This article has been posted on Huffington Post on 2/17/16. To read it there click on the link.
A transcendency of imagination…
…comes to life every year at one of the most incredible film venues in the world — Sundance!
Set in the surreal, celluloid and white powder coalesce spurring the imagination in a way unparalleled by any other film event.
Our hearts race as our van undulates between snow covered peaks from Salt Lake City toward Park City and the unique wonder of the Sundance Film Festival.
What humbly began in Salt Lake City in 1978, a creation of Robert Redford, to display American made films, introduce the potential of independent films and the Utah landscape as an alternative for filmmakers, has grown into an explosion of incredible films — more than 200 — that stimulate the senses and the imagination.
We felt fortunate to have tickets for three movies and our mood was one of anticipation and exhilaration — hoping to get tickets to at least two more screenings.
When I attended Sundance in 1997 (which seems like more than a decade ago) it was very different. There were only four theaters and two conference rooms screening films and documentaries that year. This year was destined to be a different experience.
And it was — and we weren’t disappointed.
Energized, after settling into our hotel room, our adventure began with picking up our tickets at the main box office. First on our agenda — figure out the transportation system, or as Spike Lee would say, “Get On The Bus.”
Park City’s transportation is exceptional — buses coming and going, connections to every part of the city, especially during Sundance. Exceptional if you know where you’re going — and we didn’t. Our first trip was a little frustrating.
Trapped an extra 30 minutes on the Lime Express we barely made it to “Ali & Nino” with just three minutes to spare. It was a great movie and a fantastic beginning. After, we returned to the hotel to relax with a glass of wine, and plan our next three days.
With only tickets for “All These Sleepless Nights” Thursday and “Pleasure.Love.” on Friday morning we’d have to focus on the eWaitlist to obtain more tickets. The challenge? Develop precision timing and fast fingers.
In ‘97 there was no waitlist. We stood in some long bone chilling lines to make the cut, successful for some, not for others. This year’s festival offered ten theaters and no lines out in the cold. Should be easy to score three more movies with 40 films being shown every day.
Not so simple after all as we found out, but it became a game, and fun, to put our heads together and strategize to improve our opportunities.
We quickly discovered that many of the films on our list were popular and difficult to get.
After Sleepless Nights we had lunch at Zoom hoping Robert would grace us with his presence. No such luck, but enjoyed a great lunch and plotted our course for more movies. Satiated we were positive we’d get tickets for that evening. Despite our wine induced confidence we failed twice and blamed the Pinot.
Resigned to a relaxing evening we set out to find some wine to take back to the hotel and once again found ourselves riding several buses in search of the State Liquor Store only to find ourselves right back at the point where our sojourn began. We can laugh about it now, but it cost us another precious hour!
Friday would make up for any earlier inconveniences.
We already had tickets for “Pleasure.Love.” at 9:00 in the morning. It was the first feature film at Sundance from China. It was a superb and interesting film from neophyte filmmaker, Yao Huang. After the movie Uber whisked us off to the Red Pine Gondolas which took us half way up the snow covered mountain to the Red Pine Lodge for lunch. We watched skiers, consumed pizza and had a beer before conquering the rest of the day. The ride up was breathtaking. The ride down was, too, but with the night looming we had no theater tickets.
So, in front of the fireplace, in the warmth of our room, we watched soft white flakes dust the landscape outside our window. As the sun descended behind snow covered peaks we managed to get decent Waitlist numbers for “Christine” and off to the Redstone Theater we went hopeful of seeing another quality film. While the snow fell outside we enjoyed a great performance by Rebecca Hall as Christine Chubbuck, and afterward a warming glass of Mourvedre and a quiet dinner at the RedRock Brewery. A fitting end to an intriguing day.
Our luck held on Saturday. I arose at the unGodly hour of 6:15 and and was rewarded for my efforts. We got eWaitlist numbers 11 and 12 for “Lovesong” at the MARC at 8:30 effing AM. It was worth it. We saw another inspiring film that aroused our senses. Everyone in attendance agreed that the performances by Riley Keough and Jena Malone were outstanding. But, it was a cute little three year old, Jessie Ok Gray, who stole the opening scenes and captured the audience.
After breakfast the afternoon was ours and we decided to try for three films wanting at least one last premiere before leaving on Sunday. Unsuccessful on our first attempt we found success on the second, “Sophie and the Rising Sun,” a film which proved to be our favorite screening of the week. It will be in theaters soon and the performances by Julianne Nicholson and Takahashi Yamaguchi will attract movie goers all over the country.
We managed six films during our four days at Sundance. Five of the six were somewhere between very good to the excellence of Maggie Greenwald’s “Sophie and the Rising Sun.” They were well worth the trip from Orange County and Austin.
But no story about Sundance would do justice without acknowledging the graciousness, warmth, friendliness, and helpfulness of the staff and volunteers who make the event a most pleasurable experience.
The magnitude of Sundance has grown and intensified since ‘97, but the atmosphere, the fun, the warmth, and the anticipation of seeing a new film has not changed.
And in reflection, I am grateful.