Sundance documentaries offer broad view of the world

Wed Jan 26, 2011 12:23pm EST
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By Christine Kearney

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Violence inflicted on Iranian protesters, big business infiltrating the U.S. justice system and an inspiring portrait of race car driver Ayrton Senna are all subjects of documentaries that are winning fans at Sundance 2011.

More than two dozen nonfiction films are being showcased at the Sundance Film Festival this week in Park City, Utah. Some are competing for prizes and aiming to score distribution deals, others are seeking media hype to gain traction with audiences, and still more simply want to entertain and inform.

Sundance backer, actor and activist Robert Redford, is an avid supporter of the movies, helping make the festival a key venue for documentary filmmakers worldwide.

Four of this week's Oscar-nominated docs -- "Gasland," "Restrepo," "Waste Land" and "Exit Through the Gift Shop" -- premiered at Sundance 2010. And when Oprah Winfrey chose to unveil her new documentary club for her OWN TV network, she chose this year's festival as the venue.

With such powerful influence, when a doc screens at Sundance, people notice.

Some of the non-fiction films here have been propelled by their subject's fame, such as "Troubadours," which follows the time of singers Carole King and James Taylor. "Becoming Chaz" tell of singer Cher's daughter undergoing a sex change, and "Reagan" examines the former U.S. President's contradictions just ahead of what would have been his 100th birthday, February 6.

Others, such as Morgan Spurlock's "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" and Oscar-winner James Marsh's "Project Nim," attracted audiences due to the director's notoriety. And then there were some that gained fans the old-fashioned doc way -- stirring hearts and minds and exposing injustice.


<p>Director Morgan Spurlock poses for a portrait while promoting his documentary "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" during the Sundance Film Festival, January 23, 2011. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>