Sundance 2016 Talking Movies

Sundance 2016

Tom Brook looks back at the internationally respected showcase for independent cinema - the Sundance Film Festival.

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Hello and welcome to the Sundance Film Festival, here in Park city


Utah. I am Tom Brookes. In today's programme we will be looking back at


the highlights of this 11 day film extravaganza. We report on the first


major depiction of President Obama as a younger man on his first date


with the future first Lady. It is not a date until you save his. A


documentary which tells a strange story of North Korea's Kim Jong


Il's kidnapping of a director and his actress ex-wife. Also the tragic


tale of the Florida TV reporter who killed herself on the air. And from


Afghanistan, a documentary of sorts in which the country is revealed


through the eyes of children. All that and more in this special


Sundance Film Festival edition of Talking Movies. Over the past ten


days, the Sundance Film Festival, cofounded by Robert Redford more


than 30 years ago has been taking place here in Park city. A large


contingent of filmmakers made it to Sundance Film Festival this year.


All in all, some 120 film features were shown and they encountered a


variety of responses. Up in the mountains, a 45 Minute Drive from


salt lake city -- Salt Lake City is the festival which is home to a


veritable feast of movies, featuring films from 27 different countries.


Everything from a documentary portrait of the late musician and


composer Frank Zappa to an electrifying slave revolt drama the


Birth of a Nation which set a record for sales. The films covered a lot


of subjects, Oley Help cover the cult which originated in California.


Many members lost faith in their leader. They were so blissed out and


hide without drugs. Daniel Radcliffe and fellow actor Paul Dano starting


Swiss Army Man which wasn't well-received. Was it a challenge


playing a corpse? Physically, obviously there's a lot of things to


do in the film that I had to work out ways of doing which felt really


natural in keeping with the character. And also, it is still


weirdly emotional even though he is dead. I was trying to work out how


to communicate that all being dead. Also from India the team who created


one of the first overt Indian sex comedies. I don't really drink.


Nonsense. Everybody drinks. We have a billion people back home and no


one talks about sex and I think this is a deep-rooted problem in India. I


think most Indians are like this. And I really hope that this film


helps further, to make it easy for the next filmmaker to come out and


do something like this. They put her into the back of the van I didn't


know if I was going to see her again. One well-received picture was


Jim the James Foley Story which told the story of a journalist but by


Islamic State in 2015. It was put together by a childhood friend of


James Foley. As a filmmaker, Sundance Film Festival is amazing.


But this film is bittersweet. It is a film that I never would want to


make. Why don't you let me take you? Films like Sex come out Lies


and Videotape and Reservoir Dogs have been hits in the past. Last


year, Brooklyn, a best picture contender this year in the Oscars


race debuted at Sundance Film Festival. This year, there could be


future award favourites. The directors who find their films have


been selected can be in for a heady experience. This woman made Kiki


which explores the culture of LGBT youths who explore dance. I wanted


the film to be seen by many people in many different audiences and I


think that Sundance Film Festival can be the gateway for that. I don't


see it as a commercial film but I know I wanted a big audience. For


all the people who consider Sundance Film Festival a wondrous place to


be, there are many challenges, mainly the struggles that filmmakers


have in trying to make sure their films have an afterlife once they


leave. It used to be that Sundance films would wind up in art-house


cinemas but now streaming services have changed the length gate. And


the first half of the festival, Internet streaming services were the


most commonplace bidders. Companies like Netflix and iTunes have


dramatically changed the marketplace for independent film and they have


been the epicenter of independent film. These companies have had a


huge influence in the way that movies get out there in the world.


The festival has a big impact locally in Park city where hordes of


people descend on this winter ski resort. It increases business and


drives business. It is paper restaurants and makes the community


vibrant. I think it is a big positive. There were themes that


Sundance this year, four pictures on gun violence, and films touching on


race. A range of movies which festival-goers anchored in reality.


Even among the fictional offerings, many of this year's Sundance stories


dealt with real issues and events. I need you to go and prevent the


assassination of John F. Kennedy. One of the more intriguing stories


that Sundance this year could be found in the documentary the Lovers


and the Despots which sheds light on how Kim Jong Il allegedly kidnapped


a director and his actress ex-wife. The purpose of this abduction was


apparently to enable the North Korean leader to have his own


personal filmmaking team. BBC Culture editor Anderson reports. If


you made this up it would be too far-fetched. This actress went


missing in Hong Kong and shortly after her husband, a director went


missing as well. Years later they appeared making movies in North


Korea. They claimed they had been kidnapped and brought to North Korea


where they were forced by Kim Jong Il to make films for the regime. It


is an incredible tale, told by two British documentary makers. The


actress who was the protagonist in our story, she was quite protective


and there was a little bit of controversy about the story, whether


they were willing or not. We had to be careful. The other main problem


we encountered was, we have the actress telling her story, but there


are two other main characters, the director had died a few years


earlier and Kim Jong Il was still alive when we first started making


the film but he has since died. Kim Jong Il was mad about movies. His


personal film collection was said to be comprised of more than 15,000


tapes. He had people in Embassies picking up prints of films from


around the world to deliver and translate to him. He had this huge


scope of knowing what movies were like and he loved them. But he also


saw what was being produced in North Korea and he wasn't satisfied with


it. The whole crazy story was presented as true in the Sundance


documentary but many in South Korea don't believe the actress. They


claimed A2 went over willingly to the north where Kim Jong Il lavish


them with budgets and resources to make movies that would be


unfavorable in the South. But the documentary features tapes, the


first ever recording of Kim Jong Il's voice. The filmmakers save A2


were kidnapped. She recorded him secretly in the meeting to try to


get him to confess to prove their story was true. She knew that South


Koreans wouldn't believe it because it is a crazy story. It's kind of


makes you tune into the words that are being said and it does leave a


bit more to the imagination in terms of what is going on in the room. In


South Korea, the director's films had run massively over budget but


once he was in the North, money was no object. When Kim Jong Il is your


patron, you can do pretty much anything on a movie set. Budgets


were not a factor and there is an anecdote about him saying that he


had an idea for a film with the crescendo of the steam train blowing


up and he asked Kim Jong Il if you would be able to do that and he said


yes -- if he would. The movie went down well with audiences at its


Sundance premiere but the critical reaction has been mixed. Many felt


that the relatively straightforward style of filmmaking which mixes


archival footage and talking head interviews was disappointingly


mismatched with such a jaw-dropping story. We are used to the story but


hopefully there are people out there who have not seen or heard about it.


Maybe somewhere. And that is the exciting thing. To imagine myself


watching this for the first time, I think it is a really crazy story.


Conflict on Afghanistan has been represented in several different


documentaries but nothing is quite like the Land of


which showed here at Sundance. It looks at the country through the


children and was shot over a period of seven years. It is a mixture of


dream and reality. to marry to add favour to the union.


First of all, we wanted to Afghanistan today. I wanted to tell


the imagination of the kids and that is how we ended up in a more


fictional storyline embedded in a story about reality today in


Afghanistan. Who was pro- train the children? Were they real children or


actors? The kids in the minefield who were digging up the mines were


real people, they do this day in and day out. Their parents ask them to


do it to make money. They sell it for scrap metal. They sell the


explosives. The board's dream was based on many


with different groups of children that I met and I wanted to


wanted to go one step beyond and really go into the world


children. The film is striking to look at. You shot it your self.


texture of the film -- we shot it in. We wanted to have these really


timeless shots use different techniques to try to


explain and to visualise the dramatic landscapes. How would you


describe the genre of the film? Is it a documentary or a fictional


film? I think it is still a documentary because what we are


showing, for me, is not invented. Everything that we show is related


to the country itself. But we characters to interpret things. What


does your film tell us about Afghanistan that we don't already


know from news media? Because it is not as if we are short of images


about Afghanistan? No, that is true. I showed the film a while ago to a


UN conference about the future in Afghanistan, so they were all


experts on Afghanistan and they said this was the first film that they


saw which was so focused on local people and not only focused on the


war and Nato and the Americans fighting. But really going deeper


into daily life. In 1974, a Florida television


reporter created shockwaves which it picked up a gun and killed herself


on the air. That harrowing incident has inspired two films that were


shown at Sundance this year. On a fiction film and the other a


documentary. It is a documentary called Cate Plays Christine that we


focus on in this report. I am hoping to find the tape. In this film the


focus is on a TV journalist who killed herself on the air in 1974.


We know she was a serious journalist, Berry tired of how the


movement towards blood and cost news and she also did the biggest blood


and guts news thing possible. -- Berry tired of the movement towards


blood and guts news. Anything that you archived offer.


Kate Plays Christine stars a rising actress as herself, as she prepares


to play the role of Christine. She travels to Florida, where Christine


worked and eventually died to find answers. There are a lot of opinions


about her and stories. No one has had any particular insight. I don't


know exactly why she did what she did and I will never know. There's a


great impulse, human impulse, to explain tragedy and we certainly


buttered up against that quite a bit in talking to people. Another


Sundance film about Christine this year it is Christine, a drama


starring Rebecca Hall. Both films have been breakout hits at the


Sundance Film Festival this year, earning rave reviews. Rather than


competing against each other the film is actually completely the


other, with Christine being a heartfelt dramatisation and Kate


Plays Christine a more subversive deconstruction of the story. The


challenge of promoting both of these films at Sundance has been about


making them. How do you present the story in a way that is empathetic


and not exploitative? It is not fetishising some very dark story,


that we will all now turn to movie and is about great, it is actually


about intimately regarding someone who is struggling to survive. And


who doesn't begin by society's standards and who is on a consistent


emotional rollercoaster that she can't handle and she hasn't got the


tools to deal with life. I think that's actually what this film is


about, is looking at someone like that and feeling for them and


understanding them. I have decided to kill myself. I will blow my


brains out right on this programme a week from today. Christine


Chubbuck's suicide is believed to have inspired this film, also


featuring a suicidal news anchor. The actions may be even more


relevant to today's media landscape. The fact that she has suicide speech


was reeling against blood and guts television is something that has


become even more prevalent today than it was 40 years ago. And also


the fact that she decided to enter a life on television in such a public


way, I think our desire as a culture to make parts of our lives public is


so much more prominent now. Everyday we are confronted with images and we


have to think about whether we look at them or not. If you look on CNN


you see the shooting or something and you've always got... People are


always questioning whether they should click on that link or not.


These people have opinions about what might have driven her to do it.


The story raises powerful questions and deserves to be recognised. It is


a shame that she is only getting the recognition now in death that she


might have preferred to have while living.


A film inspired by President Obama and his wife was a big talking point


at Sundance this year. It is additional account of the


President's Cup is the dates to win the first Lady. All the action takes


place on a single day in Chicago in 1989.


The world premiere of the film. The actor arrives looking remarkably


like young President Obama. Also there is the actress who presents


some resemblance to the first Lady. He was playing the young President


Obama act at 27 and present him as thoughtful. He was just coming to


the realisation that he could do something big in politics. Other


than that he was not a nerd is a big reader, an avid reader. The film's


focus is on his first date with his wife to be, Michelle. They both


worked in the same law office. She was a working attorney, his


supervisor. The film will open at the Walkabout town chatting. You


think I'm cute? I didn't say that. They talk about her father with MS,


they talk about why does she love what she is doing? Does she love


it? He challenges her and she challenges him about his father. So


it is real-life conversations. How difficult was it for you to get this


right? I worked from a straight on impersonation first and foremost. I


get this sort of the down and make sure I can do that and then I bring


it back and by the time I get on set I would try to drop at all. So the


register -- residue was still there, so you still have some mannerisms.


Many critics at Sundance have been impressed by this film, as have


festival-goers. I really enjoyed it. It was a love story and I was


expecting more of a pickle pit of some sort and it was really... I


thought it was beautifully done. -- political pitch. I loved it. It was


so direct and to see where they met, I had no idea. I didn't know the


background story. To see Chicago, I loved the meeting they had. But how


accurate is it? The film very closely adheres to the real Aya


graphical details of their lives. As far as what they talk about, it's


all conjecture. But is the timing right? President Obama is near the


end of his term. My baby -- might be the more interested on coaxing on


Hillary Clinton or politics of the moment? -- focusing on. It is truly


a love story and you see two powerful minds walk and talk all


day. I love it because it is before cellphones so they have to talk to


each other. It is a film that is favourable to the Obamas, it puts


them in a flattering light. But the director says there was no


interference from the White House. No meddling. I've heard from


reliable horses that the couple are aware of the movie and beyond that I


don't know anything. It's a picture that will probably play better to


Democrats and Republicans. Had it been released earlier in his term it


might have been seen as propaganda. But instead most who see it it


humanises them. As one leading entertainment trade paper put it,


it's a disarmingly dramatic Walkabout. OK, it's not a date.


Fine. Until you say it is. Well, that brings this special Sundance


addition of Talking Movies to a close. We hope you have enjoyed the


programme. Remember, you can always contact us online and you can find


us on Facebook. From me and the rest of the production team here in


Utah, goodbye, as we leave you with a Michael Jackson video that is


partly featured in a new documentary all about him, directed by Spike Lee


and shown here at Sundance. On Friday, Shetland recorded the


strongest wind here for 16 years. Gusts of 105 mph,


particularly damaging winds across the Northern Isles on Friday but


very windy for the north of Northern Ireland, north-east England, gusty


winds and the Scottish capital.


Tom Brook looks back at the internationally respected showcase for independent cinema - the Sundance Film Festival.

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