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

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
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.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor