My Festival Experience

January 30, 2011 : 1:59 am | by Aly Campbell

Main Street, Park City

Main Street, Park City

Being in Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival (and all of the stuff going on around it, like Slamdance) was definitely an exciting and memorable experience. It was amazing to see the US premieres (and in several cases the world premieres) of the newest indie films and not knowing if you just saw a movie that will be the next big thing or a movie that will never be seen again by anyone who didn’t see it here. I found myself genuinely hoping for all of the movies I saw to receive the highly sought after distribution deals, especially after the Q&A sessions with the directors, casts, and crews. They all put so much passion, heart, and effort into an endeavor that may be their big break, but could also come to nothing. I have even more respect now for the amount of work that goes into making a film and especially into making one that makes it to this level. I also feel like I have a slightly better grasp now on the ever-elusive term “independent film.”

I actually liked all of my movies for the most part; my least favorite film was still interesting and well done even if it was a little much for me in certain scenes brutality-wise. The food was great, the people were fun, and the buses got you where you needed to go, eventually. I was impressed by the number of celebrities and also the sheer number of people in general who flocked here in the middle of January for the film festival. My only complaint would be that it was the middle of January and therefore consistently in the range of 20-30 degrees outside. I want to ask Robert Redford if he drew the short straw when it came to film festival month-picking time. Because it would make way more sense for Cannes to be in January and Sundance in May. My best advice to anyone coming to Sundance in the future? Bring your parka, never expect a bus to be on time, and you’ll have the time of your life.

My favorite film I saw here at Sundance was definitely Gregg Araki’s Kaboom – all of the characters were unique, quirky and gorgeous; the dialogue was witty and hilarious; and the story was basically a fast-paced, live-action graphic novel. I would have to say that my least favorite film was Lucky McKee’s The Woman – it wasn’t a bad film and it was really well done, but it was brutal, horrifying, gory and hard to watch at several points. Here’s what else I saw here at Sundance/Slamdance:

Hobo With A Shotgun: A ridiculous, over-the-top, and highly-entertaining story of a homeless man who befriends a prostitute and attempts to clean up crime-ridden streets with his shotgun.

Another Earth: A beautifully-shot, eloquent, and compelling film about two people who develop an unusual relationship after their lives are irrevocably changed on the night a second Earth is discovered.

Sound Of My Voice: A mind-bending film that forces the audience to question what the truth really is as it follows a young couple infiltrating a cult with the intent of exposing its leader as a fraud.

Homework: Cute and fairly mainstream for an indie film, this unconventional teenage love story featured some of my favorite music from my high school days.

Little Birds: This film did an amazing job of portraying and evoking both the Salton Sea area and Los Angeles; it also featured an emotional, moving performance by one of my favorite actresses, Juno Temple.

KNUCKLE: An honest, raw film about that gives an inside look at Ireland’s Traveller community, who they are, and their violent, bloody tradition of bare-knuckle boxing.

Uncle Kent: Joe Swanberg’s latest film is, true to form, a tiny-budget/DIY movie focusing on the nature of relationships; in particular Uncle Kent focuses on the issue of translating an online relationship into the real world.

Like Crazy: This film, reportedly bought by Paramount for between 4 and 5 million, is about the struggles, twists, and turns of young love, long-distance relationships and the ultimate impermanence of relationships.

Circumstance: A gorgeous, sincere, emotionally and culturally-charged film in subtitled Farsi about the blossoming intimate relationship between two Iranian girls, Atafeh and Shireen, under the strict climate of Iran.

Happy, Happy: This Norwegian film adeptly mixes comedy, drama, sex, and the depression of winter in a thoughtful and entertaining exploration of adult relationships and the nature of happiness.

A Few Days of Respite: This Algerian-French film follows the heartbreaking story of an Iranian gay couple, Hassan and Mohsen, as they flee for France to avoid being hung for their sexuality – a truly beautiful, tragic story about how far love and loyalty can go.

Buck: As someone who loves horses, I really enjoyed this documentary about Buck Brannaman, cowboy and real-life horse whisperer upon whom the movie The Horse Whisperer was based.

Superheroes: This Slamdance documentary told the stories of “real-life superheroes” all across the country who dress in costume to go out and try to make their communities a better place in various small ways.

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