"Whiplash," a contender in the U.S. dramatic competition,
will kick off Sundance on Thursday and is the first of numerous
films that use music as a tool to explore human identity at the
festival, held in the Utah ski resort of Park City.
The film, directed by Damien Chazelle, stars rising star Miles
Teller as a drummer who enters music school and comes face to
face with a teacher who challenges him to pursue perfection,
pushing him to the limit.
"It is such a singular film," Trevor Groth, Sundance's director
of programming, told Reuters. "It really is one of the potential
breakouts of the festival because it's so unique."
"Whiplash" will compete against "Low Down," a coming-of-age tale
following a young girl growing up with a troubled musician
father, and "Song One," in which a young woman seeks out a
musician to help her younger brother come out of a coma.
"I was really fascinated by the idea of music's connective
power, and how it can connect people in unpredictable ways
without them even knowing it," Kate Barker-Frayland, the
director of "Song One," said.
The romantic drama, starring Oscar winner Anne Hathaway and
Johnny Flynn, brings together two people both at low points in
their lives. Barker-Frayland said she wanted to cast their story
against the backdrop of Brooklyn's vibrant music scene.
"I wanted to shoot all of the performances live and record the
music live to really capture what it's like to go watch a show
at all these different places. Music is such an emotional thing
and any song has some emotional content," she said.
MUSIC IN DIFFERENT GUISES
Now in its 30th year, Sundance is the top independent film
gathering in the United States and has helped launch the careers
of many up-and-coming filmmakers, including Quentin Tarantino,
Steven Soderbergh and David O. Russell.
The festival, backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, is
held in the snow-covered streets of Park City from January
[to top of second column]
Sundance has also ushered some strong music films
into the awards race in recent years, with 2012's "Searching for
Sugar Man" winning the best documentary feature Oscar the following
year, and 2013's "20 Feet from Stardom," which is on this year's
This year, music spans all categories at Sundance,
including competition, premieres and spotlight films, and takes many
different guises, such as a musical, a coping mechanism and a tool
In "God Help the Girl," a contender in the world cinema dramatic
category, Scottish musician Stuart Murdoch, from indie-pop band
Belle & Sebastian, explores a coming-of-age tale with a musical. In
the spotlight category, "Only Lovers Left Alive," starring Tilda
Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, follows a dejected musician who finds
solace in his lover as his world collapses.
"I'm curious as to how music is of such interest to
our filmmakers," said John Cooper, director of the film festival.
"It could be tied to their passions being very similar, but each
film is so unique in the approach that they've taken, it's almost as
if there's no similarities except for the music."
"Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory," a contender in the U.S.
documentary competition, explores the healing power of music as one
man crusades to have music in nursing homes to help those with
The festival's closing night film, "Rudderless," directed by actor
William H. Macy, sees a father cope with the grief of losing his son
by forming a rock and roll band to perform his late son's original
"It's definitely going to be a celebration of music at the
festival," said Cooper.
(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Leslie
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.