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Commentary: The messages of the prophets of Sundance
Brit Marling, Michael Pitt and Steven Yeun in "I Origins."
Courtesy Jelena Vukotic  |  Sundance Institute
Pete Harjo in "This May Be The Last Time."
Courtesy Sundance Institute

A scene from "Blind." Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "Blind." Courtesy Sundance Institute

A scene from "Fishing Without Nets." Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "God's Pocket." Courtesy Sundance Institute

A scene from "Infinitely Polar Bear." Courtesy Sundance Institute
| Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "Infinitely Polar Bear."
| Courtesy Sundance Institute
In the dysfunctional-family drama  "Infinitely Polar Bear," Mark Ruffalo (left) plays a manic-depressive dad trying to care for two daughters (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide).
A scene from "Ivory Tower." Courtesy Sundance Institute

A scene from "Low Down." Courtesy Sundance Institute

A scene from "Low Down." Courtesy Sundance Institute
Jenny Slate plays Donna, a young stand-up comedian who's brutally honest about her problems, in the romantic comedy-drama "Obvious Child." Courtesy A24 Films

Donna (Jenny Slate) encounters Max (Jake Lacy) in a scene from the romantic comedy-drama "Obvious Child." Courtesy A24 Films
 Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "SEPIDEHñReaching for the Stars."

A scene from "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz." Courtesy Sundance Institute

Computer genius and free-information advocate Aaron Swartz, subject of the documentary "The Internet's Own Boy." Courtesy Sundance Institute
Pastor Jay Reinke (right) avoids a reporter from the Williston (N.D.) Herald, in a scene from the documentary "The Overnighters." Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "The Overnighters." Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "The Overnighters." Courtesy Sundance Institute

A scene from "This May Be the Last Time." Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "Watchers of the Sky." Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "Watchers of the Sky." Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "Watchers of the Sky." Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "Whiplash." Courtesy Sundance Institute
A scene from "Whiplash." Courtesy Sundance Institute
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“Watchers of the Sky” examines the life of Rafael Lemkin, a heroic human rights activist who almost single-handedly created global awareness about the criminal liability of genocide. “The Internet’s Own Boy” traces the life of Aaron Swartz, who urged our nation to “come to its senses” about the legality of accessing and distributing publicly funded and available information, even as the Justice Department charged him with acts of terrorism and ruthlessly pursued the case until he eventually took his own life. “Ivory Tower” looks at America’s overpriced, underperforming system of higher education, just as “Waiting for Superman” did for elementary education.

Parents! Love your children, no matter how messed up you might be.

“Low Down” is the heartbreaking true story of Joe Albany, a brilliant bebop pianist, as told through the eyes of daughter Amy Jo Albany. Joe’s addictions are stronger than his ability to provide for, protect and nurture her as a young child and teen. In “Infinitely Polar Bear,” another true story, Mark Ruffalo plays a bipolar father who is as loving and unpredictable as he is unconventional. With the help of his wife, he finds a way to be a responsible, loving, father while realistically facing the limitations imposed by his illness.

Love requires understanding, understanding requires knowing, and knowing requires seeing and listening.

Film allows us to vicariously enter into the world of another person facing their unique challenges in their unique way. For instance, in “Fishing Without Nets”: What would possess a nonviolent, kind, family man to become a Somali pirate? “Obvious Child” asks how anybody could see abortion as the subject for a poignant romantic comedy. In “God’s Pocket,” we’re asked how our lives would be different if we had been raised in a tight-knit, insulated, uneducated and violent blue-collar neighborhood.

Overcome obstacles and follow your dreams.

In “Sepideh,” we follow the true story of an amazing and precocious teenage girl in Iran who, against all odds, pursues her passion for astronomy and personal independence while operating within a system designed to keep her as a woman from achieving her dreams. In “Whiplash,” the Sundance Grand Jury Award winner of the dramatic competition, a young jazz drummer enters the top music school in the nation determined to be the best drummer ever. His obsessive internal drive explodes when it meets an emotionally abusive band director, and the outcome is unforgettable.

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