Total Recall: Directors Who Made A Splash At Sundance
We look at 10 prominent filmmakers who got a big boost in Park City.
This week, the Sundance Film Festival is in full swing. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at some of the prominent directors who've gotten some major breaks at America's most important showcase for independent film. The snowy climes of Park City, UT, may seem to be an odd incubator for independent film, but Robert Redford's brainchild remains one of the key places to get a first look at some of film's most important voices.
The Coen brothers
The mid-1980s were a time of high-concept action pictures; "independent film" was practically a dirty word in the movie biz. But once in a while, a specialty picture would come along and announce that its makers were talents ready for the big time. Blood Simple was such a film; Joel and Ethan Coen's debut was a highly original noir/crime thriller that proved there was a market for strong, original material from the underground, and took home the Grand Jury Prize at the 1985 Utah/U.S. Film Festival (rechristened Sundance in 1991), a key early accolade in the brothers' illustrious career.
If the Coen brothers' twisted take on crime cinema proved that indies could breathe new life into old genres, Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise showed that a film with a low budget could still aspire to the realm of high art. Stranger Than Paradise tells the deceptively simple tale of two New York scenesters and a young Hungarian woman on vacation; though this minimalist black and white film utilized single, static shots, and had the feel of a European arthouse flick, the only thing dry about Stranger Than Paradise was its wit. In addition to picking up a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, it inspired a number of independently-minded directors, and kicked off Jarmusch's eccentric career; even the director's relatively mainstream fare (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Broken Flowers) was light years away from conventional.