LOS ANGELES - Genre-bending films dominated the 2014 lineup announced on Wednesday for the US feature film competition at the Sundance Film Festival, the top US festival for independent cinema.
The competition will showcase 16 films spanning serious and comedic efforts, with many fusing together the traditional cinematic conventions of different genres.
"They kind of struck us as surprising, a lot of the storylines this year, especially in competition. A lot of them were unexpected," John Cooper, director of the Sundance film festival, told Reuters.
Examples of films that cross genres include the zombie romance "Life After Beth," written and directed by Jeff Baena and starring Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza, and "Jamie Marks is Dead," a ghost comedy by writer-director Carter Smith.
"'Life After Beth' is a really innovative approach of using some of the conventions of a zombie film but putting it in an indie young love story," said Trevor Groth, the director of programming for the film festival started by actor and director Robert Redford in 1978.
Some of the selected US drama contenders also turn the spotlight on the plight of people in difficult jobs, like the a guard at Guantanamo Bay in "Camp X-Ray" starring Kristen Stewart, or a Somali fisherman turned pirate in filmmaker Cutter Hodierne's "Fishing Without Nets."
"These are stories that people know that are accessible. We always tell people to make the movies that they know, and there's such diversity in what that is," Cooper said.
Both Cooper and Groth also noted a rise in the use of comedy to lighten the drama, spurred by both the critical and commercial success of last year's "Silver Linings Playbook," which landed key Oscar nominations and a best actress Oscar win for lead star Jennifer Lawrence.
"(Dysfunctional family stories) are one of the stalwarts of independent films, but it's done with a little more of a twist, a little more creativity than in the past, a little more comedy. There's a lot of comedy intermixed here," Cooper said.
Notable films fusing comedy into family stories include "Happy Christmas" starring Anna Kendrick as a young woman who moves in with her older brother and his family after a break-up, and "The Skeleton Twins," starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as estranged twins brought together after cheating death.