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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Sundance 2012

Sundance 2012: 'Bachelorette,' (sort of) like 'Bridesmaids'

January 24, 2012 |  1:29 am


Sundance Film Festival title "Bachelorette," which has been compared to "Bridesmaids," stars Isla Fisher and Kirsten Dunst

The principals behind the new female comedy "Bachelorette" have gone to some lengths to differentiate themselves from "Bridesmaids"; writer-director Leslye Headland even recently released a statement explaining the movies' fundamental differences.

When her film premiered Monday night at the Sundance fIlm Festival, it was easy to see why such a statement might have been necessary. The glossy comedy, produced by Will Ferrell, shares plenty of similarities with the Kristen Wiig hit: The Headland movie is also a raunch-filled romp, built around comedic set pieces, in which a group of close female friends come to love, hate and ultimately understand each other in the run-up to a wedding.

The queen bee (and yes, there are some "Mean Girls" parallels) is Regan (Kirsten Dunst) who, with best friends Katie (Isla Fisher, in the ditz role) and wild child Gena (Lizzy Caplan) are thrown for a loop when their generally mocked, overweight high-school classmate Becky (Rebel Wilson, in case you weren't already thinking of "Bridesmaids") becomes engaged to a man they all covet, leading them to question their own flawed lives.

PHOTOS: The scene at Sundance

Barbed insults, drug-fueled partying and, yes, even wedding-dress mishaps ensue when the three come together the night before the ceremony. (A pack of groomsmen is led by James Marsden and Adam Scott, who has his own bit of history with one of the women.) The setting and the emotional dynamics have plenty in common with "Bridesmaids," and there's even another call-back here to a forgotten '90s anthem -- The Proclaimers' "500 Miles" stands in for Wilson Phillips' "Hold On."

There are some key differences. The girls are nearly all at least a decade younger and more free-spirited, none of them are married and the goal in at least one case is to get back with a high-school sweetheart, not land a mature thirtysomething. The partying and social situations -- for much of the film, it's not easy to find a scene without drug use, a strip club or a sex scene -- are generally played more aggressively than "Bridesmaids." "I think it's more hard core," Caplan said on the red carpet before the screening. (The movie also goes to a surprisingly dramatic place in its last half-hour as the broad-ish comedy from the opening sections is all but forgotten.)

Headland, a playwright making her feature debut, would also be right to point out she started writing the script nearly four years ago and based it on an off-Broadway play she created, long before "Bridesmaids" was ever shot.

The director told 24 Frames before the festival she didn't mind the comparison as much as you might think: "I look at it a little like 'Bonnie & Clyde' in 1967," she said. "You have a movie that gets everyone's attention and all these comparisons are drawn, and they're not always right. But then it's like, 'Thank God, let's make more movies like that.'"

Still, whoever buys this film for U.S. distribution will need to worry about the comparison. No matter how much pundits like to talk about a "Bridesmaids" wave, it will be difficult to market a movie like this without risking the "didn't Kristen Wiig just do something like that?" reaction; on paper, there are plenty of similarities. Those marketers may best be served by going the misanthropic route. As Caplan said on stage after the screening. "I saw [Headland's] play and was blown away by how dark and awful she was willing to make people."


Sundance 2012: Bingham Ray remembered by Kenneth Turan

Sundance 2012: Bawdy chicks with flicks (but don't say "Bridesmaids")

Sundance 2012: Spike Lee says studios "know nothing about black people"

-- Steven Zeitchik and Amy Kaufman in Park City, Utah

Photo: A scene from "Bachelorette." Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2012: Julie Delpy's latest sequel, '2 Days in New York'

January 24, 2012 |  1:25 am

Chris Rock and Julie Delpy star in "2 Days in New York," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival

"Is Ethan Hawke dead?"

That was the response Chris Rock said he had after reading "2 Days in New York," the romantic dramedy he co-stars in with writer-director Julie Delpy that premiered here Monday night.

The comedian was referring, of course, to the pair of dialogue-heavy romances Delpy acted in with Hawke: "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset." The first film was a 1995 Gen X hit about two twentysomethings who fall in love over one night in Vienna, and a decade later the actors teamed up again to co-write a sequel.

Delpy's latest project is also a sequel -- this one to "2 Days in Paris," a niche indie hit which made $4.4 million back in 2007. In that movie, the actress played Marion, a woman in a relationship that begins to crack when her boyfriend (Adam Goldberg) visits her and her parents in Paris.

This time around, Marion's family -- her non-English-speaking father, sexpot sister and an ex-boyfriend who is now dating her sister -- head to New York. Marion now has a new beau, Mingus (Chris Rock), and the arrival of Marion's very loud, very French relatives quickly begins to disrupt their otherwise healthy relationship.

Delpy said she wanted to inject "New York" with some fresh blood, fearing that if the film starred Goldberg again it would then become too similar to the "Sunrise/Sunset" movies.

"Marion keeps trying to make it work with a different man, so I kept thinking, 'Who is my next boyfriend?'" she said. "I was thinking here about having to choose a family, and how you create a new family and include them with the old. You know, relationship [stuff]."

Still, it remains to been seen whether audiences will be willing to continue following Marion on her quest for romance. Delpy has been down this road before, and it didn't turn out perfectly, with "Before Sunset" received less enthusiastically by critics than its predecessor.

This time, however, Delpy has brought a new love interest into the fray with Rock. Plus, as she joked nervously at the premiere: "Sequels are sometimes better than originals. Like, "2010" was better than '2001.'"

-- Amy Kaufman and Steven Zeitchik in Park City, Utah


Sundance 2012: In "Shut Up," the enigma of LCD Soundsystem

Second for second, the most cinematic experience in Sundance

Sundance 2012: A 65-year-old takes on disability and sex in "The Surrogate"

Photo: Chris Rock and Julie Delpy star in "2 Days in New York." Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2012: Bingham Ray remembered by Kenneth Turan

January 23, 2012 | 10:08 pm

Bingham ray
I've been attending Sundance since 1985, and no event in my experience has hit this film festival with the impact of the stroke that took Bingham Ray's life on Monday. It was not just a death, it was a death in the family in the most profound way.

Though his name would not mean much to casual moviegoers, inside the world of people fervently committed to creating and distributing films -- and the journalists and critics who write about them --  Bingham loomed heroically large. Not only for what he accomplished,  but also for the kind of person he was and the kinds of people he brought together.

As a key figure in companies including October Films and United Artists, as the man who, almost by force of will alone, created a market for directors as diverse as Mike Leigh, Lars von Trier and Michael Moore, Ray was indisputably a commanding figure in the creation of the independent film world that Sundance is a key player in.

That's why, after word of his death spread in Park City, Utah, people sought one another out to share hugs, tears and shocked commiseration. And this from a group not usually known for overt expressions of emotion. Not Bingham. It just couldn't be.

Bingham -- who named his son Nicholas after the director Nicholas Ray -- had a passion for film that was gargantuan and impossible to extinguish. And it was all delivered with a live-wire jolt of life-force energy and a wicked look in his eyes that made even casual encounters impossible to forget.

Though we met up a few times in Los Angeles and New York, my encounters with Bingham were mostly at festivals like Sundance, where we had dinner every year, to gossip about the business and share enthusiasms. He was so focused on you when he talked, it was almost a shock to realize that he was focusing on other people with equal fervor and interest when he was talking to them. Bingham spoiled you for other people.

As Mike Leigh replied when someone with a poor command of English asked for "antidotes" about Bingham Ray instead of anecdotes, "There is no antidote for Bingham Ray."

Not that he was easygoing. Descriptions like "abrasive," "contentious" and "easy to love from afar" were used at a crowded and impromptu Park City wake held Monday night. Bingham was combative and never forgot a slight. He relished relating how one executive he worked for, on returning from seeing a film he'd liked, asked why his company never got projects like that. Bingham had to tell the man that he had, in fact, turned that very film down. Yet such was the purity and intensity of Bingham's love for film that holding a grudge seemed to elevate not diminish him.

One of the ironies of the Park City wake is that the space used was rented for an event planned by Bingham for another purpose entirely: to get publicity and attention for his latest employer, the San Francisco Film Society and its attendant festival. For more than a hour, a stream of friends, colleagues and associates told Bingham stories, like his proposed advertising campaign for a movie from Iran ("From a Country You Hate, a Movie You'll Love") that illustrated his ever-present and ever-wicked sense of humor.

Several people in the crowd observed that Park City was the place where more of  Bingham's friends would be gathered in one place than anywhere else. "This is his last gift to us," someone said. "It's like he said, '[Screw] it, I'm going to go out at Sundance so all the people I love will have the chance to get together and  have a party.'"

Bingham's death did something else as well. It made the festival regulars and cinematic travelers, people who see one another only a few times a year, realize that we were a family of sorts, what someone called a circus family, always meeting up again when the tents have moved on to the next fairgrounds. We may not have known it before, but Bingham's death made us realize that we were one another's next of kin.

As I headed for the bar, another friend of Bingham's caught my eye. "He loved you, man," he said. I loved him, too, I replied. I loved him, too.

-- Kenneth Turan in Park City, Utah

Photo: Bingham Ray, left, with fellow October Films co-managing executives John Schmidt and Amir Malin in 1996. CreditOctober Films 

Sundance 2012: Fox Searchlight buys 'The Surrogate'

January 23, 2012 |  7:47 pm

The surrogate ben lewin william macy john hawkesFox Searchlight has emerged as the winner in "The Surrogate" sweepstakes at the Sundance Film Festival, two people close to the negotiations said,  outmaneuvering at least three other buyers to acquire the story of a middle-aged disabled man who hires a sex surrogate so he can lose his virginity.

The move marks the first acquisition by Fox Searchlight at the festival this year. Last year, Searchlight bought three titles, including "Martha Marcy May Marlene."

"Surrogate" director Ben Lewin is 65 -- usually old for a Sundance director -- yet his movie, starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy, delighted filmgoers and attracted a number of high-profile bidders, including the Weinstein Co.

Searchlight is also still a front-runner to acquire "Beasts of the Southern Wild," a fantastical tale set in a poor part of the South that has garnered acclaim in Park City, Utah, this week.


Sundance 2012: In 'Shut Up,' the enigma of LCD Soundsystem

Second for second, the most cinematic experience in Sundance

Sundance 2012: A 65-year-old takes on disability and sex in 'The Surrogate'

-- Steve Zeitchik in Park City

Photo: Actor John Hawkes, writer-director Ben Lewin and actor William H. Macy attend the official cast and filmmakers dinner for "The Surrogate" at Bing Bar in Park City, Utah. Credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Bing

Sundance 2012: 'The Surrogate' sparks a bidding war

January 23, 2012 |  5:02 pm

The Surrogate is attracting lots of buyer interest at Sundance
"The Surrogate," a drama about a middle-aged disabled man seeking to lose his virginity, is generating intense interest from major players at the Sundance Film Festival.

The movie, written and directed by 65-year-old TV veteran Ben Lewin, has attracted serious interest from at least four distributors, including Fox Searchlight, The Weinstein Co., Lionsgate and Samuel Goldwyn, said a person close to the discussions who was not authorized to talk about them publicly.

Starring John Hawkes, the film premiered at the festival Monday and received a standing ovation. It cost about $1 million to produce.

If the sale happens, it would mark only the third acquisition of a feature title in a year that had been expected to see a frenetic amount of sales. LD Films previously bought the genre picture "Black Rock" while CBS Films snapped up Bradley Cooper starrer "The Words."

Neither Fox Searchlight nor The Weinstein Co., which have been very active at festivals over the past year, have yet bought a movie at Sundance this year.


Sundance 2012: In 'Shut Up,' the enigma of LCD Soundsystem

Second for second, the most cinematic experience in Sundance

Sundance 2012: A 65-year-old takes on disability and sex in 'The Surrogate'

--Steven Zeitchik and John Horn in Park City, Utah

Photo: William H. Macy, left, stars with John Hawkes in "The Surrogate." Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2012: Spike Lee made 'Red Hook' because Hollywood wouldn't

January 23, 2012 |  2:13 pm


A day after he provoked a Sundance Film Festival crowd by telling it that studios "know nothing about black people," Spike Lee sounded a more contrite note—sort of.

“My wife told me when I left this morning ‘You’re defeating the purpose. Just talk about the movie,’” he told The Times while sitting at a Park City, Utah, cafe on Monday morning. The movie Lee was referring to is “Red Hook Summer,” his new film about a preacher and his grandson in a contemporary Brooklyn housing project.

Lee said he’d prefer not to elaborate further on his belief about why studios couldn’t handle a black coming-of-age story. “I’m not here to condemn Hollywood—even if it may sound like that,” he said, giving a small laugh.

PHOTOS: The scene at Sundance

Lee had stunned an audience of as many as 1,000 people at the festival’s Eccles Theater into silence on Sunday when, responding to an audience question from Chris Rock, he said that "they [studios] know nothing about black people ... and they're going to give me notes about what a 13-year-old boy and girl are doing in Red Hook? [Shoot] no," he said, repeating it several times, only without saying “shoot.”

On Monday, Lee said he made the film because he felt Hollywood had shirked its duty when it came to portraying young people of color. “One of my favorite films is ‘Stand by Me.’ But there’s no black person in it. It’s a great film, but where’s the African American version? You know, kids growing up. It doesn’t have to be all ducking bullets and.…”

Lee's new movie tells the story of a young Atlanta boy named Flick who is sent to live with his preacher grandfather over one hot summer. In its look at a young man coming of age on the streets of Brooklyn, it is a companion piece of sorts to his 1989 classic “Do the Right Thing.” There are all sorts of callbacks to that film in “Red Hook,” including several scenes in which  Lee reprises his role as the iconic Mookie, updating the audience on how his life turned out. (He’s still delivering pizza, though things didn’t work out with Rosie Perez’s Tina.)

PHOTOS: Spike Lee's controversial quotes

“Red Hook” also deals with issues in contemporary Brooklyn, including gentrification, black poverty, the strong influence of religion and sexual abuse.

The movie takes an unexpectedly dark turn in its final half hour, prompting some in the audience to say they felt whiplash. But Lee was unrepentant. “They have these certain rules that you can’t do this or that. Who says that?”

Lee also remained defiant  about the most controversial element of the film [Spoiler alert: please skip ahead to the next paragraph if you'd rather not know]—a scene in which a preacher molests a young boy while having him read the Bible. The moment has generated a backlash among some in the media and at the festival. Entertainment Weekly called the film “ranting” and “shocking” as a result

“It was one of the most difficult scenes I’ve ever done,”  Lee acknowledged on Monday. “But I knew it had to be done. It would have been cowardly and gutless and punkish to not deal with it straight on” (that is, by just referencing it without showing it, as Lee said co-writer James McBride had preferred).

"And here’s the thing. It’s my money. I financed the film because I didn’t want to have notes and didn’t want people to tell me there’s no audience for this film so we need to change this or that.”

The movie does not yet have a distributor, but Lee, who hasn't made a feature in nearly four years, said that he was confident it soon would and that it would be released to theaters this summer.


Sundance 2012: Spike Lee says studios 'know nothing about black people'

Sundance 2012: In 'Shut Up,' the enigma of LCD Soundsystem

Second for second, the most cinematic experience in Sundance

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Spike Lee at the Sundance Film Festival. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Sundance 2012: A child's-eye view in 'Kid-Thing'

January 23, 2012 |  9:02 am

David and Nathan Zellner are premiering their new feature, "Kid-Thing," at the Sundance Film FestivalBrothers David and Nathan Zellner are American originals, makers of willfully oddball films. They will be premiering their second feature, "Kid-Thing," at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday as part of its NEXT section. The duo have become quite a fixture on the U.S. festival circuit, with a series of shorts including the recent, outrageous "Sasquatch Birth Journal 2." Their previous feature, 2008's "Goliath," was about a man whose loss of control in his life is snapped into focus when his cat goes missing.

"Kid-Thing" is about a 10-year-old girl (Sydney Aguirre) largely left to her own devices. An outsider less by choice than circumstance, she marauds around the playground, makes prank calls and wanders the woods on her own. There she finds a woman stuck at the bottom of a well. Unsure of what to do, she doesn't tell anyone, but keeps returning to check on and care for her discovery.

Considering their short films are marked by an off-beat humor and eccentric worldview, the Zellners' two feature films each have an unexpected emotional core, a surprise seriousness. Which brings up the question: How do they know what makes for a short and what makes for a feature?

PHOTOS: The scene at Sundance

"When we first come up with an idea for something, we can't force it into a certain time length or anything," David Zellner said by the phone from their home base in Austin, Texas, shortly before the start of the festival. "The idea dictates."

"Sometimes ideas are big and sometimes they're small," added Nathan, also on the line. "I think we have enough of them that if we're waiting on one of the bigger ones to progress, we can dip in and do a small one."

"Kid-Thing" captures the point-of-view of a young child whose eyes are opening for the first time to the world at large. Some things are silly, some scary, and it's all new.

"We really wanted it to be from that perspective, as opposed to a nostalgic look back from an adult," said David Zellner. "We wanted it to be very much in the now, with the beauty and the horror of everything that goes on at that age. One thing I like about childhood: Kids are like scientists and explorers; everything is new to them and they are constantly testing boundaries.

"They don't have any experience to apply to something," he added. "They come in from a fresh perspective, an outsider's perspective that an adult might not have. But they also have a kind of screwy kid-logic in how they deal with problems."

They cast Aguirre, the daughter of a childhood friend, after having worked with her on a music video they directed. Hoping to capture the same qualities of native toughness and innocent willfulness as in Linda Manz's seminal performances in Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven" and Dennis Hopper's "Out of the Blue," the Zellners said they were surprised by how Aguirre assuredly responded to situations.

"I don't think we had to manipulate her at all," said Nathan Zellner. "It was a lot of mature conversations about what the character was going through and what the scene was about. She got it as if she was a seasoned actress who had done it before."

"At one point she busted us for trying to dumb things down to her a little," said David. "We were trying to explain the language of why you shoot things in a close-up and she looked at us like we were total morons."

As the story of "Kid-Thing" progresses, and the girl goes back to the well time and again, the film takes on the tone of a parable, something perhaps not quite totally real as small flourishes begin to depart from strict reality. So, which is it?

"We'd like for people to decide on their own," said David. "We definitely wanted to combine those qualities that are like a really earnest, naturalistic coming-of-age story with some qualities of a fable and keep the line kind of blurred which is which."


Sundance 2012: A dilemma of ethics, power in "Compliance"

Indie Focus: "Nobody Walks" is a big step for Ry Russo-Young

Sundance 2012: Rashida Jones does romantic dramedy in "Celeste And Jesse Forever"

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: Sydney Aguirre in "Kid-Thing." Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2012: Spike Lee: Studios 'know nothing about black people'

January 23, 2012 |  7:00 am

At the Sundance Film Festival, Spike Lee premiered "Red Hook Summer," his new Brooklyn movie that has echoes of "Do the Right Thing"

Film festival screenings can take some unexpected turns. But unexpected is an understatement for what happened when Spike Lee took the stage Sunday night at the Sundance Film Festival to field questions about his new film, "Red Hook Summer."

After introducing the cast and principals of the low-budget independent -- about a bible-thumping preacher and his intelligent but alienated grandson in the titular Brooklyn neighborhood -- Lee then fielded a query from an unlikely audience member. "Hey, it's Chris Rock," actor Jules Brown, who plays the grandson, said from the stage.

And indeed, there was Rock, asking a reasonable question about how the movie would have looked had it been made at a studio. ("Would you have blown things up?" he deadpanned.)

PHOTOS: The scene at Sundance

Lee, who had already been moving freely about the stage riffing about everything from the New York Giants' playoff win to the lack of black people in Utah, came back with what he would later acknowledge was a "tirade" about the studio world. Most notably, he said that "they [studios] know nothing about black people ... and they're going to give me notes about what a 13-year-old boy and girl are doing in Red Hook? [Shoot] no," he said, repeating it several times, only without saying 'shoot' and without sounding like he was joking. He also seemed to call out Universal for dithering on a planned sequel to "Inside Man."

He then defused the moment -- somewhat -- by calling the comments a tirade and trying a joke that "my wife is looking at me like I'm crazy."

It didn't help -- or, rather, it made things more surreal -- that the voluble Lee had just shown what was by any standard one of his most audacious films in years, a movie that had been shot in ultra-secrecy over just 19 days on a few Brooklyn blocks. For about two-thirds of its running time a gritty and music-heavy street drama about an assortment of neighborhood characters (with religion instead of race as its main Lee preoccupation this time around), the film in its last section takes a turn to the shocking.

PHOTOS: Spike Lee's controversial quotes

Without giving too much away, we'll just say that a main character is revealed with little warning to have committed a heinous act. A scene involving a sex act and the Bible is involved, and we won't sugarcoat it -- it will be polarizing even to hardened viewers. In the lobby afterward, normally jaded festival-goers were arguing over whether the movie, which does not yet have U.S. distribution, was hateful and/or misanthropic. Even the actors admitted some scenes were hard for them to watch.

But it was also, undeniably, Lee doing what he does best: using low-budget filmmaking and street-friendly storytelling as a means of provocation.

The film also had plenty of Easter eggs to "Do The Right Thing," with Lee's Mookie appearing in several scenes (he's still delivering for Sal's Pizza; apparently it had been rebuilt) and sly references to famous lines from the 1989 classic, such as "And that's the truth, Ruth."

But Lee, who's been saying the movie is simply another one of his nearly half-dozen films set on the streets of Brooklyn, wasn't eager to embrace the comparison.

"Please," he said, pleading with the attendees who would be talking about the movie with their friends, "tell them it's not a ... sequel to 'Do The Right Thing.'"


Sundance 2012: In "Shut Up," the enigma of LCD Soundsystem

Second for second, the most cinematic experience in Sundance

Sundance 2012: A 65-year-old takes on disability and sex in "The Surrogate"

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: A scene from "Red Hook Summer." Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2012: 5 things that happen while waiting for Drake

January 23, 2012 |  1:37 am

 At the Sundance Film Festival, a number of interesting things transpire when you're stuck waiting for Drake for three hours

I wasn't expecting Drake to be on time. After all, rappers aren't exactly known for their punctuality. But when the 25-year-old showed up to greet a clutch of reporters at the Sundance Film Festival three hours after he was scheduled to arrive, I'll admit I was just a tad surprised.

On Saturday night, at a bar sponsored by the search engine Bing in downtown Park City, Utah, Drake was scheduled to perform one of the most hotly anticipated shows of the festival. Hundreds of young women, inappropriately dressed in faux-fur leopard-print coats and miniskirts, crowded the street outside the venue in the midst of a blizzard in hopes of getting into the invite-only party.

Once inside, partygoers were packed like sardines in the basement, sipping free cocktails and bumping their heads to some overpowering bass. Meanwhile, I hung out by the door with some other journalists and photographers, waiting for the rapper to arrive. And as you might expect, a number of interesting things transpire while waiting for Drake for three hours.

PHOTOS: The scene at Sundance

Five highlights:

1. "The Bachelor" shows up. Yep, Ben Flajnik, the star of the ABC reality show. You know, the Sonoma-based winemaker who has no connection to the film industry? As it turns out, Monday's episode of "The Bachelor" was conveniently filmed in Park City, and Flajnik was on hand to promote it. Oh, and to score some free Sorel snow boots. And to "rub elbows with real actors."

Flajnik said he'd seen the Australian thriller "Wish You Were Here" and dined with actor Michael Cera -- an event apparently coordinated by the entertainment television show "Extra." Flajnik said he was enjoying being starstruck after the last few months, during which he has been approached on the street by fans of "The Bachelor." 

"I've been stopped a lot by younger women who are like, 'Hey, can we take a picture?'" he said. "And finally it was my turn to say, 'Hey, can I take your picture?'"

2. Quincy Jones slaps you (gently) on the face. Yep, that's right. The music legend patted me on the cheek after gushing about his daughter, Rashida Jones, who stars in the Sundance film "Celeste and Jesse Forever."

"It takes me on a ride every time I see it," he said. "It's very emotional. It touches me that way."

I asked the music veteran what he thought about Drake's tardiness. "Oh, whatever," he smiled.

3. You meet Drake's cousin. Well, maybe. After spotting one young man who eerily resembled the rapper, our photographer approached the possible relative to ask if he shared blood ties with Drake. He denied any connection, but his friends insisted otherwise. "He is Drake's cousin, and he always lies about it!" they yelled. "Take his picture!" And so we did.

4. Anthony Mackie fills you in on the ins and outs of judging Sundance films. The actor is one of the jurors for this year's festival, and it appears he takes his duties rather seriously. After viewing a new film, "The Adjustment Bureau" star said he jots down a short essay describing his feelings about what he has just seen. So what is he looking for exactly? Clarity of storytelling and dedicated acting. "Being able to go that extra mile and not just try to be James Dean and handsome," he said.

5. You go from loving to hating to loving Drake again. Although he kept us waiting for what felt like an eternity, when Drake actually did arrive around 12:30 a.m., he was frustratingly nice. And really, how could anyone get mad at the guy who played Wheelchair Jimmy on "Degrassi"?

Drake insisted he was late not because he was being obnoxious, but because his plane had been delayed and he was caught in the snowstorm. So why did he make the apparently arduous trek?

"Sundance has always been this thing I wanted to attend, no matter what," he said. "I like the acting crowd, you know? It's less confrontational."


Sundance 2012: In "Shut Up," the enigma of LCD Soundsystem

Second for second, the most cinematic experience in Sundance

Sundance 2012: A 65-year-old takes on disability and sex in "The Surrogate"

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Drake talks with reporter Amy Kaufman. Credit: Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Sundance 2012: 'Finding North' looks at hunger in America

January 23, 2012 |  1:23 am

The Sundance Film Festival documentary "Finding North" forcefully makes the case that hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for the nation

The Sundance Film Festival is chock full of documentaries this year about the troubles besetting America, with movies examining the shortcomings of the war on drugs (Eugene Jarecki's "The House I Live In"), the problems with the healthcare system ("Escape Fire") and the ability of corporations to evade taxation ("We're Not Broke"). But "Finding North" may rank among the most moving (or disheartening, depending on your viewpoint) in that it tackles a seemingly straightforward, solvable problem: hunger in the United States.

Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson share directing and producing credits on the documentary, which focuses on three main characters: Rosie, an endearing fifth-grader from a small town in Colorado whose family relies on handouts; Tremonica, an overweight second-grader from Mississippi whose poor diet is leading to health problems, and Barbie Izquierdo, 24, a mother of two struggling valiantly to put food on the table in Philadelphia.

"Finding North" forcefully makes the case that hunger has serious economic, social and cultural implications for the nation. Examining everything -- including federal subsidies for agribusiness, how much Uncle Sam pays to provide school lunches for poor kids, and the lack of fruits and vegetables in many poor communities -- the movie argues vehemently for greater government spending on food stamps and childhood nutrition programs, a shift in subsidy programs away from sugar and starch crops and toward fresh produce, and a "living wage" so the working poor can afford to feed themselves.

PHOTOS: The scene at Sundance

Although the filmmakers give a big shout-out to the religious and charitable organizations that provide many hungry Americans with hot meals and pantry handouts, the movie argues that charity alone will never solve the hunger problem -- which they say affects 49 million Americans (1 in 7).

Silverbush said she was inspired to make the film for two reasons: (a) her husband, "Top Chef" Tom Colicchio, had spent years working on anti-hunger and childhood nutrition initiatives, and yet the problem continued to grow and (b) an adolescent girl she was mentoring was struggling with hunger.

"I realized she was hungry, and it was messing up her life," Silverbush recalled after the film's premiere Sunday night in Park City, Utah. "Her school called and said she was scavenging for food."

Silverbush, whose experience is in fictional films, floated the idea to Jacobson, who had experience in the documentary world, and they decided to embark on the project together. Filming started in 2008, but the two encountered doubts amid the election of Barack Obama.

"We thought at one time, 'Do we still have a story to tell, now that Obama has been elected?'" Silverbush recalled. "But the landscape has changed [with the ongoing economic malaise]. People are no longer seeing the hungry as 'the other.' People in this country are realizing that they too could be one injury, or one mortgage payment, away from hunger."

The pair have teamed with Participant Media to begin a social action campaign around the issue, including outreach to schools, churches, synagogues and hunger organizations in urban and rural communities, as well as lobbying of legislators.

"We are both really committed to the idea that this film has an impact," Jacobson said.


Sundance 2012: Is "Arbitrage" this year's 'Margin Call?'

Sundance 2012: In "Shut Up," the enigma of LCD Soundsystem

Second for second, the most cinematic experience in Sundance

 -- Julie Makinen in Park City, Utah 

Photo: Rosie, a fifth-grader from Colorado who struggles with hunger in "Finding North." Credit: Sundance Film Festival


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