Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe to Empire!
Save up to 63%
Want To Be An Empire Journalist?
We're looking for reporters for the BFI London Film Festival
Empire Blogs
Words From The Wise

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Sundance London: An Introduction To The 2014 Edition

Posted on Wednesday April 23, 2014, 23:54 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Sundance London: An Introduction To The 2014 Edition

Some 15 years ago, we at Empire made a terrible mistake by sharing our discovery of a wonderful Christmassy village in Utah that every January showed great independent films by terrific emerging filmmakers to enthusiastic audiences. It had been an open secret for a while before then, but sometime in the late 2000s the Sundance Film Festival simply exploded, making it not just the first appointment festival on the calendar but an event that now resounds throughout the rest of the year. Never mind its rep as the festival that discovered Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh and Kevin Smith, Sundance continues to be relevant by championing films that in recent years have launched X-Person Jennifer Lawrence, (re)discovered the elusive Sixto Rodriguez and made Benh Zeitlin a surprise Best Picture nominee for his debut Beasts Of The Southern Wild.

With Sundance London returning for its third year at London’s O2 this weekend, we thought we’d catch up with festival director John Cooper and director of programming Trevor Groth to see what the fest’s UK sibling has in store…

How is 2014’s festival looking?
John Cooper: It’s shaping up to be a great year. We’re coming off a very successful Sundance festival in Utah, so it made the process even more fun and lively. It was a great time to see what we could bring to London.
Are you more comfortable after two editions here? What have you learned?
Cooper: We’ve learned a lot from this experience. I think we’ve really come to trust the London audience to be up for anything and be a great cinephile crowd. Trevor and I do a lot of the Q&As there, so the in-theatre experience of presenting these films has been great. I don’t know if I was necessarily shocked by it, but I really liked the thirst for very American stories – those have done very well for us. Stories that are a little more out of the mainstream, about smalltown America, as well as films about the larger problems we face as a country. All of those films seem to have really interesting, lively screenings and conversations around them. So that’s something we’ve learned: to trust the audience. The other thing is music – the power of music is something we’ve continued to cultivate. I’m gonna let Trevor talk a little more about that…
Trevor Groth: From its inception, Robert Redford wanted Sundance to be a film and music festival, and it’s really great for us to officially programme that in London too. The Park City festival has always had music elements. We have the Music Café, we work with KCRW, the LA radio station, but going into London we specifically called it a film and music festival. What’s been great about that is finding those films that celebrate that notion of the power of music, and I think this year we’ve got an exceptional group – both documentaries and fiction films – that really explore that notion in a really interesting way. Everything from the political – Finding Fela, which shows how Fela Kuti used music as a tool for a political change – to a more abstract film like Frank (pictured). Frank was a real highlight in Park City for me, and to be able to host the UK premiere of that is really special. It’s about the creative process – why artists create.
Cooper:  Talking of UK premieres, I’m really excited about the UK premiere of Fruitvale Station, because it’s had such a long Sundance history. That feels really good. And there’s also the continuation  of our 30th year anniversary, with the programme we're doing with Empire – three films that tell such vivid stories of our history.
Those are Memento, Reservoir Dogs and Winter’s Bone, right? Do you have any particular memories of those three films?
Cooper: All of them. They were chosen for that reason. I was at the workshop that we do in the summer with Quentin Tarantino when he first came to Sundance. He was waiting to find out if he’d got in. He was in the parking lot yelling, “When am I gonna know???” He still has that energy that guy; he’s just really passionate about film. So I remember that, and I remember standing backstage during Winter’s Bone with Jennifer Lawrence as a very young actress, feeling the seriousness of her situation and her talent.
Groth: I remember writing the programme description for Memento. I watched it, like, THREE TIMES to try to figure out the best way of describing it without giving anything away. I appreciated the craft of storytelling more and more.
You have a good cross section from the Utah festival this year. How did you approach the programming?
Cooper: We did have our heads around this when we programmed, thinking about how comedy was such a big part of our festival this year. And high-profile actors in independent films. Even that notion of the raised quality of art in film – those elements are all in play at our festival. Comedy in particular, there’s Hits, by David Cross. Obvious Child is a film that will introduce audiences to a comedian called Jenny Slate, who’s the impetus and the centre-driver of the film. She’s so funny and so honest in her approach; she makes a great partner with the filmmaker on the story. Trevor, do you wanna talk a little about the art?
Groth: There are two films that I think are just really exquisitely made, especially on a big screen. Kumiko The Treasure Hunter and Memphis are two films that I think really expand the boundaries of cinematic storytelling. They do a lot with cinematography and composition, especially with Memphis in the way it incorporates music. They’re just beautiful films.
Any other tips?
Groth: Cooper just talked about having high-profile actors in these unconventional roles, and The Voices is a perfect example of that. You’ve got Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick in this film by Marjane Satrapi, who burst on the international scene with Persepolis. This is her third feature, and I don’t think anyone going into this will have any idea what’s in store for them. It’s a wild ride, and Ryan definitely commits to it. It’s a trippy film, and he’s really fantastic in it.
Are there any advantages to Sundance London that you don’t get in Park City?
Cooper: Being under one roof, we don’t have to run around so much. [Laughs] I can spend a lot of time in the back of the theatres, tracking audiences and talking to them in the lobby. It’s really fun, and kind of reviving too.
Groth: Actually we have a new venue there at the O2 this year, called Brooklyn Bowl, which we’re gonna use as our social hub for the festival. We’re gonna have some talks there, three nights of music performances and do a little bowling with the filmmakers too.
Cooper: Trevor’s excited because he’s quiet a good bowler. I am not. It’s just a kind of therapy of failure for me.
Is it a good excuse to make the January festival last that little bit longer?
Groth: I guess, we’re just getting to the point where we’re interested in partying again.
Cooper: Yeah. What I really like is travelling with these filmmakers, having another wave of them and getting closer to them in a really fun and vibrant way. It’s a really great time for us to come to London.

Login or register to comment.

Currently No Comments

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


Empire States (444)

Under The Radar (335)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (36)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


The European Film Awards 2014: A Victory For Ida
By Damon Wise

Cannes Film Festival 2014: Awards Wrap
By Damon Wise

Sundance London: An Introduction To The 2014 Edition
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: First Report
By Damon Wise

Shane Carruth Interview: Upstream Color
By Damon Wise

Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac: First Look
By Damon Wise

The European Film Awards 2013
By Damon Wise

Metro Manila Charity Screenings
By Damon Wise


Why I Love Django Unchained
"buy fast youtube likes"  thekiddo24
Read comment

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap
"lights of both competitors alongside its traditional 24/7 series. Here we have the greatest hits of "  lalkala000
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Ha ha, buuuurn! I am going to go a step further and say Dredd was a better film."  doug64
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"You are a miserable old fart! "  Crazel
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Doug64 I totally agreed with you"  Crazel
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Am I the only person in the world who doesn't think The Raid is all that great? I realise you have t"  doug64
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Great write-up on a movie for which I am incredibly excited. Even more promisingly, this seems to be"  tysmuse
Read comment

Toronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double
"If being on a par with Terry Gilliam's 'daft' Brazil is the only criticism avowed Gilliam-disliker D"  Garth_Marenghi
Read comment

Venice 2013: Under The Skin
"I'm glad that Glazer's finally back on the big screen. Judging by the review, he"  Manfrendshensindshen
Read comment

Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World
"What's really interesting about this film is the trailer gives nothing away but give you the premise"  durelius
Read comment


Why I Love Django Unchained

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look

Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World

Venice 2013: Under The Skin

Toronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double

Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part Two

Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part 5

Argo: a round table encounter with Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman

Cannes 2013: Some Thoughts On The Official Lineup

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap

Damon Wise (299)
Helen O'Hara (181)
James Dyer (87)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (21)
Owen Williams (21)
Simon Braund (6)
Nev Pierce (5)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
Ian Nathan (1)

Empire Meets Ridley Scott
The great director on The Martian, Blade Runner 2 and the Prometheus sequels

Jessica Chastain On The Martian
On becoming an astronaut and rescuing Matt Damon AGAIN

My Movie Life: Justin Kurzel
The Macbeth director on how Rocky changed his life and the worst ever date movie

Life On Mars: Trips To The Red Planet
A dozen of cinema's Martian misadventures

Hallowed Ground: Folk Horror In British Film
Ten tales from our island's dark past

All Hail Macbeth! The Scottish Play On Film
By the pricking of our thumbs, ten adaptations this way come(s)

10 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Toys You’ll Want To Own
Falcon quad copter? BB-8 Sphero? We’re already asking for pay raises…

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe now and save up to 63%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)