Robert Redford to produce unscripted CNN series

NEW YORK (AP) — CNN is planning an unscripted series about Chicago that will be executive-produced by Robert Redford.

The eight-part series, “Chicagoland,” will premiere in 2014.

CNN said Wednesday that “Chicagoland” will explore where politics and policy meet people’s lives in the quintessentially American city.

Redford called Chicago a city with “a rhythm all its own” and said he is “honored” to play a part in telling its story.

“Chicagoland” comes from Sundance Productions. It will be produced by Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin, the filmmakers who made the award-winning “Brick City,” a documentary TV series about Newark, N.J.

Sundance heats up with a slew of sex-themed films

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — The Sundance Film Festival has never been sexier.

The annual independent-film showcase has featured a slew of sexually themed movies in its various categories this year. There are stories about women using sex to work through their mid-life crises, narrative and documentary examinations of pornography and its players, and coming-of-age stories in which sex plays a central role.

Festival founder Robert Redford says the on-screen sex of today is often devoid of the romance that was essential in late 1960s, when he first started making movies.

So what has inspired the Sundance sexual revolution? Stars and filmmakers weigh in on their sexy fare.

— “When I got in the film business in the early ’60s, it was a romantic time. Sex and romance were pretty well tied together; sexuality was pretty well expressed through romance. Times have changed, so now, 40, 50 years later, we see that sexual relations have moved to a place where it doesn’t feel like there’s so much romance involved. The romance is not part of the equation, because relations have changed, and they’ve changed because of changing times, and because of new technology. People are texting rather than dating and all that kind of stuff. So what we do, we just show what’s there.” — Sundance founder Robert Redford.

— “It’s relevant because people just started having sex. So I think because of that, because everyone just started having sex, it’s extremely relevant right now.” — Kristen Bell, star of dramatic contender “The Lifeguard.”

— “Sex is trendy.” — Actress Mamie Gummer, who co-stars in “The Lifeguard.”

— “It’s provocative. … Filmmakers, I think you want to take people out of their comfort zone, and I think sex does that when you talk about it.” — Tony Danza, who appears in the premiere film “Don Jon‘s Addiction.”

— “I wanted to tell a story about how we work as human beings, and let’s face it, that’s what drives a lot of us. And what I was trying to get at with ‘Don Jon‘s Addiction’ is, yeah, let’s talk about sex but let’s really talk about it and not just go through the same cliches that we always go through. … Those of us (who) — and we all do — consume this media, whether it’s movies or porn or the news or, you know, the Bible, we consume these pieces of media and we form these rules for ourselves, these notions of how things are supposed to be. And to me, there’s nothing less sexy than trying to fit in what you think you’re supposed to be. What’s sexy is when you’re just being yourself and you’re connecting in the present.” — Joseph Gordon-Levitt, director, writer and star of “Don Jon‘s Addiction.”

— “It’s funny isn’t it, because it’s this great taboo, really. And yet it’s something that is in all of our lives, if we’re lucky — some of us three or four times a day. Ugh, exhausting.” — Matthew Goode, a star of the premiere “Stoker,” which blends sex and violence.

— “People’s acceptance of new representations of sex is — I think it’s a gradual thing that happens from all of these different kinds of outlets. Sundance is just one place, a nodal point in that trend.” — James Franco, who produced the documentary “kink,” produced and starred in “Interior. Leather Bar.,” which explores leather-sex clubs and plays Hugh Hefner in “Lovelace.”

— “I think there’s a sexual revolution going on, maybe. … It’s kind of moving in that direction, I would like to think. I would love if America kind of appreciated sex the way Europeans do. I feel like it’s really not that big of a deal. There’s so much stigma attached to it. I think it’s better than violence. It’s better than making movies about guns and people shooting each other and blood and stuff. … It’s a huge part of our culture. It’s a huge part of every day. We all do it! So why are we not talking about it and why are we not portraying that in movies? I know why, actually. There are a lot of reasons. But I personally think that we need to see more of it. I mean, it’s not that scary.” — Amanda Seyfried, who plays pioneering porn star Linda Lovelace in the biopic “Lovelace.”

— “Sex is a part of life, and to shy away from it would not be very truthful, especially if it’s a movie about Allen Ginsberg and the beat poets. I mean, to me it’s a part of becoming who you are as a person. The first time you have sex is a very important part of every person’s life, so I think when you’re making a movie about Allen Ginsberg becoming Allen Ginsberg, probably the first time he had sex is a very important, defining moment in his life.” — Actor Dane DeHaan, who co-stars in dramatic contender “Kill Your Darlings.”

— “If I track what might be the source of it now, it’s that the civil rights movement of our era has to do with sex and sexuality. And so there’s been this sort of repositioning of it as a central issue as opposed to a titillating side issue. It’s a core issue to do with what and who we are. And to speak of it as anything but that is to diminish our humanity, really. And once that is cracked open, it applies to absolutely everyone, which is why the movement that starts with a gay and lesbian movement is actually a movement that is everyone.” — Robin Weigert, who plays a woman who becomes a prostitute as a way of working through a mid-life crisis brought on by a baseball to the head in the dramatic contender “Concussion.”


AP Entertainment Writer Ryan Pearson and AP Movie Writer David Germain contributed to this report.


AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen is on Twitter: .

Redford: Diversity reigns at Sundance Festival

Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Diversity is king at the Sundance Film Festival — and queen, too.

For the first time, half of the films featured were made by women.

Festival founder Robert Redford says “diversity is the point” of the independent film showcase. That’s further evidenced this year by contributions from 32 countries and 51 first-time filmmakers.

Redford and lead members of his Sundance staff opened the 11-day festival Thursday with a news conference at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, where the festival has been held since 1981.

The festival begins in earnest Thursday night with screenings of four films. Screenings, workshops, parties and schmoozing will continue through Jan. 27.



Sundance Day One: Fest jumps right in with 4 films

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Film festivals can get off to a slow start. All that planning, all that travel booking for stars coming to pillage the gift suites, then everyone stands around waiting for a single movie, that big opening-night premiere, to get things rolling.

It’s a lot to ask of one movie to set a tone for scores of films to follow over a week and a half. The Cannes Film Festival practically put itself on suicide watch in 2008 by opening with the bleak plague drama “Blindness.” A year later, Cannes organizers lightened up and started with the warm-hearted animated tale “Up.”

The Sundance Film Festival, which begins Thursday, used to face a similar dilemma. How do you pick that one film to stand as torchbearer for the 120 movies to come?

Three years ago, Sundance founder Robert Redford and festival director John Cooper scrapped the glitzy opening-night premiere and jumped right into the competition lineup, the films that make up the heart of the independent-cinema showcase. Day one at Sundance now presents four features — one each from its main competitions of U.S. and world dramatic films and documentaries — plus a program of short films.

“It should not be one-size-fits-all. We decided we did not want everything to be centered on just the opening-night film,” Redford said. “We wanted to create as many spaces as possible to get the festival rolling. Let’s avoid a red-carpet, avoid anything that suggests this is the main event.”

Instead of one star-studded premiere, five separate screenings that give audiences a sampling of the diversity that Sundance is all about.

“We look collectively at those films to set the tone for what’s going to be unfolding over the next 10 days,” said festival programming director Trevor Groth. “It’s a pretty varied selection, so you do get a sense of the kind of different elements that make up the festival.”

Here’s a look at Sundance’s day-one feature films:

— “MAY IN THE SUMMER,” U.S. dramatic competition: Filmmaker Cherien Dabis, whose immigrant drama “Amreeka” premiered at Sundance in 2009, returns with a new star: Herself. In her acting debut, writer-director Dabis plays an American woman reuniting with her family in Jordan to plan her wedding — and rethinking marriage as she copes with dysfunctional relatives.

Dabis said that after “Amreeka,” people kept asking her if she wanted to act, and another director even cast her in a film. Unable to find just the right actress, Dabis put herself through the entire audition process and decided she was the woman to play the part.

Introducing “Amreeka” to Sundance audiences was one thing. Starting the festival is another.

Any opening-night jitters?

“Yes! I was so stunned when Cooper told me, and the first thing I thought was holy cow, day one. That’s a big responsibility. It is definitely nerve-racking,” Dabis said. “It’ll be a slightly different experience as a day-one film. It’s kind of nice, because it’s challenging me a little bit to go there and be ready to open the festival in a way, at least open the dramatic competition.”

— “TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM,” U.S. documentary competition: Morgan Neville, whose 2011 Sundance entry “Troubadours” centered on superstars such as James Taylor, Carole King, Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell, now looks at the hired hands — backup singers whose oohs and aahs prop up the voices at center stage.

What would music be without them?

“It would be out of tune,” Neville said. “Backup singers do a lot more than they get credit for, and particularly in the pop world, backup singers paper over a lot of mistakes when it comes to singing live. To me, it’s also like a whole dimension of soul and call and response in a way. A single singer is telling a singular story, but when you have backup singers, it’s a community, so you’re dealing with a much different, more compelling dynamic.”

— “CRYSTAL FAIRY,” world dramatic competition: It’s road-trip time for writer-director Sebastian Silva — who came to Sundance with 2009′s “The Maid” and 2011′s “Old Cats” and has a second festival film this time, the midnight chiller “Magic Magic.”

Silva’s day-one premiere stars Michael Cera as a smug, judgmental American who invites a free spirit calling herself Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann) on a mescaline quest through the Chilean desert, where he learns to shed his self-righteousness and she comes to accept her real self and leave the pixie behind.

So the keys to happiness are drugs and travel?

“Calling it a crowd-pleasing druggie road trip would be a very, very superficial take on it,” Silva said. “‘Crystal Fairy’ is a great film for opening night, because it sort of lifts up your spirits. It’s a really fresh experience, and I think it’s a non-pretentious movie. But it’s not necessarily a happy ending, things are not necessarily happy and joyful. But it feels very real, and you sort of learn to be compassionate yourself as you go through the movie.”

— “WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?”, world documentary competition: First-time director Marc Silver and producer Gael Garcia Bernal dig into the mystery of a body found rotting in the Arizona desert, bearing a tattoo that reads “Dayani Cristal.”

Weaving between documentary segments and sequences featuring Bernal retracing the dangerous route many Mexicans take to reach the United States, they try to put a human face on a man who otherwise would have been another anonymous victim of the immigration battle.

So who is Dayani Cristal?

Something of an Everyman for millions who dream of a better life.

“What that body in the desert told me is why leave people leave home, how dangerous the journey is,” Silver said. “To rehumanize somebody who was dead and didn’t have an identity, and by the end of the film, you know him and his family, that really is the heart of the film. It’s a metaphor for many immigrants all over the planet.”



Robert Redford’s Sundance Partners Sued for Breach of Contract

Sundance Park City Main St at Night - H 2013

Those traveling to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, might want to stop off at the Zoom Restaurant — the subject of a lawsuit that was filed on Monday.

The lawsuit comes from the Hype Creative Agency, which says it has been doing Sundance festival events for the past five years, has worked with such clients as Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Motorola, and AT&T, and takes credit for bringing Microsoft’s Bill Gates to the festival in 2011.

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Hype says it had a deal with Sundance Partners, and that as part of the deal, it got to use Zoom as an event space and put in its marketing materials the phrase, “Zoom Restaurant, A Sundance Restaurant owned by Robert Redford.”

But using a picture of Redford, who founded the Sundance Film Festival, has caused some troubles. Sundance Partners terminated its contract as a result, and now Hype is suing for significantly harming its marketing business.

Hype alleges in a complaint filed in Salt Lake County court that in September, 2011, it entered into an agreement to use the Zoom restaurant during the 2012 festival, with options to use the space again in 2013 and 2014.

As part of the agreement, Hype says it got “Redford’s interest in Zoom as part of Hype Creative‘s promotional materials.”

Gaining one of the choice party locations appeared to be a boom for the company. Hype says it had reservations for about a dozen clients and estimated that over the next three years, it would rake in $500,000 in profits.

But then it posted “a small image” of Redford in its promotional materials, supposedly “among two-dozen other celebrity images.”

Hype says that Sundance used the appearance of the image “as a pretext to attempt to renegotiate the Agreement and impose significantly more unfavorable terms on Hype Creative,” allegedly wanting to restrict use of Zoom only to 2012 and limit their signage and branding.

Hype was left out in the cold of Park City, Utah, saying there was no alternative space available and that Zoom was “unique and irreplaceable.”

The loss of the party space is said to have caused Hype’s clients to “look elsewhere for promotional services” and that as a result, the company “lost opportunities to present events at the Coachella Music Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Grammy Awards and other locations.”

Hype is now suing for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and interference with contractual relations. The marketing company is now seeking $1.5 million in lost profits.

A representative of Sundance Partners couldn’t immediately be reached.

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