Mary And Max To Open 25th Sundance Film Festival

The opening night film at the Sundance Film Festival is usually a film which might otherwise be overlooked in the extensive festival line-up. For some years this has meant a documentary, and for others this has meant into a not easily categorized genre-mash like In Bruges.

This year's film is a feature-length clay animated film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette. And while at first glance, this year's selection seems a bit odd, it's the perfect representation of what Sundance is all about. In a day of computer animation and 3D films, the clay animated feature film is now the Hollywood outcast.

Academy Award-winning short filmmaker Adam Elliot makes his directorial debut with Mary and Max, a story based on the director's own pen-friendship, which lasted over twenty years. Mary and Max is the tale of two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York. Read the full press release after the jump.



Clay Animation Film Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette,
Narrated by Barry Humphries to Screen Opening Night, January 15 in Park City
Park City, UT—Sundance Institute announced today that the world premiere of Mary and Max, a clay animation feature film from Academy Award-winning short film creators Adam Elliot and producer Melanie Coombs is the Opening Night Film for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette and narrated by Barry Humphries, Mary and Max is the tale of two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York. The story is based on the director's own pen-friendship that has also lasted over twenty years. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Sundance Film Festival runs January 15-25, 2009 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Sundance, Utah.
"This portrait of a global friendship between two marvelously dysfunctional people is an exceptionally moving, funny and thought-provoking work," said Geoffrey Gilmore, Director, Sundance Film Festival. "Mary and Max is the first film of its kind to open the Festival and we anticipate audiences will embrace Adam Elliot's feature-length directorial debut for its poignant story, exceptional voice talent and technological creativity."
Mary and Max marks renowned Australian animator Adam Elliot's return to Sundance Film Festival. His short film Harvie Krumpet, also produced by Melanie Coombs, screened at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Elliot has been awarded five Australian Film Institute Awards, for his four previous films. These films, which also include Uncle, Cousin and Brother, have screened in hundreds of film festivals all over the world. "By Opening Night it will have been five years since Melanie and I began working on the film. 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." said Elliot.
Written and directed by Elliot, Mary and Max tells the tale of an improbable friendship between two very different people: Mary Daisy Dinkle (Collette) a lonely Australian eight-year-old, and Max Jerry Horovitz (Hoffman), a middle-aged New Yorker. Spanning 20 years and two continents, Mary and Max is a journey that explores friendship, autism, taxidermy, psychiatry, alcoholism, obesity, kleptomania, sexual difference, religious difference, agoraphobia and more. The film is narrated by Australian legend Barry Humphries and features cameos from Eric Bana, singer Renee Geyer and Australian music icon Ian "Molly" Meldrum along with Julie Forsyth and John Flaus.
Mary and Max was Produced by Melanie Coombs and Executive Produced by Mark Gooder, Paul Hardart, Tom Hardart, Bryce Menzies and Jonathan Page and Co-Executive Produced by Iain Canning, Andrew Mackie and Richard Payten with Associate Producer Pauline Piechota. Mary and Max was financed by Screen Australia, Adirondack Pictures and Film Victoria and is being sold internationally by Icon Entertainment International.

"All of us could not think of a better place to launch Adam's labor of love. It is thrilling to have the home of independent filmmaking recognize Adam's enormous talent," said Mark Gooder, CEO of Icon.

The entire 2009 Sundance Film Festival program announcement will be made on Wednesday, December 3 and Thursday, December 4.