Sundance 2012: All the trailers I could find online #1

19 Dec

Hi all,

Did a search for trailers for the Sundance 2012 film’s announced earlier this month. All text below is copyright Sundance and not by me.

* = films i’m excited about.


“An enigmatic and decadent white diplomat arrives in central Africa sporting dark glasses, riding boots, and a cigarette holder. He has recently bought an ambassadorship and claims to be a do-good rich businessman spearheading a diplomatic mission. Officially, he is there to start a factory that will employ locals to produce matches. Unofficially, he has really come to gain access to the area’s vast reserves of diamonds. It soon becomes apparent that, in this postcolonial economy, nearly everyone is out to rip off everyone else, and the dangers become all too real.

Mads Brügger returns to the Sundance Film Festival (The Red Chapel won the World Dramatic Jury Prize in 2010) with yet another brilliant example of gonzo filmmaking. Armed with a diplomatic passport, a hidden camera, and his razor-sharp wit, he risks life and limb to uncover deep-rooted corruption that allows others to continue to get rich from Africa’s resources. THE AMBASSADOR is a genre-breaking tragicomedy that establishes Brügger as a singular voice in the documentary world.”
– T.G.


Ai Weiwei is known for many things—great architecture, subversive in-your-face art, and political activism. He has also called for greater transparency on the part of the Chinese state. Director Alison Klayman chronicles the complexities of Ai’s life for three years, beginning with his rise to public prominence via blog and Twitter after he questioned the deaths of more than 5,000 students in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The record continues through his widely publicized arrest in Beijing in April of 2011. As Ai prepares various works of art for major international exhibitions, his activism heats up, and his run-ins with China’s authorities become more and more frequent.

In this unprecedented look at Ai and those close to him, Klayman’s camera captures his forthrightness and unequivocal stance. He gives a larger picture of the artist as an individual, a symbol of China’s oppression, and a powerful voice against a country that still denies its citizens many basic freedoms. – K.Y.


“We are proud to welcome back Andrei Zvyagintsev (whose first feature, The Return screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004) with his extraordinarily gripping new film, Elena—made with support from the Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award.

Elena has a warm but passionless late-in-life marriage with wealthy Vladimir, to whom she is more caretaker than spouse. Each has grown children from previous relationships, but Vladimir is dedicated to his distant, spoiled daughter and resents having to provide financial aid to Elena’s hapless, unemployed son and his struggling family. As Vladimir’s health declines, and he makes concrete plans to leave everything to his own offspring, Elena must decide swiftly between her loyalty to her husband and her allegiance to her own flesh and blood.

Part domestic thriller, part morality play, all a comment on contemporary Russian class warfare, Elena delivers an intense and haunting experience, offering keen insight into human nature. Throughout, the chilling tension is sustained and heightened by Philip Glass’s striking score and Zvyagintsev’s stark visual style.
– H.Z.”


n April 2009, Swedish filmmakers Fredrik Gertten and Margarete Jangård learned that the world premiere of BANANAS!*—their documentary about a lawsuit against the Dole Food Company—would take place at a major film festival in Los Angeles. Within weeks, they were embroiled in a legal and public-relations battle to save their premiere, their film, their reputations, and their freedom of speech.

While censorship is, sadly, nothing new, its insidious power gains startling immediacy by playing out in front of Gertten’s camera. The filmmakers find themselves painted as villains due to Dole’s shrewd PR moves—even before their film has been screened. Gertten takes the offensive, filing a countersuit and media campaign of his own to confront Dole’s overgrown schoolyard bully tactics.

As demonstrated over the past several months in actions held around the globe, corporations are being taken to task for their disproportionate political and financial influence. BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!* is a telling case study of the power of individuals to fight back.
– B.T.


“Izumi, a headstrong high-school girl with a cheerfully cynical outlook—she routinely “rates” the newspaper by assigning articles positive or negative values—finds a wallet containing 300,000 yen (almost $4,000) and the owner’s ID: Sato, a wealthy high-school boy. Instead of returning it, Izumi lends a hefty sum to an older fishing buddy with financial problems. Her classmates Hasumi and Kaoru later force her to return the wallet to Sato, but, unable to account for all of the money, Izumi agrees to help him console a friend in the hospital by creating a newspaper containing only “good news.”
Keiichi Kobayashi’s serene, coming-of-age story avoids the customary trappings of teen culture and genre with a pronounced sense of quiet. With its lively, black-and-white cinematography and long takes, Kobayashi’s aesthetic—drained of color and clutter—feels like a dream or a distant memory. About the Pink Sky owes its underlying energy to the young actors (all newcomers) with real chemistry, who deftly balance the quirky humor, teenage uncertainty, and subtle shifts in adolescent consciousness.”
– J.N.”


“Portrait photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s lush new film is an intimate view of the women whose images have defined our sense of beauty over the past five decades. An uncensored look at many of the biggest names in modeling, About Face reveals the stories behind the magazine covers displaying these multicultural pioneers. Each woman is candidly interviewed in the studio and shares her experiences, ideas on longevity, and philosophy of life in the fashion industry. Elegant archival footage and interviews with designer Calvin Klein and agency head Eileen Ford round out this absorbing chronicle.

About Face is a step back in time to a glamorous, yet complicated, era when drugs were rampant and women were routinely harassed and mistreated. The divergent attitudes among the women about everything from the business of modeling, to aging and plastic surgery, are fascinating and priceless. This insightful documentary celebrates the raw intelligence and staying power of these timeless icons. – L.V.”


“Five broken cameras—and each one has a powerful tale to tell. Embedded in the bullet-ridden remains of digital technology is the story of Emad Burnat, a farmer from the Palestinian village of Bil’in, which famously chose nonviolent resistance when the Israeli army encroached upon its land to make room for Jewish colonists. Emad buys his first camera in 2005 to document the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel. Over the course of the film, he becomes the peaceful archivist of an escalating struggle as olive trees are bulldozed, lives are lost, and a wall is built to segregate burgeoning Israeli settlements.

Gibreel’s loss of innocence and the destruction of each camera are potent metaphors in a deeply personal documentary that vividly portrays a conflict many of us think we know. Emad Burnat, a Palestinian, joins forces with Guy Davidi, an Israeli, and—from the wreckage of five broken cameras—two filmmakers create one extraordinary work of art.”


“In southwestern China, state athletic coaches scour the countryside to recruit poor, rural teenagers who demonstrate a natural ability to throw a good punch. Moved into boxing training centers, these boys and girls undergo a rigorous regimen that grooms them to be China’s next Olympic heroes but also prepares them for life outside the ring. As these young boxers develop, the allure of turning professional for personal gain and glory competes with the main philosophy behind their training—to represent their country. Interconnected with their story is that of their charismatic coach, Qi Moxiang, who—now in his late thirties and determined to win back lost honor—trains for a significant fight.China Heavyweight artfully captures the playfulness among the trainees, their grueling conditioning, and the guiding principle that athletic achievement is for their country, rather than themselves. Director Yung Chang returns to the Sundance Film Festival (Up the Yangtze screened in 2008) with an intimately observed film that both explores and reflects social change and development in modern China.
– K.Y.”


Premiering at the 2011 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, Corpo Celesteshowcased the talents of its remarkable young writer/director, Alice Rohrwacher, whom we eagerly welcome to the Sundance Film Festival.

After growing up in Switzerland, 13-year-old Marta returns to a city in southern Italy with her mother and older sister. Independent and inquisitive, she joins a catechism class at a local church. However, the games and religious pop songs she encounters there do not nearly satisfy her interest in faith. Struggling to find her place, Marta pushes the boundaries of the class, the priest, and the church.

Contemplating religion is an enduring tradition in Italian cinema, but Rohrwacher brings a fresh inflection and a provocative artistic vision. Her vérité aesthetic emphasizes character and subtle behavior. Uninterested in shallow critique, Corpo Celeste posits a girl who is resolutely searching for deeper truths. Marta instinctively rebels against the apathy and hypocrisy of the adults around her, including a priest who is more interested in his career than he is in faith. Ultimately, her spirituality is as much of the Earth as it is of the heavens.

– J.N.”


The opening night film of the 2011 Cannes International Critics’ Week and France’s official 2011 Academy Award entry, Declaration of War is, above all, a love story.

After meeting at a party, Romeo and Juliette (they can’t believe it, either) fall in love, move in together, and have a child, Adam. The young couple, wearily navigating early parenthood, begin to suspect that Adam has a medical problem, a fear that’s confirmed when doctors discover a brain tumor. Gathering family and friends, they declare war on his illness, and their storybook romance plunges into an unrelenting world of hospitals, exhaustion, and uncertainty.

More heart than heartbreak, Valérie Donzelli’s second feature transforms the “disease drama” into an exuberant, fiercely original experience. With multiple narrators, cinematic flair, free-spirited editing, and eclectic music, Donzelli’s energetic style invokes la nouvelle vague but is also purely expressive—of laughter and tears, hope and fear, joy and anger. Written by Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm (based on their real-life experience), Declaration of War is a beautiful portrait of love and survival.
– J.N.”


Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared*


3 Responses to “Sundance 2012: All the trailers I could find online #1”

  1. Don Quichote February 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    The Ambassador is subversive and incendiary documentary film in which the maker Brugger unveils himself as an unscrupulous forger with the sole intention to purposely damage the interest of individuals and governments for his own glory to sell his product. The film is produced with public money from the Danish Filminstitute and financed/produced with a budget of €1 million by Lars Von Trier (Zentropa), a controversial film-director who admitted in Cannes in 2010 to being a Nazi, understanding Hitler. Under influence/inspiration of Von Trier’s ideology, Danish journalist Brugger purposefully took several steps beyond the rules, both written and unwritten. It is clearly a documentary film based on fascistic roots. Take a look at a photo in Politiken
    and see how Brugger presents himself like a neo Nazi on horseback. That explains why he hates Africans and ridicules the TWA pygmy people. Brugger used hidden cameras and false pretences to record and film confidential meetings and telephone conversations without informing his victims or asking them permission or approval by means of adversarial response. Then he edited a documentary film with a specific “Tunnel Vision” to transform a fantasy-fetish into reality to proof his mistrust under the slogan “The end justifies the means!”.

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