The Sundance Festival is one of the most talked about events in the film calendar and its buzz travels around the world.
The Robert Redford-founded event, which has been running since 1978, has a major knock on effect on the television landscape, in particular for factual producers and broadcasters, and often throws up a number of surprise hits.
The two documentaries that emerged from Park City full of promise and blog hype were war film Restrepo and Exit Through The Gift Shop, a movie about about notorious graffiti artist Banksy.
National Geographic Channel acquired the global TV rights to Restrepo, a movie about the deployment of a platoon of US soldiers in Afghanistan’s Koreangal Valley by Sebastian Junger, the author of The Perfect Storm, and Tim Hetherington. The movie, which won the Grand Jury Prize in the US Documentary Competition, is set to air on the network’s channel around the world in the fall of 2010.
Charlotte Cook, who runs the documentary screening programme at the Frontline Club, says Restrepo is one of the best documentaries she has seen in a long time. She adds that other highlights included The Oath by Laura Poitras, which followed a pair of brothers from Yemen whose associations with Al Qaeda in the 1990s lead to them becoming Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguard and driver, and Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing’s abortion doc 12th & Delaware.
Exit Through The Gift Shop, billed as ‘the world’s first street art disaster movie’ was wildly hyped ahead of its premiere despite being left off the original Sundance programme. It follows a French documentary maker who tries to make a movie about Banksy but instead has the camera turned on himself and is set to receive a theatrical release in March after being picked up by Revolver.
There were plenty of TV buyers present at the festival including Nick Fraser, who runs the BBC Storyville strand, which had José Padilha’s doc Secrets of the Tribe about the once untouched Yanomami Indians playing, TV-2 Denmark’s commissioning editor of documentaries and factual programming Mette Hoffman-Meyer and a team from More 4.
Commentators have suggested that the number of deals done at Sundance is diminishing as the number of celebrities attending increases. However, there were a number of significant TV deals done at the festival. OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, a joint venture between Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and Discovery, announced that it had acquired Family Affair, produced by Chico David Colvard, the first doc to air as part of a documentary strand when the channel launches at the start of next year. The strand, which will be run in association with documentary distributor Ro*co Films, will air one doc per month. The strand is expected to be a boon to documentary makers in much the same way Oprah’s Book Club can propel an author to the top of the bestsellers’ chart.
Meanwhile, The Weinstein Company acquired the pan Asian satellite pay TV rights to Blue Valentine, the dark drama about a disintegrating marriage starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling.
Five films to watch:
ODDSAC – Danny Perez turns Animal Collective’s latest hit album into visual imagery
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work – Ricki Stern-directed expose of Rivers
Waiting for Superman – David Guggenheim’s movie about the American education system
Teenage Paparazzo – Doc following 13-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk and Entourage star Adrian Grenier
Casino Jack and the United States of Money – Film about US lobbyist Jack Abramoff, produced by Gonzo director Alex Gibney