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Clay-animation to open film festival

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The clay-animation film "Mary and Max," about a pen-pal relationship, will be Sundance's main attraction on Jan. 15 in Park City.

The clay-animation film “Mary and Max,” about a pen-pal relationship, will be Sundance’s main attraction on Jan. 15 in Park City.


The 2009 Sundance Film Festival, the premier showcase for independent and international film in the United States, is getting animated on opening night.

"Mary and Max," a clay-animated feature about the pen-pal relationship between a lonely young Australian girl and a middle-aged New Yorker, will be the main attraction of the festival's opening night on Jan. 15 at the Eccles Center in Park City.

The voice talents of the movie, Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman and narrator Barry Humphries, are expected to attend the premiere.

Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore called the film "exceptionally moving, funny and thought-provoking," and noted that this is "the first film of its kind to open the festival."

"We anticipate (our) audiences will embrace Adam Elliot's feature-length directorial debut for its poignant story, exceptional voice talent and technological creativity," Gilmore said.

Australian animator Elliot is returning to the festival for the first time since his short "Harvie Krumpet" debuted there in 2004. The 23-minute movie won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film the following year.

Elliot said he and producer Melanie Coombs have been working on "Mary and Max" for five years. "It has been a whale of a pregnancy, and we are so thrilled that the birth will be in Sundance. It is a dream come true to unveil our film in such an honored and nourishing environment."

Sundance will announce the rest of its cinematic slate, including documentary and dramatic competition films and the typically star-studded premiere films, at the beginning of December.

Also, online registration for in-person, advance-sales festival tickets begins Dec. 2.

The 2009 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 15-25 in a variety of Utah locations throughout Salt Lake City, Park City, Ogden and at the Sundance resort in Provo Canyon.

The event is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and as always, it will feature the independent film competition for best dramatic and documentary films, world and regional premieres, international cinema, panel discussions with appearances by leading figures in the film industry and other special events.

For more information on the 2009 festival, browse the official Web site, festival.sundance.org/2009. Or for ticket information, call 435-776-7878 or e-mail festivaltickets@sundance.org.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com