Sundance 2011 opened with a lot of interesting moments, if not the best films.
Friday’s biggest revelation: that those annoying publicity hounds Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, aka the Olsen twins, have a serious actress sister.
Elizabeth Olsen, 21, debuted here on Friday with Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” the story of a young woman who gets sucked into cult in rural upstate New York. She’s raped, abused, brainwashed, and made witness to a murder. Olsen is amazing. She also resembles more Maggie Gyllenhaal than her nightclubhopping sisters.
The rest of the cast is very good, of course: Hugh Dancy, Sarah Paulsen, John Hawkes, and Brady Corbet do a lot to support Olsen. But this young woman–who will appear later this year in Bruce Beresford’s “Peace, Love, and Understanding”–is going to be a big deal in 2011.
More from day 1: first, that Robert Redford narrates the opening animation for the premiere films does a lot to enhance the experience. Second: that every gift swagging, freebie guzzling, awful party person here should be made to watch the Susanne Rostock documentary of political activist, singer, and actor Harry Belafonte called “Sing Your Song.” The first 45 minutes recount an exceptional life of substance that should be a lesson to the crowd here. The great men and women of history didn’t waste their time trying to get free Oakley sunglasses.
Rostock literally just brought the finished film here. She may still do some work on it, especially in the second half. Belafonte’s recording career is rushed–his live Carnegie Hall album is considered a template for all such discs. Also, I don’t recall anything about his starring in Robert Altman’s “Kansas City.” But it was a pleasure to see his second wife Julie, and Diahann Carroll, another groundbreaker.