For independent filmmakers, a trip to Park City, Utah, at the end of January marks the culmination of years of hard work and the anticipation of making a deal that could potentially change their lives.
The Sundance Film Festival, which kicks off Friday and runs through January 30, is where dreams come true. It launched the careers of now-marquee directors Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith (who returns this year with 'Red State') and Morgan Spurlock (returning with 'The Greatest Movie Ever Sold'), while actors such as Ashley Judd, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Clarkson and Ryan Gosling have raised their status after starring in films that made the trek to Robert Redford's little 10-day fest.
But with notoriety comes criticism. Sundance continues to try to shed its reputation of being a party stop for swag-addicted celebs. They've been doing this the last few years by putting the focus fully on the films. Its NEXT section, for example, highlights low-budget/no-budget films, and its Direct from the Sundance Film Festival gives five films from the fest the opportunity to be seen nationwide via VOD.
This year Sundance is even scrapping its glitzy opening night premiere gala for what they call "Day One," at which they will screen one narrative and one documentary from both the U.S. and World Cinema competition categories, as well as one shorts program.
Either way, it's sure to be an exciting ten days. Here, we highlight 20 films that, because of the names attached and/or the buzz around them, we believe will be on your must-see list in 2011.