One of the original success stories of the Sundance Film Festival — director Steven Soderbergh — will return to Park City in January to receive the Founders Award from Sundance’s scrappy rival, the Slamdance Film Festival.
The festival — which runs Jan. 25-Feb. 1 at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City — announced Tuesday that Soderbergh will bring with him his latest movie, “High Flying Bird.”
The drama tells of a sports agent (Andre Holland) who makes an intriguing and controversial business proposition to a rookie basketball client (Melvin Gregg). The movie, debuting on Netflix on Feb. 8, is written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who won an Oscar for co-writing “Moonlight.” The cast includes Zazie Beetz (“Deadpool 2”), Sonja Sohn, Zachary Quinto, Kyle MacLachlan and Bill Duke.
Before the screening of “High Flying Bird,” Soderbergh will take part in a live discussion with Slamdance co-founder Peter Baxter.
Soderbergh helped put Park City on the movie-industry map when his first movie, “sex, lies and videotape,” debuted in competition at what was then called the U.S. Film Festival in 1989. (The festival, operated by the Sundance Institute since 1985, changed its name to the Sundance Film Festival in 1991.)
“sex, lies and videotape” received Sundance’s first $1 million distribution deal, from Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax Films. The movie went on to win the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and made stars of its actors: James Spader, Andie MacDowell, Peter Gallagher and Laura San Giacomo.
Soderbergh went on to direct movies such as “Traffic,” “Erin Brockovich” (for which he won an Oscar), “Out of Sight,” “Contagion” and the “Ocean’s Eleven” trilogy. He brought his film “Schizopolis” to Slamdance in 1997.
The Founders Award goes to a Slamdance alumnus who continues to represent Slamdance’s mission of supporting the filmmaking community through their careers. Past winners include directors Christopher Nolan (“Inception,” “Dunkirk”) and Joe and Anthony Russo (“Avengers: Infinity War”).
Slamdance also announced its opening-night film: “Ski Bum: The Warren Miller Story.” Director Patrick Creadon, whose crossword documentary “Wordplay” premiered at Sundance in 2006, chronicles the life and legacy of Warren Miller, who promoted skiing around the world with his exhilarating documentaries.
Miller died in January at age 93, and the film includes his last known interview. His family and crew are also interviewed, along with Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley and skiers Scot Schmidt, Dan and John Egan, Kristen Ulmer and Brad Vancour.
Slamdance’s closing-night film will be “This Teacher,” directed by Slamdance alum Mark Jackson. The movie centers on a French Muslim woman (Hafsia Herzi) who visits New York for a reunion with a childhood best friend — and ends up in a remote upstate cabin, dealing with Islamophobia. “This Teacher” received the Grand Jury Prize at the Los Angeles Film Festival in September.
Also featured at Slamdance, out of competition, is the world premiere of “The Drone,” the latest from “Zombeavers” director Jordan Rubin. It’s a horror movie about a consumer drone that becomes sentient, and a serial killer, terrorizing a newlywed couple.
Slamdance on Tuesday also announced its slate of 78 short films, including entries in its new Episodes program, featuring episodic storytelling for broadcast. A complete list of shorts and the previously announced feature film competition slates are available at slamdance.com.