31 Days of Sundance: Movies to See on Your TV

Starting in January, the Sundance Channel is going to do their coverage of the Sundance Film Festival as usual. In addition to it, they're also going to air a previous festival film every night from January 1st to 31st.  A lot of these films are fairly new, making their television broadcast premieres. Each film will air as a double feature starting at 10 PM along with an acclaimed short film also from the festival.

Here are some highlights that you should do well to check out.

Thursday, January 1

The American Astronaut (U.S. Television Premiere)- Directed by Cory McAbee. A hybrid of science fiction, spaghetti western and rock musical, this cult treat follows the Homeric odyssey of interplanetary trader Samuel Curtis (McAbee). As he travels through the galaxy, visiting the all-male Jupiter and the all-female Venus, Samuel is pursued by a shadowy figure from his past, the enigmatic Professor Hess. Appeared at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.

Friday, January 2

Blame It on Fidel (U.S. Television Premiere)- Directed by Julie Gavras. Set in Paris circa 1970, this sly, insightful comedy unfolds from the perspective of precocious 9-year-old Anna ( Nina Kervel), who has to make some serious adjustments when her parents plunge full-time into leftist activism. Appeared at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Sunday, January 4

Sweet Mud (U.S. Television Premiere)- Directed by Dror Shaul. Rising Israeli filmmaker Shaul draws from his own upbringing for this drama set on an Israeli kibbutz in 1974-75. 12-year-old Dvir ( Tomer Steinhof) must balance preparations for his bar mitzvah with concerns about his widowed mother, Miri (Ronit Yudkevitch), an emotionally fragile woman who is increasingly shunned by her fellow kibbutzniks. Appeared at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Monday, January 5

Comrades in Dreams (U.S. Television Premiere) - Directed by Uli Gaulki. A celebration of movie-love, this documentary visits alternative and independent cinemas and their patrons in some of the most unlikely places on the planet. Gaulki, the founder of Balasz Cinema in Germany, captures the thrill of the shared viewing experience in settings ranging from an Indian tent cinema to a Wyoming movie club. Appeared at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival

Thursday, January 8

Good Morning Heartache (U.S. Television Premiere)- Directed by Anna Negri. In this deft Italian comedy, a documentary team sets out to explore the life of a working actor, including the impact of his profession's financial instability. But as the actor and his beautiful girlfriend head for a messy break-up, the filmmakers find themselves getting involved - and getting in over their heads. Appeared at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Saturday, January 10

Crazy Love (U.S. Television Premiere)- Directed by Dan Klores. This aptly titled documentary chronicles the headline-making relationship of two larger-than-life New York characters, Burt Pugach and the former Linda Riis. Candid interviews with Burt and Linda allow them to tell the complex human story behind the tabloid reports. Appeared at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Monday, January 12

Secrecy (U.S. Television Premiere)- Directed by Peter Galison and Robb Moss. This documentary goes inside the murky world of government classified secrets, a realm that has grown significantly since 9/11. As the filmmakers interview CIA analysts, lawyers and ordinary citizens, they examine the implications of national security policy, both for government and individuals. Appeared at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Friday, January 16

The King of Ping Pong(U.S. Television Premiere) - Directed by Jens Jonsson. A seriocomic coming-of-age tale about Rille ( Jerry Johansson), a plump Swedish teenager who is scorned at school and overshadowed at home, but who rules the roost at the local youth club, where he is the undisputed king of ping-pong. The accidental disclosure of family secrets unsettles the balance of Rille's life, forcing him to re-evaluate his situation. Cinematography Award and Grand Jury Prize/World Cinema - Dramatic, 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Saturday, January 17

Starting Out in the Evening (U.S. Television Premiere) - Directed by Andrew Wagner. Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) stars as a onetime literary lion who is facing mortality and obscurity when he is approached by an ambitious graduate student ( Lauren Ambrose, "Six Feet Under") writing her master's thesis about his work. A complex relationship develops as the young woman prods the reserved novelist to examine his life and his art, even as her own motivations remain opaque. Appeared at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Sunday, January 18

War/Dance (U.S. Television Premiere) - Directed by Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine. For over twenty years, northern Uganda has been at war with the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, which has systematically kidnapped children to use as soldiers and sex slaves. War/Dance follows the historic journey of three of these children - Dominic, Rose and Nancy - and their classmates at the Patongo refugee camp, the first school from the northern war zone to make it into the finals of Uganda's national music and dance competition. 2007 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award/Documentary; 2008 Academy Award(R) nomination Best Documentary

Wednesday, January 21

Ghosts (U.S. Television Premiere) - Directed by Nick Broomfield. In his first foray into drama, veteran documentarian Broomfield (Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer) delivers a powerful look at the plight of Chinese illegal immigrants working for pennies a day in London. At the center of the film is a young mother, played real-life immigrant Ai Qin Lin, who has paid $25,000 to be smuggled to the U.K. in order to support her family back home. Appeared at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival

Saturday, January 24

Savage Grace (U.S. Television Premiere) - Directed by Tom Kalin. This juicy, fact-based drama stars Oscar(R) nominee Julianne Moore as Barbara Daly Baekeland, a would-be actress who vaulted into the upper class when she married plastics magnate Brooks Baekeland ( Stephan Dillane). Spanning 40 years, Savage Grace captures a world of wealth, decadence and simmering discontent as it chronicles the Baekelands' disintegrating marriage and Barbara's intense relationship with their only child, Tony ( Eddie Redmayne). Appeared at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival

Sunday, January 25

Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) (U.S. Television Premiere) - Directed by Jason Kohn. Connecting seemingly unrelated elements - a frog farm, plastic surgery, bulletproof luxury cars - this documentary explores how the rich and the poor brazenly steal from one another in contemporary Brazil. Grand Jury Prize/Documentary, 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Monday, January 26

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten (U.S. Television Premiere) - Directed by Julien Temple. Temple, one of the first documentarians of England's punk scene, draws on his shared cultural history and close friendship with the late Clash co-founder Joe Strummer for this acclaimed documentary. Loaded with rare archival footage and interviews with family, friends and admirers, the film celebrates the complicated man behind the legend. Appeared at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival

That's just 14 of them. For the other 17, be sure to check your listings come January.

In addition, 13 great Sundance favorites are also going to be available On Demand. These films are: Andrew Jarecki's Capturing the Friedmans (SFF 2003, Sundance Channel premiere); Daniel Gordon's Crossing the Line (SFF 2007, U.S. television premiere); Andrea Staka's Fraulein (SFF 2007, U.S. television premiere); Dito Montiel's A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (SFF 2006); Ryan Fleck's Half Nelson (SFF 2006); Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro's Murderball (SFF 2005); Park Chanwook's Oldboy (SFF 2005); Jessica Yu's Protagonist (SFF 2007, U.S. television premiere); Bobcat Goldthwait's Sleeping Dogs Lie (SFF 2006); Goran Dukic's Wristcutters: A Love Story (SFF 2006, U.S. television premiere); Sebastian Cordero's Cronicas (SFF 2005); Chris Gorak's Right at Your Door (SFF 2006); and Stephen Marshall's This Revolution (SFF 2005).

That's a lot of movies to see in January. And you don't even have to go to Utah to get 'em.

Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.


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