Interesting things coming out of Sundance
Good news for Memphis writer-director Craig Brewer, whose fine first feature The Poor & Hungry
swept the major awards at the Nashville Film Festival back in 2001. His Memphis-lensed, John Singleton-produced feature Hustle & Flow
got picked up by Paramount and MTV Films as part of a whopping eight-figure multi-picture deal. A drama about a pimp (Terrence Howard) who enlists a local crew to help get a rap demo to a visiting superstar (Ludacris), it's received some of the festival's best notices (and biggest buzz
) so far. That'll probably keep it out of this year's NFF, alas—which is too bad, since Brewer was a good guy and he loved his reception here.
I've never been to Sundance, but I'm lucky enough to have friends who do. Besides Hustle
—and the general consensus that the dramatic competition has become the festival's nagging weak spot (duh)—there has been good word of mouth on the high-school noir Brick
, the Pierce Brosnan hit-man study The Matador
, and the James Woods-Evan Rachel Wood black comedy Pretty Persuasion
. The latter was written by rising talent Skander Halim, who, last we checked, is not dead yet
. Sorry to hear all the negative feedback to micro-indie Who Killed Cock Robin?
, the fiction debut of director Travis Wilkerson, because Wilkerson's activist pro-union doc An Injury to One
showed an unusually keen eye and sharp editing sense.
Continuing the trend of recent years, the docs sound far stronger than the dramas. Highest on my must-see list is Grizzly Man
, Werner Herzog's portrait of Timothy Treadwell, the outdoorsman who attempted to live in peace among Alaska's grizzlies until he and his girlfriend were devoured in a savage attack
in October 2003. The subject suits one of Herzog's great themes, the untamable treachery of nature, and the film reportedly uses video footage shot by Treadwell just hours before his death—along with shots of the bear that would dismember him. I hope it comes to theaters before it airs on the Discovery Channel this fall. Another gotta-see is Rize
, photographer David LaChappelle's documentary about the subcultural hybrid of clowning and spastic hip-hop dancing known as "krumping"
To catch up with a lot of films in a hurry, check out Scott Renshaw's pre-fest capsules
in the Salt Lake City Weekly
. That's where I found early mentions of hot titles such as the Neil Gaiman-scripted fantasy MirrorMask
, the Rwandan-genocide documentary Shake Hands with the Devil
, the mad-dog Australian horror yarn Wolf Creek
(picked up by Dimension) and Murderball
, a doc about wheelchair-bound bruisers who play smash-mouth full-contact rugby. That one may make it here, courtesy of ThinkFilm
I'll try to hit up the NFF's Brian Gordon for his favorites, since he's out there scouting films even as we speak. Come April
, maybe we'll even get to see some of them.