Sundance succeeds with values-laden documentaries

Published: Thursday, Jan. 31 2013 3:40 p.m. MST

“I’m not exactly sure what it is for each person that views it, but a lot of people have connected with the transformation I go through in the film as the narrator and as Rocky’s friend. I wanted people to follow me through my transition, and through me being impacted by him and his love for these kids.”

Distribution forecast: "Blood Brother" remains on the open market. The two awards Hoover picked up at Sundance make "Blood Brother" a lock to secure national distribution, and an early frontrunner for an Oscar nomination next year. But until someone does pick up "Blood Brother," there's no way of knowing when the film will hit theaters or premium cable.

Four more

“Blood Brother” may have taken home the biggest hardware available to domestic documentaries, but it’s far from the only film that nourished minds and hearts at Sundance this year. Along those lines, here are snapshots of four additional documentaries that similarly captivated festival audiences via positive messages and strong values.

Linsanity,” directed by Evan Jackson Leong. Upon becoming the starting point guard for the New York Knicks in early February 2012, Jeremy Lin scored more points in his first five starts than any player in NBA history. Owing both to the fact that Lin played in the largest media market in the U.S. and — as one of the first Asian-American NBA players — could instantly captivate the imaginations of millions of international basketball fans, a spontaneous phenomenon known as "Linsanity" ensued.

Throughout “Linsanity,” Leong captures the depth and breadth of Lin’s character — including the Christian faith that compels Lin to work hard and trust in God’s plan.

“Jeremy is a lot of things,” Leong told the Deseret News. “He’s Asian-American; he’s Christian; he’s from Palo Alto in the (California) suburbs; he’s an Ivy Leaguer. The goal of this documentary is to show how all these things built up to the person he is. … And I think through all of it, he would always say he’s a Christian first and everything else after that.”

Distribution forecast: As with "Blood Brother," "Linsanity" is still a de facto free agent with big appeal for distributors. And given Jeremy Lin's global popularity, international distribution rights could fetch a windfall.

Gideon’s Army,” directed by Dawn Porter. Public defenders are the attorneys who represent criminal defendants too poor to hire their own lawyers. There are about 15,000 public defenders in the United States, and this year they will take on more than 5 million cases.

Porter portrays public defenders as a noble breed of “true believers” committed to protecting the rights of poor people who are at risk of getting gobbled up by the criminal justice system. At Sundance, the film won the Editing Award for U.S. documentaries.

“I want (people) to know what great lawyers these young people are,” Porter told the Deseret News. “There are public defenders that are fabulous. … There is a hierarchy and snobbishness in the law that I think is destructive. A Wall Street job or a firm job is the sought-after prize, and yet these young (public defenders) are great. But they’re not getting any attention because they’re not at these prestigious schools and they’re not doing these jobs that are soul-sucking. People assume we reserve our best talent for high-paying clients, and it’s not true at all.”

Distribution forecast: "Gideon's Army" will air this summer on HBO. In the meantime, the New York Times' website has posted "True Believers in Justice," a six-minute video Porter created with exclusive footage from two of the principal public defenders in her full-length film.

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