Sundance: Screenings Start Very Sloooow; Buyers Circle 'The Guard' With Don Cheadle

On the second day of Sundance, buyers were beginning to get antsy. The first screenings generated moderate interest, but buyers haven’t loved anything and only liked a few films. So far, the consensus is that the unveiled crop of films can’t be released on a high screen count. Deals will be made on these initial films, but not rich ones. The most promising reaction so far came opening day for John Michael McDonagh-directed Irish film The Guard, which stars Brendan Gleeson as a cranky village cop who’s mismatched with a visiting FBI agent (Don Cheadle) because the drug smuggling ring the fed was chasing had taken up residence in the Irish town. By Friday night, three buyers were circling the film. The director is the brother of In Bruges helmer Martin McDonagh. The Guard isn’t quite In Bruges (which also starred Gleeson) but it is a crowd-pleaser.

Several buyers said that Margin Call, the JC Chandor-directed drama about the financial meltdown of 2008, was compelling but long.

The pic Martha Marcy May Marlene has the buying crowd talking about its star, Elizabeth Olsen, who’s the younger sibling of the infamous Olsen Twins and also appears in Silent House, the thriller directed by Open Waters team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. But respect for a performance doesn’t necessarily mean a buy. Silent House is a haunted house story told in one continuous shot, which meant the cast had to perform it all the way through, like a play. Interesting technique, but will audiences care?

Reaction to last night’s Pariah was mixed. Today, buyers had poor feedback for competition film The Ledge, with Liv Tyler and Charlie Hunnam. Some available films under the loop tonight are Miranda July’s second film The Future (early feedback was that it’s small but good), Israeli film Restoration, and British actor Paddy Considine’s directorial debut Tyrannosaur.

But the day after opening day at Sundance can be maddeningly quiet. As Goldwyn Films acquisitions head Peter Goldwyn told Deadline, “The
first two days of the festival I’m miserable, then it gets better.” Buyers were looking forward to a weekend slate that includes the Paul Rudd comedy My Idiot Brother — the odds-on favorite to be the one to cause a bidding war. And Kevin Smith’s Red State. The latter film is really making buyers from the TriState area question their dedication because they’ll have to leave after the first half of the New York Jets-Pittsburgh Steelers game. They were lobbying the film’s reps to move the start back to 7:30 PM. The Dito Montiel-directed cop drama Son Of No One, made its debut at 6:15 PM tomorrow.

One micro indie film deal was made today: an international pact for Sundance documentary competition entry Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology, Tiffany Shlain’s timely meditation on the interconnectedness of humankind. Doc licensing specialist Ro*co Films International took on the film’s foreign distribution. Ro*co’s Annie Roney said the pic “embodies the very reason our company exists: to connect global audiences to each other around the issues of our time, through an emotional connection to real people.”

And, off the Sundance radar, director Bernard Rose’s festival circuit veteran Mr. Nice, starring Rhys Ifans and Chloe Sevigny, found an American home with Chicago-based MPI Media Group. The distributor picked up all U.S. rights to the British dramedy based on the life of drug dealer Howard Marks. Produced by Luc Roeg’s London-based Independent shingle, Mr. Nice made the festival rounds starting at South by Southwest last year, and also played Edinburgh, Seville, and Stockholm.

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