Sundance debuts with Harry Belafonte documentary

Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:17pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - The Sundance Film Festival opened on Thursday night with a new look -- four feature films instead of only one, including a documentary about calypso singer Harry Belafonte and a teen lesbian drama.

The documentary, "Sing Your Song," follows the social activism of the 83-year-old singer of "Banana Boat Song" and "Scarlet Ribbons." Belafonte has been at the vanguard of the U.S. civil rights movement, anti-apartheid efforts in South Africa and ending gang violence on the streets of Los Angeles.

Sundance founder Robert Redford called Belafonte's tale "a story about a man whose story should be told for generations to come," and the documentary earned a standing ovation.

The other screenings included: "Pariah," the tale of a young black lesbian who yearns to come out of the closet; "The Guard," an Irish buddy-cop comedy starring Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson; and "Project Nim," a British documentary about a chimpanzee raised as a human being in an ethically questionable experiment.

The annual showcase for independent movies runs through January 30, and takes place as bold discoveries from last year's event, including "The Kids Are All Right" and "Winter's Bone," vie for attention during Hollywood's awards season.

Sundance chief programer John Cooper, in his second year at the helm, told Reuters that this year's selection of some 115 feature films reflects a desire among directors to look reality squarely in the face and build stories around how they fit into that world.

"They are sticking more to the truth within themselves and the stories they have to tell," Cooper said.

"There are several films dealing with religion, faith and redemption, and we kind of can't help but think it has something to do with the world we are living in."   Continued...