Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2013 Preview

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Each year, Hollywood descends upon Park City for the ever-popular Sundance Film Festival. Founded in Salt Lake City in August 1978, one of the little known facts about the festival is that it was not founded by Robert Redford, as many have come to believe. It was actually co-founded by Sterling Van Wagenen (the husband of Redford’s cousin and head of Wildwood, Redford’s company) and John Earle of the Utah Film Commission. Robert Redford was the chairperson. Since Redford’s name was attached to the festival, it received a lot of attention. In 1981 the festival was moved from Salt Lake City to Park City, reportedly to attract more attention from Hollywood. At that time Park City was just an up-and-coming ski town, a far cry from the internationally-renowned resort town that it’s known as today.

In 1984 Redford founded the Sundance Institute and took over the Utah/U.S. Film Festival, changing the name to Sundance. Since then, the festival has grown to attract over 45,000 visitors from around the globe, making it one of the largest independent film festivals in the United States. Each year the third Thursday in January turns this small and vibrant resort town nestled in the Rocky Mountains into a booming artistic community with a cacophonous urban flair.

While many locals joke about the folks in black flock to our community, we truly feel lucky to have such an amazing cultural gathering right in our own backyard. The live music, events, and stargazing are all fun pastimes during the festival, but what we love most is the chance to see films that we might not otherwise see on the big screen. This year, we’re especially excited to see Dirty Wars, Pandora’s Promise, Fire in the Blood, Valentine Road, and Blackfish.

And so, here we sit in 2013, 35 years from the festivals inception, and with only 6 days until Park City, Utah once again metamorphoses into a buzzing epicenter for Hollywood stars, musicians, indie film enthusiasts, star chasing fans and all those caught in between.

Sundance brings the Snow, Magic & Melody to Park City: Part II

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In Part I of my Sundance article series I wrote about the ASCAP Music Cafe and all the wonderful performances I got to see.  Now I want to talk about the films – the heart of the Sundance Film Festival.  This is my first official winter living in Park City and my first official Sundance experience. Luckily, my co-worker and friend, Jaci, is an established local and she knew how to go about getting tickets.  I have to give her a special shout out for waiting 2+ hours in line to get our tickets, as well as waiting even longer to get Best of Fest tickets.  Also, as an official Sundance Provider, Park City Lodging, Inc. is given a handful of movie tickets, which are then passed out to employees on a first come, first serve basis.  Needless to say, I think I was pretty spoiled this Sundance…

ohh yeah…

Thursday, Jan. 19 – In fact, I was the first responder, and therefore, secured two tickets to the opening night movie premier of Hello I Must Be Going at the Eccles Theatre, as well as two tickets to the opening night party at the Legacy Lodge at the base of Park City Mountain Resort.

Legacy Lodge Party

Hello I Must Be Going, directed by Todd Louiso, stars Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubinstein, Dan Futterman and Julie White. This film was submitted in the Dramatic Competition and I thought it was going to be a little boring; but I have to admit, the film is quite funny, quirky and kept me interested.  Without spilling the beans, the story revolves around a woman (Melanie Lynskey), in her mid-thirties, divorced and has to move back home with her parents.  She starts a secret love affair with a younger (much younger) boy and the story unfolds from there.  The best part of the films at Sundance?… the Q&A session with the actors and director after the film is over.  Once this concluded, we hoped on the bus and headed to Legacy Lodge, which is at the base of Park City Mountain Resort, for the opening night party presented by Stella Artois.  The line was crazy long, so we pulled a MacGyver and sneaked in the back door.  Free Grey Goose Vodka and all you can drink Stella showering from the bar and into the hands of the attendees, as well as mini apps were served.  Photographers were everywhere, but unfortunately I had no celeb sightings.  I did get to meet some producers and fellow Sundancers.  That’s the coolest thing about the Sundance Film Festival… no matter where you are, you’re bound to meet someone and spark a cool conversation with them.  These are the things you don’t forget…

Ai Weiwei's famous hand gesture

 

Tuesday, Jan. 24 – Film: Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry. I have to (sadly) admit, I’m 26 years old and this was the first movie I’d ever seen by myself.  The experience itself was quite awesome and one that I will repeat… and I couldn’t have asked for a more moving and inspiring film.  If you don’t know who Ai Weiwei is, get your head out of the clouds and get your Google on.  This documentary film – directed, produced and co-edited by Alison Klayman – follows the life of Ai Weiwei, “China’s most famous international artist, and its most outspoken domestic critic” (www.aiweiweineversorry.com). It’s a film that makes you look at life from a different perspective and realize that while majority of people are living in their social “bubbles,” there are other people in the world who are taking action to make a difference – to stand up for the rights for mankind… for you.  This film won the US Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance.  I highly encourage you to learn about this man, to read about his impact, view his artwork, to see this film and to keep yourself informed on what’s going on in the world.  Unfortunately, Ai Weiwei was not able to attend the film himself due to a prior arrest by the Chinese police and government, but the film spoke for itself.  I immediately joined his Facebook page and signed up to receive emails and notifications.  I hope this film moves you… in a positive direction.

Filmmaker, Fredrick Gertten

Thursday, Jan. 26 – Film: Big Boys Gone Bananas, a film by Fredrick Gertten, is another documentary that makes you think… think about the practices of big corporations, how they treat their employees – and the products they produce and sell – and then you consume.  Big Boys Gone Bananas follows the Swedish Filmmakers Fredrick Gertten and Margarete Jangård as they are sued by the Dole Food Company for their first documentary Bananas, which was selected to premier at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival.  After we saw this film we immediately went home, turned on Netflix and watched the prequel, Bananas. I  recommend seeing both films and doing your research about the corporations you support.  Needless to say, I don’t buy Dole products anymore… but you should see the film(s) and make your own judgment… just sayin’.

Movie Poster

Friday, Jan 27 – Film: We’re Not Broke, directed and produced by Karin Hayes and Victoria Bruce, Executive Producer, Charles Davidson.  This is a documentary that tells the story of “U.S. corporations dodging billions of dollars in income tax, and how seven fed-up Americans take their frustration to the streets…and vow to make the corporations pay their fair share.” (www.werenotbrokemovie.com) This is another film that looks at the practices of big corporations in America, and I was highly disturbed and angry after seeing this film.  I don’t want to sound like a cynic, but these films truly make you think about what’s going on the world and sometimes what you find out isn’t always so pleasant.  We are living in a time and age where people are going back to the streets, signs in hand and protesting government for change.  This is one of those films that makes you want to grab a sign and join the crowd…

Sundance Film Festival – Best of Fest

Monday, Jan. 30 – The Best of Fest Films are selected by the audience; hence, the audience awards.  At each film you see, you are given a ballot and are asked to rate the film from one to four stars.  After the Festival ends, the Sundance Institute presents complimentary screenings of award-winning films to locals in Salt Lake, Park City, Sundance Resort and Ogden.  The screenings are free and we must pick up our tickets on a first-come, first-served basis.  You don’t know which film you’re seeing until the winners are announced and the schedule is posted.  Based off the tickets we received, we were selected to see The Invisible War, which won the Audience Award: Documentary, and Searching for Sugar Man, which won the World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary.  To view a complete list of films that won awards, click here.

Rodriguez

When we found out we were getting the opportunity to see Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul, we couldn’t have been more thrilled.  There was a lot of hype about this movie, and we actually got to see the main character, Rodriguez, perform live at the ASCAP Music Cafe before seeing the film, which was kind of like witnessing a little piece of history. The film was everything I thought it would be and more.  Uplifting, great music and overall, a mind-blowing story.  Rodriguez is a rock musician who had his chance for stardom back in the 70s, but for some odd reason his music did not sell in the U.S.  He stops making records and works in labor and construction for the next 30 years while living in Detroit.  In the meantime, he becomes insanely popular in South Africa – I’m talking bigger than Elvis.  A few people start to get curious on who this Rodriguez guy is, yet there is no information on the man.  And there’s even rumors that he killed himself or died.  To make a long story short, the men go on a journey to find out more about the “Sugar Man,” and where it leads them is an amazing and crazy surprise!  Imagine living this ordinary life, working hard to make ends meat in Detroit, a simple and humble life; meanwhile, you’re more famous than Elvis in another part of the world.  GREAT. FILM. And GREAT MUSIC.  Google, download, listen and enjoy.   Click here to visit the official website.

The Invisible War

The Invisible War was a different experience than that of Searching for Sugar Man.  This film, directed by Kirby Dick, exposes the ugly truth that takes place in the U.S. Military – rape and sexual assault against not only women, but men as well.  It was hard to watch this film at times because it’s hard to believe the rate of occurrence, the number of incidents that are ignored and many that aren’t reported because the women are threatened with loss of rank or even death.  The film follows the lives of several women who formerly served in the Military as they share their stories and struggles.  I had to hold back tears.  It’s truly sad to see what these women (and men) are going through, as well as what our government is doing about it – or should I say, not doing about it.  I encourage you to please learn more, visit the website (click here) and sign the petition to help stop this madness that has been going on for far too long in our very own Military… it’s sad, pathetic and heartbreaking. But it’s the truth.  And it’s happening.  Now.  And you can take small actions to make a big difference.

This concluded my first official Sundance Film experience.  As you read, I saw mostly documentaries.  Some people don’t like to watch documentaries because they are “depressing” or “sad.”   For me, documentaries are the truth, change, good and evil, pain and perseverance.  Some films are sad, but what’s cool about documentaries is that you most likely have the opportunity to do something about it – to help push for change – for more good.  We can always do better.  Do more.  And I can’t thank the Sundance Institute enough for giving filmmakers and artists the opportunity and platform to showcase their work to the world.  It was truly an unforgettable week in Park City, Utah.

 

Sundance brings the Snow, Magic & Melody to Park City: Part I

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The 2012 Sundance Film Festival is officially over and the town is back to normal… well kind of.  The town is still bustling with people and energy for the Sprint U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing Grand Prix that is taking place this weekend at Canyons Resort… and not to mention it’s the 10 Year Anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.  But I’m here to share the magic of Sundance with you.

Official Provider Sundance Fil Festival

Park City Lodging, Inc. is an official Sundance provider and with that comes the credentials… ohh yeah.  During the 10-day Sundance festivities one will see hundreds of people roaming the town with credentials securely fastened around their necks.  If you’re lucky enough to get your paws on one of these bad boys, you are permitted access to the following:  Admittance to the Sundance House, Filmmaker Lodger, Salt Lake City Festival Café, the Music Café and the New Frontier on Main Street.  Park City Lodging, Inc. employees had the opportunity to attend some of these events.  Here’s what went down…

The ASCAP Music Café:

The Music Café is a program produced by ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), which presents an intimate and dynamic showcase of live performances by emerging and established artists during the Sundance Film Festival.  Located at the Rich Haines Gallery on lower Main Street, the space is transformed into an intimate venue that engages, captures and moves you as your serenaded by the sounds of the artists.  This years’ performers included A Fine Frenzy, The All-American Rejects, Erin Barra, Cris Cab, Bailey Cooke, Jeremy Current, Flying Lotus, John Forte & Friends featuring Natasha Bedingfield & Ben Taylor, David Gray, Lisa Hannigan, Garland Jeffreys, Jenny O., Josh Kelley, Greg Laswell, James McCartney, Ingrid Michaelson, David Nail, Chris Velan, Mike Viola & Ryan Miller; as well as a special surprise guest performance, which I will get to later…

My first ASCAP experience was Saturday, Jan. 21 and I had the opportunity to see Jenny O., Josh Kelley and John Forte & Friends featuring Natasha Bedingfield & Ben Taylor.  I had never heard Jenny O. before and if you haven’t either, I highly suggest downloading.  Once she opened her mouth, the crowd was sucked in by her sweet melodic sound and her quirky and funny lyrics.  I’m not the biggest country fan, so Josh Kelley wasn’t my favorite performance, but the guy can definitely sing.  The final performance was John Forte, Ben Taylor and what I was waiting for… Natasha Bedingfield.  The crowd started moving and grooving as Forte began to play his tunes.  And yes, Natasha sang a mix-up of “Pocket Full of Sunshine”… and it was amazing.  Needless to say, I enjoyed all the performances and the artists sounded great.  Here are some photos…

Jenny O Performance

Josh Kelley Performance

Ben Taylor Performance

John Forte & Natasha Bedingfield

Now let’s jump to Monday, January 23.  The ASCAP Music Café schedule read: 4:40-5:10 – Surprise Special Guest.  There had been some buzz around town as to whom this special guest would be.  We headed to the Café, only to find a long line, but we were hopeful we would make the performance.

crowd waiting outside to see Rodriguez..

We met a woman in line who confirmed the rumors that, yes, Rodriguez, was the special guest performer. Rodriguez is the main character in the 2012 Sundance Film, “Searching for Sugarman,” which was chosen as one of Sundances ‘Best of Fest” films. I don’t want to spoil all the fun, and I will talk about his movie later; but let’s just say it was an honor to be apart of his performance. To learn more about the mystery man click here. The Music Café was packed, people were cheering like madmen when he made his entrance, but it quickly silenced when Rodriguez opened his mouth…

Rodriguez Entrance
the mystery man himself… Rodriguez

Our last Music Café experience was Thursday, Jan. 26.  We arrived early this time to make sure we got a good spot, but the place was already packed; and unlike most times, the crowd did not clear once a set was over.  Everyone was there for one reason and they were not moving… David Gray.  Before David, though, we enjoyed the sounds of Lisa Hannigan and Ingrid Michaelson.  Lisa sang solo with her ukulele and guitar.  Her sweet sound was soothing and joyful.  Then Ingrid came and rocked the house (at least in my opinion; but then again, I am a fan).  She has a powerhouse of a voice and rocked both the guitar and piano.  My only complaint is that she sang all new stuff.  But overall, I enjoyed.

Lisa Hannigan Performance

Ingrid Michaelson

And last, but not least, came the man of the hour… David Gray.  The ladies beside and behind me went nuts when he came out and many shouted song requests; which he gladly – and wonderfully – played.  David played all the good hits, along with some new songs he recently wrote.  And he sounded just as he does on his albums.  His played the piano passionately and tuned his guitar – or guitars I should say – till it was just right.  He even came back for an encore performance.  It was a poetic ending to my first-ever ASCAP Music Café experience.

Sweet melody

David Gray on the piano

what a smile

Well this concludes Part I of my three-part Sundance series.  Stay tuned for more on the films I saw, as well as some of the action of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Letter from the Director

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Sundance Film Festival Feedback-

A SMALL ACT (US Documentary Competition)

Letter from Director/Screenwriter, Jennifer Arnold

It is every filmmaker’s dream to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and my experience this year was so unexpected and so extraordinary that I wanted to say a direct thank you to everyone who made it possible.

My film, the documentary A Small Act, tells the story of Chris Mburu, a Kenyan man whose early education was sponsored by a woman from Sweden whom he had never met. By donating roughly $15 a month to an education fund, her small contribution paid off: Chris made it all the way to Harvard Law School and then started his own scholarship program, which now sponsors new generations of Kenyan students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to go to school.

I arrived at the Sundance Film Festival this January hoping people would like my film, but I never dreamt that audiences’ reactions would directly lead to changing lives. After Festival screenings, I kept hearing from people how the film empowered them to make a difference. Audience members started handing us unsolicited donations—from twenty dollar bills to thousand dollar checks. By the time the Festival was finished, $90,000 had been donated to an education fund, which means that more Kenyan children will go to school. It was amazing!

Without Sundance Institute, A Small Act would have never had such an impact. The Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program supported the film with a grant and the Festival screenings moved audiences into action. The experience showed me that Sundance is much more than an institution that promotes film; it is a platform for stories that can change the world.

Small acts, when taken collectively, have a huge impact. I know the support of patrons is what makes the work of the nonprofit Sundance Institute possible, and I want to say thank you to everyone who contributes to this important mission. I hope you will consider supporting the Institute today, because your contribution can make a huge difference to not only us individual filmmakers… but also to the world at large.

Make a small act today! Click here to support artists worldwide.

Much thanks to all of you!

Jennifer Arnold

Grace Potter and The Nocturnals at Sundance’s Music Cafe

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The Music Café is a program produced by the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and which presents an intimate and dynamic showcase of live performances by emerging and established artists during the Sundance Film Festival.  Located at the Stanfield Gallery on lower Main Street, the transformed gallery is an experientially appropriate setting for the sumptuous and poetic style of the artists performing there.  This year the Sundance ASCAP Music Café featured such artists as Leann Rimes, The Fray, AM, Brendan Benson,  Sonos and Grace Potter and The Nocturnals.

Grace Potter singing at the Music Cafe during Sundance Film Festival

When I saw that Grace Potter and The Nocturnals were making an appearance at Sundance’s Music Café, a production by the ASCAP during the Film Festival, I jumped at the opportunity to go and listen to this voice which I had only ever heard in duet with other artists.  I arrived at the venue with a friend who had seen the show the evening before and was so dazzled by the performance she forced us to quit work early for her second round and arrive in enough time to assure a good spot.  It was no mistake as we were delightfully treated to the sultry voice of Holly Palmer, Joey and Rory- a husband and wife duo, and an eclectic Pop artist- AM before The Nocturnal’s blessed us with their presence…And I mean truly blessed us.   Before the anticipated act began, I ran to the bathroom in a frantic hurry so as not to miss even a pluck of a guitar string, only to find Grace Potter standing right in front of me in the bathroom line.  I looked around at the 3 other people in the room who were so busy glamming over their hair and makeup or talking on their phones that they didn’t even notice her distinct presence. I continued to stare at her in awe thinking about what I could say, but came up with nothing.  The reality of the moment seemed fantastical and if you have ever been in the presence of someone of that stature, you know exactly what I mean.  After my star struck bathroom experience, I made my way back to my spot in the crowd and anxiously awaited her entrance.   If my age had prevented the opportunity for me to see the Rolling Stones live in their prime, Grace Potter made up for that unfortunate circumstance ten-fold.  Not only was her comically pristine personality invigorating, but the audience began to ripple with energy and awe as this woman’s vocals seemed to be channeling the soulful style of Janis Joplin.    Her performance resonated with me for the remainder of the evening as I continued to wonder whether or not I had just had a transcendental experience.

With four albums under their wings, we can only hope for more, and as the legendary blues singer Taj Mahal put it “ This is an amazing band!  Keep your eyes on this one.”


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