Do we need another film festival in the UK?

Robert Redford’s Sundance London must find a raison d’être

Film festivals are everywhere these days: Cannes, Kampala, Dunoon.

There are at least 50 here in the UK each year. Do we really need another? Sundance London thinks so. The spin-off from Robert Redford’s champion of American independent film in Utah is back for a second year, for four days from 25 April. Featuring almost exclusively films that premiered at the Salt Lake City festival in January, it will host 21 UK, international and European premieres, including The Look of Love starring Steve Coogan.

Redford’s announcement two years ago that he would be transporting a slice of Sundance to the UK prompted feverish excitement. The original has  become not just the place for industry insiders to buy, sell and review films – it is also a chance for audiences to catch an early glimpse of potential successes: last year’s Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild for instance.

Then Redford revealed the venue: The 02. Many were dubious that the corporate spot, currently the most popular music venue in the world by ticket sales, could be compatible with the indie brand. Sure enough, some audience members noted paltry numbers and criticised the humdrum Cineworld screens, suggesting one of the capital’s art-house screens – the Curzon or the Ritzy – would have been preferable.

Nonetheless the Sundance Institute and its partner AEG Europe, which  operates The 02, clearly feel the event was successful enough to commit to  another two years. Neither will release last year’s ticket sales figures but claim many events were sold out. One obvious success was the documentary The Queen of Versailles, which picked up a UK distributor after screening here.

In fact there’s a simple reason for the choice of venue: it was The 02 that  approached the Sundance Institute and not the other way around. It led, says John Cooper, festival director, to Sundance London’s unique  fusion of music and film.

“This is far better for music than Utah. Where else can you find screens and stages so close together?”

Last year’s line-up included 17 musical sets, including one by Rufus and Martha Wainwright following a film about their mother. This year, Muscle Shoals, about the Alabama town where artists such as Aretha Franklin recorded, will be followed by an acoustic blues show, while the DJ Peaches will follow her film, Peaches Does Herself, with a live set.

There will be numerous smaller gigs in the “Hub”, where festival-goers can mingle with musicians and directors. Admission to the hub costs extra  but this kind of interaction  between filmmakers and audiences – all screenings also have director Q&As – is “integral to the Sundance mission”, says Cooper.  There will also be a UK spotlight featuring five films from British film-makers, such as The Moo Man, an oddly intriguing documentary about British farming. Star-studded films likely to prove a hit include Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon although this year’s Sundance Grand Jury winner Fruitvale, will not appear because of a potential premiere at Cannes.

So why now? Sundance London has little of the trade that goes on at its US cousin – most films this year, including avant-garde ones such as Upstream Colour, already have UK distributors. But in a climate of aggressive expansion from other festivals – Tribeca, founded by Robert De Niro, has a successful spin-off in Qatar for instance  – the extension of the Sundance brand, which already has separate TV and cinema ventures, was perhaps inevitable.

Ultimately, the identity and future of Sundance London will be defined by how much audiences like the line-up. And how effectively The 02 can reinvent itself as a festival-friendly venue. Time for a celebrity entrance on the cable-car, perhaps?

The 02, London SE10 (sundance london.com) 25 to 28 April

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
    Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

    The end of an era across the continent

    It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
    Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

    'Focus on killing American people'

    Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
    Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

    Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

    The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
    Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

    Same-sex marriage

    As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
    The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

    The Mafia is going freelance

    Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable