PARK CITY, Utah (AFP) — The 25th Sundance Film Festival gets underway on Thursday with more than 100 movies due to be screened over the 10-day carnival, the world's largest marketplace for independent film.
Against a backdrop of the faltering US economy, organizers are expecting a more subdued festival with less raucous partying as film-makers, actors and studio executives descend on the mountain town of Park City.
A typically diverse field of films are entered in the documentary and dramatic competitions, with subjects ranging from African-American hairstyles, environmental disasters in the Amazon to sixties supergroup The Doors.
"This year's films are not narrowly defined. Instead we have a blurring of genres, a crossing of boundaries: geographic, generational, socio-economic and the like," said Sundance Film Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore.
One of the expected highlights of the festival's prestigious documentary competition includes "When You're Strange", a much-anticipated look at 1960s supergroup The Doors, the first feature film to spotlight the band.
Tom DiCillo's film is billed as a dark and dangerous look at the group whose hell-raising frontman Jim Morrison died in Paris in 1971.
Other entries generating early buzz include "Good Hair," comedian Chris Rock's exploration of African-American hairstyles and "The September Issue," R.J Cutler's behind-the-scenes account of life at fashion bible Vogue.
Cutler's crew were granted unprecedented access for nine months as they followed Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her team as they prepared the 2007 September issue of the magazine.
Meanwhile, Greg Barker's "Sergio," looks at the life and times of late United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Brazilian diplomat killed in a bombing of the United Nations compound in Baghdad in 2003.
Among the entries in the dramatic competition is "The Greatest", Shana Feste's film starring Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon as a couple grieving the loss of their teenage son.
The violent world of Central American gangs is the setting for Cary Joji Fukunaga's "Sin Nombre," about a teenage hoodlum attempting to outrun his past.
In the international dramatic competition, France's "Louise-Michel" appears to be a movie for the grim global economic times.
The film tells the story of a group of laid off workers at a shuttered factory who pool their compensation money to hire a hitman to kill the corrupt executive behind the plant's closure.
Away from the festival, America's economic woes are expected to impact Sundance's reputation as a scene for wild partying, with fewer events planned and a drop in visitors expected.
Hollywood legend Robert Redford, one of the founding fathers of the festival, told the Salt Lake Tribune that that development may not be a bad thing.
"I'm not going to be bothered if there's a reduced attendance," Redford told the newspaper. "I'm focused on, 'What are the films being shown? And what do they represent?'"
Veteran entertainment industry publicist Mickey Cottrell meanwhile told the Tribune it remained to be seen how Hollywood belt-tightening would affect the festival.
"We all know the pockets are not as deep as they have been in the past. We'll just have to see how deep they are."
Another publicist, Jim Dobson, added: "It will be a calmer Sundance for sure. The days of throwing away 100,000 dollars for Jay-Z to perform are a thing of the past."
The festival closes on January 25.
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