Sex comes to the Sundance Festival
The indie-movie beanfeast is warming up the slopes of its ski-resort home with pornography and controversy, says Emma Jones
Friday 25 January 2013
Sex, apparently, is selling Sundance this year. The consequences of it, and the industry surrounding it, are all over the programme at the festival. From documentaries about abortion in countries where it's legal to dramas set where it's not; from biopics of porn-industry figures Linda Lovelace and Paul Raymond to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directing debut on a man struggling with the sort of material Raymond produced; it's all there.
“I was surprised how many submissions there were involving sex this year,” admitted John Cooper, festival chief programmer. “And they're not necessarily explorations of relationships either.”
Of course, Young Hollywood sexed up Sundance, now in its 28th year, some time ago; since 2004 actually, when Paris Hilton and Britney Spears made their first appearance in Park City, Utah, the tiny ski resort that is home to the event.
The film industry decamps for a long weekend, haggling over movie rights by day, testing out the hot tubs by night. And, as Beasts of the Southern Wild demonstrated with four Oscar nominations, it's the only place to launch an independent film – Nicole Kidman, Daniel Radcliffe, Julianne Moore, Felicity Jones, Gordon-Levitt, Amanda Seyfried and Shia LaBeouf have all been spotted around Main Street.
Yet the most controversial movie here has no stars in it, although the participants did have, according to them, “ more security than Nicole Kidman”, who starred in Stoker with Mia Wasikowska. Discreet bodyguards and metal detectors greeted the audience at the world premiere of After Tiller, a documentary about the four US doctors who still practice legal third-trimester abortion in the USA. “Tiller” refers to Dr George Tiller, who was killed at his local church in 2009 – a grim reminder of the daily risks the doctors face in their work. By coming to Sundance, these people were taking their lives in their hands once again.
Twenty-nine-year-old directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson had unprecedented access to doctors LeRoy Carhart, Warren Hern, Susan Robinson and Shelley Sella. They also interviewed, anonymously, many of their patients.
Whatever your stance on abortion, seeing After Tiller followed by Wajma (An Afghan Love Story) would give you pause for thought. It's a dramatic, harrowing tale of Wajma, a pregnant girl who can't get a termination in her country. She faces death if she can't.
After that, it's almost a relief to turn to the seedier side of sex; Steve Coogan plays one of Britain's richest man, the late pornography magnate Paul Raymond, in Michael Winterbottom's The Look of Love.
Amanda Seyfried casts off the dreary Cosette from Les Mis to become Linda Lovelace , one of the biggest-ever stars of the porn industry, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Julianne Moore were heard to be protesting repeatedly at the press line on Don Jon's Addiction – “it's not a film about porn, the hero's in love with Scarlett Johansson”.
Perhaps the most tender exploration of sexuality comes from Daniel Radcliffe in Kill Your Darlings. Radcliffe is perfect as the teenage Allen Ginsberg. If you want flourishing romance, however, Austenland is the movie to see, a laugh-out-loud send-up of Pride and Prejudice by Napoleon Dynamite's Jerusha Hess.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 2 Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the ‘demon drink’ - latest news
- 3 Ayyan Ali: Pakistan's top model now appears in the courtroom rather than on the catwalk
- 4 Fifa corruption: Europe plots to stage an 'alternative World Cup' in place of Russia 2018
- 5 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
The 1975 leave social-media after cryptic comic strip tweet hinting at possible break up
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Jules and Matisse used secret dog double for winning tightrope act
Top Gear to follow Have I Got News For You format with 'different host for each episode'
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Vote reveals Jules O'Dwyer beat Jamie Raven by just 2% despite using 'stunt dog double'
Britain's Got Talent final 2015: 90 viewers complain to Ofcom about Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden's 'revealing' dresses
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history