Vets, Techies Dominate Sundance Lineup

The Sundance Film Festival, the top forum for independent U.S. films, unveiled its 2001 slate today, which was marked by returning filmmakers and more cheap, digitally made movies.

Films at Sundance, which is backed by actor-director Robert Redford, compete for awards in two areas, documentaries and dramas, with 16 titles in each group. The festival takes place from Jan. 18 to Jan. 28 in the chic ski town of Park City, Utah.

This year's list of dramatic titles includes a film version of the smash off-Broadway play Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a rock musical about a transsexual victimized by a botched sex-change operation.

The Deep End, from returning filmmakers Scott McGehee and David Siegel, also made it into the dramatic category, as did Donnie Darko, a time-traveling movie starring Noah Wyle and Drew Barrymore.

In the documentary group, Dogtown and the Z-Boys details the lives of eight extreme-sports-obsessed teens living in the '70s. Another doc candidate is Home Movie — really about unusual homes — from Chris Smith, who directed last year's tragically comical documentary American Movie.

"A lot of films this year are now starting to mix technology with filmmaking, using animation and special effects," said Sundance spokesman R.J. Millard. "And the other thing is that a number of films are by alumnus directors."

Because most independent films are made by first-time or young directors on a shoestring budget, the increasing prevalence of digital filmmaking has made it much easier and more cost-effective to use technology.

Each year, the films debuted at Sundance comprise many of the top movies on the art-house circuit and can make household names of their directors. Last year's co-winners of best dramatic film, Karyn Kusama's inspiring Girlfight and Kenneth Lonergan's poetic You Can Count on Me, were among this year's most closely followed indie pictures.

The 2001 list includes an abundance of films with strong female leads, such as The Business of Strangers, starring Stockard Channing, and Bruce Wagner's Women in Film, with Beverly D'Angelo, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and Ally McBeal's Portia de Rossi.

Women in Film is part of the festival's American Spectrum, a noncompetitive grouping that spotlights U.S. filmmakers. That area also includes Tape, from director Richard Linklater, who most notably directed 1991's influential Slacker.

On Wednesday, Sundance will announce its list of premiere movies, international films, and short films.

Reuters contributed to this story.