Early next year I’ll be traveling to Park City, Utah for my second Sundance Film Festival. This year’s fest, my first, really changed the way I approached my job for the entire year – the movies I saw at Sundance really shaped my movie-viewing experiences for 2008, and I was introduced to a number of filmmakers whose work I’ll now be following with a lot of excitement.

Of course a month before the fest I had no idea what the heck I would be seeing, or what would be the good stuff. The announcement of the Sundance line-up is always fraught with excitement and mystery, and this year’s was no different. The line-up is filled with films that intrigue and a couple that I never heard of – and some of those are likely to end up being among my favorites of ’09. I walked into Sundance ’08 not knowing a damn thing about The Wackness, for instance.

I’ve cherry picked a couple of films that I think should be on your radar, and linked to the complete press release with all of the in-competition films. There are other films, like Moon, starring Sam Rockwell as an astronaut stranded alone on the Moon for three years, that will be playing out of competition.

Read the complete list of films in competition.

Dramatic Competition Films of note

Big Fan (Director and Screenwriter: Robert Siegel) – The
world of a parking garage attendant who happens to be the New York Giants’
biggest fan is turned upside down after an altercation with his favorite
player. Cast: Patton Oswalt, Michael
Rapaport, Kevin Corrigan, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Matt Servitto. World Premiere

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Director and
Screenwriter: John Krasinski) – When her boyfriend leaves with little
explanation, a doctoral candidate in anthropology tries to remedy her heartache
by interviewing men about their behavior. Cast:
Julianne Nicholson, John Krasinski, Timothy Hutton, Dominic Cooper, Christopher
Meloni, Rashida Jones. World

Cold Souls (Director and Screenwrtier: Sophie Barthes) – In
the midst of an existential crisis, a famous American actor explores soul
extraction as a relief from the burdens of daily life. Cast: Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn, Dina Korzun, Emily Watson,
Lauren Ambrose, Katheryn Winnick. World Premiere

Humpday (Director and
Screenwriter: Lynn Shelton) – A farcical comedy about straight male bonding
gone a little too far. Cast: Mark
Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore, Lynn Shelton, Trina Willard. World

Paper Heart (Director: Nicholas
Jasenovec; Screenwriters: Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi) – Even
though performer Charlyne Yi doesn’t believe in love, she bravely embarks on a
quest to discover its true nature – a journey that takes on surprising urgency
when she meets unlikely fellow traveler, actor Michael Cera. Cast: Charlyne Yi,
Michael Cera, Jake Johnson. World Premiere

Bronson / UK (Director:
Nicolas Winding Refn; Screenwriter: Brock Norman Brock) – Bronson traces the transformation of Mickey Peterson into Britain’s
most notorious, dangerous, and charismatic prisoner, Charles Bronson. Cast: Tom Hardy.  North American Premiere

The Clone Returns (Kuron Wa Kokyo-Wo Mezasu)/ Japan (Director and Screenwriter: Kanji Nakajima) – A Japanese astronaut who dies during a mission is
subsequently resurrected as a clone and returns to his childhood home. Cast:
Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Eri Ishida, Hiromi Nagasaku.  North American Premiere

An Education/UK (Director: Lone Scherfig; Screenwriter: Nick Hornby) – In the early 60s, a sharp 16-year-old with sights set on
Oxford meets a handsome older man whose sophistication enraptures and
sidetracks both her and her parents. Cast:
Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson.  World Premiere

Five Minutes of Heaven /UK / (Director: Oliver
Hirschbiegel; Screenwriter: Guy Hibbert) – Two men from the same town but from different sides of the
Irish political divide discover that the past is never dead – in fact it isn’t
even past. Cast: Liam Neeson, James
Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca. World

Documentary Competition Films of note

Art & Copy (Director: Doug Pray; Screenwriter: Timothy J.
Sexton) – Rare interviews with the most influential advertising creative
minds of our age illustrate the wide-reaching effect advertising and creativity
have on modern culture. World Premiere

Boy Interrupted (Director: Dana Perry) – An intimate look at the
life, mental illness and death of a young man told from the point of view of
the filmmaker: his mother. World Premiere

Good Hair (Director: Jeff Stilson) – Comedian Chris Rock
turns documentary filmmaker when he sets out to examine the culture of African-American
hair and hairstyles. World Premiere

Over the Hills and Far Away (Director: Michel Orion Scott) – Over the Hills and Far Away chronicles
the journey of the Isaacson family as they travel through Mongolia in search of
a mysterious shaman they believe can heal their autistic son. World

Reporter (Director: Eric Daniel Metzgar) – Set in Africa, this documentary chronicles,
in verité fashion, the haunting, physically grueling and shocking voyage of
Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, Nicholas D. Kristof. World Premiere.

The September Issue (Director: R.J.
Cutler) – With unprecedented access, director R.J. Cutler and his crew
shot for nine months as they captured Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and her team preparing the 2007 Vogue September issue, widely accepted as the
“fashion bible” for the year’s trends. World Premiere

When You’re Strange (Director and
Screenwriter: Tom DiCillo) – The first feature
documentary about The Doors,  When You’re Strange enters the dark and
dangerous world of one of America’s most influential bands using only footage
shot between 1966 and 1971. World

William Kunstler:  Disturbing
the Universe
Sarah Kunstler and Emily Kunstler) – With clients including Martin Luther
King Jr., Malcolm X, and the Chicago 10, the late civil rights attorney William
Kunstler was one of the most famous lawyers of the 20th century. Filmmakers
Emily and Sarah Kunstler explore their father’s life from movement hero to “the
most hated lawyer in America.” World Premiere

211:Anna/ Italy (Directors:Paolo Serbandini & Giovanna Massimetti) – The story of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and human
rights activist who risked her life to report the truth about the Chechen
conflict and President Vladimir Putin.  World Premiere

Afghan Star/Afghanistan/UK (Director: Havana
Marking) – After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to
television in Afghanistan: millions are
watching and voting for their favorite singer. This film follows the
stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing. North American Premiere

Kimjongilia/France/USA (Director: N.C. Heikin) – Defectors
from North Korea finally speak out about the terrifying reality of their
lives–and escapes. World Premiere

Let’s Make Money/Austria/China/South
Africa/Spain/Switzerland/U.S.A. (Director: Erwin Wagenhofer) – From the factories of India, to financial markets in Singapore,
to massive housing developments in Spain and offshore banks in Jersey, Let’s Make Money reveals complex and
shocking workings of global money flow. World

Nollywood Babylon/Canada (Directors: Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal) – Welcome to the wacky world of Nollywood, Nigeria’s bustling
home-grown movie industry. U.S. Premiere

Prom Night in Mississippi/ Canada (Director: Paul Saltzman) – When
a small-town Mississippi high school resolves to hold its first integrated
senior prom, strong emotions fly and traditions are challenged to their core. World Premiere