19 Burning Questions for Sundance 2014 - Rolling Stone
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19 Burning Questions for Sundance 2014


Lost amid the snow, schmoozing and star-gazing of the Sundance Film Festival is the fact that it's really about movies – films made far from Hollywood, projects that no executive would greenlight (but which several will be clamoring to buy now that someone else had the courage to make them). Sure, the chase for the next Beasts of the Southern Wild may lead to a windfall for some and Oscars for others. But for the moviegoer, it's about getting to see something different that, if not for Sundance, might never reach your local theater, DVD player or streaming screen. Here are 19 stories we'll be tracking over the next eleven days. 

Introduction by Gary Susman. Reporting by Logan Hill and Katie Van Syckle

finding fela sundance

Stein Kertechian

Which Music Doc Will Be the Wildest?

Messy, nutso and inspiring music docs have become a Sundance linchpin and crowdpleasing spectacle over the years – from Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, DiG! and The Black Power Mixtape to Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer and this year's Oscar contender 20 Feet From Stardom. This year, curators queued up Alex Gibney's Finding Fela, an in-depth tribute to Fela Kuti; Lambert and Stamp, about aspiring filmmakers who became managers of The Who; and Alive Inside, a look at how music can trigger memories in patients whose minds have been ravaged by Alzheimer's or dementia. But the contest for oddest music doc comes down to two: My Prairie Home is a stylized, theatrical take on the life of transgendered Canadian singer-songwriter Rae Spoon, partly shot amid museum dinosaur dioramas. And 20,000 Days on Earth is just barely a "documentary": a video-essay largely composed of staged, highly stylized scenes from the life of Australia's Nick Cave.

whiplash sundance

Daniel McFadden

Which Music Feature Will Rock Hardest?

A handful of films this year explore the dark side of the arts, but which one will make you dance? Whiplash, which premiered as a short at last year's festival, follows a 19-year-old drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) who is so driven he practices until his hands bleed. Low Down starring Elle Fanning tells the story of jazz pianist Joe Albany and his struggles with addiction in 1970s Hollywood. And Frank follows a young man so intimidated by his new pop band that he wears a giant plastic head as a shield. Meanwhile, in Rudderless, William H. Macy follows a father who becomes a musician after the death of his son. The less tortured contenders are Song One, a look at the Brooklyn music scene with Anne Hathaway, and Memphis, which centers on musician/poet Willis Earl Beale's path of self-discovery in the old blues city.

fed up sundance

Scott Sinkler

Will We See the Next ‘An Inconvenient Truth’?

Sundance launched An Inconvenient Truth, Super Size Me and the career of Michael Moore. This year, at least five documentaries stand a chance of being the next conversation-changing breakout: In Fed Up, Katie Couric picks up where Morgan Spurlock left off by tracking three obese children raised on processed foods. The Case Against 8 tracks the historic fight over gay rights and California's Proposition 8. Private Violence looks at domestic violence by following one abused woman's long, legal fight for justice. The Internet's Own Boy follows the cause of pioneering online activist – some might say martyr – Aaron Swartz. But the most likely breakout hit is Ivory Tower, from Page One: Inside the New York Times director Andrew Rossi. The film attacks the explosion in college tuition and student debt – and will have a built-in audience in every college town. That is, if students can afford tickets.

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