The Sundance Experience
The Sundance Film Festival has been a learning experience for me in many ways, good and bad. I got to meet many of the celebrities that I had only seen in movies or heard about. Many of them were nice and down-to-earth individuals, who would engage in conversations and would answer any questions that one could have about their movie or performance. However, I also met some who were really snobbish and would completely ignore people who were just willing to talk to them or ask them any sort of questions. This gave me a better outlook on the lives of these individuals and how extreme their personalities could be, just like normal people. I also had the opportunity to interact with some upcoming directors and filmmakers, such as Kanji Nakajima (Clone Returns Home) and Ross Katz (Taking Chance), who had made an impact on me with their respective movies. I heard about the difficulties and experiences that they had in making these independent movies, and was able to experience a different side to cinema that is often overshadowed by mainstream movies.
The festival in itself was a great event for me to meet individuals who were really enthusiastic and emphatic about independent cinema. While having conversations with these people, in theater ticket lines, I learnt about some famous independent filmmakers and some movies that are a must-see. Meeting some of the staff members and volunteers, at the festival, gave me a chance to get information on how the festival worked and the manner in which it was set-up. I felt that talking to and interacting with as many people possible provided me with insight and good educational information on the world of independent cinema. The only downside of the festival was that the transit system took a while getting used to because the shuttles would not follow the simple pattern provided in the guidebook. As an official Sundancer – at this point – my advice would be to enjoy the festival as much as possible and interact with people as much as you can. If you are sitting at the condo and have a bunch of free time, just go down to Main Street, or take a chance on a film that you can waitlist for. Some of the best movies that I have seen here so far were either on impulse or because a friend convinced me to go along with them. Don’t spend your time sitting in the condo or watching television, you can do that in Florida, be outgoing and make some new friends in the group that you are with: I did and had the best time of my life. The festival is the opportune time to learn and experience the most that you can about this very unique branch of cinema, and this can be an experience that will last a lifetime.
During the festival, I got to watch a lot of movies and enjoyed the majority of them, being genuinely surprised by the talent that many of the filmmakers exhibited while conveying their stories to the audience. My favorite movie, by far, was Taking Chance (Ross Katz) because it impacted me in a manner that no movie had every before. I walked out of the theater feeling very moved, and was able to emotionally connect with the story of Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl who escorted the remains of a young Marine, Chance Phelps, back to his hometown. My least favorite and most disappointing film was Earth Days, which was consequently chosen to be the closing night movie. I had high expectations when I walked into the theater but was soon amazed at the way the entire film was put together that made it seem like a Discovery Channel documentary. Besides the fact that the story deviated from its main point and had no flow pattern at all, the movie abruptly ended without showing recent changes in environmental causes and organizations. The incompleteness of the movie and its failure to engage the audience made it one of my least favorite movies so far. Other than the above two movies, I was able to watch the following as well:
1. Shorts Program IV: a collection of well thought out, and well filmed, short independent movies that captured my attention. Sparks and Short Term 12 were my favorites in this collection.
2. Shorts Program III: had a few good short movies, especially Instead Of Abracadabra, but left me disappointed overall and did not pack enough punch for the entire hundred minutes.
3. Weather Girl: a funny, romantic Slamdance comedy about a blonde girl who loses her cool on live television and ends up having to move in with her younger brother. This movie was different from the stereotypical chick-flick and had lots of humor packed into it.
4. I Love You Philip Morris: a movie about the extreme, and hilarious, ends to which a person could go to protect and be with the one they love. Love with a pinch of salt.
5. The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle: cookies never tasted this good or made men pregnant with little blue fishy-things. In this awesome directorial feature of David Russo, the concepts of forgiveness and love for others are intertwined in a manner that is sure to get you ‘high’.
6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead: a lot of slapstick vampire comedy, mixed in with some funny performances by Jake Hoffman and John Ventimiglia, make this movie worthwhile to bite into.
7. Zombie Girl: an amateur zombie movie that was shot by a 12-year old girl, who displayed courage and resilience that one would hope, could manifest her into a successful filmmaker.
8. Strongman: a Slamdance documentary that follows the life of Stanless Steel as he begins losing his strength and his grip on life.
9. The Killing Room: a mixture of Cube and Saw that is an entertainer all the way and has enough twists to shock even the most predictable viewer.
10. Zion and His Brother: a tale of two Israeli brothers who lead a difficult life that is soon complicated by the happenings of one night.
11. Bronson: Briton’s worse prisoner, a violent savage creature, lots of blood, and Tom Hardy in a role that will make you admire and hate him simultaneously.
12. Louise-Michel: the workers of a factory hire a hitman to take out the boss, after they are suddenly laid off, and what ensures is a comedy of errors that is dark and different in every way possible.
13. Shrink: a thorough entertainer all the way with Kevin Spacey playing a shrink that is forced to examine his own lifestyle, after coming in contact with a young high school girl with actual problems.
14. The Clone Returns Home: more philosophical than science fiction, the story explores everything from the cycle of life to the existence of the human soul. Might only appeal to some people because of its slow pace and non-existent action sequences.
15. The Queen and I: a documentary about the former Queen of Iran that provides a different perspective behind the story of this extraordinary lady.
16. No Impact Man: another documentary that deals with the environmental cause and displays the extreme project of a man, who wanted to display the power of individuality. A movie that would have perfectly fit in as the closing night film at Sundance.
17. The World’s Greatest Dad: a dark comedy about finding self-love through loss, where Robin Williams gives a performance like never before. For people who love different, check this one out.
18. Animated Shorts: a very dark collection of animated shorts that were done in an excellent fashion and succeeded in creeping me out. This Way Up and Western Spaghetti were my favorites.
Sundance is addictive and the last two weeks have been completely fun-filled and amazing. I hope to come back soon and have the same experience, if not better!!