A Minute With: Sundance festival director John Cooper

Thu Jan 20, 2011 8:46am EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - The Sundance Film Festival kicks off on Thursday, starting 10 days of movie screenings at the largest gathering of the year for U.S. independent filmmakers.

Movies screened here will become some of the hot titles of the year among low-budget and art house movies. Hollywood calls them "specialty" films. Last year's "The Kids Are All Right" screened here, as did "Blue Valentine" and "Winter's Bone."

Festival director John Cooper, Sundance's chief programer, spoke to Reuters about Sundance 2011, the tone of this year's movies, which were chosen from 3,812 entries, and current industry trends.

Q: When you pick films for Sundance, do you have themes in mind or particular types of movies you want to screen?

A: "No. We do the opposite. What we do is set categories like this year's "Next" section (for very low-budget work) or "Premieres" that movies fit into. That is how it works. We're not ever looking for a theme or expecting one because we'd always be chasing our tails."

Q: Then, from this year's selections, did any themes emerge? Put another way, what's on filmmakers' minds?

A "In the broadest sense, there seems to be a very eclectic and personal view of the world. We found the stories coming from an authentic place, very personal, and not so much worrying about commercial possibilities. They are sticking more to the truth within themselves and the stories they have to tell. That 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."

Q: Sundance is a huge event. Is it still a place where young filmmakers can get in without having a connection?   Continued...

<p>Ticket buyers exit a box office before the start of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, January 19, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart</p>