Australian filmmaker Sophie Hyde leads the local charge to Sundance, with 52 Tuesdays in the program.
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5 Dec 2013 - 4:18 PM  UPDATED 5 Dec 2013 - 4:18 PM

This year sex was a big sell at Sundance. In 2014 the landmark 30thedition which takes place January 16-26 shows how far independent cinema has come. Overall 117 features, including 96 world premieres, will be part of the program.

“The films selected for our 2014 Festival show that filmmakers are empowered and emboldened by the 30-year legacy of the independent film movement,” says Festival director John Cooper. “The confidence to play with the medium and to surprise audiences indicates the vital role independent film has come to serve in the cultural landscape.”

So far the Festival has announced that one Australian fllm will be part of the program. Sophie Hyde's drama 52 Tuesdays (pictured), a stand-out when it premiered in Adelaide, will make its international premiere in the World Cinema Competition. Hyde, who directed the 2011 documentary Life in Movement, also produced the 2011 doc, Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure, which also screened in Sundance. In 52 Tuesdays newcomer Tilda Cobham-Hervey is riveting as 16 year-old Billie whose mum's plan for gender transition mean she only sees her once a week over a year.

The ever-brave Emily Browning stars in a full-blown UK musical, God Help the Girl, which screens in The World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Directed by Scottish Belle and Sebastian frontman, Stuart Murdoch, it co-stars English Olly Alexander, the lead singer of the band Years & Years.

Nick Cave is the subject of a British documentary, 20,000 Days On Earth, which screens in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Directed by Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, the film offers frank insights into the Australian singer, as we might imagine. In Tessa Louise-Salomé's Mr leos caraX, the eccentric French director could have proven harder to wrangle.

More than ever Sundance's 2014 line-up reflects the extent of the crossover with talent from quality television. Three Mad Men stars are represented in the program. Silver-haired John Slattery directed five episodes on the series before making his directing debut with God's Pocket starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Mad Men's Christina Hendricks.

Elisabeth Moss, who was in Sundance last year for Jane Campion's Top of the Lake, co-stars with Jason Schwartzman in Listen Up, directed and written by Alex Ross Perry (The Color Wheel).

Michael C. Hall takes his first leading movie role in Jim Mickle's revenge thriller Cold in July, based on Joe R. Lansdale's cult novel. It was a leap the actor was eager to take. “It was great to be finished so quickly,” Hall notes, after his lengthy stints on Six Feet Under and Dexter.

Game of Thrones' Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage co-star with Sundance regular John Hawkes in Jeff Preiss's Low Down, while Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul, currently making a big break into movies, plays an absent father in Kat Candler's Hellion.

The festival has developed a funny bone for women with Kristen Wiig (recently in Australia for Ben Stiller's not-so-funny The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) starring alongside her Saturday Night live pal, Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins. Lena Dunham (the creator and star of television's Girls) appears in Happy Christmas, Aubrey Plaza in Life After Beth and Amy Sedaris in Ping Pong Summer.

Hollywood's young women Kristen Stewart (Camp X-Ray) and Anne Hathaway (Song One) are also returning to the independent realm where they have previously done some of their best work.

After scoring at last year's festival with The Spectacular Now, rising young star Miles Teller will return in Whiplash, while Dane DeHaan from Kill Your Darlings appears in the supernatural comedy Life After Beth, starring Anna Kendrick.

Not that the oldies will be over-looked. The perennially youthful Susan Sarandon appears in Ping Pong Summer, while Catherine Keener and Ben Kingsley co-star in War Story from director Mark Jackson whose debut, Without, played at Slamdance in 2011.

Perhaps making up for this year's relative lack of sexual content, German helmer David Wnendt's sexually explicit Wetlands will receive its North American premiere in the World Cinema dramatic competition.