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SUNDANCE ‘09: Tuesday, January 20th

Today provided a bit of an emotional Sundance lull for me, and not because of the inauguration. Was it just a general case of mid-festival doldrums? Or, hmm, maybe it was the countless beers I drank at the funner-than-fun Cinetic party last night. As for this morning’s dilemma, being the devoted professional that I am, I chose cinema over President Obama’s speech (which I will obviously watch in full once I return to normalcy). Here are today’s most notable moments inside a theater:

Children of Invention — Tze Chun’s tender drama superficially calls to mind Craig Zobel’s Great World of Sound. Maybe I’m the only one who sees those similarities, though. Chun’s story of a struggling Chinese mother of two in Boston is a fine lesson in restraint, how one need not force things in order to create a work of weight and merit. I’m looking forward to talking to Tze tomorrow to find out how he pulled such great performances out of his young cast.

The Girlfriend Experience — Word on the street had been building for several days that tonight’s “conversation” with Steven Soderbergh was in fact a sneak preview of his latest Bubble-esque low-budget experiment starring porn star (and legitimate cinephile!) Sasha Grey as a high-priced call girl in New York City. Word on the street was right. Out of respect for Mr. Soderbergh, I won’t speak about the footage itself. That’s like judging the facial features of a not-yet-born fetus. If he’s looking for feedback, I would be happy to send him my own personal notes (of which I have many). What I will say is that it takes a lot of courage to show a clearly still-being-formed work to an audience of 1300 at the Sundance Film Festival, where it can’t help but feel like a world premiere. I’m afraid to show my films in the early stages to more than five people at a time. 1300? No, thank you!

— Michael Tully

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Michael Tully is an award-winning writer/director whose films have garnered widespread critical acclaim, his projects having premiered at some of the most renowned film festivals across the globe. He is also the former (and founding) editor of this site. In 2006, Michael's first feature, COCAINE ANGEL, chronicling a tragic week in the life of a young drug addict, world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film immediately solidified the director as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a reputation that was reinforced a year later when his follow-up feature, SILVER JEW, a documentary capturing the late David Berman's rare musical performances in Tel Aviv, world-premiered at SXSW and landed distribution with cult indie-music label Drag City. In 2011, Michael wrote, directed, and starred in his third feature, SEPTIEN, which debuted at the 27th annual Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by IFC Films' Sundance Selects banner. A few years later, in 2014, Michael returned to Sundance with the world premiere of his fourth feature, PING PONG SUMMER, an ‘80s set coming-of-age tale that was quickly picked up for theatrical distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2018, Michael wrote and directed the dread-inducing genre film DON'T LEAVE HOME, which has been described as "Get Out with Catholic guilt in the Irish countryside" (IndieWire). The film premiered at SXSW and was subsequently acquired by Cranked Up Films and Shudder.

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