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5 Sites About...Sundance

Can’t get to Park City? Make the virtual rounds of the indie film world instead by checking out these websites

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This week, Hollywood’s center of gravity has shifted a few hundred miles northeast, to a small resort community in Utah. Here’s an easy way to explore the media spectacle that is Sundance without having to pull on a pair of Uggs.

The official site of the SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL looks bland and strangely generic (as does, even more puzzlingly, the site for the newer and presumably more cosmopolitan Tribeca Film Festival). And, yes, we see an EW logo on the Sundance homepage — we’re a festival sponsor (and, hopefully, had no hand in the site’s design). Still, beyond the kind of info you’d want and expect (lodging and transportation, press releases, schedules, etc.), there are some features worth checking out. Many of the short films in this year’s program can be viewed and even downloaded. We liked most of the 10 or so shorts we had time to watch, particularly the father-and-young-son tale The Tube With a Hat, a 23-minute entry from Romanian director Radu Jude that startled us with its grace and humanity (which is to say, it came dangerously close to reducing us to tears). 25 Years of Sundance offers a year-by-year look at programs past — it’s slight and superficial, but a chronology of Sundance trailers reflects the festival’s steady rise in budget and prestige. The daily ”Insider News” runs stories and interviews that are unabashedly insider-y: it’s recommended only for the hyper-curious and friends and family of the featured artists. Lastly, Sundance merchandising, it’s worth noting, is kept to a minimum — a poster ”featuring this year’s theme of Energy, Passion, and Film” ($15) and a baseball cap ($20). That’s gotta count for something.

What a strange and happy coincidence! The SUNDANCE CHANNEL’S SITE features even more festival coverage. In fact, we’ll come out and say it: their presentation is deeper — and more visually and technically polished — than anything on the official Sundance site. The Festival Dailies is a collection of short interviews and profiles featuring artists, organizers, and at least one Olympic bobsledder. News stories (including a short report on the late actress-turned-filmmaker Adrienne Shelly), blogs and vlogs (most entries are, unfortunately, on the short side), and easy-to-navigate photo galleries help round out the you-are-there experience.

Our own well-documented Oscar obsessions notwithstanding, EW staffers aren’t so nerdy and film-obsessed as to run a Sundance pool. Yet. Still, those of you looking to recoup losses incurred by betting on the Patriots to get to the Super Bowl (a sure thing, we thought), might want to consult DECONSTRUCTING SUNDANCE. Last year, using a modeling technology called a ”Bayesian statistical classifier,” a group of techies (who claim be located in Park City, Utah), were able to predict the winners of Sundance’s top four prize categories. Can they do it again in 2007? (Never mind that these geniuses have never seen these movies, we’re talking about their ability to harness the awesome power of a good algorithm.) Hmmm, maybe we should put down a hundo on Joshua to take home the Grand Jury Prize.

Founded in 1979 — 12 years before the first official Sundance festival kicked off — the INDEPENDENT FEATURE PROJECT is a non-profit organization that supports independent filmmakers by providing a ”national and international platform that facilitates a nexus between the creative and business of filmmaking.” Right. Still, would-be Steven Soderberghs can find a wealth of valuable information here: from the nitty-gritty details in the Ask the Experts section (where you can learn everything you need to know about ”Licensing Pre-Shot Footage”) to its comprehensive job listings (including unpaid internships).

Of course, Sundance is just one of many film festivals around the world. Make that very many — according to FILMFESTIVALS.COM, there are at least nine other filmfests taking place just this week. Like Switzerland’s Solothurn Film Festival (”an integral part of Swiss film and socio-political issues”), Paris’ International Festival of Audiovisual Programs, and the Slamdance Film Festival that is currently drawing filmmakers and studio suits to Park City, Utah (why does that town sound so familiar?). Beyond functioning as an online bulletin board for festival news, the site includes blogs and film-related tidbits.