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Tom Brook Saturday, 29 January, 2000, 10:43 GMT
Sundance shines on female talent
Christian Bale stars in the satire American Psycho
By BBC News Online's Tom Brook

If nothing else, the 10-day Sundance Film Festival will end on Monday as a triumph for women.

Of the 32 independent films competing for jury awarded prizes, almost half were directed by women, a far higher proportion than ever before.

The female film-makers who came to Sundance have not delivered a string of slushy romantic comedies as their detractors might expect.

Quite the contrary, these directors have created some of the festival's hardest-hitting and most controversial pictures.

It was a woman, Mary Harron, who directed the eagerly awaited American Psycho, which had its premiere at Sundance.
American Psycho is from the Easton Ellis novel

American Psycho, starring Christian Bale, is based on Bret Easton Ellis's novel about a yuppie serial killer. Harron has tried to make it a satire on the conspicuous consumption of the late 1980s.

The director scored a critical triumph with her 1996 film Who Killed Andy Warhol. But in Sundance the hype surrounding her latest movie seems to have been greater than the film itself, which has received a rather mixed response.

Feminist tale

Girlfight, one of the most talked about Sundance offerings, was also from a woman. It's a feminist tale from writer-director Karyn Kusama in which a New York high school teen puts her father and brother in their place by becoming a boxer.

The film reportedly became the subject of an intense bidding war after its screening and the director will leave Sundance with a distribution deal in place.

What's Cooking?, the opening night picture, was also made by a woman, Indian born, British director Gurinder Chadha. It is set in Los Angeles and explores how four ethnically mixed families celebrate the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
Sir Ian stars in Joe Gould's Secret

By all accounts, this well-intentioned work falls prey to formulaic political correctness, rather than delivering original entertainment.

Chadha is a just a small part of the growing British presence at Sundance. In addition to Christian Bale, a whole slew of other British actors were screened.

British talent

Sir Ian Holm starred in a new Stanley Tucci film, Joe Gould's Secret, in which he plays a gifted man of the streets in Greenwich Village who befriends the legendary New York writer Joseph Mitchell.

The film, premiered at Sundance, received some warm reviews, but audiences said it didn't match Tucci's 1996 culinary delight Big Night.

The British presence continued with Janet McTeer, fresh from her Golden Globe victory, appearing as a musicologist in the turn of the century melodrama Songcatcher.

Brenda Blethyn could also been seen starring as a widow who survives by growing marijuana plants in Saving Grace.
Janet McTeer was just one many British actors featured

British playwright David Hare also held a festival film screening of his celebrated stage show, an extended monologue on the state of Israel called Via Dolorosa.

So far Sundance has not yielded another Blair Witch Project, which was the big find at last year's festival.

But Artisan Entertainment, who bought Blair Witch for $1m has paid about the same amount this year for an offbeat comedy called Chuck and Buck.

It's about the efforts of a gay man, Chuck, a bit of a loser, to re-kindle a childhood relationship with his best friend Buck, who has now become a high flying record executive in Los Angeles.

Even if the festival failed to yield another Blair Witch it has least provided some fascinating documentaries. One of the more intriguing is The Eyes of Tammy Faye, by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.
Tammy Faye delighting audiences with her tears
At one point, before her TV evangelist husband fell from grace, Tammy Faye Bakker was the queen of religious broadcasting in America.

She constantly burst into tears turning her very heavily mascara-lined eyes into big ugly black puddles which became her trademark.

This documentary was a huge Sundance hit. The screening was packed, and Tammy Faye even attended. Much to the delight of the audience she cried, with delight.

See also:

25 Aug 98 | Entertainment
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