Sundance Favorites: 'Manchester By The Sea' And 'Eagle Huntress'
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Let's hear now from one of the world's premier film events, the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It's a place from which we hear about movies we may get a chance to see later - independent films in particular. Critic Kenneth Turan gets to see those movies now. He's on the scene. Hi, Ken.
KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Hey, Steve. How are you doing?
INSKEEP: OK, so what's catching your eye?
TURAN: Well, what's catching my eye is what caught everyone's eye. It's a new film by Kenneth Lonergan. It's called "Manchester By The Sea." Lonergan was here more than ten years ago with "You Can Count On Me," a wonderful success. And his new film is also set in the American Northeast. It's in a town north of Boston. The hero is a man played by Casey Affleck who's kind of a misanthropic soul. He's really angry at the world. His older brother dies. He ends up having to be the guardian of the older brother's son. He really doesn't want to do this. He especially doesn't want to move back to Manchester-by-the-Sea where he has a really tragic past.
INSKEEP: And Casey Affleck has been in this area before, this sort of North Eastern thriller, and been very effective.
TURAN: Absolutely, and he's really the best he's ever been in this role. It's a film that really mixes heartbreak and humor. This is a film that feels so lifelike, people literally are already talking about Oscar nominations even though The Oscars are more than a year away.
INSKEEP: Wow, OK. So you're also watching at least one documentary. "Eagle Huntress" - what's that?
TURAN: Oh, gosh, I loved "Eagle Huntress." This is really a story - it sounds like it's made up but it's true. In Mongolia, there's a 2000-year-old tradition of men hunting with eagles - training eagles to hunt. And a 13-year-old girl, whose father and grandfather are eagle hunters, decides she wants to do it too. And it's beautiful - just beautiful out there.
INSKEEP: What's the landscape look like?
TURAN: Well, you see it all during the year. Part of it is barren, it's very snowy. You just see forever. It's really - the director said, it's not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.
INSKEEP: And it sounds like the star of this film, to some extent, is, well, the eagles.
TURAN: The eagles are amazing. They're huge. The young girl is really amazing. She and her family came to Park City and they're here and they're doing photo ops. This is really kind of a dizzying place sometimes.
INSKEEP: The photo ops with the eagles?
TURAN: They couldn't bring their own eagles because obviously you can't be transporting eagles, but the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma provided eagles.
INSKEEP: OK, so quite a show there. We've got teenagers, we've got birds and some other documentaries there, right? What are you watching?
TURAN: Yes, there are two documentaries I really like. They are both having to do with film, but film figures in them in an unusual way. The first one's called "Life, Animated." It's about a boy who was diagnosed with autism when he was 3, stopped speaking but returned to being able to speak by his addiction to Disney animated films. He really loved those films, and they brought him back. The other film with film in it is "The Lovers And The Despot." It's about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il who turned out to have been a major film fan. He was distraught that his country's films were so bad. And being a despot, he kidnapped South Korea's top actress and South Korea's top director, who happened to be husband-and-wife. He brought them to North Korea, and he made them make films for him. And, you know, this is a documentary. This really happened. You hear the people talking. You hear recordings of Kim Jong-Il's voice talking about this. This is really quite a story.
INSKEEP: Really sounds like two pretty amazing stories there. I want to come back to that first one, Ken. You loving films as you do must have loved sitting there watching this documentary of a kid being brought back to his voice, anyway, by watching Disney animation.
TURAN: You are so right. I mean, it really was kind of amazing to see the power of film. It's something we forget so easily, but the power of film to do good really is strong in this film.
INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. He's at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Ken, thanks.
TURAN: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.