This Year’s Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Institute has recently released the names of the 65 films selected to premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival for the U.S. Competition, World Competition and out-of-competition NEXT category. The festival, which occupies Park City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden Utah, is set to take place January 21-31. Founded in 1978, the Sundance Film Festival has been a platform for independent filmmakers around the world to showcase their work.

Roy Dekel | Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Institute grants more than $2.5 million to independent artists each year. The festival provides an outlet for artists across the world to reach a broad spectrum of independent filmmakers like themselves, and experienced professionals in the industry. Executive Director, Keri Putnam, reinforces their focus in  recent news release on their website, “Our mission is to amplify these voices from outside the mainstream at the Festival and, through our year-round filmmaker Labs, programs and events, to celebrate their truly independant passion and spirit.”

Some earlier successes from the Sundance Film Festival have included Blackfish, Whiplash, Precious, Boyhood, Dope, and Napolean Dynamite. Featuring both feature-length and short films, the Festival is broken down into different categories including,

U.S. Dramatic Competition – “Presenting the world premieres of 16 narrative feature films, the Dramatic Competition offers Festivalgoers a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American independent film.”

U.S. Documentary Competition – “Sixteen world-premiere American documentaries that illuminate the ideas, people, and events that shape the present day.”

World Cinema Dramatic Competition – “Twelve films from emerging filmmaking talent around the world offer fresh perspectives and inventive styles.”

World Cinema Documentary Competition – “Twelve documentaries by some of the most courageous and extraordinary international filmmakers working today.”

NEXT – “Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling populate this program. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises that the films in the section will shape a “greater” next wave in American cinema. Presented by Adobe.

The Sundance Institute is dedicated to providing creative and financial support to aspiring filmmakers, directors, screenwriters, and artists through their series of Fellowships and Labs. Their programs, including Documentary, Feature Film, Music, and Theatre, give the artists a chance to rehearse, shoot, and edit their projects with industry professionals as their mentors. The Sundance Film Festival has  given a number of films notability, some of which have even went on to receive Oscar nominations. To check out the full list of films that will premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival click here.


Movies Under the Stars Project Extended

Movies Under the Stars, a New York City summer outdoor film screening program, has continued to be a hit since its inception a few years ago. Every summer, multiple venues throughout the city host outdoor screenings of both new and classic films. This past year’s HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival showcased a few very familiar titles including Ghostbusters, Footloose, Chinatown, and Back to the Future. 


The program’s outdoor locations include the Central Astoria Waterfront, Central Park, Washington Square Park, Tompkins Square Park, and Columbia University. Due to the program’s popularity, Movies Under the Stars has been extended for another month, adding quite a few August viewings. All five boroughs will host family-friendly events, showing The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Wiz, Annie, Mad Hot Ballroom, and Enchanted. More parks around the city are also joining the summer fun to enhance exposure to participating New Yorkers.

Los Angeles has a similar summer outdoor screening program beginning in April and lasting until the end of October. The fair LA weather makes it easier to hold outdoor events for a longer duration of time. This summer, a 2015 Master Calendar was released, allowing everyone to easily schedule which screenings they would like to attend. For the month of August, some great films are lined up including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club,  The Princess Bride, Mean Girls, and Big Hero 6. Screenings are spread throughout L.A. to venues like the Lou Bredlow Pavilion in Warner Park, La Cienega Park, Pacific Palisades, and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Outdoor screenings give people the old-school drive-up theater experience for a low cost and easy convenience. Many look forward to the festivals every year. With the increase in popularity, both New York and L.A. are going to have to find new venues, additional support, and a larger number of eligible films. At least this is a good problem to have!

32nd Jerusalem Film Festival

On Thursday, July 9th, the Israeli film scene was brought to center stage with the opening of the 32nd Jerusalem Film Festival. This year was the first since the controversial move to pull the film “Beyond the Fear”, the documentary based on Yigal Amir who killed Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabain in 1995.

Roy-Dekel-FilmFestThe biggest concept this year is: mixing political and socially charged films, featuring controversial directors such as Hadar Morag, Evgeny Ruman, and Avishai Sivan. Morag’s film titled “Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me” follows the journey of Muhammad, a man with family ties to a collaborator with Israeli security services. Muhammad befriends a lone ranger who rides his motorcycle into the inner city. Ruman’s psychological drama, “The Man in the Wall”, spans over one night in a Tel Aviv Apartment. The film was recently played in Rotterdam where it was nominated for a Fipresci prize. The 2010 Cannes Golden Camera winner, Avishai Sivan, will be showing “Tikkun,” the story of a ultra-Orthodox scholar who is involved in a serious accident, which in turn makes him apathetic to his studies. His father, who brought him back to life is tormented by thinking he has crossed God’s will.

International standouts include the critically acclaimed Amy Whinehouse documentary, “Amy,” by British born Asif Kapadia, and Taiwanese director Hou Hsais-Hisen’s, “The Assassin.” The festival also will have special features, including an appearance from this years Lifetime Achievement award winner John Turturro and a screening of the drama “Mia Madre” from Italian director Nanni Moretti. Turturro will also be involved in master classes with Gitai and Seidl.

The 10th anniversary of the Jerusalem Pitch Point session will include a focus on co-producers between international cinema and Israel, and a panel on the topic of Israeli cinema in the eyes of foreign media. The festival will conclude on Sunday, July 19th with a open-air screening of “The Godfather”, and a live orchestral score conducted by John Freer.

18th Annual Shanghai Film Festival

Roy-Dekel-SIFFThis past weekend marked the kick-off the the 18th Annual Shanghai International Film Festival. The 2015 showcase is slated to run from June 13th to June 21st. Films for exhibition include Leviafan, Boyhood, The Theory of Everything, Weekend, Once Upon a Time in America, and The Last Emperor.

The Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) was established in 1993 and is currently the only International Federation of Film Producers Associations approved festival in China. The purpose of the festival is the highlight the rapidly growing Chinese film industry, while also presenting awards, panels, workshops, and markets aimed at garnering an even bigger international audience. As Chinese economy has grown, the Chinese film industry has been able to reach new heights. The SIFF is now a prosperous event for filmmakers and producers worldwide. In 2014, an astounding 447 mainstream media sources and 1,385 journalists reported on the SIFF, including local Chinese networks like the Xinhua News Agency, Shanghai Media Group, and CCTV. Foreign broadcasts like “The Wall Street Journal,” “The New York Times,” “Reuters,” and “Associated Press” were also in attendance.

The festival’s primary award is the Golden Goblet Award. Recipients are selected by a panel of highly qualified film industry professionals. Categories include: Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, and Outstanding Artistic Achievement. 2015 nominees represent 12 countries including Japan, Korea, France, USA, Iran, and of course, China. The Asian New Talent Award, celebrating emerging actors, screenwriters, and cinematographers based in the Asian continent has been revamped and is ready for the 2015 festival.

In addition to the films up for consideration, the SIFF has a running schedule of hot titles screenings including Gone Girl, The Wizard of Oz, Goodfellas, A Beautiful Mind, and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

As the SIFF gains popularity, ticket sales and high profile celebrity appearances are expected to increase.