Sundance kicks off tomorrow and the journey for many films that will hit your arthouse and garner awards season heat will begin in Park City, Utah. While the lineup of feature films is always impressive, this year in particular features an equally strong array of documentaries with subject matter in a wide range of topics and interests. So here's a few that might catch fire over the next week or so.
First up, skater/filmmaker Stacy Peralta, the man behind "Dogtown & Z-Boys," returns with "Bones Brigade." Focusing this time on the '80s skate scene and culture, the film will chronicle folks like Steve Caballero, Tommy Guerrero, Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Lance Mountain and Rodney Mullen. THR has dropped the first clip from the film, and it's fascinating account of Tony Hawk, who reveals his near dominance of the scene at such a young age was threatening to eat away at his enthusiasm for the sport. Needless to say, this has us hooked and we want to see more.
Moving in a totally different direction, the trailer for "Finding North" has landed and in case the clunky title didn't clue you in (we're still not sure what it means), it's about the hunger crisis in America, from the producers behind "Waiting For Superman" and "Food Inc." That said, there is some interesting talent behind this one with apperances by "Top Chef" head judge Tom Colicchio (who also executive produced the film) and Jeff Bridges, with music by T-Bone Burnett and The Civil Wars. The film will tell the story through the stories of three people: a single mother caring for her two kids; a second grader who relies on friends and neighbors to help her eat everyday and an asthma-stricken kid whose health is worsened by the lack of a healthy meal. The trailer is promising, though we wished there was more of a balance with hard data to go with the emotoinal crux of the story. But still, this should shine a light on a topic not spoken of often enough.
But of all the docs unspooling, it's the Peter Jackson and Damien Echols prodcued "West Of Memphis" that should garner the most attention. While the West Memphis 3 are free, their struggle to be fully exonerated continues. EW caught up with the filmmakers who unsurprisingly are cynical about Arkansas' pursuit of justice, and their hopes for the film. For Echols, he believes it's all about money for the state that prosecuted him, and they're handling of the case has increasingly been about avoiding a lawsuit.
"I still have hope that that [being exonerated from the crime] will eventually happen. But here’s the thing I had to look at: In the film, the prosecutor talks about us [potentially] filing lawsuits against the state for around $60 million. The thing I had to keep in mind was these people were doing anything they possibly could to keep from having to admit that they made a mistake," Echols explains. "They could have easily had me stabbed to death in prison for $50 and then never have to worry about paying out that $60 million. I had no medical care, no dental care, my health was rapidly deteriorating. So between that and the fact that they could have done anything they wanted to at any time, I don’t believe I would have lived to see an exoneration."
As for director Amy Berg, she just hopes her film can start a path toward true justice being served. "I hope that the state is put in a position to react. We want them to investigate this case properly. Because right now, the families of the murdered children have no justice and the three guys who were wrongly convicted have no justice, so it’s just a failed system that needs to be repaired," she says.
But lest we forget, it was Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger whose trilogy of "Paradise Lost" films first brought the case to the attention of the world, and kept the cause burning over the ten or so years it unfolded. And Jackson credits the first film for spurring his initial involvement. "It came from watching the original 'Paradise Lost,' which we didn’t actually see until 2004. And even though the film only covers the events around the original trial, you get the strong sense that this is not right. It makes you angry," Jackson revealed. "We just assumed that this case had finished, because we were watching it 10 years after it happened. As soon as we saw that this was still carrying on, we contacted Lorri [Davis, Echols' wife] and struck up an e-mail correspondence. We didn’t make a conscious decision to become involved or anything; it just evolved as we learned more about the case and we became friends."
All three films unspool at Sundance. The festival runs from January 19-29.