My Mini, Yuppie Inauguration: Sundance At Large
Silence. The screen is blank and credits slowly start to roll. The tennis-courts-turned-movie-theater starts to illuminate before the lights come on. The glow of black berries and iPhones begin to fill the room as the credits roll and the film’s impact is fresh and intense in my mind. I hope everyone is typing what I am thinking: ‘That was one hell of a movie!’
Like most adventures, the reality of Sundance was not what I could have ever imagined. I was here during the inauguration of Barak Obama in my hometown in D.C., and although I was beyond pumped and honored to be involved with arguably the best film festival in the world, I was a little bit reluctant to leave my home town during such a historic and wild event. I was sure that I was going to see some amazing movies and probably get in a little skiing but I would miss all the parties, the important people, the diverse crowd all assembled to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and being able to witness an optimistic future unfold back home. Much to my pleasant surprise, Sundance, as an event, reflected a great deal of the same dynamic that made this inauguration what it was.
Every year, Sundancers flood Park City. Locals are abruptly outnumbered by tourists trudging around in the snow and devouring the bus system with an hora of importance seeping through their fur coats. Restaurants are packed all day, prices are jacked up to better suit the Hollywood types that swarmed the town, every possible location for an evening outing is a private party that you are not invited to, and crowds with cameras engulf sidewalks with celebrities. Everyone comes here for a reason that drives them throughout Sundance beyond anything. The reporters, the bloggers, the cast and crew, production agencies, promoters, and the just plain movie-goers all come with their own mission in mind, but share the passion for independent film. Some locals leave town, some hide out on the ski slopes, a couple volunteer, and some just curl up in the fetal position and wait for it all to be over.
Talking to friends and family at home, the inauguration scene sounded vaguely familiar. More tourists than they had ever seen brought unbelievable crowds, countless inaugural balls (invitation only), and all around chaos to the city. Much like in Park City, everyone was there for their own purposes but shared the common excitement about change in our country. There are inaugurations every four years in DC, but there has never been one with a turnout like this one. Some locals embraced the madness and liveliness, and others left town. I could only imagine what it would be like if the first black president took over office from a bad president every year. It would probably feel a bit like Sundance to the locals but on a much larger scale. During both events, peoples’ cities are stolen from them and transformed for a set period of time into a set for a celebration of the future moving in the right direction.
I dove into the event with everything I had. I saw as many films that I could fit into my schedule, attended as many events that I could get into, talked to a range of people all day, and went to any parties where the bouncers mistook my student credentials for something more important. I had movies regularly starting at 9am then parties at night that I forced myself to leave by three. My Sundance experience was driven by coffee and free Monster energy drinks given out a Slamdance. Sleep deprived and loopy from staring at screens for up to six hours with brief, rushed intermissions navigating to the next theater, I excitedly buzzed around the festival to gain as much out of it as possible. Mission accomplished. I partied with 36 mafia, talked to a range of other celebs and movie people, saw a bunch of live music, eighteen diverse and innovative movies, got in some quality hot tub time, made some great new friends, blogged my ass off, and even had a day on the slopes; all while only falling asleep in one film.
After another insightful Q&A session I stroll out of the theater, fully impressed by film I have just seen. I feel a sense of pride that I was a part of this annual event that makes history every year. It is the first movie festival of the year, introducing a new year of amazing films and embracing the ever-moving future of film. I missed being a minority as a local in my own town, but instead, I was a part of the tourist mass that took over Park City, Utah. I squeeze my way on the crowded shuttle leaving the Racquet Club going back to main street and strike up friendly conversations with ski bums and the bus driver as well as other movie goers. I have seen some of the best movies of my life here and met the people who made them. It is so fun to talk about those films and experiences, but I still feel the need to show that I care about more than my mission; I care about what Park City is before, during, and after Sundance. I appreciate the little mountain town that it is with a friendly tightly nit community that hosts this amazing event every year. When talking to people that went to the inauguration, they always use the word inspiring. After talking to the people that I did, from famous directors to film students making documentaries, the same adjective comes to mind. Like the little Sundance ad that begins every film, I cannot help but wonder: “What’s… next.”
Tags: Ben Hamburger