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What's new at the Sundance Film Festival? Weapons checks

Image of the upcoming film,
Image of the upcoming film, "The Birth of a Nation." It stars Nate Parker who also wrote and directed the film. Its one of the movies many are talking about at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Hollywood has bundled up and headed to Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival is underway and dozens of films are making distribution deals, while others are making their world premieres. 

Host of Southern California Public Radio's arts and culture show, "The Frame", John Horn joined the show to discuss what's generating early buzz at Sundance.

John's Top 3

Bron Studios

The Birth of a Nation

Nate Parker wrote, directed and starred in this upcoming historical period drama about Nat Turner, the literate African American slave who led a rebellion. 

Blackbird Films

Swiss Army man

This film stars Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Dano plays a stranded man who uses a corpse as a tool (kind of like a Swiss Army knife, thus the title) to survive. Daniel Radcliffe plays the corpse.

Electric City Entertainment

Captain Fantastic

Starring Viggo Mortensen, this film is about a man who was determined to raise his family out in the forest , away from society. However, circumstances force him to bring them into the real world.


What are buyers looking for? To make up for last year, buyers are searching for something that will sell at the box office, Horn explained.

The big sellers last year, Dope and Me, Earl and  the Dying girl, got lots of buzz, but that did not translate to the box office.


'Newtown' clip


Atlas Films

Under the gun

Documentaries such as Newtown and Under the Gun are about gun control. Horn went on to say that these movies explore what can happen after the tragedies, and what hasn't happened in gun laws.

Coincidentally, the themes these documentaries touch are highlighted in the festival's security measures this year. "For the first time... there are now bag checks, weapon checks, there are signs on the theater saying no firearms," Horn said. 

Utah is an open carry state so, Horn noted, festival representatives want to make sure people aren't bringing fire arms into movie theaters. "It's something I've never seen at the festival before. It's unfortunate, because it really reminds you if you go to any film festival, any theater to get away the real world and your suddenly seeing no firearms warnings and bag checks and you're having to open your jacket it's everything up to a put down and it really is unfortunate."

Deals and Diversity

The landscape of Sundance is changing, and streaming services are now big players. The two deals that have generated buzz so far: Tallulah starring Ellen Page sold to Netflix and Complete Unknown, starring Rachel Weisz, sold to Amazon. 

As far as diversity goes, Sundance has always been more open to it. Filmmakers present at the festival now can be making films in Hollywood two to three years down the road. However, even though Sundance has a good history of promoting diverse filmmakers, this doesn't always mean they go Hollywood.

Boyhood, Whiplash, and Brooklyn were some of the biggest films to come out of the festival in the recent years, and all were all made by white men.

"It doesn't really mean that just because a movie connects here," explained Horn, "and with audiences outside Sundance that it's going to be made by a black filmmaker, or an Asian or Latino or that it's made by a woman."

To hear the full interview, press the blue play button above.