Some 64 films will compete in the races for prizes in the key US and international drama and documentary categories at next year's festival in the mountains of the western state of Utah that will run from January 19 to 29.

While the films being shown at the festival, which frequently premieres small productions that go on to become global hits, are independent, they feature many well-known stars this year, including Robert Downey Jr, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sideways star Paul Giamatti, Rosario Dawson and Ryan Gosling.

But the glitter of Hollywood is likely to be overshadowed by the grittiness of war, illegal immigration into the US and politics when the 25th annual Sundance festival gets under way in the ski resort of Park City.

'Original voices'

Geoffrey Gilmore, the Sundance Film Festival's long-time director, said: "This year's programme reflects all the exceptional qualities we've come to associate with independent film.

"Every category is filled with fresh, original voices with quality storytelling that take risks and will not be mistaken for typical mainstream fare"

Geoffrey Gilmore,
Sundance Film Festival Director

"Every category is filled with fresh, original voices with quality storytelling that take risks and will not be mistaken for typical mainstream fare."

Fifteen films about the war in Iraq were submitted for consideration this year, and organisers picked three of them, two US documentaries and one overseas documentary, for the competition.

In addition, many films on immigration and migration will also feature in this year's programme, which offers a total of 120 films from 30 countries.

Non-mainstream

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid screen icon Robert Redford launched the festival in 1981 as a small affair that gave non-mainstream film-makers a rare forum at which to exhibit their work, which was shunned by Tinseltown.

Since then, a host of jewels have been discovered at Sundance, including the 1989 global hit Sex, Lies and Videotape, Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, the dark Scottish film Trainspotting and 2004's Oscar-nominated Maria Full of Grace.