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Sundance roundup: The kids are not alright
Sydney Aguirre plays Annie, a girl left to her own devices, in "Kid Thing," playing at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo courtesy Sundance Institute)
A scene from "Kid Thing." Courtesy image.
A scene from "Kid Thing." Courtesy image
Sydney Aguirre plays Annie, a girl left to her own devices, in "Kid Thing," playing at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo courtesy Sundance Institute)
Michael Rainey Jr. plays Woody, who learns some harsh lessons about the world in the drama "LUV." (Photo by Bill Gray  |  Courtesy Sundance Institute)
A scene from "Luv." Courtesy Bill Gray
Michael Rainey Jr. (left) and Common star in the drama "LUV," screening in the U.S. Dramatic competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo by Bill Gray  |  Courtesy Sundance Institute)
A scene from "About the Pink Sky."
Courtesy Keiichi Kobayashi
A scene from "About the Pink Sky."
Courtesy Keiichi Kobayashi
A scene from "About the Pink Sky."
Courtesy Keiichi Kobayashi

Izumi (Ai Ikedea) is a high-schooler whose good heart leads to difficulties in the Japanese drama "About the Pink Sky."
Courtesy Keiichi Kobayashi
(Francisco Kjolseth  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)  
Michael Rainey Jr., star of the movie "LUV," attends the screening of the movie at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, at the Eccles Theatre. "LUV" is the story of a shy 11-year-old boy who forms a bond with his troubled uncle over the course of one day.
Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) rides the family's raft in a scene from "Beasts of the Southern Wild," by director Benh Zeitlin. (Courtesy Sundance Institute)
Newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis, in a scene from director Benh Zeitlin's drama "Beasts of the Southern Wild." (Courtesy Sundance Institute)

Park City » When you’re a kid, notes filmmaker David Zellner, “you have a certain kind of logic for how you handle problems, because you’re so new to this world. You’re being a little scientist, pushing buttons and seeing what directions it goes.”

And when you don’t have any parental supervision — like the main character, a 10-year-old Texas girl named Annie, in Zellner’s drama “Kid-Thing” — it’s that much harder.

Lessons in effective parenting have been few and far between in the movies in the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Besides “Kid-Thing,” movies at the festival have shown us:

• A Louisiana 6-year-old enduring her ailing father’s tough love in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

• A derelict father (Paul Dano) trying to connect with his estranged 8-year-old daughter in “For Ellen.”

• A single dad (Mark Webber) struggling to raise a toddler in “The End of Love.”

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• An 11-year-old Baltimore kid (Michael Rainey Jr.) along for the ride as his uncle (Common) jumps back into his criminal life in “LUV.”

• Japanese teens dealing with big issues with hardly an adult in sight in “About the Pink Sky.”

There is a parent in “Kid-Thing,” but he’s mostly a nonentity — seen more often sleeping off a bender. It’s never even clear if he’s Annie’s dad, or an uncle, or her absent mom’s old boyfriend.

The parental situation “would partly explain why she is how she is,” said Zellner’s brother, Nathan, the movie’s cinematographer and producer. “She has this incredible freedom to do what she wants.”

That freedom comes at a price. “She doesn’t have anyone pointing her moral compass for her,” David Zellner said.

Hushpuppy, the Louisiana girl at the center of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” doesn’t have that problem. She’s “a moral girl, who believes strongly in right and wrong,” said director Benh Zeitlin at a Q-and-A after a screening of his film.

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At a glance

Screenings: The kids are not alright roundup

“About a Pink Sky” » Friday, 10 p.m., Holiday Village Cinema 4, Park City

“For Ellen” » Friday, 11:30 a.m., Library Center Theatre, Park City

“The End of Love” » Friday, 8:30 a.m., The MARC, Park City

“Kid-Thing” » Friday, 9 p.m., Broadway Centre Cinema, Salt Lake City; and Saturday, Jan. 28, 10 a.m., Holiday Village Cinema 4, Park City

“LUV” » Friday, 9:45 p.m., Broadway Centre Cinema 3, Salt Lake City; and Saturday, Jan. 28, 9 a.m., Egyptian Theatre, Park City

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” » The last Sundance screening of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was Jan. 26, but the movie was purchased on Tuesday by Fox Searchlight, and is expected to be released later this year.

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