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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Sundance Film Festival on Wednesday listed the 64 films that will compete for awards at the upcoming premiere event for independent films, which for 2010 has a new director and three opening night offerings.
The festival, backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute in Utah, has long been a launch pad for first-time filmmakers and some of the best low-budget movies shown in art houses, including current Oscar hopeful "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire."
The film selection for the upcoming Sundance, which runs January 21-31, did not change greatly under new director John Cooper and features a typical mix of offbeat dramas such as "Holy Rollers," about an Hasidic Jewish man who becomes a drug dealer, and serious-minded documentaries like "Casino Jack & The United States of Money" by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney.
"My job is to stay on point, stay on focus and show the best and most original content we can find," said Cooper, who while new in the festival's top job for 2010, has long been one of its key programmers and executives.
"We looked at pretty much everything, and asked 'Why do we do this?' and a lot of things got put back in place because they work," he said.
One change is to ditch the usual opening night premiere and replace it with one drama, one documentary and one program of short films in competition to represent each of the festival's three main groupings.
Cooper said that among his favorite things to do at Sundance is listen to people discuss the films, their art and craft, and he hopes the change will jump-start the buzz that annually spreads across snowy sidewalks of Park City, Utah, the mountain town east of Salt Lake City where the event is held.
He said festival programmers, who chose from more than 9800 films submitted for the 2010 edition, looked for work that took risks and had a fully realized story to tell.
The festival puts 16 films into competition from each of four categories -- U.S. documentaries and dramas and world documentaries and dramas.
Among the dramas this year are titles such as "Howl," starring James Franco and telling of the early career of poet Allen Ginsberg, and "happythankyoumoreplease," about the lives of six young New Yorkers.
Documentaries are among the most closely followed films at Sundance and Davis Guggenheim, director of Oscar-winning global warming film "An Inconvenient Truth," hits the 2010 festival with "Waiting for Superman," about U.S. public education.
Other nonfiction films to watch will likely be "I'm _______ Pat Tillman," about the football player and U.S. soldier who died from friendly fire in Afghanistan, and "Benazir Bhutto," about the slain Pakistani politician.
Cooper said festival organizers looked more broadly than ever around the world for international films, and among the dramas are India's "The Falling" and Greenland's "Nuummioq."
World documentaries include "Space Tourists" from Switzerland and German title "Kick in Iran."
The festival will feature 113 feature-length films overall from 31 countries.
Editing by Eric Walsh