Docs are hot at Sundance

Mon Jan 21, 2008 4:38pm EST
 
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By Bob Tourtellotte

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - The Sundance Film Festival entered its second week on Monday amid a cooling market for buying films, while documentaries stole the spotlight and Hollywood insiders defended the indie spirit of star-filled movies like "What Just Happened?"

Sundance is the top U.S. festival for movies made outside Hollywood and 2008's first stop for distributors of independent films looking to snap up titles they hope will be among the hottest movies in art houses for this year and 2009.

Coming into the festival, buzzed-about films included "Sunshine Cleaning," about sisters who clean murder scenes, "The Wackness," telling of the friendship between a pot-smoking psychiatrist and his dope-dealing teenage client, and "The Great Buck Howard," a tale of movie star eccentricity.

But in the marketplace for movies that takes place on the Sundance sidelines, none of those titles had found a buyer, most were receiving so-so reactions from audiences, and many of the formal reviews were mixed at best.

"The story so far is good movies but not commercial movies," said David Poland, founder of Web site Movie City News and a veteran Sundance watcher.

Before the festival began, some in the industry expected sellers would find a hot marketplace because distributors would be looking to fill their pipelines in case the Hollywood writers strike continued indefinitely and left them without movies to make.

But late last week, film and television directors settled a contract with major studios, and insiders think the striking Writers Guild of America will agree to a similar deal quickly.

"It seems to me the writers don't have much choice," said Art Linson, producer of "What Just Happened?," an insider's look at making Hollywood movies and one major producer's life.   Continued...

 
<p>Robert De Niro gestures as he answers a reporter's question at the premiere of "What Just Happened?" during the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 19, 2008. The Sundance Film Festival entered its second week on January 21, 2008 amid a cooling market for buying films, while documentaries stole the spotlight and Hollywood insiders defended the indie spirit of star-filled movies like "What Just Happened?" REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>