Two made-in-Minnesota feature films are competing in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
"Dear White People" is about a biracial student who becomes president of an all-black residential hall at a prestigious university. Los Angeles-based producer, writer and director Justin Simien directed the movie, which is described as "a satire about being a black face in a white place."
It's the first feature certified through Minnesota's 2013 Snowbate incentive program. Here's the official sneak peak. (Story continues below.)
Also showing is "Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter." The film, shot in Japan and Minnesota, is based on the story of a young Japanese woman who came to America to find the ransom money buried by Steve Buscemi's character in the movie "Fargo."
The 10-day showcase of independent film kicked off Thursday in Park City, Utah. Associated Press reporters there share what's in their notebooks:
'Infinite Polar Bear'
Zoe Saldana and Mark Ruffalo explore the effects of mental illness on a family in their movie "The Infinite Polar Bear."
Ruffalo and Saldana play parents, Cameron and Maggie, in the 1970s. After Ruffalo's character loses his job after having a nervous breakdown, the family falls on hard times. Maggie gets accepted into an MBA program out of state and must leave their two daughters in the care of their father.
Saldana said the story struck a chord with her because she lost her own father as a child.
"It sort of had a very powerful impact on me once I read the script because of the whole father and daughters relationship, and that sort of hit home for me," said the actress.
Saturday's premiere marked Ruffalo's eighth film at Sundance.
"I have a history at this place," he explained. "This will be my eighth movie here and the first time I came here was in 1990," he said.
"I didn't have a movie here and I lived in a ski dorm with a bunch of skiers for $30 a night, dreaming about the day that I'd get to go to Sundance with a movie," he laughed, "and here I am eight movies later ... It's cool."
"The Better Angels"
Diane Kruger made her first trip to the largest U.S. indie film festival for the premiere of ``The Better Angels,'' about a young Abraham Lincoln.
"This is my first time in Sundance. So it seems very crowded and fun," Kruger said Saturday. "It's a really neat resort and the movies are a little bit more independent I guess than the Cannes Film Festival's are. So I'm really excited to be here."
Kruger plays Sarah Lincoln, young Lincoln's stepmother in rural Indiana in 1817. Kruger says she learned a new side of the president.
"What I loved about the script was that yes, it's about Abe Lincoln but it could be about any child who was different, who was curious and who met an adult -- in this case Sarah Lincoln who I play -- who encouraged him to go to school, who encouraged his talent," she said. "And I loved the message that no matter where you're from or how poor you are, you can be a great man. You can change the world."
The black-and-white film is produced by Terrence Malick and written and directed by frequent Malick collaborator A.J. Edwards.
Even celebrities with no movies to promote can find reasons to come to Sundance.
Actor Gilles Marini and reality star Kendra Wilkinson lent their fame to Catdance, the one-night celebration of cat videos held during the Sundance Film Festival.
Marini hosted the brief program Saturday, presenting golden litter scoops to the five amateur filmmakers whose kitty flicks were shown. Cat-video fans can watch the short films online and vote for their favorites. The winning filmmaker will receive $50,000.
A very pregnant Wilkinson donned cat-shaped 3-D glasses to watch the five films, then posed for photos with other pregnant women in attendance.
The event raised funds for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Animal lovers can also support the ASPCA by buying Catdance T-shirts online.
Mania on Main Street
One of the perks of Sundance is spotting celebs who stroll among the thick crowds populating Main St. Most celebrities get polite autograph seekers, and are able to walk the strip without being hounded. But when you're Harry Styles of One Direction, just about every step is accompanied by the shrieks of teenage girls. Rushing to jump into a van on Saturday, Styles was followed by a thick crew of young girls, some running across the street to get a glimpse of the British pop singer. The screaming fans pounded on Styles' ride, holding up the singer's exit -- and oncoming traffic.
Star chefs cooking
It's not just movie stars at Sundance. Besides the random assortment of music, TV and reality sensations, culinary stars are also in the spotlight.
Competitors from the hit Bravo series "Top Chef" are showcasing their best work at ChefDance, a series of dinners for Sundance attendees, including stars like Kristen Stewart, Elijah Wood and Catherine Keener. On Saturday, chefs Angelo Sosa and Kevin Spraga created a four-course delight that included tomato soup with curry cream and steak with spiced eggplant. "True Blood" star Joe Manganiello, who has a documentary on male strippers at the coinciding film festival Slamdance, was among those chowing down during the lively dinner.
"Wish I Was Here"
Donald Faison is a proud papa. When asked how his son Rocco with wife CaCee Cobb is doing while Faison is promoting Zach Braff's movie "Wish I Was Here," he was happy to pull out his cell phone to show a photo.
"He's awesome," gushed the 39-year-old actor. Faison already has four other children from previous relationships.