Disillusioned, out of control and marginalized young people have always been at the heart of the Sundance Festival with past Jury Prize winners including Welcome to the Dollhouse, Ruby in Paradise and Precious. But in some recent years issues such as poverty, the environment and the red neck menace have often threatened to crowd out the importance of teenage angst.
In their 2010 offerings, however, teenagers seem to have retaken their rightful place on the festival's throne. Among the films to be screened:
Nowhere Boy / United Kingdom (Director: Sam Taylor Wood; Screenwriters: Julia Baird and Matt Greenhalgh)–A teenage John Lennon confronts wrenching family secrets and finds his musical voice in late 1950s Liverpool.
The Runaways / USA (Director and screenwriter: Floria Sigismondi)–In 1970s LA, a tough teenager named Joan Jett connects with an eccentric producer to form an all-girl band that would launch her career and make rock history. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Scout Taylor-Compton, Michael Shannon, Alia Shawkat, Tatum O'Neal.
Twelve / USA (Director: Joel Schumacher; Screenwriter: Jordan Melamed)–A chronicle of the highs and lows of privileged kids on Manhattan's Upper East Side involving sex, drugs and murder. Cast: Chace Crawford, Emma Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, 50 Cent, Zoë Kravitz.
Bilal's Stand (Director and screenwriter: Sultan Sharrief)–Bilal, a Muslim high school senior in Detroit juggles his dysfunctional family, their taxi stand, and an ice carving contest in his secret attempt to land a college scholarship. Cast: Julian Gant.
One Too Many Mornings (Director: Michael Mohan; Screenwriters: Anthony Deptula, Michael Mohan, Stephen Hale)–Two damaged young men recover their high school friendship by awkwardly revealing to each other just how messed up they've become. Cast: Anthony Deptula, Stephen Hale, Tina Kapousis.
Enter the Void / France (Director and Screenwriter: Gaspar Noé)–A drug-dealing teen is killed in Japan, after which he reappears as a ghost to watch over his sister. Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Emily Alyn Lind, Jesse Kuhn
Poverty, environmental collapse and the red neck menace all continue to be represented. But in restoring the importance of gawking at teenages as central to the world of independent film, Sundance has taken a brave step forward.