INDIE WINNERS

01.24.11

Is the Indie Slump Over?

Big sales for small movies are a good sign for the independent film scene. Plus, a critically-acclaimed starlet’s directorial debut.

It’s Monday in Park City and the insanity of the weekend is over, though it hasn’t entirely gone away. There are plenty more films opening, including The Details, starring Tobey Maguire, and Life in a Day, Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald’s YouTube documentary project in which thousands of people around the world captured a 24-hour period with their cameras.

But before we get into what’s ahead, here’s what’s been going on the last 24 hours in this corner of the world:

—Tons of sales, which have everyone proclaiming that the indie slump is over. In fact, it’s pretty astonishing what some of these films have sold for. Paul Rudd and Zooey Deschanel’s My Idiot Brother went to the Weinstein Company and Ron Burkle for a staggering $6 million. And Like Crazy, as reported, went to Paramount for $4 million. Fox Searchlight finally stepped up to the plate and scooped up Homework, a coming-of-age story starring up-and-coming acting progeny Emma Roberts. Lionsgate also got in on the action, acquiring Margin Call—the Kevin Spacey-starring film about the origins of the 2008 financial crisis—for a reported $1 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Emma Roberts in Homework (Face Hunter/SundanceChannel.com)

—In other news, our team has been seeing some great films. Among them: Eugene Jarecki’s latest documentary Reagan. Jarecki won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance in 2005 for Why We Fight and also directed The Trials of Henry Kissinger and Freakonomics. His latest film is straightforward in its telling of the Ronald Reagan narrative, from his being a “short-sighted lifeguard” in Ohio; Errol Flynn of the B’s; the 40th American president; and then some. The film is a rich assembly of vintage clips and talking heads—including an engaging Ron Reagan, Jr. But alas, we never hear from wife Nancy, though we  see much of her.

Up in the Air star Vera Farmiga made her directorial debut with Higher Ground, seven years after her first Sundance appearance back in 2004 in Down to the Bone. With Higher Ground, Farmiga steps out from behind the camera to star as well, playing a Born Again Christian (Farmiga’s younger sister is also in the film). Never has submitting to God been handled with such charm and wit. And the jokes—often lurid—are perfectly timed. Bidding is sure to be fierce.

—Lastly, we were unfortunately unable to catch the much-anticipated protest by the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church of Kevin Smith’s new film Red State on Sunday, but you can read about it at the Los Angeles Times. As one resilient, church-going objector asserted: “Smith can keep mocking and scoffing but we’re just going to climb on his back.”

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Red State Protestors at Sundance (AP Photo (2))

Gabé Doppelt contributed to this report.