Music and documentaries about music are a mainstay of Sundance programming and the genre has given fans some great screenings through the years, I F**ng Shot That about the Beasty Boys, Biggie and Tupac, Muscle Shoals and last year’s Sound City by Dave Grohl just to name a few. This edition has been no different with Finding Fela about African Sound superstar Fela Kuti and 20000 Days on Earth. The latter, a collaboration between British artist-filmmakers Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard and the Dark Prince from Down Under, won the editing and directing prizes in the World Documentary section this year. Cave who has been trawling the nether regions of moody Goth-rock for the past thirty years, most notably as front man for seminal band The Bad Seeds, is nothing if not eclectic.
Aside from his decades-long music career he has also published fiction, written screenplays (The Proposition) and appeared in several films (Wings of Desire, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). 20000 Days is a biographical documentary that invites viewers inside the creative process that animates the man and the musician, a collaborative and inventive film that employs recreations, staged performances and array of narrative and editing devices to stake an absolutely original documentary terrain. It also allowed us to meet and photograph Nick Cave who, in customary all-black, cut one of the festival’s most striking figures.
Directed by Kate Barker-Froyland, who worked as an AD on The Devil Wears Prada, Song One stars that earlier film’s breakout star Anne Hathaway as anthropology student Franny who falls in love with folk musician James Forester (Johnny Flynn), the musical hero of Franny’s brother who is in a coma following an accident.
The rom-com yarn is set on the backdrop of Brooklyn, that hipsterized epicenter o millennial sensibilities best embodied by Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls. The musical dramedy adds to Hathaway’s musical credentials after her role in Les Miserables which last year won her an Academy Award and a Golden Globe; it also stars another golden Globe winner, Mary Steenburgen.
At 30 years Sundance is exactly as old as the Mac computer – and if you stand on Main Street and count iPhones you can get an idea of how much media, movies and the festival itself have changed over that time. Some things however reassuringly seem to stay the same, notably the indie spirit that Robert Redford and festival director John Cooper try to foster to this day. Perhaps no director embodies that ethic and aesthetic of independent filmmaking as much as Greg Araki who was here in 1992 with his third feature The Living End and has since been a regular in Park City returning numerous times with no-budget films he has written and directed (and sometimes shot and edited) which in many ways can be said to be the epitome of the Sundance archetype. This year he is back for a ninth time with his latest effort, White Bird in a Blizzard a suburban psychological thriller starring Eva Green, Thomas Jane and Shailene Woodley.