By A. Charles
Park City, UT(Hollywood Today)1/29/14/–After ten days of sun and snow, films, events, panels, parties and more in beautiful Park City, Utah — the Sundance Film Festival has finally come to an end. Below are some highlights that stood out in the fun filled madness that is Sundance:
The Cinema Café by Chase hosted panels and discussions with filmmakers, actors, distributors and film writers. Stanley Nelson was representing his new film FREEDOM SUMMER, which premiered at the festival, receiving a wonderful response from audiences. The film chronicles the African American struggle for equal voting rights and the violence that surrounded the efforts of the Freedom Summer Organization. I’m really interested in the story of the foot soldiers. If all you learn is about the incredible and great people, like Martin Luther King, whom none of us can be, how do you participate in a movement? I like to make films about people who could be you or me, so we can connect to the people in the films.”
Rory Kennedy was also there with her film THE LAST DAYS OF VIETNAM. “Saigon fell much quicker than anyone thought it would, and we were just getting US citizens out but not the South Vietnamese. Our ‘foot soldiers’ were those individuals on the ground which risked their lives going against US policy to get as many South Vietnamese out in those final days. I think there is a sense of patriotism and humanity just in the work these individuals were doing. A boat captain was responsible for saving about 30,000 people alone, with his ship.” The filmmaker lodge was a great place to hear from and meet in person filmmakers like Nelson and Kennedy.
Outside, there may have been no snow falling but Main Street was a flurry of activity. An official festival sponsor, Chase Sapphire had a lounge where you could get information about shooting in Utah, hot soup from local chefs, pose for photos with props in front of a background of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. At the Sundance Channel House (another festival sponsor), there was a free coffee bar and tea lounge. You could make your own silent flip book with your friends, and just relax with free wifi. And of course, there were the gifting suites. The Miami Lounge was afire with tattoo artist, music, drinks, snacks and swag from: Satya Jewelry and Hello Dental Care.
L’Oreal, once again an official sponsor, provided make-overs and free product, while Pedigree, also sponsoring, was donating dog food to local shelters if sundancers tweeted photos of themselves with the mascot dogs in attendance. YouTube was hosting yoga every morning, providing snacks and entertainment in the afternoon, and showing off the new Google Glasses, which allow the wearer search Google, without the use of a hand held device or computer, by simple speaking aloud. The wearer sees a tiny screen image “projected” in front of her, which will record video or photos at verbal commands.
But the star of the suites was Eddie Bauer, with rock climbing wall and rocking bar. They had Stanley flasks with Moscow mules for the public, and celebs like Wayne Newton, Andie Macdowell, Don Johnson, Christina Hendricks, Molly Shannon, Paul Reiser and John C. Reilly were treated royally, with backpacks or items from their new adventure clothing line. Their super compressible, 800-fill DOWNLIGHT, was a popular choice, with water-repellent, windproof shell of recycled rip stop polyester. Also on hand in vibrant hues was their MICROTHERM lightweight field jacket, specifically designed and fitted for women. And, while Eddie Bauer was keeping everyone warm, the theaters were on fire with the hot new films for 2014.
GOD’S POCKET stood out in the US Dramatic Competition. Directed by John Slattery (MAD MEN), this naturalistic take on the tenuously connected, working class mafia man (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has both the compelling wit and the sharp, brutal edge of early Scorsese. It’s set in the 70’s but, unlike David Russell who lost the plot of American Hustle somewhere between Amy Adams’ navel tickling necklines and Bradley Cooper’s perm, Slattery quietly and deftly steers his characters through a non-glamorous world of dive bars, meat trucks and funeral parlors. The texture of the film is so real you can practically smell the beer, rotting meat and embalming fluids. Hoffman’s journey is both cyclic and metaphorical. If this is God’s Pocket, it’s clearly the one in his holy, moth eaten, plaid sports coat where he keeps his cigarettes and flask.
WHIPLASH took home the Grand Jury Prize for US Dramatic Competition as well as an Audience Award. Expanded from Damien Chazelle’s short which took the Grand Jury prize last year at Sundance, the musical drama is an intensely riveting look into the high pressure world of top music schools and the obsessive pursuit of perfection that seduces and hypnotizes many of their students and teachers. Audiences in turn find themselves hypnotized by the musical chess match of passion and power that unfolds between unrelenting teacher and determined prodigy. J.K. Simmons portrays the chillingly cold yet fiery passionate, Terrance Fletcher, who pushes his wildly talented and overly devoted drum student (Miles Teller) past the point of no return. Both actors are as sharply on point as Fletcher’s unattainably perfect tempo.
Other films to watch for are: ALIVE INSIDE (Audience Award, US Doc), TO KILL A MAN (World Cinema Jury Prize, drama), LITTLE ACCIDENTS (drama), OBVIOUS CHILD (comedy), SKELETON TWINS (dramedy), IVORY TOWER (doc), I ORGINS (US drama), FISHING WITHOUT NETS (world drama) and RICH HILL (Doc).
And of course the festival wouldn’t even be possible without the 1800 volunteers running around in blue jackets by Kenneth Cole, directing lines, loading theaters and helping sundancers get around town. Whitney Chaney was the head of the volunteer department this year and there were more returning alumni than any year prior.
So that is the Sundance “wrap up” with Eddie Bauer keeping us warm, L’Oreal keeping us beautiful, and The Sundance Film Institute once again inspiring us for another year, with independent film we may never see any other way.