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Sundance festival opens on happy note

The 25th Sundance Film Festival opened on Thursday in Park city, Utah, with founder Robert Redford sounding an optimistic note for cinematic art and the screening of an movie challenging audiences to laugh through the pain of an imperfect world.

The Australian animated film "Mary and Max," a tale of misfits on opposite sides of the globe who find friendship by becoming pen pals, was described by festival director Geoffrey Gilmore as being about "compassion, love, friendship and ideas."

It seemed a fitting opening for the 25th anniversary of the top United States festival for independent films. While the film illustrates the broadening scope of "indie" movies ?? it has a global perspective and uses stop-motion technology and clay figures ?? "Mary and Max" reminds audiences that films made outside Hollywood's mainstream often deal with human frailty.

"It's not the sort of story you'd see from (Hollywood studios) DreamWorks or Pixar. It deals with different or marginalized characters," director Adam Elliot said. "It's something a bit odd. But at the end of the day, it's supposed to be a feel-good film."

Sundance, backed by Redford's Sundance Institute for filmmaking, has long championed non-mainstream work.

When it began in 1985, the festival's low-budget movies often centered on human dramas, and as past Sundance films such as "Sex, Lies and Videotape" and "Clerks" proved profitable, the indie market began to grow.

Sundance runs until next Sunday and reaches its climax at a closing ceremony with awards for the best independent films, directors, writers and cinematographers.


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