The Best Films of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival

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The story of an unlikely friendship between a bear, Ernest, and a young mouse named Celestine.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
January 31st, 2014

The 2014 Sundance Film Festival is set to impress audiences with several highly anticipated films. With its beginning in 1985, the Sundance Film Festival's goal is to draw independent filmmakers and adventurous audiences together. This year, 186 films are being screened, with 54 first-time feature filmmakers premiering their films. The Sundance Film Festival features numerous categories of films including dramas, documentaries and short films. The festival generates knowledge of and interest in these films to usher them into the mainstream.

The U.S. Dramatic Competition film "Whiplash" makes its premiere at the start of the Sundance Film Festival and does not disappoint audiences. "Whiplash" is based on a short film that showed at the Festival in 2013. Impressively, this is the fastest turnaround from short to feature film to ever occur at the Sundance Film Festival. "Whiplash" depicts the story of a young and impressionable jazz drummer and his exacting relationship with his demanding music instructor. The film captures the discipline and difficulties involved in being a musician. Quite appropriately, music is entwined throughout the film to dramatize and intensify the story. The film is directed by Damien Chazelle.

Anton Corbijn's "A Most Wanted Man" takes the audience on a compelling journey inside the world of terrorism. It is set in Hamburg, Germany, and follows a German spy named Gunther Bachmann as he tracks a Chechen immigrant suspected to be a terrorist. As the plot unfolds, Bachmann uses his sharp skills to uncover interpersonal connections and the scheme. The fact that the film stars mostly Americans who play the roles of non-Americans is one of the challenges in the creation of "A Most Wanted Man." Because of this, actors and actresses employ coaches and spend a lot of time studying other films to perfect their speaking accents for their roles.

College students and parents alike will relate to Andrew Rossi's "Ivory Tower," a documentary that explores colleges in crisis. "Ivory Tower" brings the cost issues of college education to the forefront as it investigates whether a college education is truly worth the cost. It explores both public and private colleges and alternatives to a traditional college education.

"Fed Up" is set to turn heads and stomachs in its investigation into the American food industry. Directed by Stephanie Soechtig, this documentary delves into the health epidemics facing Americans today and how these epidemics are directly related to the food that they consume. To illustrate the point, "Fed Up" follows three obese children as they struggle to lose weight. The misled and misinformed American public will learn a lot about their food choices and how those choices relate to their health in this revealing documentary.

Combine a recently single sister-in-law and a frustrated stay-at-home mom, and get a "Happy Christmas." That is the story Joe Swanberg tells in his film, which is inspired by his own life. "Happy Christmas" portrays Jenny, a woman who just broke up with her boyfriend. It is almost Christmas, and Jenny has nowhere to go and no plan for her life, so she moves in with her brother Jeff, his wife Kelly and their young son. The film brings to light complicated family issues, yet it reveals how through these issues, tight family bonds are formed. "Happy Christmas" also reveals the inner struggles of stay-at-home moms who want to be there for their children, but also want to have their own career and passion. Swanberg hopes that bringing these issues to light will help people start conversations about their feelings on them.

The Sundance Film Festival appeals to its youngest fans this year with its Sundance Kids category. "Ernest and Celestine" is an animated film that charms audiences of all ages with its story of friendship. It is based on a Belgian book series by Gabrielle Vincent. Celestine is a mouse who lives in an underground world where bears are feared. Her world changes when she meets Ernest the bear, a clown and musician, who welcomes Celestine into his world with open arms. "Ernest and Celestine" follows the friendship between the mouse and the bear and how it is tested by the belief that mice and bears can never be friends.

There are numerous films that are screened at the Sundance Film Festival, with many of them moving on to become major motion pictures. The Sundance Film Festival is for people of all ages, all backgrounds and all walks of life. Whether a viewer is interested in a documentary, drama or comedy, there is a film for that viewer at the Sundance Film Festival.