For four days beginning Thursday 25 April, the London o2 in Greenwich hosts Robert Redford’s 2013 Sundance London Film and Music Festival, a celebration of independent cinema both home-grown and stateside, flavoured with live music performances, panel discussions, and Q&A sessions with filmmakers.
This year’s selection includes some familiar faces: Jeff Nichols’ 2012 Cannes competitor Mud resurfaces ahead of its UK release next month, while Sundance regular Lynn Shelton returns with Touchy Feely, about a massage therapist afflicted with a sudden aversion to bodily contact. Bonds of all kinds are an overarching theme of the main programme, broken in divorce (A.C.O.D.) strengthened in friendship (The Kings of Summer and The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete) and unearthed in the unlikeliest of places (Emmanuel and the Truth About Fishes).
If familial bonds recur frequently throughout the selection, there’s none more unconventional than that between smut baron Paul Raymond and his daughter Debbie in Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love. With a big-name director attached and starring national hero Steve Coogan, this opening night feature is undoubtedly the most hotly-anticipated on the card. But it’s not the only UK selection that deserves full attention. In thriller Metro Manila, an impoverished family flee life in the Philippines to settle in Manila, only to find that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Equally intense is In Fear, debut from Brit director Jeremy Lovering, in which two festivalgoers fall prey to quintessentially maze-like country roads and the horror that waits within them.
The UK also shines in the documentary category, where the countryside makes a calmer reappearance in The Moo Man, an empathetic look at the year in the life of a cattle farmer. Slightly more pacy is The Summit, investigating the tragedy that befell climbers of the K2, second-highest and most dangerous peak in the world. Threats in the documentary category continue to come in all shapes and sizes, through the guise of homophobic evangelism (God Loves Uganda), mental illness (Running from Crazy) and a killer whale (Blackfish).
Documentary Blood Brother arrives with two awards in hand; the journey of disillusioned “Rocky Anna” to a new life in India captured the US Grand Jury Prize: Documentary and the Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Festival. It’s not the only Sundance winner on show: In a World… took home the Waldo Screenwriting Award; the Best of NEXT Audience Award went to Sleepwalk with Me (followed here by an extended Q&A with comedian Jimmy Carr); and Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color won the Special Jury Award for Sound Design before opening stateside to widespread critical acclaim.
Heading up the extensive shorts programme is the winner of the 2013 Short Film Competition, William Oldroyd’s Best. The short competed against other entries under the concept of time, inspired by the 2013 Sundance London location of Greenwich, home of Greenwich Mean Time. The remaining short films display a rich range of themes, and cover such locations as Ireland (Irish Folk Furniture), Tanzania (Jonah), Poland (The Whistle), Finland (The Date) and Lapland (Reindeer).
The interplay between film and music at this year’s festival is bolstered by a performance from electroclash star Peaches, in addition to her very own rock opera Peaches Does Herself. The History of the Eagles: Part One will be followed by a Q&A with the band, and documentary Muscle Shoals will likewise lead into A Celebration of Muscle Shoals with music from Gregg Allman and John Paul White of the Civil Wars. Plus, in a “unique and uplifting cinematic and musical voyage not to be missed”, Cumbrian rock band British Sea Power will perform their score for From the Land to the Sea and Beyond alongside the film itself. Additional music acts include Public Service Broadcasting, Mt Wolf, Iman, Luls, Mary Epworth, and Charles Bruno, to name but a few.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s a spattering of panel discussions and filmmaker hub talks to attend throughout the four days. Music is given rightful precedence once more in both Bands on Film – The Art of the Music Video and The Art of the Score – an Afternoon with David Arnold. Budding directors may wish to hop along to Screenwriting Flash Lab for creative inspiration, Senses of Humor/Humour: The Art of Comedy for a nudge in the right direction, or Kickstarter and Creative Independence for funding considerations.
Sound on Sight will be covering the cinematic portion of Sundance London 2013 for its readers, but the treat that awaits festivalgoers encompasses a much wider spectrum of entertainment, from musical events in varying modes to a healthy mix of in-depth discussions concerning the challenges and opportunities facing creative artists. The four days will go by in a flash, though there’ll be plenty to write home about.
Sundance London 2013 takes place at the o2, Greenwich, London from 25-28 April.