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…
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.
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…
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.
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’.
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.
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 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.