie Falco will also be in the hunt for awards.
Participating American films include director Jake Scott s New Orleans drama Welcome to the Rileys, which co-stars Gandolfini and Stewart. Falco is among the cast of Eric Mendelsohn s suburban drama 3 Backyards, while Portman stars alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rainn Wilson in Spencer Susser s family tale Hesher.
Other titles announced include Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman s Howl, an Allen Ginsberg tale starring James Franco, Mary-Louise Parker, Jon Hamm and David Strathairn; Tanya Hamilton s racial drama Night Catches Us, with Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington; and Kevin Tyler Asch s Ecstasy-smuggling crime story Holy Rollers, featuring Jesse Eisenberg.
Sundance is dispensing with its opening-night tradition of premiering a film that is not competing for a prize. Instead, it will start with screenings of one dramatic competition film and one entry in the documentary competition. Those opening films will be announced later.
We decided to launch into the competition rather than trying to find a film that encapsulates the whole eclectic group that follows, said John Cooper, a longtime Sundance programmer who is overseeing the show for the first time after being promoted to festival director in March.
The competition presents stars of past top prize winners at Sundance. Among them are Derek Cianfrance s marital drama Blue Valentine, with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, who starred in the festival s 2001 grand jury award winner The Believer.
Melissa Leo – who starred in last year s grand jury prize winner, Frozen River, which earned her an Academy Award nomination – appears in two competition films this time: Stewart and Gandolfini s Welcome to the Rileys and Ryan Piers Williams war-homecoming drama The Dry Land. The latter also features Ugly Betty star America Ferrera, whose career break came with Real Women Have Curves, which won the 2002 audience award as favorite US drama among Sundance movie-goers.
Mark Ruffalo makes his directing debut with the faith-healing story Sympathy for Delicious, reuniting him on-screen with Laura Linney, his co-star in You Can Count on Me, which shared the festival s 2000 grand jury prize. Sympathy for Delicious also stars Orlando Bloom and Juliette Lewis.
The 16 films in Sundance s US documentary competition include Casino Jack & the United States of Money, a study of corruption surrounding former lobbyist Jack Abramoff that was directed by Alex Gibney, whose Taxi to the Dark Side won the 2007 documentary Oscar.
Davis Guggenheim – whose Al Gore global-warming story An Inconvenient Truth premiered at Sundance in 2006 and won the documentary Oscar for that year – returns to the festival with the competition documentary Waiting for Superman, which scrutinizes the American public-education system.
One of the founding values of Sundance Institute is that artistic excellence should never be gauged in terms of marketability, Sundance Institute president and Hollywood icon Robert Redford said.
This year s program shows integrity and a willingness to move beyond preconceived ideas about what our festival should be.
A total of 112 feature-length films from 38 countries by 43 first-time filmmakers, including 24 in competition will unspool at next year s Sundance. More than 3,700 films were submitted for consideration, organizers said.
Next year s festival also includes a new section devoted to low and no-budget films, as well as a one-night-only event when eight filmmakers from the festival will show films in eight cities across the United States. -Agencies