Sundance unveils competition films for 2011 festival

Wed Dec 1, 2010 4:20pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Sundance Film Festival on Wednesday unveiled nearly 60 movies from the United States and around the world that will compete for awards at January's top event for independent movies.

Sundance, which is backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute for filmmaking, serves as a launching ground for unknown filmmakers and actresses, as well as stars in low-budget movies, and films screening here often become hits in art house theaters in the weeks and months that follow.

"Winters Bone," about a girl's search for her father in the backwoods of Arkansas, won the Sundance jury prize for best drama in 2010, and is now a key film in Hollywood's Oscar race. Lesbian comedy "The Kids Are All Right," starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, was another Sundance favorite of 2010 that has gone on to critical and box office success.

Organizers pick 16 U.S. dramas and 16 documentaries to compete for awards and among the dramatic films for the 2011 event, which begins on January 20, are titles such as "Pariah," from writer/director Dee Rees that tells of the struggles of a Bronx teenager to discover her own identity.

Actress Vera Farmiga ("Up in the Air") makes her directing debut at Sundance with "Higher Ground," about a frustrated mom who joins a fundamentalist community only to question her choice, and writer/director Sean Durkin brings in "Martha Marcy May Marlene," about a woman who has fled an abusive cult.

Festival director John Cooper told Reuters that many of this year's movies examine religion and faith, although he was at a loss to explain exactly why.

"As the country has gone deeper into crisis, people may be starting to examine that," he said.

Among the U.S. documentaries competing for awards are "Sing Your Song," which examines Harry Belafonte's contributions to civil rights and social justice around the world.   Continued...