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

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.


The Arab films submitted for the 2021 Oscars

Updated 26 November 2020

The Arab films submitted for the 2021 Oscars

DUBAI: One of the toughest contests at the Oscars is for the honor of Best International Feature Film. Competing with the best movies from all over the world, it is a tremendous accomplishment to be named one of the five films that make it into the final round. 

This year, these Arab films have been submitted for the Oscars at the 93rd Academy Awards set to take place on April 25, 2021. From Jordan to Tunisia, here are the homegrown films to root for. 

‘200 Metres’ (Jordan)


Palestinian director Ameen Nayfeh’s first feature film tells the story of a Palestinian father trapped on the other side of the separation wall who is trying to reach the hospital for his son. This is Jordan’s fourth film submission for the Oscars.

‘You Will Die at 20’ (Sudan)


The award-winning feature from Sudanese filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala was submitted as Sudan’s official nomination for the Best International Feature Film category at the 2021 Academy Awards. It is the country’s first Oscars submission.

‘Gaza Mon Amour’ (Palestine)


Palestinian filmmaking twins Tarzan and Arab Nasser’s second feature film tells the story of a 60-year-old fisherman who is secretly in love with a market dressmaker. As the story unfolds, the fisherman discovers an ancient Greek statue that troubles him. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and later screened at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival where it won the Netpac award. It will be the 13th film to represent Palestine at the Oscars.

‘Heliopolis’ (Algeria)


Directed by Djaffar Gacem, the Algerian drama is based on the real-life events of May 8, 1945 where French colonial forces attacked thousands of Algerians in the city of Guelma (called Heliopolis in ancient times). If “Heliopolis” is selected, it would be Algeria’s first entry since Costa-Gavras’s 1970 film “Z,” which was also the first Arab film to win an Academy Award. 

‘The Man Who Sold His Skin’ (Tunisia)

Starring Monica Belluci, Kaouther Ben Hania’s film will represent Tunisia in the Oscar race for best international feature film. The movie, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won the best actor award for Yahya Mahayni, tells the story of a Syrian man, who desperate to reach Europe to be with the love of his life, gets a large Schengen visa tattooed on his back by a famous artist, thus becoming a human artwork to be displayed at a Brussel’s museum. It is Ben Hania’s second film to be submitted for the Oscars.

‘Broken Keys’ (Lebanon)

On Tuesday, the Lebanese Ministry of Culture announced in a statement that award-winning filmmaker Jimmy Keyrouz’s movie has been officially selected to represent Lebanon in the foreign film category of the 93rd edition of the Oscars. The film, which was meant to premiere at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival, revolves around Karim, a young pianist who lives somewhere in Iraqi and Syrian lands occupied by Daesh terrorists, and dreams of fleeing to Europe to become a musician. If selected, it would be the third Lebanese film nominated for an Oscar following Ziad Doueiri’s “The Insult” in 2017 and Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” in 2018.