| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Jan 15 Since the early days of
film, music has gone hand in hand with movies, but a new crop of
filmmakers is using music to explore existential themes of
humanity that will be showcased at the annual Sundance Film
"Whiplash," a contender in the U.S. dramatic competition,
will kick off Sundance on Thursday and is the first of numerous
films that use music as a tool to explore human identity at the
festival, held in the Utah ski resort of Park City.
The film, directed by Damien Chazelle, stars rising star
Miles Teller as a drummer who enters music school and comes face
to face with a teacher who challenges him to pursue perfection,
pushing him to the limit.
"It is such a singular film," Trevor Groth, Sundance's
director of programming, told Reuters. "It really is one of the
potential breakouts of the festival because it's so unique."
"Whiplash" will compete against "Low Down," a coming-of-age
tale following a young girl growing up with a troubled musician
father, and "Song One," in which a young woman seeks out a
musician to help her younger brother come out of a coma.
"I was really fascinated by the idea of music's connective
power, and how it can connect people in unpredictable ways
without them even knowing it," Kate Barker-Frayland, the
director of "Song One," said.
The romantic drama, starring Oscar winner Anne Hathaway and
Johnny Flynn, brings together two people both at low points in
their lives. Barker-Frayland said she wanted to cast their story
against the backdrop of Brooklyn's vibrant music scene.
"I wanted to shoot all of the performances live and record
the music live to really capture what it's like to go watch a
show at all these different places. Music is such an emotional
thing and any song has some emotional content," she said.
MUSIC IN DIFFERENT GUISES
Now in its 30th year, Sundance is the top independent film
gathering in the United States and has helped launch the careers
of many up-and-coming filmmakers, including Quentin Tarantino,
Steven Soderbergh and David O. Russell.
The festival, backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute,
is held in the snow-covered streets of Park City from Jan.
Sundance has also ushered some strong music films into the
awards race in recent years, with 2012's "Searching for Sugar
Man" winning the best documentary feature Oscar the following
year, and 2013's "20 Feet from Stardom," which is on this year's
This year, music spans all categories at Sundance, including
competition, premieres and spotlight films, and takes many
different guises, such as a musical, a coping mechanism and a
tool for healing.
In "God Help the Girl," a contender in the world cinema
dramatic category, Scottish musician Stuart Murdoch, from
indie-pop band Belle & Sebastian, explores a coming-of-age tale
with a musical. In the spotlight category, "Only Lovers Left
Alive," starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, follows a
dejected musician who finds solace in his lover as his world
"I'm curious as to how music is of such interest to our
filmmakers," said John Cooper, director of the film festival.
"It could be tied to their passions being very similar, but each
film is so unique in the approach that they've taken, it's
almost as if there's no similarities except for the music."
"Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory," a contender in
the U.S. documentary competition, explores the healing power of
music as one man crusades to have music in nursing homes to help
those with Alzheimer's disease.
The festival's closing night film, "Rudderless," directed by
actor William H. Macy, sees a father cope with the grief of
losing his son by forming a rock and roll band to perform his
late son's original music.
"It's definitely going to be a celebration of music at the
festival," said Cooper.
(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Leslie Adler)