* Palestinian-American filmmaker gets opening day spotlight
* Four films kick off 10-day indie film festival
By Piya Sinha-Roy
PARK CITY, Utah, Jan 17 The Sundance Film
Festival opens Thursday with movies and documentaries from
around the world, including a feature that examines the cultural
divide between the Middle East and the United States.
The 10-day Sundance Film Festival, founded by actor-director
Robert Redford and now in its 35th year, will showcase 119 films
from 32 countries.
"May in the Summer," the U.S. dramatic competition opener,
comes from writer-director Cherien Dabis, who caught the eye of
Sundance organizers in 2009 with her directorial debut
"Amreeka," about a Palestinian family's experiences living in
post 9/11 America.
Palestinian-American Dabis, 36, reverses the perspective on
the Middle East, showing a Jordanian woman who has established a
successful life in America but undergoes an identity crisis when
she returns to her family in Jordan to plan her wedding.
"May in the Summer" will join U.S. documentary "Twenty Feet
from Stardom" about back-up singers, Chilean drama "Crystal
Fairy," "Who is Dayani Cristal," about a mysterious corpse found
in the Arizona desert, and five short films as part of the
opening day roster at the world's leading independent film
"We want the kind of films that will really set the tone for
the rest of the festival. Those four films do that perfectly.
They're very different in what they are, but they collectively
represent what's going to be unfolding over the next days,"
festival director John Cooper told Reuters.
OPENING UP TO THE WORLD
Festival organizers are making efforts this year to
encourage more international stories and filmmakers to come to
"They saw the value in the continuing changing world we live
in and that even American stories are coming from all over the
world," Dabis said.
"The movie is a universal story that's set in the Middle
East, and we all know the Middle East is a place where we all
need to expand our perceptions of what life is like there," she
Sundance founder Robert Redford said the festival was all
about encouraging diversity in filmmaking.
"As long as we go forward and we adapt to change, we keep in
touch with our original purpose which is simply to support and
develop new voices to be seen and heard," Redford told reporters
at a news conference on Thursday.
In addition to the usual film competition and premiere
categories, festival organizers have expanded their slate of
edgier films and projects, including actor James Franco's
sexually explicit films "kink" and "Interior. Leather Bar."
There is also a thriving short film initiative, with more
than 40 films showcased.
Outside of the films, Sundance has become a hot spot for the
film industry to escape the hustle of Hollywood's awards season
and relax in Sundance's more relaxed vibe.
Live music will feature prominently, with a spotlight on
electronic dance music and four pop-up clubs featuring DJs such
as Nero and Afrojack.
VIPs can take private snow boarding lessons or take part in
the culinary event ChefDance, in a fusion of food and film.
(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and