2013 Sundance Film Fest: U.S. Documentary Comp Sees Deal/Lessin, Greg Barker, Sean/Andrea Nix Fine Return to Park City

Citizen Koch Carl Deal, Tia Lessin

Keeping us firmly on the ground, this year’s domestic competition is mostly comprised of the politically charged verity we’ve come to expect to find in Park City. Unsurprisingly coming straight from this summer’s doc labs, Roger Ross Williams’s God Loves Uganda and Dawn Porter’s Gideon’s Army are both making their debut. Sundance award winning directors for Trouble the Water in Carl Deal and Tia Lessin are making their sophomore appearance at the helm and fest with Citizen Koch (see pic above) and so is the dynamic team of Sean and Andrea Nix Fine who return to the fest after triumphing back in 2007 with War/Dance. While last year featured a wide variety of tones and tenors that dabbled in odd-ball character studies and the arts, this year, Morgan Neville’s Twenty Feet From Stardom looks to be the lone picture to dabble in performance, while other heavy hitters like photographer Shaul Schwarz’s Narco Cultura and Sergio director (Sundance ’09) Greg Barker who brings Manhunt should be major points of interest. Here is the rundown of all 16 titles making an appearance:

99% – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film / U.S.A. (Directors: Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read, Nina Kristic) — The Occupy movement erupted in September 2011, propelling economic inequality into the spotlight. In an unprecedented collaboration, filmmakers across America tell its story, digging into big picture issues as organizers, analysts, participants and critics reveal how it happened and why.

After Tiller / U.S.A. (Directors: Martha Shane, Lana Wilson) — Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009, only four doctors in the country provide late-term abortions. With unprecedented access, After Tiller goes inside the lives of these physicians working at the center of the storm.

American Promise / U.S.A. (Directors: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson) — This intimate documentary follows the 12-year journey of two African-American families pursuing the promise of opportunity through the education of their sons.

Blackfish / U.S.A. (Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite) — Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.

Blood Brother / U.S.A. (Director: Steve Hoover) — Rocky went to India as a disillusioned tourist. When he met a group of children with HIV, he decided to stay. He never could have imagined the obstacles he would face, or the love he would find.

Citizen Koch / U.S.A. (Directors: Carl Deal, Tia Lessin) — Wisconsin – birthplace of the Republican Party, government unions, “cheeseheads” and Paul Ryan – becomes a test market in the campaign to buy Democracy, and ground zero in the battle for the future of the GOP.

Cutie and the Boxer / U.S.A. (Director: Zachary Heinzerling) — This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband’s assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own.

Dirty Wars / U.S.A. (Director: Richard Rowley) — Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill chases down the truth behind America’s covert wars.

Gideon’s Army / U.S.A. (Director: Dawn Porter) — Gideon’s Army follows three young, committed Public Defenders who are dedicated to working for the people society would rather forget. Long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads are so common that even the most committed often give up.

God Loves Uganda / U.S.A. (Director: Roger Ross Williams) — A powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to infuse African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow biblical law.

The Good Life / U.S.A. (Directors: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine) — Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns fight to save their only son from Progeria, a rare and fatal disease for which there is no treatment or cure. In less than a decade, their work has led to significant advances.

Inequality for All / U.S.A. (Director: Jacob Kornbluth) — In this timely and entertaining documentary, noted economic-policy expert Robert Reich distills the topic of widening income inequality, and addresses the question of what effects this increasing gap has on our economy and our democracy.

Manhunt / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Greg Barker) — This espionage tale goes inside the CIA’s long conflict against Al Qaeda, as revealed by the remarkable women and men whose secret war against Osama bin Laden started nearly a decade before most of us even knew his name.

Narco Cultura / U.S.A. (Director: Shaul Schwarz) — An examination of Mexican drug cartels’ influence in pop culture on both sides of the border as experienced by an LA narcocorrido singer dreaming of stardom and a Juarez crime scene investigator on the front line of Mexico’s Drug War.

Twenty Feet From Stardom / U.S.A. (Director: Morgan Neville) — Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight. Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we’ve had no idea who these singers are or what lives they lead – until now.

Valentine Road / U.S.A. (Director: Marta Cunningham) — In 2008, eighth-grader Brandon McInerney shot classmate Larry King at point blank range. Unraveling this tragedy from point of impact, the film reveals the heartbreaking circumstances that led to the shocking crime as well as its startling aftermath.

Based out of the film deprived rust belt of Buffalo, NY, Jordan M. Smith is a staff writer and film critic for IONCINEMA.com, is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and has been making the rounds at Sundance, TIFF, and Hot Docs. When he's not gazing at the glow of a big screen, he's teaching as a tech librarian. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: P.T. Anderson (There Will Be Blood), W. Anderson (The Life Aquatic), Assayas (Carlos), Almodóvar (Broken Embraces), Coen Bros. (No Country For Old Men), Gibney (We Steal Secrets), Herzog (Grizzly Man), Kar-wai (Chungking Express), Kiarostami (Certified Copy), Malick (The Tree of Life), Morris (The Wog of War), Ross Bros. (Tchoupitoulas)