The Sundance Film Festival, January 20–30 in Park City, Utah, gets back to its indy roots this year with 40 of 115 features by rookie directors. Some of our favorite films of late—Riding Giants, The Cove, Restrepo—have broken out here. These are the documentaries we'll be watching this year.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front:
Filmmaker Marshall Curry tails Daniel McGowan as he stands trial along with other ELF members for burning an Oregon logging office in 2001. The picture debates whether the ELF's crimes were mere arson or terrorism and, thanks to archival footage, provides a history of the real monkey-wrench gang.
The Last Mountain:
Three West Virginia waitresses lead a small group of citizen activists trying to prevent the multi-billion-dollar Massey coal company from ripping up a mountain in their backyard. Soon enviro heavyweight Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pitches in, and David fights Goliath to a standoff. Directed by Bill Haney.
Among the most hyped of the festival, this film by James Marsh—Man on Wire—tells the story of Nim, a chimpanzee reared by humans. Marsh interviews the people who helped raise Nim and airs rare archival footage. "Nim's reaction to seeing a member of his own species is truly remarkable," says Marsh, "and actually quite upsetting."