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Sundance opener will go to playwright

ANNA BLOOM, Of the Record staff

British playwright Martin McDonagh, best known for turning brutal and playful phrases inside dark Irish tales, will try his hand at The Sundance Film Festival.

The festival announced last week that McDonagh’s feature-length directorial debut, "In Bruges," will be the opening night film on January 17, 2008. The suspenseful black comedy, which follows two hit men in the aftermath of a failed job, stars Academy Award-nominee Ralph Fiennes, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, an actor who also starred in McDonagh’s 2006 Academy-Award winning live-action short "Six Shooter."

"In Bruges," is named for the town of Bruges, Belgium where the hit men’s boss, played by Fiennes, sends his accomplices, reeling from their accidental murder of a child, to vacation. Comedy ensues when the criminals clumsily attempt to fit into the picturesque landscape of tourists and locals. Later it becomes clear that the kindly gesture by the boss, was perhaps not so kindly, after all.

"Martin McDonagh’s hilariously sad first feature is seemingly modest; but, in fact, highly original. No filmmaker I know has made the English language, in all its profane and here, quite Celtic glory, such a purely, joyously cinematic medium," said James Schamus, chief executive officer of Focus Features, the production company behind "In Bruges."

In a press release, Sundance Film Festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore likewise praised the writer-director as "a quintessential Sundance film it’s brutal, philosophical, funny and totally original."

McDonagh’s career began early in life, with four plays running simultaneously in London’s West End at the age of 27. Since 1998, four of McDonagh’s plays have opened on Broadway each was nominated for a Tony Award for "Best Play."

McDonagh’s body of award-winning dramas include "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," about a dysfunctional relationship between a spinster and her overbearing mother and "The Pillowman," about a horror writer who is interrogated for his words, after children are murdered. On stage, McDonagh’s characters typically explain their grim lot in life through storytelling while sitting within bleak houses.

Within the last two years, the playwright declared that he would be focusing on screen, not stage work, a decision that produced "Six Shooter," a dark Oscar-winning Irish comedy short about a widow (played by Gleeson) on a train and his encounter with a strange fellow traveler.

"I’m stunned and thrilled that ‘In Bruges’ will be opening a festival as prestigious, and as cool, as Sundance, and I simply can’t wait to attend," McDonagh said in a recent press release.

The Sundance Film Festival plans to announce its 2008 program today, Wednesday, Nov. 28 and Thursday, Nov. 29. The list of this year’s competition films will be posted on http://www.parkrecord.com as soon as it is available.


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