Sundance 2007 Dispatch: Kim Voynar on Women’s Films to Watch

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Jennifer Merin and Thelma Adams recently had a great write-up on all the women’s films showing at Sundance 2007. I arrived in Park City yesterday to cover the fest, and in looking over the schedule for Sundance over all, there are a lot of interesting looking films by and about women that I’m looking forward to seeing.

One of the films I’m most excited about is An American Crime, mostly because it stars Ellen Page, who is one young actress I really expect to see big things from. Her performance in last year’s Hard Candy was riveting, and she is making some really smart script choices. I know it’s got to be tempting to a young lady her age, on the cusp of big success, to jump at whatever Hollywood offers, but Page is mixing it up, working with big names and on indies. I don�t expect An American Crime to be one of your uplifting tales � it�s based on the true story of Sylvia Likens, an Indiana teenager who, in the 1960s, was brutalized, tortured, and ultimately killed by a pack of neighborhood teens and children after being held captive by housewife Gertrude Baniszewski (Catherine Keener, another actress I really like). The story is gruesome and depressing, but I want to see the film to see both Page and Keener�s performances.

I am also pumped to see Hounddog (aka �that Dakota Fanning Rape Film�). There�s been a lot of criticism from folks who haven�t even seen the film as to the appropriateness of Fanning playing the role of a sex abuse victim, mainly because there is a supposedly graphic scene. Fanning herself, however, has spoken out in defense of the film. The film tells the tale of a young girl coping with the horror of sexual abuse with her love of music. I�m interested to see both how the delicate material is presented and how Fanning handles it. Fanning is one of the few kid stars who I don�t find irritatingly cloying � she�s showing the ability to grow her range here, which is a smart move on her part. The cute kid thing only lasts so long (just ask other once-cute child stars who haven�t found it easy to work once they�re older). Taking on a challenging role like this could be a Jodie Foster-move for young miss Fanning, and if it ends up panning out well for her, look for kid sister Elle to follow her lead in a few years.

Parker Posey is here at Sundance with two films this year: Fay Grim, Hal Hartley�s bitingly funny, long-awaited follow-up to cult-fave Henry Fool, and Zoe Cassavetes� newest film, Broken English, which shows in the Dramatic Competition category. The write-up about Broken English on the Sundance Film Guide describes Posey as combining �slapstick antics� with �sexy neuroticism.� Sounds great, sign me up. I saw Fay Grim at Toronto and completely loved it � Jeff Goldblum turns in one of his best performances in years as well � and hope to catch it again here at Sundance.

I�ll also be checking out Clubland, an Australian film by Cherie Nowlan, about a boy who holds a dark secret he must keep from his new girlfriend: His parents are � entertainers. Mom (played by Brenda Blethyn) plays his mother, a fading risque� comidienne who has issues with the new girlfriend. Also on my list is director Adrienne Shelly�s last film, Waitress. Shelly was tragically murdered last November just after she submitted this film to Sundance, and I expect the press screening to be pretty packed. I�m also hoping to catch Red Road, which my colleague James Rocchi saw and loved at Cannes.

Looking to the documentary side of things, women filmmakers once again are bringing it home with (I hope) some insightful and inspiring films. The Devil Came on Horseback, by Annie Sundberg and Rikki Stern addresses the chilling topic of the genocide in Dafur, Sudan. Rory Kennedy takes a penetrating look inside the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in her film Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, and Lynne Herschman Leeson�s Strange Culture, about a man who wakes up to find his wife died in her sleep, and then subsequently ends up being accused of being a terrorist when paramedics become suspicious of his art supplies, looks promising as well. Another doc that�s caught my eye is War/Dance, a doc competition film by Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine, about a group of Ugandan orphans invited to compete in a dance competition. I have a conflict with the press screening, but I�m hoping to catch it at public one. Two of my favorite movies of 2006 � Jesus Camp and Deliver Us From Evil � were by women filmmakers, and I�m curious to see what kind of year 2007 ends up being for doc film.

It�s fantastic to see so many great women filmmakers and talent being showcased here at Park City; be sure to check back here often over the next 12 days for roundups of reviews and interviews of women�s films at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Kim Voynar

Kim Voynar was an internationally recognized film critic for a decade, covering the film festival circuit and independent cinema for Movie City News, Cinematical, IndieWIRE and Variety, before transitioning into producing films in 2010. She has served on juries and expert panels for many prestigious film festivals, including the Seattle International Film Festival, SXSW, Sarasota Film Festival, Dallas International Film Festival, Miami International Film Festival, Oxford Film Festival, and deadCENTER Film Festival. After three years producing for a Seattle-based prodco, she's now producing and consulting independently under her boutique production shingle, Lateralus, and is working on some killer projects with avant-garde music group The Residents, Will Calhoun (Living Colour), and Ken Stringfellow (Posies, REM), and consulting on some projects in the VR space with Hollywood producing legend Scott Ross (Apollo 13, Benjamin Buttons, Titanic). Her hobbies include trendsetting Seattle street style, staying up late nights pondering post-apocalytpic survival techniques, and deep thinking on virtual reality and the mathematical perfection of logarithmic spirals and fractals.