Sundance Journal

Five Sundance gems: Even Taylor Swift wants to see the Ethel Kennedy documentary

Five Sundance gems: Even Taylor Swift wants to see the Ethel Kennedy documentary

News_Sundance Film Festival_January 2012_Ethel Kennedy_Robert Kennedy
Ethel and Robert Kennedy in Ethel Photo by Paul Schutzer/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
News_Sundance Film Festival_January 2012_Big Boys Gone Bananas_directed by Fredrik Gertten_by Anna Sivertsson
Big Boys Gone Bananas Photo by Anna Sivertsson
News_Sundance Film Festival_January 2012_Arbitrage_Richard Gere_Susan Sarandon
Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon star in Arbitrage Photo by Myles Aronowitz
News_Sundance Film Festival_January 2012_Ethel Kennedy_Robert Kennedy
News_Sundance Film Festival_January 2012_Big Boys Gone Bananas_directed by Fredrik Gertten_by Anna Sivertsson
News_Sundance Film Festival_January 2012_Arbitrage_Richard Gere_Susan Sarandon

PARK CITY, Utah — One of the pleasures of the Sundance Film Festival is discovering hidden gems you would never find anywhere else. As someone (not named Forrest Gump) put it, “Films at Sundance are like a box of chocolates…you just never know what you are going to get until you bite into them.”

That being said, here are the movies I will be seeing over the next week in hopes of getting my chocolate fix. 

Ethel

I love a good documentary. In prior years biographies on Ronald Reagan and Joan Rivers were big hits critically and financially at Sundance. And let’s face it, most of us find the Kennedy family highly intriguing. What a witness to history Ethel Kennedy has been. Ethel, made by her daughter, award-winning documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, is sure to attract some big stars as well as a huge contingent of the Kennedy family including Ethel Kennedy herself, now 83.

Country music star Taylor Swift will make her first trip to the Sundance Film Festival and will attend the premiere Friday afternoon. She commented in the February issue of Vogue that meeting Ethel Kennedy was one of the few times she has been starstruck

Arbitrage 

This film from director Nicholas Jarecki is about a crooked hedge fund manager who tries to sell his trading empire on the eve of this 60th birthday before the extent of his fraud is discovered. Starring a high wattage cast of Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, the movie is one of the most sought after tickets in town.

Last year, another financial thriller, Margin Call, starring Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Jeremy Irons and Simon Baker, was one of top five grossing movies of Sundance. I am hoping that the Wall Street vibe works its magic again. 

Big Boys Gone Bananas 

I love a good story of filmmakers vs. corporate America if it is combines humor with a message. Michael Moore doesn’t do it for me, but fans of this genre may remember 2010’s The Yes Men which followed a couple of anti-corporate activist-pranksters as they impersonated World Trade Organization spokesmen.

I’m hoping that this film which details what happened to two Swedish filmakers in the aftermath of making a documentary about corporate giant Dole Food Company — they were sued, bullied and subjected to PR spin — strikes that tone. ScreenDaily.com says the movie "should be compulsory viewing for any wannabe documentary filmmaker embarking on their investigative opus without a fear in the world."

Smashed

This film about a young couple (Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul) battling alcohol addiction is produced by the same filmmakers behind last year’s Like Crazy. Their new movie carries high hopes because it promises to strike a tone that’s light and even dryly comedic. The Hollywood Reporter predicts that it could be a breakout role for 27-year-old Winstead, who portrays a woman struggling to redefine her marriage beyond alcohol. (Her prior credits include The Thing, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Final Destination 3.)

 I like movies that deal with what I call crisis of character and self. Although the premise has been done many times — think Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia in When a Man Loves a Woman — I’m hoping the “Sundance” sensibility will bring a fresh look at this age-old problem. 

About Face

Each year Sundance has what I call a “behind the scenes” documentary that attracts attention because we are all curious about what life is like for the institutions and people we read about. In 2010, it was The September Issue with a in-depth look at Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour. Last year it was Page One: Inside the New York Times. These types of documentaries are highly popular at the festival and typically are often acquired by TV or even are released for the big screen.

This year all eyes are on About Face, portrait photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ intimate view of the supermodels whose images have defined our sense of beauty for the past 50 years. Expect to see interviews with iconic models Paulina Porizkova, Beverly Johnson, Carmen Dell'Orefice, Jerry Hall, Christy Turlington Burns, Christie Brinkley and Isabella Rossellini, where they discuss the enormous pressure society puts on women to be beautiful and youthful.