More than 3,600 features were submitted for the 2008 Sundance festival, meaning that there are about 3,500 rejected projects that will navigate the year’s festival circuit. As castaways depart from Park City, Utah, many of them will find a home at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films festival, according to the New York Sun’s James Snyder. “
In the best-case scenario, these rookies will catch the eye of a distributor and go on to tour the festival circuit before launching a theatrical campaign in the fall of 2008 or winter 2009 — maybe hitting New York and Los Angeles in December just in time to qualify for a nomination for next February’s Academy Awards,” he writes. The ND/NF celebrates unknown filmmakers, operating as a joint venture between two artistic staples of the city, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art.
Richard Peña, an ND/NF selection committee member and the program director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, said the New York event has been able to deflect many of the pressures that have tugged at the core mission of the festival’s Park City counterpart.
“Sundance is a very important, and dominant, festival, but it has also changed in certain ways with the influx of Hollywood,” Mr. Peña said. “Obviously, many people go to see the films, but many are less interested in the films as films than films as shop — as a way for agents to find new clients, for producers to find new directors, for directors to find new camera people.”
By contrast, Mr. Peña said, ND/NF has kept its focus on the work, limiting the size and scope of the event (which is noncompetitive and offers no prizes) and, even as the number of submissions has peaked, maintaining a screening schedule that consists of fewer than 30 features. He pointed to the impressive legacy that this strategy has built through nearly four decades. It has called attention to the very first achievements by such filmmakers as Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, and Wong Kar Wai, and championed such recent, critically acclaimed titles as “Half Nelson,” “Junebug,” and “Real Women Have Curves.” Last year’s program featured four titles that appeared on many critics’ year-end lists for 2007 — “Day Night Day Night,” “Great World of Sound,” “Once,” and “Red Road” — as well as “War/Dance,” which was short-listed for this year’s documentary Oscar.