World News

US Sundance Festival Showcases International Film, Documentaries

VOA News
The annual Sundance Film Festival has opened in Park City, Utah, bringing 119 films from 32 different countries to a snow-covered ski town, in what has become known as Hollywood's winter vacation.

This 35-year-old festival was started by actor and director Robert Redford as a way to help independent filmmakers promote their work. Now, it has become one of the most prominent film festivals in the world, with a reputation for showcasing low-budget films that later go on to win big awards -- even Academy Awards .

Movies shown at the 10-day film festival are selected from thousands of submissions -- about 4,000 feature-length movies and more than 8,000 short films.

  • The marquee at the Egyptian Theatre on Main Street is seen at night during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, January 17, 2013.
  • Robert Redford, founder and president of the Sundance Institute, addresses the audience on the opening night premiere of the film "May in the Summer" at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, January 17, 2013.
  • Cast member Gaby Hoffmann leans over backwards in front of other including actor Michael Cera, second left, and director Sebastian Silva, third right, at the premiere of "Crystal Fairy" during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, January 17, 2013.
  • Cherien Dabis, right, writer, director and star of "May in the Summer," poses with cast members at its premiere on the opening night of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, January 17, 2013.
  • The Main Street Trolley passes the marquee at the Egyptian Theatre on Main Street during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, January 17, 2013.
  • Bill Pullman, a cast member in "May in the Summer," poses at the premiere on the opening night of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, January 17, 2013.
  • Banners hang above Main Street during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, January 17, 2013.

Many films made outside the United States get their first widespread exposure in the U.S. through Sundance. This year's festival opened with a screening of "May in the Summer," about the identity crisis of a Jordanian woman who lives in the United States but goes to Jordan to prepare for her wedding.

Documentaries and short films also are showcased at the festival, with topics including former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney, the history of suicide in the family of author Ernest Hemingway, and the everyday lives of backup dancers for famous singers.

In addition to the hundreds of film screenings taking place in Park City, a dozen short films selected for the festival will be viewable online, on the Screening Room YouTube channel.

Cherien Dabis wrote, directed and starred in "May in the Summer." Speaking at the festival, she told reporters it was a way to share her heritage.

"It was very important to me because it is my heritage and I did grow up very aware of the fact that Middle Easterners are very misrepresented and underrepresented. And I just wanted to tell a universal story in the Middle East so that we could see the context in the Middle East and yet a story that has nothing to do with the things that we see every day on the news. Because the Middle East is in the news every day, it's so important that we widen our perceptions of what it is.''

While the festival helps promote unknown talent, it also is a place where celebrity actors and directors come to promote their latest work, filling an otherwise quiet resort town with the glamour of the U.S. movie industry.

David O. Russell, who wrote and directed the award winning "Silver Linings Playbook," told reporters at an event in California that the Sundance Festival helped launch his career.

"Sundance gave me a destination when I was a bartender, when I had a day job. I would make my short films and that was my goal: to get them to Sundance. It gave me a destination, and I thank Robert Redford for that. I thank Sundance for that. It saved my life. I went there. I worked as a ticket taker. I'd bring my short films there. I'd go there. And after I went there with my first feature, that we made for $80,000, I was able to stop being a bartender for the first time in my mid-30s. Yes, it was a big deal. It changed my life."

The festival runs through January 27.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs