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Sundance Film Festival announces its drama, documentary premieres

December 5, 2011 |  5:12 pm

2 Days in New York
The Sundance Film Festival is perhaps best known for its narrative and dramatic competitions, but the real business in Park City, Utah, is done around the Sundance premieres — and none of the features announced Monday has a distribution deal in place.

Unlike the competition films, which are often made by first-time or largely unknown filmmakers with up-and-coming actors, the premiere movies — 13 narratives and eight documentaries — usually star familiar names and come from established directors. The 2012 lineup includes new movies from Spike Lee ("Red Hook Summer," a follow-up to his "Do the Right Thing"), Stephen Frears (who made the gambling story "Lay the Favorite"); Joe Berlinger (whose new, untitled documetary is about Paul Simon's "Graceland" album); and Stacy Peralta (who returns to skateboarders with his documentary "Bones Brigade").

Actors in the premiere movies, which will mostly be unveiled in the first week of the Jan. 19-29 festival, include Julie Delpy (who also directed "2 Days in New York"), Richard Gere ("Arbitrage"), Kirsten Dunst ("Bachelorette"), Sigourney Weaver ("Red Lights"), David Duchovny ("Goats"), Elizabeth Olsen ("Liberal Arts," "Red Lights"), Bruce Willis ("Lay the Favorite"), Frank Langella ("Robot and Frank") and Bradley Cooper ("The Words").

The full list of drama and documentary premieres follows, with descriptions from the festival.

Dramatic films

"2 Days in New York": Marion has broken up with Jack and now lives in New York with their child. A visit from her family, the different cultural background of her new boyfriend, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, and her upcoming photo exhibition make for an explosive mix. Director: Julie Delpy. Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau. Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alex Nahon.

"Arbitrage": A hedge-fund magnate is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire before the depths of his fraud are revealed. An unexpected, bloody error forces him to turn to the most unlikely corner for help. Director and screenwriter: Nicholas Jarecki. Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta.

"Bachelorette": Unresolved issues between four high school friends come roaring back to life when the least popular of them gets engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in New York City and asks the others to be bridesmaids in her wedding. Director and screenwriter: Leslye Headland. Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer.

"California Solo": A former Britpop rocker has long settled for an unfettered life working on a farm outside of L.A. When he’s caught driving drunk and faces deportation, he must confront past and current demons in his life to stay in the country. Director and screenwriter: Marshall Lewy. Cast: Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite, A Martinez, Danny Masterson.

"Celeste and Jesse Forever": Celeste and Jesse met in high school, married young, and at 30, decide to get divorced but remain best friends while pursuing other relationships. Director: Lee Toland Krieger. Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack. Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts.

"For A Good Time, Call..." Lauren and Katie move in together after a loss of a relationship and a loss of a rent-controlled home, respectively. When Lauren learns what Katie does for a living, the two enter into a wildly unconventional business venture. Director: Jamie Travis. Screenwriters: Katie Anne Naylon & Lauren Anne Miller. Cast: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber, James Wolk.

"Goats": Ellis leaves his unconventional desert home to attend the disciplined and structured Gates Academy. There, he reconnects with his estranged father and for the first time questions the family dynamics. Director: Christopher Neil. Screenwriter: Mark Jude Poirier. Cast: David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Graham Phillips, Justin Kirk, Ty Burrell.

"Lay the Favorite": An adventurous young woman gets involved with a group of geeky older men who have found a way to work the sports book system in Las Vegas to their advantage. Director: Stephen Frears. Screenwriter: D.V. DeVincentis. Cast: Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rebecca Hall.

"Liberal Arts": When thirtysomething Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them. Director and screenwriter: Josh Radnor. Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro, Elizabeth Reaser.

"Price Check": Pete is having trouble resolving a happy marriage and family life with rising debt and a job he hates. When his new boss pulls him into the maelstrom that is her life, money and opportunities come his way, but at what price? Director and screenwriter: Michael Walker. Cast: Parker Posey, Eric Mabius, Annie Parisse, Josh Pais, Cheyenne Jackson.

"Red Hook Summer": A young Atlanta boy spends his summer in Brooklyn with his grandfather, who he's never seen before. Director: Spike Lee. Screenwriters: James McBride, Spike Lee. Cast: Clarke Peters, Jules Brown, Toni Lysaith, James Ransone, Thomas Jefferson Byrd.

"Red Lights": Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic. Director and screenwriter: Rodrigo Cortés. Cast: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones.

"Robot and Frank": A curmudgeonly older dad’s grown kids install a robot as his caretaker. Director: Jake Schreier. Screenwriter: Christopher Ford. Cast: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler. 

"Shadow Dancer": When a widowed mother is arrested in an aborted bomb plot she must make hard choices to protect her son in this heart-wrenching thriller.  Director: James Marsh. Screenwriter: Tom Bradby. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, with Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen.

"The Words": Aspiring writer Rory Jansen finds another man's haunting memories in a collection of lost stories and claims them as his own, propelling him to literary stardom. Directors and screenwriters: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde with Zoe Saldana. 

Documentary films

"About Face": An exploration of beauty and aging through the stories of the original supermodels. Participants including Isabella Rossellini, Christie Brinkley, Beverly Johnson, Carmen Dell'Orefice, Paulina Porizkova, Jerry Hall and Christy Turlington weigh in on the fashion industry and how they reassess and redefine their own sense of beauty as their careers progress. Director: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

"A Fierce Green Fire": A definitive history of one of the most important movements of the 20th century, "A Fierce Green Fire" chronicles the environmental movement’s fascinating evolution from the 1960s to the present. Director: Mark Kitchell.

"Bones Brigade: An Autobiography": When six teenage boys came together as a skateboarding team in the 1980s, they reinvented not only their chosen sport but themselves too — as they evolved from insecure outsiders to the most influential athletes in the field. Director: Stacy Peralta.

"The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia": While following a dyslexic high school senior struggling to achieve his dream of getting into a competitive college, "The D Word" exposes myths about dyslexia and reveals cutting-edge research to elucidate this widely misunderstood condition. Director: James Redford.

"Ethel": This intimate, surprising portrait of Ethel Kennedy provides an insider's view of a political dynasty, including Ethel’s life with Robert F. Kennedy and the years following his death when she raised their 11 children on her own. Director: Rory Kennedy.

"Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap": Through conversations with rap’s most influential artists — among them Chuck D, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eminem, MC Lyte, Mos Def and Kanye West — Ice-T explores the roots and history of rap and reveals the creative process behind this now dominant art form. Director: Ice-T. Co-director: Andy Baybutt.

"Untitled Paul Simon Project": Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the incredible journey of his historic "Graceland" album, including the political backlash he sparked for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa, designed to end apartheid. Director: Joe Berlinger.

"West of Memphis": Three teenage boys are incarcerated for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark. Nineteen years later, new evidence calls into question the convictions and raises issues of judicial, prosecutorial and jury misconduct — showing that the first casualty of a corrupt justice system is the truth. Director: Amy Berg.


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— John Horn

Photo: Julie Delpy and Dylan Baker in "2 Days in New York." Credit: Rézo Films.