Ad Folk Hit Sundance

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By all accounts, business at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival was predictably slow given (take a deep breath) what has become know as "the current economic climate." But that didn't stop many in the commercial production industry from flexing their film chops with impressive results.

Ad talent was easy to spot in the nonfiction realm. Documentary vet John Battsek of Passion Pictures and Pretty Bird co-founder Kerstin Emhoff were producers on the acclaimed Sergio, directed by Greg Barker, about former U.N. high commissioner Sergio Vieria de Mello and the unusual circumstances of his death in 2003 at the hands of a terrorist bomber in Iraq.

Director Doug Pray, who directed the 2008 Mekanism-produced doc Surfwise, opened the festival with a new doc called Art & Copy sponsored by the One Club, which looks at some of the most influential people in modern advertising. Subjects include Dan Wieden, Lee Clow, Phyllis K. Robinson, Hal Riney and more. Radical Media's Joe Berlinger went to Utah with Crude, a look behind the circumstances of a $27 billion court case that pit five Ecuadoran tribes against Chevron, over land damage from oil drilling.

Great Works' Fredrik Carlstrom was an EP on Big River Man, a doc by John Maringouin and Molly Lynch that follows eccentric endurance swimmer Martin Strel's attempt to swim the entire Amazon river. Nonfiction Unlimited's Ondi Timoner won the '09 documentary Grand Jury Prize with a look at artist Josh Harris called We Live In Public. Also from Nonfiction is Jessica Yu's short The Kinda Sutra, edited by Arcade's Kim Bica, which looks at the youthful misconceptions of how babies are made.

The Little Minx and Idealogue new media series also screened two short films at the festival. The first was director Malik Hassan Sayeed's She Walked Calmly Disappearing Into The Darkness, with soundtrack by Q Department's Drazen Bosnjak, about a young man trying to deal with a street shooting. The second was director Laurent Briet's Rope A Dope, that pits a 10-year-old girl against a pro boxer in a jump rope contest.

The anti-romance 500 Days of Summer, directed by Marc Webb of DNA Inc., starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Leavitt, was picked up by Fox Searchlight.

Superfad director William Campbell used a mix of animation and live action to tell the story of a gang of kids looking for an identity in his short film The Nature Between Us.

For the 25th anniversary of the festival, Lost Planet editors Hank Corwin, Jennifer Dean, Bruce Herrman, Jesse Haas, and Tyler Temple-Higgins, created short montages that ran before each screening, featuring people like Steven Soderbergh, John Waters, Morgan Spurlock and festival founder Robert Redford talking about the magic of Sundance.
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