Students in the BYU Film program are preparing for the Sundance Film Festival and highlighting the most exciting films of this year’s festival, as well as giving advice to people new to the Sundance experience.
One film that seems to be grabbing the most attention in the film community is “Swiss Army Man,” according to film student Sam Woodruff. Directed by prolific music video directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, “Swiss Army Man” tells the story of a man stranded alone on a deserted island, only to have his world changed when a dead body washes onto the shore. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Paul Dano.
“Daniel Radcliffe plays a dead body in it, so that alone has to be pretty interesting,” Woodruff said.
In the documentary section of the festival, “The Lovers and the Despot” is garnering a lot of interest. The documentary uses archival tapes and audio footage to retell the lives of South Korean film director Shin Sang-ok and actress Choi Eun-hee. In 1978, the couple was kidnapped from Hong Kong and taken to North Korea under order of Kim Jong-il. A devout cinephile, Kim Jong-il wanted the powerful moviemaking couple to make films at his whim, with Jong-il acting as executive producer. Film student Keala Kendall recommended this film for students interested in underrated stories.
“I hadn’t heard about that story, so I am very excited to see how they tell it,” Kendall said.
As far as advice for first-time attendees, film students say one of the best ways to experience the festival is to take advantage of how accessible it is to BYU students.
“It’s one of the biggest film festivals out there, and we’re lucky because it’s very close to us,” said film student Howie Burbidge. “There are a lot of films there that you won’t be able to see otherwise.”
“It’s really cool that it’s here in Utah because that really opens up a lot of possibilities for people who live here,” said Josh Allen, a BYU film student. “When you think about film, most people don’t think about Utah. They think about Los Angeles or New York City. So Sundance really brings a lot of opportunity to filmmakers and audiences in Utah.”
Allen, who attended Sundance for the first time last year, said there is no shortage of things to do during the festival. Whether watching a film or not, there are a lot of chances to learn through the diversity and collaboration that Sundance provides.
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“There’s a lot going on,” Allen said. “There’s so much to do and so many films to see. There are so many things you can learn from it. For example, there was one particular documentary last year called ‘The Hunting Ground’ that talked about the effect that rape has on university campuses. Films like that provide a lot of crucial and important commentary to participate in.”
With approximately 200 feature-length and short films playing on 30 screens in Salt Lake City, Provo, Ogden and Park City, there are plenty of opportunities to see a film in the Sundance lineup. Over 46,000 people attended last year’s festival, which included films, panels, music and various other visual arts.
The 2016 Sundance Film Festival begins Thursday Jan. 21 and runs through Sunday Jan. 31.