'Hawk Is Dying' gets mediocre reviews at Sundance


"Hawk is Dying," based on a book by Gainesville writer Harry Crews and filmed entirely in North Central Florida, opened at Sundance to tepid reviews.

Special to The Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 3:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 3:14 p.m.
PARK CITY, UTAH -- If you're a film distributor combing the Sundance Film Festival searching for a new film to spend your millions on, "The Hawk Is Dying" is a complicated prospect.
On one hand, "The Hawk Is Dying" stars two actors who everyone says are locks for Academy Award nominations next week: Paul Giamatti for "Cinderella Man" and Michelle Williams for "Brokeback Mountain."
On the other hand, the film is bleak and anguished and it starts slowly and takes a long time to unfold.
Thus the muted reaction to the film here at Sundance. "Hawk," which was filmed entirely in Gainesville and North Central Florida in 2004 and is based on a novel by Gainesville writer and former University of Florida creative writing professor Harry Crews, has generated a mixed response since it was unveiled last weekend.
In director Julian Goldberger's version, which is extremely faithful to Crews' 1973 novel, a Gainesville auto upholstery dealer grapples with his own sanity after the sudden death of his mentally challenged nephew. He channels his angst into the training of a captured hawk, which becomes an obsession. Goldberger spins a Southern Gothic tale, filled with eccentric characters and inner torment, rooted firmly in the woods and wetlands of North Central Florida.
The film was selected by Sundance in December, one of 120 feature films out of 3,148 submissions. At the 10-day festival in this upscale ski town located 30 miles east of Salt Lake City, movies screen from 8 a.m. until well past midnight each day, and buyers from hundreds of film distribution companies negotiate with filmmakers for the rights to films they deem marketable. In recent years, films such as "Garden State," "Supersize Me," and "March of the Penguins" were discovered here, and went on to profitable nationwide runs.
Thanks to a big-name cast, especially art-house favorite Giamatti, "Hawk" came to Sundance as one of the most anticipated films of the festival. USA Today had it No. 1 on its list of films to watch.
The first screening, held the second night of Sundance, generated a less than positive buzz, which seems to have filtered through the festival this week.

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