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Eric D. Snider

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Eric has been a film critic since 1999, and a beard wearer since 2008. He holds a degree in journalism and used to work in "the newspaper industry," back when that was a thing.

Sundance 2010: Your Guide to the Documentaries

The Sundance Film Festival is where popular favorites like 500 Days of Summer, Napoleon Dynamite, and The Blair Witch Project got their start, but it’s not all fiction and ligers up there in Park City. Sundance has an outstanding reputation for its documentaries, too, with about 30 new ones showcased every year, covering everything from the deadly serious to the delightfully trivial. Here are a few titles from this year’s batch that have piqued our interest.

The movie: 12th & Delaware

The topic: Abortion!

The reason to take note: 12th and Delaware is an intersection in Fort Pierce, Fla., with an abortion clinic on one corner and a pro-life organization’s headquarters on the other. The film examines the ongoing conflict between abortion foes and pro-choice activists. The directors, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, also made the mesmerizing Jesus Camp.

The movie: Lucky

The topic: People who win the lottery, and what happens to them next.

The reason to take note: Director Jeffrey Blitz also made the terrific Spellbound (about spelling bees) and won a directing award for his fictional Rocket Science (about high school debating). Lottery winners are a fascinating topic anyway — we’ve all wondered what would happen if we won — and Blitz knows how to tell a good story.

The movie: Waiting for Superman

The topic: American public schools, and how we’ve fallen behind a lot of other countries.

The reason to take note: It’s one of the most important issues facing the United States, yet it receives little attention compared to the economy, health care, terrorism, and Tiger Woods. Director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) has a solid track record. Did you know he directed a few episodes of Deadwood? Nice!

The movie: Kick in Iran

The topic: Iran’s first female professional athlete to qualify for the Olympics. The sport? Tae kwon do.

The reason to take note: We all love an inspiring sports documentary, and this has the makings of one. It follows 20-year-old Sarah Khoshjamal during the months leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, during which time Iran’s Islamic requirements mean she has to wear a hijab all the time and can’t train with men. But the girl’s got spunk!

The movie: Space Tourists

The topic: Space tourists!

The reason to take note: Ordinary citizens who pay $20 million to go into space! Specifically, Russia’s space program, and the woman who became the first female space tourist.

The movie: Sins of My Father

The topic: The notoriously brutal Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, as recalled by his son.

The reason to take note: Do murdering monsters love their children too? And do their children love them back? I guess we’ll find out.

The movie: 8: The Mormon Proposition

The topic: California’s Prop. 8, which banned gay marriage and was passed largely due to efforts by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The reason to take note: Gay marriage! Religion! Premiering at a film festival in Utah! Expect fireworks.

The movie: The Tillman Story

The topic: Pat Tillman was an NFL star who quit sports to join the Army after 9/11, only to be killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. The incident that has been at the center of much controversy.

The reason to take note: War and sports are where many of our heroes are found, and Tillman was more complex than a lot of them.

The movie: Enemies of the People

The topic: The Killing Fields of Cambodia, where 2 million people were slaughtered in the 1970s by Pol Pot.

The reason to take note: The filmmaker’s own parents and siblings were among those slain, giving this in-depth look at the holocaust a personal sense of urgency.

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Eric D. Snider (website) thinks it would be awesome if there were ONE movie that covered ALL of these subjects.


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Tags: Documentaries, Sundance film festival 2010