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Sundance London ‘18

31 May 2018 Suzanne Frost

Fiercely promoting independent cinema, festival director John Cooper and senior programmer David Courier believe in the eclectic voice of Sundance as a stamp of approval. “Independent cinema embraces nuance. There is a connection to humanity in independent film that really means something. The power of cinema is to make you feel with the people on the screen, and art and humanity and stories can lead to change.” A typical Sundance movie, adds Kim Yutani, director of programming, has an original voice by an original storyteller. Sundance has long supported the next generation of film makers, and Sundance London asks UK audiences to take a chance on American independent film.

Women take centre stage this year with 7 out of the 12 films on show directed by female directors. “We didn’t set out to specifically programme women this year”, David clarifies, “it happened naturally, which is a pleasant surprise.” Nevertheless the current tidal wave shaking up the film industry is palpable all over the festival: Amy Adrion’s documentary Half the Picture turns a critical eye on the dismal number of female directors working in Hollywood whilst the opening picture The Tale by Jennifer Fox examines in a brave and harrowingly personal way the power imbalance in her own first sexual encounter with a much older man in a position of authority. In front of the camera, Toni Colette shines in a meaty female role in Ari Aster’s bone-chilling supernatural thriller “Hereditary”. And, to celebrate British film, the festival has secured the UK premiere of Idris Elba’s directorial debut Yardie. Women’s stories and voices are strongly represented throughout the films on show and the framing programme of debates and panels during the festival, all under the overarching theme of #What Next.
 
Crystal Moselle, who is showing her film Skate Kitchen about a group of girl skateboarders in New York City says: “People are in a frenzy about female directors at the moment. But for me, it is really about the next level. Yes, women can make films but programming and reviewing is still male dominated and they dictate their own taste.”

 

Debra Granik, director of the Oscar winning Winter’s Bone and here to show her new film Leave No Trace about an unusual father-daughter-duo rejecting societal and capitalist norms, dreams of a time when equal representation will be normal: “We won’t even notice, it will just be a homo sapiens panel.” In independent film, healthy representation was already more prevalent, it is the big blockbuster industry that is slow to adapt. “It’s going to need a push”, she believes, “but at the same time, I do feel for everybody – nobody wants to give up their seat voluntarily. But culture cannot stand still.” She isn’t a fan of #MeToo: “It is too simple a phrase. I prefer Time’s Up. It has energy. It means something has become tired and exhausted and Time’s Up tells you to stay on your toes and check the status quo and demands us to be the most alive we can be. It’s opt out, do better! To me, it’s the thinking person’s slogan.”

 
Clare Binns, director of programming and acquisitions for Picturehouse Cinemas, the woman who first brought Sundance London to Picturehouse Central, is a strong believer in diversity: “Picturehouse was always run by women. We always believed in equality, it is natural for us, just now the world is changing around us, catching up. Picturehouse is a good match for Sundance because we want to be at the forefront of current debates and conversations. We want our cinemas to be vibrant, lively places to come to, and Sundance is celebrating the richness of film culture out there. We invite you to take a chance on something, challenge yourself and discover films you maybe usually wouldn’t have considered.”
 
“And I love this venue”, John Cooper confesses, “ In Utah we are spread out all over this little village. It’s great to have it all under this one roof in one beautiful location. And the Q&A sessions are definitely different here! UK audiences really know cinema.”
 
Sundance Film Festival ’18: London is at Picturehouse Central 31 May – 3 June. Visit the website for full programme of films and events. Tickets starts at £8.
 
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