Women power is taking over the Sundance Film Festival.
The Jan. 17-27 celebration of independent works in Park City, Utah, features a competition among domestic dramatic films in which half of the 16 entries are directed by women – an unprecedented number from an industry that frequently cries out for greater female representation.
"That's never happened before," says Trevor Groth, director of programming. "It's a very interesting moment."
Female heroes are becoming more common in blockbuster films, as seen in this year's “Brave,” “The Hunger Games” and the “Twilight” saga. At Sundance, this is expanding not only to the director's roles, but also to the increasing number of female characters they bring to to the screen.
Groth gives some of the credit to the startling success of the 2010 Sundance entry “Winter's Bone,” which featured the future “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence and was directed by Debra Granik. (Lawrence would later receive a best actress Oscar nomination for her “Winter's Bone” role.)
"With a woman director and a woman lead and a very unfamiliar story to see on screen, it connected with audiences and might have opened up doors to get to the films we're seeing right now."
The 2013 festival features films such as Stacie Passon's “Concussion,” about a woman who changes her life after a blow to the head ("It will likely be one of the more talked-about films at the festival," says Groth), and Jill Soloway's “Afternoon Delight,” about a housewife who takes in a stripper to be her live-in nanny.
Actress Lake Bell will also make a return to the festival in a film she wrote, directs and stars in called “In a World...,” about a vocal coach looking to become a voiceover star.
"It's just one of those really exciting discoveries of this triple-threat talent," says Groth of Bell.
Sundance also will continue to highlight big-name Hollywood stars working against their traditional personae in challenging, independent roles. In “Kill Your Darlings,” Daniel Radcliffe stars as Allen Ginsberg in a story that brings the young beat poet together with peers Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University in 1944.
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