The international film-festival year used to begin in earnest with Berlin in February, but the increasing prominence of the Sundance Film Festival has turned mid-January into the true starting point.
Few 1995 films are as eagerly awaited as this year's Sundance opener: "Before Sunrise," written and directed by Richard Linklater, the talented Texas filmmaker who made "Slacker" and "Dazed and Confused."
Starring Ethan Hawke as an American student who spends a day in Vienna with a French stranger (Julie Delpy), it kicks off the 1995 Sundance festival tomorrow night in Park City, Utah. The festival, which turned up such prize winners last year as "Clerks," "Hoop Dreams" and "Spanking the Monkey," runs through Jan. 29.
Other filmmakers who will be represented in this year's event: Gregg Araki ("The Doom Generation"), Todd Haynes ("Safe"), Gregory Nava ("My Family"), Mike Newell ("An Awfully Big Adventure"), Antonia Bird ("Priest"), Abel Ferrara ("The Addiction"), Tom DiCillo ("Living in Oblivion"), Nick Gomez ("New Jersey Drive"), Tom Noonan ("The Wife"), Atom Egoyan ("Exotica"), Tomas Guitierez Alea ("Strawberry and Chocolate") and the late Marlon T. Riggs ("Black Is . . . Black Ain't").
Sundance is best-known for discovering new talent, however, and it will be no surprise if none of the above end up among this year's winners.
The more promising first-time filmmakers include Scott Kalvert ("The Basketball Diaries"), James Gray ("Little Odessa") and Danny Boyle ("Shallow Grave").
Among the major-studio films represented are David Frankel's "Miami Rhapsody," starring Antonio Banderas as a male nurse who has an affair with Mia Farrow, and Peter Chelsom's "Funny Bones," a British comedy with Oliver Pratt, Oliver Reed and Jerry Lewis. Both will have their world premieres at Sundance.
The subject of the festival's 1995 tribute is Nicolas Cage, who made his film debut just 13 years ago. Mr. Cage will attend a Saturday night ceremony that includes film clips and a full-length screening of his 1990 David Lynch movie, "Wild at Heart."
Tickets and accommodations are hard to come by at this point. But in spite of Sundance's reputation for selling out its small venues, not all screenings will be full. Call: (801) 328-3456.