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Friday, 22 January, 1999, 12:13 GMT
Altman film opens Sundance
Robert Redford started backing the film festival in 1985
Robert Redford's annual Sundance Film Festival has opened with a showing of veteran director Robert Altman's latest film Cookie's Fortune.

The festival is a chance independent filmmakers to have their work noticed by the big distributors.

It is the biggest showcase of its kind in the US and each year young directors and actors mix and mingle - making contacts and hoping for that one big break. Every year some are lucky to be spotted by companies searching for a sure-fire hit.

Box office success

Robert Altman's film Cookie's Fortune opens this year's festival
Sundance films have been big box office successes include: Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies & Videotape (1989), Richard Linklater's Slacker (1991), Steve James's Hoop Dreams (1994) and Party Girl (1995). In 1998 the film Pi was a hit and it has since become one of the year's most profitable independent films.

The festival opened last year with Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hanna. This year that honour went to Cookie's Fortune, starring Glenn Close.

Also getting its premiere is UK director Mike Figgis' The Loss of Sexual Innocence starring Julian Sands and Saffron Burrows.

Altogether 118 pictures will be shown at Sundance, an estimated 70 of those will be world premieres.

Festival organisers say they are pleased that this year there are more women film makers showing their work. One of this year's films is Nancy Savoca's The 24 Hour Woman.

Festival boom

Gwyneth Paltrow: Starred in Sliding Doors which opened Sundance last year
The whole event began in 1978 as the Utah-US Film Festival. But after suffering financial problems it was taken over by actor-director-producer Robert Redford's Sundance Institute in 1985.

The festival has grown considerably in that time and now the small ski resort of Park City gets very crowded with thousands of movie professionals and fans. In 1985 it sold just under 16,000 seats - but last year the ticket count was 134,000.

Rival festivals has also have sprung up nearby, such as the Slamdance International Film Festival, now in its fifth year.

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