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Stars come out to shine at Sundance

Ashton and Demi, Jane Fonda arrive to promote films
/ Source: Reuters

Hollywood stars and big corporations grabbed the limelight over the weekend at the Sundance Film Festival, but it was a host of dramatic movies with dark subjects that had festival-goers talking.

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore trekked to this mountain town east of Salt Lake City for the Saturday night premiere of his new movie, “The Butterfly Effect,” and Ben Affleck flew in to promote a digital photo contest his Project Greenlight movie venture is sponsoring with Hewlett-Packard Co.

Former Vice President Al Gore made it to cable TV network’s HBO party. And Jane Fonda led a band of women who called themselves “Vagina Warriors” in support of a documentary aimed at ending violence against women.

The documentary, “Until the Violence Stops,” played here Saturday and airs on the Lifetime Television cable channel in February. It charts the impact of a global movement that encourages women to control their destiny and stems from Eve Ensler’s play “The Vagina Monologues.”

The vagina is used as a metaphor for womanhood, Fonda said. "I completely agree with Eve that if we could ebb this (violence against women), everything would change because men would also change,” Fonda told Reuters.

Sundance, backed by actor-activist Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute for filmmaking, is the premier gathering for independent movies in the United States and each year gives voice to a group of filmmakers telling tales that the major U.S. movie studios would not distribute to theaters.

Kutcher is best known in his comedy work on TV program, "That ’70’s Show,” but in “Butterfly Effect” he tries to break out of his mold in a serious role as a college student dealing with the effects of a childhood traumatized by pedophilia.

Courteney Cox of the hit TV comedy “Friends” also takes a dramatic turn in “November,” which explores how people make sense out of sometimes senseless world filled with violence.

Writer/director Christopher Munch’s “Harry and Max” tells of two brothers -- one a former boy band member and his younger sibling and up-and-coming teen idol -- who share a secret that society would find reprehensible but that they overcome.

The price of popularitySince the mid-1990s, the independent film market has grown more mainstream as distribution companies seek bigger profits, and Munch said that fact has made it harder for filmmakers like himself making non-mainstream movies to find a distributor.

Market players counter that small companies have sprung up to buy those films, and good movies will find distribution.

Sundance, too, has taken criticism for the way it has grown in its 20 years from simply a showcase for independent films to a destination point for publicity hounds.

Detractors claim the festival has become little more than a trade show, but festival director Geoff Gilmore disputed that notion saying there is a real give-and-take between filmmakers who share their needs with the companies plying their wares.

“You look around this room, and their are questions that are being answered,” Gilmore told Reuters at a gathering for wireless technology sponsored by Intel Corp..

Intel was showing its new Centrino, wireless technology that beams movies to PCs and home theaters and promises to expand the market for indie films.

Sony Corp. demonstrated a new Qualia home theater projector and a line of digital movie cameras whose prices have dropped from around $300,000 to around $100,000 on the high-end and to $3,600 on the low-end -- even as improvements are made.

Hewlett-Packard’s Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina came here to highlight HP’s media computer workstations and kick off the “You Take Five,” which gives a winner the chance to shoot digital photos for a Project Greenlight movie.