Hollywood heads to the mountains to kick off Sundance fest

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A view of official signage around town as Park City prepares for the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (AFP)
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Volunteers shovel snow as Park City prepares for the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2019
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Hollywood heads to the mountains to kick off Sundance fest

  • The ski town is already bustling with activity as brands and sponsors rush to finish plastering Main Street with logos and installations
  • The opening night selections are long sold out

PARK CITY, UTAH: Hollywood is bundling up and descending on Park City, Utah to kick off the 2019 Sundance Film Festival Thursday.
Although the first films of the two-week long festival will not premiere until Thursday evening, the ski town is already bustling with activity as brands and sponsors rush to finish plastering Main Street with logos and installations before the thousands of film fans and filmmakers touch down. Although the temptations in town are many — from flashy virtual reality set-ups and performances from the likes of Arcade Fire, to cozy lounges and filmmaker panels — the films themselves remain the main event for Sundance attendees. The opening night selections are long sold out.
The festival officially starts Thursday evening with the premieres of “After The Wedding,” an adaptation of Susanne Bier’s Oscar-nominated Danish film starring Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore, and “The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley,” Alex Gibney’s documentary about Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.
“I hope [audiences] get a deep dive into the psychology of fraud and the psychology of capitalism,” Gibney said. “That’s what’s really interesting to me about this, that journey of why we believe certain stories and why certain storytellers are effective.”
Also debuting Thursday night are “Native Son,” a contemporary re-ire-imaging the Richard Wright novel, “Memory: The Origins of Alien,” about the Ridley Scott film, and “Apollo 11,” which has never-before-seen or heard footage from the mission. Opening night films have tended to run the gamut from excellent (“Whiplash“) to forgettable (“The Bronze“).
The Robert Redford-founded film festival is the host this year to 117 feature films, 105 world premieres and even some retrospectives, including a 20th-anniversary screening of “The Blair Witch Project.”
Recent hits that debuted at Sundance include “The Big Sick,” “Get Out,” “Eighth Grade,” “Sorry to Bother You,” “RBG” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Even with competition from Netflix and Hulu, there are still some indies that break out. But lately, some of the pricier acquisition deals have not panned out, like last year’s “Assassination Nation,” which was purchased for $10 million and went on to gross only $2.5 million at the box office.
This year programmers have promised a return to the discovery aspect that Sundance made its name with. With a new director of programming in place in Kim Yutani, the festival also has a diverse lineup of filmmakers behind the camera too: 39% of the projects were directed by women and 35% by people of color.
“What attracted me to Sundance in the first place was my love of independent film and the types of stories that they’ve shown over the years: Stories about outsiders, people on the margins, things that exist outside of the mainstream,” Yutani said. “Part of [my goal] is keeping up that legacy and making sure our program is as diverse as possible.”
The festival runs through Feb. 3.


Hoda Barakat wins Arab Booker for ‘The Night Mail’

Updated 24 April 2019
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Hoda Barakat wins Arab Booker for ‘The Night Mail’

  • The author will receive a prize of $50,000 for her winning novel “The Night Mail”
  • The book includes a series of letters from individuals who are facing social and personal issues

ABU DHABI: Lebanese author Hoda Barakat has won the Booker international prize for Arabic fiction for her novel “The Night Mail.”
She will receive $50,000 and the five other authors who reached the final short-list will each receive $10,000, the organizers revealed late Tuesday.
Conceived in Abu Dhabi in 2007, the prize is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation in London and financed by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism.
Born in Beirut, Hoda Barakat lives in Paris and has published several novels including “The Stone of Laughter” and “My Master and My Lover.”
“The Night Mail” is her sixth novel and has been translated into French.
Alongside the prize money, funds will also be provided for translating the book into English.
The novel consists of a series of letters by individuals “facing social misery and their own demons,” according to publisher Actes Sud.
Abu Dhabi, capital of the emirate of the same name, has become an increasingly significant cultural hub.
The city hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi — the first museum to take the name “Louvre” outside France — which houses nearly 600 works in a futuristic building designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.