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

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week