Sundance London 2012 – you did good, Mr Redford.

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29th April saw the last day of the Sundance London Film and Music festival, which took place at the O2 Arena.

Sundance London was a highly-anticipated event.  As the first Sundance festival to be hosted outside of its home in Utah, it was exciting to discover an event that was so successful in the US was going to have its own UK counterpart.

For a first-time festival, it was a huge gamble – the last time a film-based event took place at the O2 (Empire Big Screen in August 2011), there were some issues with crowd control and general disinterest amongst film fans and O2 visitors.  There were misgivings on how British filmgoers would take to the festival, seeing as independent cinema is at risk due to lack of Government funding and support.  But my personal general impression of the festival is positive.

The film programme was diverse and generated a lot of interest.  There were visitors of all ages and backgrounds; not just film fans but those involved in media arts and environmental science (thanks to the documentaries Chasing Ice and Harmony, which was co-presented by HRH Prince Charles).  As a result, there was a feeling of cultural diversity instilled into this event that hasn’t been really experienced before.

The fact that independent films were being shown at a venue more suited for mainstream cinema, some of which had sold-out screenings, has definitely made an impression.

Aside from a couple of technical glitches, the festival offered a couple of gems that demand viewing upon release:

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed is a romantic dramedy with a sci-fi element starring Aubrey Plaza. She plays Darius, a magazine intern who goes undercover and meets Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who is determined to travel back to the year 2001.  The smart dialogue and quirky premise touch the inner geek in whoever watches it, with an unexpected yet heartfelt outcome.  Safety Not Guaranteed is destined to become a cult classic with the iPod Generation.

Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice follows renowned photographer James Balog in his mission about climate change with the Extreme Ice Survey.  Director and videographer Jeff Orlowski makes this documentary visually stunning yet highly compelling through still and video footage.  Stunning, moving and effectively thought-provoking documentary, Chasing Ice is one of the best environmental documentaries in recent years.

Liberal Arts

Josh Radnor’s second theatrical release about his thirty-something Jesse returning to his old school and connecting with the lovely Elizabeth Olsen was one of the most popular films during the festival.  Smart, witty and beautiful, Liberal Arts can be summed up in one word: sublime.


I hope that the festival returns next year – it is sure to become a key event in every film fan’s calendar.

– Katie Wong


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