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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 11:34 GMT
Sun rises on Redford's festival
Robert Redford
Robert Redford founded the Sundance Institute
The curtain rises on Thursday on the Sundance Film Festival - the world's leading showcase for independent movies.

Now in its 20th year - with the continued backing of actor/director Robert Redford - the festival in the ski town of Park City, Utah, will show a bumper 106 feature films, including a mixture of world and US premieres.

The 10-day event has become the place for both fans and film-makers to spot new trends and emerging talent.

You Can Count on Me
You Can Count on Me was one of last year's discoveries
For independent film-makers, it represents the best place to sell their films to Hollywood executives.

Two such successes from last year were You Can Count on Me and Chuck and Buck.

In the past, The Blair Witch Project and Sex, Lies and Videotape were also recognised as films with mass market global appeal.

This year, the UK's film minister Janet Anderson is also attending the festival.

She will be talking to film-makers about the growing importance of the British film industry and promoting the country as a location for future projects.

Robert Redford first set up the Sundance Institute to help independent film-makers in 1981, and now over 400 film-makers benefit from its programmes each year.

Big names

In addition to fresh talent, the Sundance festival now also attracts its quota of big names - both on and off screen.

Christine Lahti, once an actress in TV drama Chicago Hope, will kick off the festival's opening night with her directorial debut, My First Mister.

Samuel L Jackson
Samuel L Jackson will be in town with Caveman's Valentine

The film is creating a buzz as an novel mix of love story, comedy and intrigue.

Also expected to create interest will be Unbreakable star Samuel L Jackson.

He will be in town to promote his film Caveman's Valentine about a homeless man caught in a murder plot.

Julia Stiles, currently riding high at the US box office as the star of Save The Last Dance, will be on hand to promote The Business of Strangers, centring on a struggle for corporate power.

British film Enigma is unlikely to have celebrity backing at the festival, but it could still grab attention.

The adaptation of Richard Harris' novel, starring Kate Winslet, chronicles British efforts to decode German transmissions during World War II.

From Icelandic film-maker Fridrik Thor Fridiksson, who worked with Lars Von Trier on Dancer In The Dark, comes Angels of the Universe, billed as a moody look at madness.

Save the Last Dance
Julia Stiles currently stars in Save the Last Dance

Green Dragon, meanwhile, features Patrick Swayze and tells the story of a Vietnamese man held captive in US army camps in the 70s.

Sex change

Hot movie trends for the future on show could include transgenderism.

The festival line-up includes a screen adaptation of the stage play Hedwig and the Angry Inch from John Cameron Mitchell.

Princessa is about a Brazilian who undergoes a sex change from man to woman and Southern Comfort follows the story of a female to male transsexual with ovarian cancer.

But also making a mark at this year's Sundance is the surprising number of movies employing digital effects - made more accessible to low-budget film-makers by the growth of the internet and cheaper price of software.

In recognition of this growing trend, the festival has also introduced an online resource centre to help film-makers promote their work.

Patrick Swayze
Patrick Swayze returns to screens in Green Dragon

As the festival winds up, a number of prizes will be awarded.

Festival representatives vote for the Grand Jury Prize for the film most representative of the festival's independent spirit.

Members of the visiting public have the chance to select Audience Award winners and film-makers themselves will bestow the Film-makers Trophy on their favourite feature.

See also:

07 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Enigma premières at Sundance
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