Institute History

  • 2006 Sundance Film Festival


The life of parking-enforcement officer Les Franken is so remarkably unremarkable that it barely qualifies as quiet desperation. He eats lunch alone in a park, dinner alone at home, and reads superhero comics procured from his only friends, a pair of stoners who run a comic-book store. Hoping that it may make him feel…different, Les enrolls in a clinical trial for antidepressant pills that do indeed give him a lift. Literally. They give him special powers. While his doctor insists it's merely an adverse psychological reaction, Les packs in his meter-maid uniform and sets out to harness his new superpowers.

Getting great mileage out of their low-budget aesthetic, filmmakers Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore offer a thoroughly refreshing perspective on superheroes. With a spare style and minimalist score, they've found virtue in their limitations and fashioned an otherworldly landscape with one foot in reality and the other in allegory. Michael Rapaport so fully embodies Les's desire for empowerment that he actually brings Special much closer to the spirit of early comic-book superheroes (marginalized men expressing fantasies of strength) than the studio films we see.

Special is about loneliness and insecurity, and people encumbered by self-doubt. It's a subtle, philosophical comedy that gets its special powers from clever filmmaking.

— John Nein

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]