It’s January, and in the world of independent films, that means everyone is gearing up for the fabled Sundance Film Festival, which will take place from January 15-25, 2009 in Park City, Utah. We’re looking forward to seeing and reading about all the films, awards and parties. We’re also thrilled that two films premiering at Sundance — El General by POV alum Natalia Almada, and William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe by Sarah and Emily Kunstler — will have their national broadcast premieres on POV in upcoming seasons.

Still image for El General

From Natalia Almada’s El General

During the festival, our correspondents will be blogging about the docs in Park City. In the meantime, you can check out the Sundance website to find out what films are playing, which parties to crash and how to volunteer for the festival. In case you missed it, here’s a press release about the films in competition.

We can’t help but play favorites, though. El General and William Kunstler: Disturbing the Univerise are both fantastic films, and if you’re going to be in Utah for the festival, be sure to get tickets to those screenings now! Natalia Almada‘s first feature film, Al Otro Lado, aired on POV in 2006 to great acclaim. Her new film, El General, explores Mexican American history through the story of her great-grandfather Plutarco Elias Calles, the president of Mexico in the 1920s who is remembered as a dictator today. Using Natalia’s grandmother’s audio recordings about Calles, El General moves between the memories of a daughter grappling with history’s portrait of her father and the weight of his legacy on the country today.

Poster for William Kunstler: Disturbing the UniverseWilliam Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe is also about grappling with a father’s legacy. In this case, filmmakers Sarah and Emily Kunstler look back at the life of their father, one of the most famous and controversial lawyers of the 20th century.

William Kunstler‘s clients included Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and the Chicago Seven. He represented civil rights and anti-war activists, as well as accused terrorists and murderers. In the film, Emily and Sarah explore how their father went from middle-class family man to movement lawyer to “the most hated lawyer in America.” The film is a telling portrait of a fascinating man, as well as a document of a changing time in American history.

Stay tuned for more about the 2009 Sundance Film Festival right here on the blog!

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Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.