2008 Sundance Film Festival begins

Put on your fancy warm winter clothes, make yourself look nice and be sure to grab your camera with extra batteries because the 2008 Sundance Film Festival (SFF) is going on now.

The festival opened on Thursday, January 17, with a press conference held by Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, Geoffrey Gilmore, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, and Martin McDonagh, Director of the festivals opening film, In Bruges.

"As from the beginning, the Sundance Film Festival is about discovery of new talent and of issues that are resonating with filmmakers and artists alike," said Redford on Thursday. "This year filmmakers are putting a personal focus on issues relating to the world we live in rather than addressing them on a macro-political level.  And it’s exciting to me to see a new community of storytellers cross over from different points of origin: the playwright who brings his words to the screen, the poet who shares her story through music, the advocate who invokes social change through documentary and many other artists whose works extend beyond the screen."

The 2008 SFF is showing 125 feature films out of the 3,624 submissions from 34 countries. The festival is also holding screenings of 83 short films out of 5,107 submissions from 17 countries. All films and shorts are from a wide range of genres; there are dramas, documentaries and even animated films.

"We can never predict what will capture the collective consciousness of filmgoers; however, the range of diverse voices this year suggests a Festival at its very best: thought provoking, enticing and expansive," said Gilmore. "There are 55 first-time filmmakers; selections from countries never before represented; ambitious, raw performances and well-known actors in unexpected roles. What is provocative, exciting, is the process of films finding their audience."

After the press conference, the festivities were kicked off with world premier of McDonagh’s first-time feature film In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell (Phone Booth), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort in Harry Potter) and Brendan Gleeson (Mad Eye Moody in Harry Potter).

In Bruges (pronounced burr-rouge) is a more-than-worthy film to open the festival. The film constantly jokes with idea that nobody knows where Bruges is, especially the audience ("it’s in Belgium"). It’s a gritty comedic action flick about two hitmen (Farrell and Gleeson) who are sent away by their boss (Fiennes) to hide away in the nooks and crannies of Bruges after a hit goes horribly wrong.

Their orders are to lay low in the medieval fairytale city, only leaving to eat and do a little occasional sightseeing. Gleeson acts like the dad who’s excited to be experiencing a little piece of tucked-away history; whereas, Farrell acts like his 5-year-old child angry that they’re not doing what he wants to do (get drunk and pick up on natives). The initial tone is fun, but before you know it, it gets action-packed and even manages to be somewhat, not completely, but somewhat artistic and original. Be warned that it’s filled with the great colorful language of the Irish and about as violent and offensive as could be.

If this mix of Grosse Point Blank and Snatch sounds interesting to you, then be sure to head up to the festival. The best way to get tickets for any screening is to show up at the appropriate theater a couple hours in advance and tough out the cold weather in the waiting line. If that’s not appealing to you, know that Focus Features has picked up In Bruges and it should be getting a nationwide release before too long.

The festival’s line-up is looking up from last year’s letdown. At this point, it feels as if almost every film could be worthy of the awards given out at the awards ceremony on Sat. Jan 26. This year’s judges include Marcia Gay Harden (actress, Mystic River), Sandra Oh (actress, Grey’s Anatomy), Jason Reitman (director of Juno), Quentin Tarantino (director/producer/writer/actor, Pulp Fiction and many others.

The festival will be taking place everyday until Jan. 27. For a complete listing and description of films, showtimes and locations, and even to see a new free short film a day, check out http://sundance.org/festival

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