Kristen Stewart's 'Camp X-Ray' among films selected for Sundance USA initiative

Posted by · 12:59 pm · December 12th, 2013

I like how Sundance has been making an effort to extend its brand beyond the cosy confines of Park City — for the 99.999% of independent film lovers who don’t have the luxury of travelling to the festival, word from the mountains can be a frustrating tease, drumming up excitement over films that most won’t be able to see for months, if not years. 

Sundance’s first attempt to bring the festival to the public was the creation of Sundance London in the UK, where a selected programme of highlights is made available to the public — it was recently confirmed that the third annual Sundance London event will take place in the spring.

Now Americans are being catered for with the smaller-scale — but more far-reaching — Sundance Film Festival USA initiative. Nine films from the festival’s 2014 lineup have been selected, and will be screened to the public in nine venues (one film per venue, that is) across the country on January 30. That’s just four days after the festival closes, so audiences will be getting them while they’re hot. At each screening, the relevant filmmaker will be present for a post-film Q&A.

Festival director John Cooper says, “Year-round audiences and arthouse theaters are vital parts of the independent film community, and our Sundance Film Festival USA initiative allows us to extend the energy and excitement of the Festival to them.”

Many of the selections are on the starrier end of the Sundance spectrum. San Francisco audiences will be getting the Kristen Stewart vehicle “Camp X-Ray,” in which she plays a Guantanamo Bay guard who bonds with one of her prisoners. Chicago, meanwhile, gets Joe Swanberg’s “Happy Christmas,” in which Anna Kendrick (fresh from Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies”) plays a young woman who moves in with her brother’s family after a breakup. Melanie Lynskey and Lena Dunham co-star.

Ann Arbor audiences get “Infinitely Polar Bear,” in which Mark Ruffalo plays manic-depressive family man trying to win back his wife (Zoe Saldana), Boston gets a serious-minded option in Joe Berlinger’s documentary “WHITEY: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger,” detailing the headline-making criminal trial of the famous gangster.

Houston gets “Cold in July,” Jim Mickle’s follow-up to his terrific horror remake “We Are What We Are,” which premiered at Sundance this year; this stars Michael C. Hall as a man whose live is thrust into chaos when he kills a home intruder.

Tennessee audiences get “Low Down,” a true-life coming-of-age story in which Elle Fanning plays Amy Jo Albany, raised in 1970s Hollywood by her hard-living pianist father Joe (John Hawkes). Tucson audiences also get Elle Fanning, this time in Jake Paltrow’s “Young Ones,” where she stars alongside Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult in a story of a boy thrust abruptly prematurely into adulthood. 

For Orlando viewers, “Little Accidents” stars Elizabeth Banks and Chloe Sevigny in a story of three people whose lives intersect when a teenage boys disappears in a tragedy-stricken mining town. Seattle gets Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in “The Skeleton Twins,” about the redemptive reunion of estranged twins. 

More details, including theaters and booking links, are available on the Sundance website here. How many of you will you be joining in? 

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