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Last January, the low-budget flick Frozen River, filmed and set in the depressed environs of Plattsburgh, won big at the Sundance Film Festival. (Star and former Vermonter Melissa Leo is up for an Oscar.) This year, the prestigious fest’s Grand Jury Prize went to Push, a drama about Harlem with a more urban variety of grit. Allan Nicholls, director of the film program at Burlington College, and nine of his students were there. On January 22, they trekked to Park City, Utah, for four days of screenings and celebrity spotting — and to take in an innovative media-and-technology installation called New Frontiers.

Student Joe Evans says his fest favorite was the world premiere of The Informers, a dark drama about life in L.A. starring Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke. (Nicholas Jarecki, brother of Waitsfield’s Eugene Jarecki, cowrote the screenplay.) He describes it as a “nonlinear” film, “kind of like Crash, that jumps around from character to character. It was pretty cool.” Aluisio Oliveira was blown away by Mary and Max, an Australian claymation about an odd pair of pen pals, an 8-year-old Melbourne girl and an obese New Yorker (voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman). He calls it “by far my favorite movie at the festival.”

Don’t expect those to hit local theaters soon . . . but Sundance is where the buzz starts building. This Friday, February 13, Nicholls and the students talk about their experiences in a video presentation and discussion at the Burlington College Community Gallery from 6 to 9 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.

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