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'Camp X-Ray' among top U.S. dramatic feature films premiering at Sundance

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Kristen Stewart stars as a young prison guard who strikes up an unlikely friendship with an inmate at Guantanamo Bay in writer-director Peter Sattler's "Camp X-Ray" premiering at this year's Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition program.

Click on the photo slideshow to see the full list of world premieres in the U.S. Dramatic Competition program at Sundance this year.

Other critically-acclaimed premieres include, "God's Pocket," "Low Down,""Whiplash," and "Hellion."

A number of high-profile, award-winning Hollywood stars will feature prominently in competition at this year's festival, including Kristen Stewart, Aaron Paul, Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Rinko Kikuchi, Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn, Mary Steenburgen, JK Simmons, John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, and Flea.

This year's Sundance Film Festival runs Thursday, Jan. 16 thru Sunday, Jan. 26 in Park City, Utah. For more info visit: http://filmguide.sundance.org

God's Pocket
God's Pocket Sundance Film Fest

God's Pocket

In the gritty, blue-collar neighborhood of God's Pocket, Mickey Scarpato's crazy stepson, Leon, is killed in a construction “accident,” and Mickey quickly tries to bury the bad news with the body. But when a local columnist comes sniffing around for the truth, things go from bad to worse. Mickey finds himself stuck in a life-and-death struggle compounded by a body he can't bury, a wife he can't please, and a debt he can't pay.

"Mad Man" actor John Slattery makes an impressive jump behind the camera with an assured directorial debut featuring an A-list cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, and John Turturro.

Camp X-ray
Camp X-ray Sundance Film Festival

Camp X-ray

A young woman joins the military to be part of something bigger than herself and her small-town roots. Instead, she ends up as a new guard at Guantanamo Bay, where her mission is far from black and white. Surrounded by hostile jihadists and aggressive squadmates, she strikes up an unusual friendship with one of the detainees. As two people on opposite sides of a war, they struggle to find their way through the ethical quagmire of Guantanamo Bay. In the process, they form an unlikely bond that changes them both.

 

Whiplash
Whiplash Sundance Film Festival

Whiplash

Andrew, a promising 19-year-old drummer at a cutthroat Manhattan music conservatory, has little interest in being just a musician. Haunted by his father’s failed writing career and plagued with the fear that mediocrity just might be genetic, Andrew dreams of greatness. Determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps, he practices daily until his hands literally bleed. The pressure of success ratchets into high gear when he is picked to join the school band led by the infamous Terence Fletcher, a brutally savage music instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential. Under Fletcher’s ruthless direction, Andrew begins to pursue perfection at any cost—even his humanity.

Based on his 2013 Sundance Film Festival award-winning short film, "Whiplash" the feature version that writer/director Damien Chazelle always intended to make.

Low Down
Low Down Sundance Film Festival

Low Down

Told through the wise eyes of his young daughter, Amy, Low Down chronicles the torrid, true life of jazz pianist Joe Albany. Born into her beloved father’s unorthodox segment of society, Amy’s improvisational adolescence evolves in the shadow of Joe’s struggle between his musical genius and a suffocating heroin addiction. As young Amy sifts through the demimonde of artists, musicians, and vagabonds who permeate her apartment building, she attempts to cling to the deep-rooted love she shares with her deteriorating father. As she emerges into adulthood, she is forced to define her own identity, separate from her father’s troubles.

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter Sundance Film Festival

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Kumiko lives in a cluttered, cramped apartment in Tokyo with her pet rabbit, Bunzo. She works as an office lady, robotically preparing tea and fetching dry cleaning for her nitpicky boss. But on her own time, she obsessively watches a well-known American film on a weathered VHS tape. Rewinding and fast-forwarding repeatedly, she meticulously maps out where a briefcase of castaway loot is buried within the fictional film. After hours of intense research—convinced that her destiny depends on finding the money—Kumiko heads to the United States and into the harsh Minnesota winter to search for it.

Filmmaker brothers David and Nathan Zellner's were inspired by an urban legend based on a true story about a Japanese woman who took a similar journey.

Life After Beth
Life After Beth Sundance Film Festival

Life After Beth

Zach is devastated by the unexpected death of his girlfriend, Beth. When she miraculously comes back to life, Zach takes full advantage of the opportunity to experience all the things he regretted not doing when she was alive. However, the newly returned Beth isn’t quite the way he remembered her, and before long, Zach’s world takes a turn for the worse.

Writer-director Jeff Baena's fuses elements of a young love story and a zombie movie to concocts "a wickedly funny and shockingly poignant film."

Song One
Song One Sundance Film Festival

Song One

For a while now, Franny has been in Morocco researching Bedouin tribes for her PhD in anthropology. The last time she spoke to her brother, Henry, they fought brutally over his decision to ditch college and become a musician. When a terrible accident puts Henry in a coma, Franny rushes home to New York. Desperately seeking clues to his recovery, she dips her toe into the Brooklyn music scene he inhabited, attending a concert by his singer/songwriter hero, James Forester. When James unexpectedly visits Henry’s hospital room, a spark kindles between Franny and this reticent stranger. In the vibrant coffeehouses and clubs they frequent, love and grief intermingle. Franny discovers a new appreciation for her family and the possibility of truly connecting with people, rather than living life solely as an observer.

"Song One" is writer-director Kate Barker-Froyland's first feature film. It stars Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn.

Hellion
Hellion Sundance Film Festival

Hellion

Thirteen-year-old Jacob is spiraling out of control. The motocross-obsessed teenager’s delinquent behavior pushes his family to the brink of collapse. All hell breaks loose when Jacob enlists his younger brother, Wes, as a partner in crime. Still reeling from his wife’s death, Jacob’s dad, Hollis, has all but abandoned his sons. When Child Protective Services removes Wes to live with his Aunt Pam, Hollis and Jacob are forced to face their culpability as they strive to bring Wes home. Hellion is set in southeastern Texas where the flames and lights of refineries frame the skyline and create a haunting backdrop for this fractured family of motherless men.

"Hellion" is based on writer-director Kat Candler's successful but disturbing short film that screened at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It stars Aaron Paul ("Breaking Bad") with support from Juliette Lewis and Deke Garner, and a star-making turn by Josh Wiggins as Jacob.

Happy Christmas
Happy Christmas Sundance Film Festival

Happy Christmas

"Happy Christmas" marks director Joe Swanberg's return to the Sundance Film Festival (his film "Uncle Kent" played at the 2011 Festival).

It’s almost Christmas, and Jenny just broke up with her boyfriend. Without a real plan, she moves into her brother, Jeff, and sister-in-law, Kelly’s, spacious bachelor-pad basement in Chicago. As she reconnects with old friends and attempts to put her life back together, she continues to self-sabotage by repeatedly getting drunk and high. Kelly becomes fed up with Jenny’s immature behavior but soon realizes that she, too, feels stuck. As Christmas draws near, Jenny and Kelly realize that they can offer each other the solace and support they’ve both been craving.

Dear White People
Dear White People Sundance Film Festival

Dear White People

Writer-director Justin Simien makes an auspicious debut with Dear White People, a witty and whip-smart satire about black militancy, postracial fantasies, and the commodification of blackness. Nothing is black and white in this playful portrait of race in contemporary America.

Fishing Without Nets
Fishing Without Nets Sundance Film Festival

Fishing Without Nets

Shot in East Africa using Somali nonactors, Fishing Without Nets tells the mesmerizing and sobering story of the bandits from the Somali point of view. First-time feature filmmaker Cutter Hodierne, whose short film of the same name won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, combines the epic cinematic vision of a glorious action thriller with the intimate, textured qualities of an art film, humanizing the pirates by bringing us inside their moral dilemmas and gut-wrenching struggles.

The Sleepwalker
The Sleepwalker Sundance Film Festival

The Sleepwalker

Kaia enjoys a quiet life with her boyfriend, Andrew, on her late father’s secluded, 1920s, Le Corbusier–style estate, isolated from the rest of her rural Massachusetts town. Their restoration of the elaborate, but gutted, home is interrupted by the middle-of-the-night arrival of Kaia’s sister, Christine, followed the next morning by Christine’s WASPish fiancé, Ira. Immediate friction develops among the quartet as Christine announces her pregnancy, questions Kaia’s relationship with Andrew, and objects to the relics of her and Kaia’s shared childhood being discarded.

Cold in July
Cold in July Sundance Film Festival

Cold in July

How can a split-second decision change your life? While investigating noises in his house one balmy Texas night in 1989, Richard Dane puts a bullet in the brain of low-life burglar Freddy Russell. Although he’s hailed as a small-town hero, Dane soon finds himself fearing for his family’s safety when Freddy’s ex-con father, Ben, rolls into town, hell-bent on revenge.

Jim Mickle returns to the Sundance Film Festival for a second year, following his 2013 critical smash "We Are What We Are," which also played in the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival.  His cast includes Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson.

Infinitely Polar Bear
Infinitely Polar Bear Sundance Film Festival

Infinitely Polar Bear

Mark Ruffalo stars as ameron, a bipolar father, has had a nervous breakdown that leaves him unemployable. Inspired by writer-director Maya Forbes’s childhood, "Infinitely Polar Bear" lovingly and honestly portrays the pain and frustration of being raised by a father incapable of managing adult responsibilities and explores the gifts inherent in not being sheltered from that reality.

 

The Skeleton Twins
The Skeleton Twins Sundance Film Festival

The Skeleton Twins

Living separate lives on opposite sides of the country, estranged siblings Maggie and Milo are at the end of their ropes. But after a moment of crisis reunites them, Milo goes to spend time with Maggie in the small New York town where they grew up. A dental hygienist, Maggie struggles with her unhappy marriage to the painfully good-natured Lance, while Milo tracks down Rich, the English teacher with whom he shares a checkered past. Adrift and wondering how they ended up so far from who they were supposed to be, the siblings try to patch things up.

Jamie Mark's Is Dead
Jamie Mark's Is Dead Sundance Film Festival

Jamie Mark's Is Dead

Based on the novel One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak, "Jamie Marks Is Dead" is a love story, infused with elements of horror and the supernatural. Sundance Film Festival alumnus Carter Smith (his short film, Bugcrush, won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking in 2006) creates an atmosphere that is both gentle and creepy amid the stark, snowy wasteland of dilapidated barns and rusted iron bridges. A poetic, metaphoric tale of sexuality and difference, Jamie Marks Is Dead is about the choices one boy must make to help another free himself and accept his fate

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