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Sundance Independent Feature Film Competition contenders

The Independent Feature Film Competition is the heart of the Sundance Film Festival program and has introduced audiences to many of the best American independent films and filmmakers of the past 22 years. Launched in 2005, The World Cinema Competition reflects the Festival’s commitment to international film and to stimulating creative dialogue among cultures. The dramatic and documentary sections of the Independent Film and World Cinema Competitions each present 16 films, for a total of 64 films that screen in competition.

“This Festival has always been about independent films with independent spirit and aesthetic and ideological diversity. This year, we found many talented first time directors making original films in content and style and we’re excited to share with audiences these American and international cinematic discoveries,” said John Cooper, Director of Programming.

Festival films screen in nine sections: Documentary Competition, Dramatic Competition, World Cinema Documentary Competition, World Cinema Dramatic Competition, Spectrum, Frontier, Park City at Midnight, Sundance Collection and Premieres.

The Sundance Film Festival is a core program of Sundance Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated year-round to the discovery and development of independent film and theatre artists and audiences. 2006 marks the 22nd year of the Festival and the Institute’s 25th anniversary. Anniversary-related activities will take place throughout 2006 and will be announced at the Festival.

American films selected to screen in Dramatic and Documentary Competitions are eligible for a number of jury awards including Grand Jury Prizes, Cinematography Awards and Directing Awards. Other jury awards include the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award sponsored by Utah Film Commission and presented to a film in Dramatic Competition. New this year is a Documentary Editing Award presented to the editor of a documentary film in competition. The Alfred P. Sloan Prize will also be presented to an outstanding dramatic feature film for the quality of its presentation of science or technology themes. Films in the Independent Feature Film Competition will also be eligible for the Dramatic and Documentary Audience Awards. Films screening in the World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary Competition are eligible for the World Cinema Jury Prizes and World Cinema Audience Awards.


From explorations of cultural trends and political movements to examinations of deeply personal issues that define individual lives, documentary films offer unique opportunities to understand our world in new ways. This year’s 16 selections were chosen from 760 submissions by American Filmmakers. Whether from the diverse stories of Shia, Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis against a backdrop of war, to stories of families dealing with cancer, wrongful convictions, illegal immigration and portraits of Jazz artists and crossword puzzle aficionados, these films represent the spectacular variety—thematically and stylistically—of the best new work in American nonfiction filmmaking.

The films screening in Documentary Competition are:

A LION IN THE HOUSE (Directors: Steven Bogner, Julia Reichert)—Five diverse families—each with a child fighting cancer—navigate the ups and downs of treatment over six years, while maintaining hope in this complex portrait of human resilience. World Premiere.

AMERICAN BLACKOUT (Director: Ian Inaba)—A stylish hard hitting documentary that recounts the fascinating career of Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and the suppression of the black vote historically and during the recent Presidential elections in Florida and Ohio. World Premiere.

AN UNREASONABLE MAN (Directors: Henriette Mantel and Stephen Skrovan)—Using rarely seen archival footage and over forty recently conducted on-camera interviews, this documentary traces the career of Ralph Nader from quixotic consumer advocate to upstart presidential candidate to public pariah. World Premiere.

CROSSING ARIZONA (Director: Joseph Mathew)—A balanced, far-reaching look at a range of human stories unfolding in the midst of Arizona’s illegal immigration crisis. World Premiere.

GOD GREW TIRED OF US (Director: Christopher Quinn and Tom Walker)—Four boys from Sudan embark on a journey to America after years of wandering Sub-Saharan Africa in search of safety. World Premiere.

GROUND TRUTH: AFTER THE KILLING ENDS (Director: Patricia Foulkrod)—Reveals how the military trains our soldiers for war, the reality of combat in Iraq and the effects of this war on our soldiers coming home. World Premiere.

IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS (Director: James Longley)—Contemporary Iraq is illuminated in three chapters that follow the diverse stories of Iraqis against a backdrop of war, occupation and ethnic tension. World Premiere.

SMALL TOWN GAY BAR (Director: Malcolm Ingram)—A voyage to the deep South to tell a tale of the struggle for community and expression in the face of ignorance, hypocrisy and oppression. World Premiere.

SO MUCH SO FAST (Directors: Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan)—A black-humored cliffhanger of romance, guerrilla science and the redefinition of time. When Stephen Heywood finds out he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), his brother Jamie becomes obsessed with finding a cure and the woman who’s falling in love with Stephen has a decision to make. World Premiere.

THIN (Director: Lauren Greenfield)—With unprecedented access and an unflinching eye, THIN documents 4 women struggling with anorexia and bulimia at a residential facility for the treatment of eating disorders in South Florida. World Premiere.

‘TIS AUTUMN – THE SEARCH FOR JACKIE PARIS (Director: Raymond De Felitta)— Explores legendary jazz vocalist Jackie Paris’ meteoric rise, enigmatic career and mysterious life while probing the question of how much we need to know of an artist's personal story to appreciate their art. World Premiere.

THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT (Directors: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg)—The wrongful conviction of a black man for a white woman’s rape and murder offers a provocative, haunting examination of a fear-based, racially-biased community and criminal justice system. World Premiere.

TV JUNKIE (Director: Michael Cain)—From the time he was born Rick knew he had a special purpose. If he could only record it he might be able to figure out what it is. 46 years, 5000 hours of video and over 3000 photos later he may have figured it out. World Premiere.

WIDE AWAKE (Director: Alan Berliner)—A first-person account of filmmaker Alan Berliner's struggle with sleeplessness, as both a blessing and a curse. Portrait of an artist as an insomniac. World Premiere.

WORDPLAY (Director: Patrick Creadon)— An in-depth look at The New York Times crossword puzzle and its editor Will Shortz, and the wonderfully unique and loyal fan base he has built and nurtured during his 12-year tenure at the paper. World Premiere.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SESAME STREET (Directors: Linda Goldstein Knowlton and Linda Hawkins Costigan)—A behind-the-scenes look at the unexpected dynamics of adapting the most-watched children’s television show for audiences in some of the world’s political hotspots and incorporating locally relevant themes. World Premiere.


American independent cinema yields some of the most exciting and highly anticipated film in the world. These 16 films were selected from 1,004 submissions. From disaffected Latino youth finding family to a southern woman finding love, this section is filled with coming of age comedies and dramas, stories of love and addition with some characters seeking forgiveness for past sins. These films represent the diverse subjects and perspectives that constitute the vision and creativity of American independent filmmakers.

The films screening in Dramatic Competition are:

A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS (Director and Screenwriter: Dito Montiel)—A writer recounts his teenage experiences in tough 1980s Astoria, New York – where all his friends ended up dead, as junkies, or in prison – exploring how he managed to emerge unscathed. World Premiere.

COME EARLY MORNING (Director and Screenwriter: Joey Lauren Adams)—The story of a southern woman trying to escape her addictions and self-destructive behavior to find true love. World Premiere.

FLANNEL PAJAMAS (Director and Screenwriter: Jeff Lipsky)—A magical evening in a local diner sparks an intense courtship and an emotionally mercurial marriage that challenges two New Yorkers to the core. World Premiere.

FORGIVEN (Director and Screenwriter: Paul Fitzgerald)—On the eve of his campaign launch for a seat in the U.S. Senate, a small town District Attorney receives word that the governor has exonerated a death row inmate whom he’d prosecuted five years earlier. World Premiere.

HALF NELSON (Director: Ryan Fleck; Screenwriters: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck)—An inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret. World Premiere.

THE HAWK IS DYING (Director: Julian Goldberger; Screenwriters: Harry Crews (novel) and Julian Goldberger)—A Gainesville, Florida auto upholsterer attempts to subvert his mundane life by training a wild, red-tailed hawk. World Premiere.

IN BETWEEN DAYS (Director: So Yong Kim; Screenwriters: So Yong Kim and Bradley Rust Gray)—When a recent Korean immigrant falls in love with her best and only friend, their misunderstood affection for each other creates a delicate relationship that is challenged by the demands of living in a new country. World Premiere.

PUCCINI FOR BEGINNERS (Director and Screenwriter: Maria Maggenti)—On the rebound from her latest lesbian relationship, a New York writer finds herself in two surprising and complicated love affairs in this only-in-New-York screwball comedy. World Premiere.

QUINCEANERA (Directors and Screenwriters: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland)—Disaffected Latino teenagers come of age in a gentrifying community in Echo Park district of Los Angeles. World Premiere.

RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR (Director and Screenwriter: Chris Gorak)—Multiple dirty bombs are detonated and spread deadly toxic ash and mass panic throughout Los Angeles. With limited information, time and supplies, and in the midst of city-wide chaos, a married couple struggles to survive. World Premiere.

SHERRYBABY (Director and Screenwriter: Laurie Collyer)—After serving a three-year prison sentence, a young woman quickly discovers that coming back to the world she left behind is far more difficult than she had planned. World Premiere.

SOMEBODIES (Director and Screenwriter: Hadjii)—Surrounded by eccentric relatives, prankster classmates, and more-or-less rehabilitated ex-cons, a Black college student stumbles along the path to responsible adulthood. World Premiere.

STAY (Director and Screenwriter: Bob Goldthwait)—A youthful, impulsive sexual encounter opens the door to a dark comedy about the complexities of honesty. World Premiere.

STEEL CITY (Director and Screenwriter: Brian Jun)—In a small Midwest town, two irresponsible brothers must come to terms with the lives they live after their father is incarcerated for killing a woman. World Premiere.

STEPHANIE DALEY (Director and Screenwriter: Hilary Brougher)—A forensic psychologist, seven months pregnant, is hired to learn the truth behind a teenager’s denial of accusations that she concealed her pregnancy and committed infanticide. World Premiere.

WRISTCUTTERS – A LOVE STORY (Director: Goran Dukic; Screenwriters: Goran Dukic and Etgar Kerett)—An Offbeat Comedy, A Love Story, A Road Movie - But Everybody's Dead! World Premiere.


The last decade has seen an explosion of interest in American documentaries, yet American audiences enjoy few opportunities to view documentaries from beyond their own borders. The 16 films selected from 448 international submissions represent nine countries including Australia, Japan, Switzerland and Mexico. The documentaries follow the global politics of coffee, a rebellious Tibetan monk, bonds between a Japanese family broken by political choices, and tales of migration and loss. These films invite us to glimpse the staggering scope and complexity of the human experience.

The films screening in World Cinema Documentary Competition are:

5 DAYS / Israel (Director: Yoav Shamir)—On August 15, 2005, Israel began to evacuate 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. In a unilateral move by the Israeli government, they were removed from their homes to make way for 250,000 Palestinians. With exclusive access to the Israeli Defense Forces and the General in charge, seven film crews simultaneously follow key characters during this historic five-day event. North American Premiere.

ANGRY MONK – REFLECTIONS ON TIBET / Switzerland (Director: Luc Schaedler)—A portrait of the rebellious Tibetan monk Gendun Choephel, this film reveals a face of old & present-day Tibet that runs against popular clichés. North American Premiere.

BLACK GOLD / U.K. (Director: Marc Francis, Nick Francis )— A cinematic journey that uncovers the world of coffee and trade from the struggling Ethiopian bean grower to your coffee cup. World Premiere.

BY THE WAYS, A JOURNEY WITH WILLIAM EGGLESTON / France (Director: Cédric Laty, Vincent Gérard)—A journey through the southern United States home of William Eggleston considered "the father of color photography." Eggleston’s persistent silence defies each truth revealed about his character. North American Premiere.

DEAR PYONGYANG / Japan (Director: Yang Yonghi)—A Korean-Japanese daughter explores her father’s fierce political loyalty to North Korea – costly to the point of breaking up his family. North American Premiere.

THE GIANT BUDDHAS / Switzerland (Director: Christian Frei)—A film about the destruction of the famous Buddha statues in Afghanistan. An essay on fanaticism and faith, terror and tolerance, ignorance and identity. U.S. Premiere.

GLASTONBURY / U.K. (Director: Julian Temple)—A staggering range of music presented at England’s annual Glastonbury Festival, captures the spirit of important social changes over the last 30 years. World Premiere.

I FOR INDIA / England/Germany/Italy (Director: Sandhya Suri)—A tale of migration and belonging, told primarily through Super 8 films and audio letters sent between India and England over a period of 40 years. World Premiere.

IN THE PIT / Mexico (Director: Juan Carlos Rulfo)—According to Mexican legend, whenever a bridge is built the devil asks for one soul, in exchange for keeping the bridge standing. This film chronicles the daily lives of the workers building a second deck to Mexico City’s Periférico freeway – their hopes, dreams and struggle for survival. World Premiere.

INTO GREAT SILENCE / Germany (Director: Philip Groening)—The first film ever to examine life inside the Grande Chartreuse, the mother house of the legendary Carthusian Order. An austere, next to silent meditation on monastic life in a very pure form. U.S. Premiere.

KZ / U.K. (Director: Rex Bloomstein)—A look at the way the town of Mauthausen, formerly the site of a German concentration camp, faces the ultimate demons of its dark past. North American Premiere.

NO ONE / Mexico (Director: Tin Dirdamal)—The story of Maria, a Central American immigrant forced to leave her family in search of a better life. On her way to the United States, she crosses Mexico where she encounters a nightmare. U.S. Premiere.

THE SHORT LIFE OF JOSÉ ANTONIO GUTIERREZ / Germany (Director: Heidi Specogna)—Behind the heroic tale of the first U.S. soldier to die in the war in Iraq, there unfolds the story of a Guatemalan street child drawn into war by the promise of a green card in a foreign country. World Premiere.

SONGBIRDS / U.K. (Director: Brian Hill)—Downview Prison in England is host to 250 women who have committed crimes ranging from drug trafficking to manslaughter, but these women are also mothers and caretakers. In a musical set in the prison, the women sing about their lives and the crimes that led to their imprisonment. North American Premiere.

UNFOLDING FLORENCE: THE MANY LIVES OF FLORENCE BROADHURST / Australia (Director: Gillian Armstrong)—Flamboyant design pioneer Florence Broadhurst lived a colorful life, but it is only now that her time has truly come, with her bold, exotic wallpaper prints in huge demand internationally. World Premiere.

VIVA ZAPATERO / Italy (Director: Sabina Guzzanti)—A critical and playful look at censorship in Italy under Berlusconi contrasted with other European nations. North American Premiere.


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