In my glowing review of Bob Nelson‘s The Confirmation (Saban, 3.18) I wondered why it didn’t play at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. The absence in Park City made no sense. Either Saban didn’t submit it, I figured, or they did and it was turned down, which is nuts as it’s obviously good enough to have made the cut. Well, guess what? I just finished doing a phoner with Nelson, who’s here in Los Angeles for interviews plus tomorrow night’s premiere screening, and he says, believe it or not, that Sundance programmers saw it and passed.

I’m sorry but ixnaying a film as good as The Confirmation is absurd, especially when you consider that Sundance is obliged to screen a certain number of films each year that one could describe as mezzo-mezzo or mediocre. It’s inevitable. So a film like The Confirmation comes along, a film that definitely works and coheres and holds water and all the other superlatives of a B-plus or A-minus film, and Sundance says no? There’s really no excuse.

Nelson speculated that perhaps his film struck Sundance programmers as being a bit too much of a family thing, which it definitely isn’t. Okay, superficially but not really. It’s basically a kind of Bicycle Thief remake — i.e., a struggling father (Clive Owen) and son (Jaeden Lieberher) on the hunt for a stolen tool box that dad needs in order to survive. It’s also about the exceptionally mature son assessing the way things really are in the world, and about small-town values and the quality of things slowly ebbing away (socially, aesthetically) and about the shadow of alcoholism and drug addiction, and what it’s like to be genuinely anxious about making ends meet.

Nelson also mentioned that Sundance programmers are understood to be more receptive to films that don’t have distributors. The fact that Saban Entertainment acquired The Confirmation last September may therefore have been a factor in the snub….maybe.

From last Friday’s review:  “This is a quietly rewarding, deftly layered, richly embroidered character drama. Okay, a ‘family’ drama but I’ve always hated that term. I also hate the term ‘father-son saga’ but that’s more or less the shot. It’s a simple, small-town thing (shot in a Vancouver suburb) about the revealing of character and the finding of a stolen tool box. Sounds small and maybe a bit marginal, right? It’s not. It hits fundamental notes.

“I’m telling you this is one of the best films of this type that I’ve seen in ages.”

Again, the Nelson interview.