If the Sundance Film Festival has always been the place to discover tomorrow’s biggest stars in front of and behind the camera during the past 30 years, it seems to have become even more fruitful in recent years. From young filmmakers like Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), and Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) to ready-to-launch superstars like Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) and Dane DeHaan (Kill Your Darlings), Hollywood has quickly found its future in the snowy peaks of Park City. “One of the biggest changes in the last 30 years is how independent film has become such a vital part of the cultural landscape now,” says Sundance director John Cooper. “It’s no longer an outside-Hollywood thing. It’s its own art form, and we’re feeling the power of that and the surge of that as we move forward.”
Put another way, though, independent film is no longer just for aspiring filmmakers and undiscovered actors. Yes, it’s still the place where unknowns arrive with hopes of becoming the next Felicity Jones or Lee Daniels. But it also represents opportunities for established superstars to play, to flex dormant muscles, and to reinvent themselves. Among today’s announcement of Sundance’s 2014 Dramatic and Documentary competitions, as well as its NEXT section — which highlights digital filmmaking with an eye on tomorrow’s storytelling techniques — were films starring Kristen Stewart, who plays a conflicted Guantanamo Bay prison guard in Camp X-Ray; Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway, who plays the sister of a comatose musician in Song One; and Saturday Night Live alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader reuniting to play distant twins in The Skeleton Twins – a drama!
Sundance wouldn’t be Sundance, though, if it were just its rich and famous alums coming back to play. “I was particularly proud watching Catching Fire and sort of remembering Winter’s Bone and remembering Jennifer Lawrence at the festival as a young actress, seeing what she was going to become,” says Cooper. “There’s some great discoveries that I think are going to come out of this festival, too.”
In fact, Cooper and Sundance’s director of programming Trevor Groth think this year’s crop of films — culled from more than 12,000 submissions and including 96 world premieres — is the deepest and most polished slate in history. READ FULL STORY