Dispatch From Sundance Film Festival 2012
January 23, 2012
— Bones Brigade, independent film, L Train, Park City, Sundance, Sundance Film Festival, Utah
The Sundance Film Festival exhilarates! Imagine 200 independent films premiering in 3 cities over 10 days to 50,000 global visitors corralled by 1,600 volunteers. Only around 2% of movies submitted get selected to premiere at this 34 year-old mega-uber American film festival.
It’s not just a two-hour adrenaline rush for one movie.
It’s days of an addicting thrill made of hunting, hoping, browser refreshing, heart-wrenching excitement.
Your preconceptions, sensibilities, logic, and general status quo just expands like one of those super absorbent reptile toys that expands to 500% of its size when submerged in water. You know the ones.
Attending Sundance as an Out-of-State Common Mortal makes the coveted access even more precious. Keep in mind that viewing advantages go to actual filmmakers, the idle rich, large corporations, or Utah residents. From the planning, chasing, viewing, commiserating, and reminiscing about the whirlwind weekend pumps up my blood in the 30-degree January temperatures.
The 2012 individual tickets for the 9 Park City theaters sold out quickly this year. Shelling out thousands of dollars for a package of tickets would be too easy. No, it’s the hunt and chase set against the crazy game of persistence and luck that turns this fest into a riveting adventure.
There’s a science and a divine intervention to scoring tickets and timing the wait list strategy. The science comes from signing up for your assigned purchasing slot if you’re going the individual ticket route. The divine intervention comes when you receive donated tickets as the last wait list cut off like we did this year for I am Not a Hipster. The winning eBay bid of $305 for Bones Brigade proved just a tad out of my ballpark. There could be other mini miracles like buying tickets from strangers at their $15 face value when you’re about to stand in line for the 2-hour wait list queue like in 2011 in Salt Lake City.
There’s a mountain of viewing options at the fest. It can be a full working vacation to sample from the U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Cinema, ultra low budget (NEXT), midnight showings, short movies, and performances. Throw in the pre-parties, after parties, concerts, podcasts, and awards, too.
Stacy Peralta’s skate boarding documentary, Bones Brigade, proved to be my favorite movie out of the 4 seen during this year’s opening weekend. The finely edited flick shows how a core of 6 “boy scout” skaters invent and sustain an entire industry for thousands of people, while maintaining their integrity and down-to-earth realness. Hearing how Rodney Mullen compares competitive skating to a Kafka short story or drawing parallels to Beethoven’s isolating deafness makes Mullen my new inspirational genius.
Listening to the director/actor Q&A session after the movie is my favorite part. The audience questions are usually intelligent. The answers feel genuine, insightful and real.
Everyone at the festival loves talking about the festival. Ask any one of the practitioners, bloggers, fans, festival groupies, volunteers, hotel staff, barista, or drivers. Most people can share their Sundance experience for 2-10 minutes and sound like the most fascinating person in the room because each story is different. It’s easy to see why most of the volunteers return yearly like the one woman who told me that 2012 is her 15th year.
I will always remember Ann Musso’s L Train within the Shorts Program III as an amazing 11-minute drama without any dialog. Actress, Khadijah Davis, expressed everything from her eyes, facial expressions, and body language. It’s no wonder how this short was selected from 7,675 other submissions. It’s the story of an African-American student’s misery through her daily long, freezing commute. Her poor-me perspective gets blown away as she performs an act of pure altruism for another fellow commuter. The producer revealed during the Q&A how he found the actress on Craigslist.
My other favorite aspect is seeing a movie in mass distribution and realizing, “Hey, I saw that at Sundance first!” Today’s “classics” like Reservoir Dogs, Little Miss Sunshine, and Napoleon Dynamite premiered at Sundance first.
Following and posting to the Sundance Institute’s Instagram stream proved quite fun this year.
Robert Redford’s one vision spawns a vast ecosystem of artists, businesses, fans, ideas, and innovation. It’s literally a giant cycle of goodness. The small filmmakers get their big break, studios pick up emerging gems, businesses boom, fans bond, and creativity keeps expanding. The Sundance empire comprises of the Sundance Institute, television channel, theater, catalog, and English version, Sundance London.
This year’s theme is Look Again. My theme for 2013 is Go Again & Stay Longer.