- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 30, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - John Krasinski, Helen Hunt, Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfried, Danny Glover and rap star Common are among the stars with movies heading to the Sundance Film Festival.

Films announced Wednesday that will compete for prizes at next month’s independent-film showcase include dramas dealing with family crises, such as director Ry Russo-Young’s “Nobody Walks,” with “The Office” co-star Krasinski and Olivia Thirlby; “The End of Love,” starring Cera, Seyfried, Shannyn Sossamon and writer-director Mark Webber; and Sheldon Candis’ “Luv,” featuring Glover and Common.

Hunt stars with John Hawkes and William H. Macy in Ben Lewin’s “The Surrogate,” an unusual story about a 36-year-old man who has spent most of his life on an iron lung and now develops a plan to lose his virginity.

They’re among 16 films in Sundance’s competition for U.S. dramas, whose past winners included eventual Academy Awards nominees “Winter’s Bone,” “Precious” and “Frozen River.”

Sundance also announced 16 films competing in each of three other categories: U.S. documentaries, world dramas and world documentaries. The festival runs Jan. 19-29 in Park City, Utah.

Festival director John Cooper said the lineup had gone a bit mainstream and populist some years but that the roster this time has veered squarely back toward the edgy terrain for which lower-budgeted indie films are known. That could have something to do with the uncertain state of the economy, he said.

“I like the eclectic nature of the storytelling,” Cooper said. “Filmmakers, for some reason or other, they’re not conforming to Hollywood stereotypes, not that independent filmmakers ever did. But I think even less than they did a couple of years ago. They’re being bolder, taking risks, telling the stories they want to tell.

“In challenging economic times, artists maybe tend to get a little freer in what they do, and sometimes, maybe even a little better.”

The U.S. dramatic competition also includes directors Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos’ “Filly Brown,” a hip-hop saga with Lou Diamond Phillips, Edward James Olmos and relative newcomer Gina Rodriguez in the title role; James Ponsoldt’s “Smashed,” a story of a booze-loving couple featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul and “The Help” star Octavia Spencer; and So Yong Kim’s “For Ellen,” starring Paul Dano, Jena Malone and Jon Heder, whose career was launched at Sundance with his title role in “Napoleon Dynamite.”

Overseen by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, the festival will include 110 feature-length films, chosen out of 4,000 submitted from around the world. The festival announces its lineup of star-studded premieres, which will screen out of competition, next week.

Though Hollywood A-listers at Sundance get most of the attention, Redford tries to keep the focus on fresh talent from the indie world.

“We are, and always have been, a festival about the filmmakers,” Redford said. “So what are they doing? What are they saying? They are making statements about the changing world we are living in. Some are straightforward, some novel and some offbeat but always interesting. One can never predict. We know only at the end, and I love that.”

The Sundance opening night schedule features one title from each of the four competitions: director Todd Louiso’s U.S. drama entry “Hello I Must Be Going,” a divorce comedy with Melanie Lynskey and Blythe Danner; Australian filmmaker Kieran Darcy-Smith’s world drama contender “Wish You Were Here,” starring Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer in the story of a vacation gone terribly wrong; Lauren Greenfield’s U.S. documentary “The Queen of Versailles,” about a couple who go bust while building a palatial 90,000-square-foot home; and Malik Bendjelloul’s world documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” a British-Danish film tracing the life of a 1970s rock performer who vanished into oblivion.

Sundance once was known almost exclusively as a showcase for rising U.S. filmmakers, but organizers added the international competitions a few years back to raise the festival’s profile for overseas films. The result has been an international lineup that included such breakout hits as “An Education,” “Animal Kingdom” and “Once.”

“Internationally is where I see a real spike in the caliber of films we had submitted to us,” said Trevor Groth, Sundance’s programming director. “There are world-class films submitted to us on par with any festival in the world right now. I think international filmmakers are now looking at Sundance as a premier place to launch films. It’s not just Cannes or Berlin anymore.”




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