The documentary entries at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival were announced recently, and it’s quite an impressive list. There are so many great-sounding docs: I am happy to see the return of Joe Berlinger, the director of Brother’s Keeper, with Crude, a doc about an environmental lawsuit battle being waged in Ecuador. There’s also The September Issue, a film by R.J. Cutler about Vogue editor Anna Wintour, which should be interesting. I’ve spoken with Cutler in the past and I’ve been impressed at how he’s managed to create a doc factory with his Actual Reality production company. I just wonder how he’ll finesse making the film not feel dated, now that the magazine industry is in such a severe recession since he was shooting in 2007 — and because there have been recent rumors that Wintour will be stepping down.
SundanceThere’s a bunch of other compelling docs to look out for, including Liz GarbusShouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech which takes her out of prisons and more intimate settings into a more macro arena; Dirt! The Movie (sounds good to me — I’m there); and I’m definitely going to see Good Hair, in which Chris Rock grapples with the very important political issue of African-Americans and their hair. This could be one of the most popular docs of 2009. In fact, I wonder if Rock tackles the hair on the subject of the other hotly anticipated doc-to-see in 2009, the one about Barack Obama.
But as psyched as I am to see most of the Sundance docs, I couldn’t help thinking about how there were just 16 films picked out of 879 submissions. You’ve got a better chance of getting into Harvard than Sundance. And when I look at the list of 16 filmmakers, I see that there’s just a small handful of really fresh faces, unconnected to the powers-that-be at Sundance. This is not a criticism of the festival, because they are one of the best stages for getting docs a platform to distribution. They do what they can. It’s just a sad testament to those filmmakers without connections or a strong track record or without a famous last name (William Kunstler‘s kids made a movie about him that happens to be in the fest).
Oh, and just a follow-up from my last post about Milk and the ensuing discussion in which I mentioned Proposition 8: it’s worth checking out this short for a laugh.

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen