Sundance Summer Camp

Jan 28, 2007

Despite all the hype (or maybe because of it), it wasn’t that hard to get into the films I wanted to see. Standing on the last minute wait line worked for me every time, although that might say something for my film preferences. All the “bigger” films tend to sell out, but as many of them are going to come out in theaters at some point, I try to concentrate on the “smaller” films. So while a waitlist of forty people were turned away from an afternoon screening of The Ten (think Kieslowski’s Decalogue made by the guys from The State) I saw a lovely documentary/tone poem/travelogue called Acidente about twenty towns in Minas Gerais, Brazil, all with evocative names like Caldas (Juices), Olhos d’Agua (Watery Eyes), and Entre Folhas (Between Leaves).

Despite the new Sundance motto, “Focus on Film” (on buttons everywhere, which I couldn’t see without picturing Robert Redford glaring at attendees until they put down their martinis and dutifully marched back into the theater), the reason most people go, me included, is to socialize and catch up with other people in the industry. There are arranged lunches; parties that start at 4 pm, at 6 pm, at 9 pm, at midnight; and the bar scene, if you can get in.

The social aspect of the festival feels just like summer camp, particularly if you are into skiing. There are scores of people that I only manage to see at film festivals, and the more often you attend various festivals the more likely you are to bump into the same people again and again. Same level of exhaustion too. I don’t think I have been this tired since I attended “Night Owls” Girl Scout sleep-away camp, where they forced us to stay up until 2 am every night, so that we could learn about the wonders of the forest in the dark. But at least I’m not a counselor.

I spent a lot of time tagging along with some friends who work in major distribution and fundraising and several friends who work in publicity. They had all the good invites, naturally, but I have never seen crazier work schedules. I would like to dedicate a Robert Redford-glaring “Focus on Film” button to these brave souls who face a week at the festival with very little sleep, can’t put down their cell phones ever, will barely get to see a single film, and feel guilty complaining about it when they get back because “at least they got to GO to Sundance.” Enjoy that martini, ladies and gentlemen.

P.S. Films about which I heard good things (I won’t add descriptions, but you can go to imdb or http://festival.sundance.org/filmguide/ to check them out):

Crazy Love (Picked up by Magnolia Pictures)
Everything’s Cool (Doc about global warming)
My Kid Could Paint That (Will get distribution, not sure who)
White Light/Black Rain (Saw this one. Wrenching doc about the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the price of atomic warfare. Good companion piece to Imamura’s Black Rain)
Son of Rambow (Can’t describe)
Broken English (Picked up by Magnolia Pictures)
Grace is Gone (Picked up by Weinstein Company)
A Very British Gangster (Doc about real life British crime family)
Once (Irish musical)
The Devil Came on Horseback (Doc about Darfur)
The Unforeseen (Doc about sprawl and environmental sustainability)
Zoo (About human/horse sex. Picked up by ThinkFilm, I think)