Sundance lets out a "HOWL" on opening night

Fri Jan 22, 2010 2:44am EST
 
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By Bob Tourtellotte

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - The Sundance Film Festival opened on Thursday proclaiming a return to rebellious and risky filmmaking by premiering Allen Ginsberg biopic "HOWL" and war documentary "Restrepo."

Backed by actor and activist Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, the festival began in the 1980s to promote movies made outside Hollywood's mainstream studios, and this year's theme is renewing the independence it first championed.

"Sometimes getting back to your roots is fresh and new," Redford told a packed house for the opening night premiere of "HOWL," which was followed by "Restrepo."

Earlier on Thursday, Redford told reporters that in recent years he has felt Sundance was "sliding" from its original vision because indie film began to mesh with studio movies.

In fact, some of the best indie films of recent years were products of divisions of Hollywood studios that worked in the arena for low-budget moviemaking. "Slumdog Millionaire," for instance, was originally backed by Warner Independent Pictures, a now defunct unit of Warner Bros.

"HOWL" has independence in its DNA, its filmmakers said. It began life as a documentary in workshops at the Sundance Institute, where it was transformed into a feature film by co-writers and directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.

TRUTH IN STORYTELLING

"HOWL" tells how Ginsberg's classic poem of the same name, which seeks to tell the truth of the everyday lives of post World War Two young adults, was deemed indecent by some, and its publisher was tried in a California court in 1957 for distributing pornography. At the time, Ginsberg and his Beat Generation were renegades who defied convention.   Continued...