Slamdance festival marks 15th year beside Sundance

Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:11pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Born out of rejections from the Sundance Film Festival, one-time rival Slamdance marked 15 years of competition when it opened late on Thursday, having garnered respect by launching the careers of noted directors Christopher Nolan, Marc Forster and others.

For years Slamdance, which runs alongside Robert Redford's 25-year-old Sundance, fought for attention in the independent film world, but movies like "Mad Hot Ballroom" helped put it on Hollywood's map.

Now, audiences and studio executives on their yearly trek to Park City, Utah, also flock to its venues looking for fresh talent.

This year, it also has garnered celebrity power with films starring "Lord of the Rings'" Dominic Monaghan, TV stars Simon Baker and Mark Harmon and Matthew Lillard of "Scooby Doo."

Slamdance president Peter Baxter told Reuters that back in the 1990s, he and the festival's three other co-founders "were all rejected by Sundance."

"At the time Sundance was beginning to show films not only made with studio money, but by producers that had deals with studios," he said. "It had grown to the point where we felt it couldn't accommodate all of the talent coming through."

Forster, director of "Quantum of Solace" and "The Kite Runner," has credited Slamdance with boosting his career after his "Loungers" won its audience award in 1995. Nolan, whose "The Dark Knight" has grossed $1 billion worldwide, screened his first feature "Following" at Slamdance in 1998.

The 2009 Slamdance will screen about 100 films -- 20 of which will be in narrative and documentary feature competitions. These entries do not have U.S. distribution and are made by debut feature directors for under $1 million each.   Continued...

<p>Posters for films entered in the Sundance Film festival, as well as counter-culture festivals Slamdance and Tromadance, fill kiosks along Main Street in Park City Utah at the Sundance Film Festival January 20, 2006. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich</p>