Ad Shooters Shine at Sundance

By Ti Published on .

Among those making the pilgrimage to this year's Sundance Film Festival, held last month in Park City, Utah (and wrapping as this issue went to press), were an increasing number of adlanders looking for the next big film talent or the first big film deal. Festival feature highlights included Spun, the feature debut of Jonas Akerlund (repped by HSI) , which applies the director's visual virtuosity to exploring the heights and depths of a crystal meth binge; and Laurel Canyon, the second feature from Lisa Cholodenko (director of High Art), repped for spots out of Palomar International. The film, which debuted at the Cannes Festival, stars Frances McDormand, Kate Beckinsale and Christian Bale. The festival also showcased Garage Days, a dark comedy centering on aspiring rock stars, from Chelsea Pictures director Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City).

Sundance organizers winnowed down a mind-numbing 3,300-plus entries to arrive at the 90 films shown in the festival's Shorts Program. Among them: A Ninja Pays Half My Rent (left), from Oil Factory director Steven Tsuchida, who makes his Sundance and his filmmaking debut with this short, exploring the ups ands downs of shared accommodations. In it, Barry, a young renter, loses his roommate (to an errant, deadly bit of grapefruit shrapnel) and finds himself sharing his apartment with a ninja. Tsuchida admits that the scenario was not inspired by actual events, but simply by the fact that "Ninjas are funny."

Among the noteworthy docs at this year's Sundance, Wild Brain's Ed Bell directed Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives - a disquieting film that recounts the stories of the last surviving generation of those who had been born into slavery and were emancipated in 1865. Stars like Don Cheadle, Oprah Winfrey and Samuel L. Jackson read the stories as they were told to reporters in the 1930s, when a Federal Writers' Project set out to interview former slaves in 17 states and capture a record of their daily lives. The HBO film, produced in association with the Library of Congress, premiered at Sundance and will air on HBO this month.

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