Festival Review: Sundance London 2012

on Thursday, May 03, 2012
Sundance London (The O2, 26-29 April '12) // Words: Saam Das

The inaugural Sundance London music and film festival came to a close this weekend. Making its first international voyage from its American base in Utah, Sundance failed to inspire our weather into appropriate action but certainly inspired me with its excellent selection of films and music at reasonably affordable prices for all. Below, you can find a quick run through of what we caught at the festival.

Unfortunately, I missed much of the festival due to work commitments but the time I spent at The O2 was enjoyable. The atmosphere fostered by the festival's volunteers and the Cineworld staff was welcoming and friendly, and there was a real buzz around the several UK film premieres and the clutch of Q+As. The music side of events seems to have come in for more criticism but for the most part, Sundance London appears to have been a success.

We really hope Sundance returns to the UK again next year and certainly there is scope for having such a festival at The O2, which houses a rather ridiculously sized arena for musical acts. Regardless, I'll have fond memories of Sundance London 2012 and here are some thoughts on what I saw. Full length reviews should follow in the future.

'Chasing Ice'

In 2006, a climate change documentary called 'An Inconvenient Truth' had its world premiere at Sundance in Utah. I'd love to see it changed the world but despite winning an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, arguments about the nature of climate change continue to be an absurdly divisive, particularly in the US. 'Chasing Ice' uses glacial erosion as a vivid framing device to provide evidence for man-made climate change, doing so in a visually striking manner, albeit not connecting in quite as effective a manner as its predecessor.

'Liberal Arts' // Full length film review

Josh Radnor is building an impressive resumé, not only starring in hit sitcom 'How I Met Your Mother' but also acting, writing and directing this pleasant, introspective coming-of-age drama. Featuring a wonderfully free-spirited cameo from an unexpected source as well as the ever brilliant Elizabeth Olsen, 'Liberal Arts' captures the unease of love and life superbly. Radnor also conducted a Q+A after the (non-premiere) screening I attended, which was most appreciated, reminiscing on the pseudo-autobiographical nature of the film and his role as actor-director.

Orlando Seale And The Swell

The Staves were mysteriously absent when I turned up to watch them in their alloted stage time so the only musical act I actually managed to catch at Sundance in the cosy Inc Club were this orchestral pop gang. With more band members than I could count, they were certainly worth my time.

'Safety Not Guaranteed'

The finest dramatic feature on offer at Sundance London 2012, starring Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. A romantic drama with a sci-fi premise but more importantly, with a great deal of heart and emotion. Beginning very much in the quirky American indie comedy vein, 'Safety Not Guaranteed' soon moves into much grander territory becoming an immensely charming, heartfelt offering. Despite its small stature, this is a film that deserves to be a big hit.

'SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS' // Full length film review

Blur documentary 'No Distance Left To Run' directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace profile James Murphy and his decision to end LCD Soundsystem at the peak of their powers. Intersplicing a face-to-face interview between Murphy and Chuck Klosterman with footage of the 48 hours in and around their final gig at Madison Square Garden, this highly anticipated documentary provides a unique insight albeit proving unsatisfying due to its lack of depth.

'Under African Skies' // Full length film review

Tom Berlinger is an acclaimed documentarian (having recently been Oscar nominated for 'Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory') and once again, he has crafted a magnificent piece of work. 'Under African Skies' commemorates the 25th anniversary of 'Graceland', the Paul Simon album which fused African rhythms with Western pop. It is a glorious reflection of the making of the album but also strongly highlights the controversy of Simon's decision to go to collaborate with black South African musicians, seen as a violation of the cultural boycott present as a result of apartheid. Genuinely evoked tears of joy on more than one occasion. A must see.

'2 Days In New York' // Full length film review

Unfortunately due a media embargo, I can't tell you what I thought of this film (UPDATE: we now share this review from Lauren FG) but I assume if you enjoyed '2 Days In Paris' then you'll enjoy Julie Delpy's follow up, which sees her relationship with Chris Rock suffer at the hands of her visiting family. Delpy not only writes, directs and stars in this film - she even wrote the music! Sounds awfully tiring.

Sundance London was held in London at The O2, during 26th-29th April '12. For more information, visit sundance-london.com.

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