The story so far…..
I write this from the floor of my projection booth at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. My venue is a synagogue the rest of the year, and is a very nice space. The Temple’s auditorium has been built up for this occasion with tiered seating, blackout curtains and drapes everywhere, a screen, speakers, and my own private hot box (booth).
About a dozen years ago, in the days of 35mm film and DigiBeta tape, I worked at Sundance in an unassuming warehouse in Park City, preparing films and videos for projection. We also had a single 16mm print both years I did this work. When I started working full time, I couldn’t practically take two weeks or a month off to travel to Utah to work, but now that I have a freer schedule, I let them know I’d be available, and this year there was a last-minute opening. I jumped at the chance.
Sundance takes place in a mountain town South East of Salt Lake City. The old part of town is pretty, built against the mountain with small Old West houses and a lovely old (but modernized) movie theatre (the Egyptian) which is utilized for the fest. The streets are steep and always snowy this time of year. Park City is a ski town, and there are acres and acres of ugly condos and modern buildings everywhere, marring the otherwise beautiful scenery. At least everywhere you go, you can see the mountains, many scarred with ski slopes which are lit up at night.
I arrived on Tuesday and today is Monday, my fourth day of screenings. I’m exhausted. The first two days I spent setting up my screenings (which are all digital now) and getting re-acquainted with the equipment and protocols. My first screening wasn’t perfect, which is always what we strive for, but I’m in the groove now.
FRIDAY, opening night for my venue, I enjoyed all the movies I showed.
The Perfect Candidate is a rare film by a female Saudi filmmaker, a narrative about a female doctor who runs into trouble when she tries to go on a trip, only to find her travel documents are out of date, and her father (male guardian) isn’t nearby to sign the new ones. It’s funny, charming, frustrating, beautiful, musical.
The Earth is Blue as an Orange is a Ukranian film – is it fiction or doc? Very cool in either case.
Collective – This is definitely in the running for my fave film of the fest (although I do have 6 more days to go). It’s an investigative film, starting with a nightclub fire in Romania in 2015 that was very similar to the 2003 Station Nightclub fire that occurred in Rhode Island. The band’s friend was filming the concert, so there is amazing and incredibly distressing footage of the fire. The investigation follows a chain of deep corruption that led to the death of many burn victims who had escaped but died in hospital from viruses.
The Night House is an interesting ghost story horror movie with some excellent “gotchas” that are driven by the soundtrack. I got really scared, which is unusual for me. It got a little silly at one point with the effects being a little goofy – this is typical for horror movies that have an invisible presence that eventually is revealed. Still recommend it though!
Sandlines: The Story of History is my other favorite so far. I mean, look at this picture!
I didn’t have high hopes for The Go-Go’s documentary, because so many people make the same rock doc over and over (we changed the world! Sex, drugs, and fucking in the streets!), but this one was really thoughtful, emotional, and revealing. I credit this to the woman who directed the movie, and also to the subjects. Documentaries about women are just more interesting to me, I guess, and I’m sick of seeing white men talk about women. The few men who were interviewed made my eyes glass over a bit, but the founder of IRS records was pretty damn cool, so I’ll make an exception for him. There was a ton of great archival footage from the early days of the LA punk scene, and the band had lots of photographs as well. Did I mention the band showed up for the Q&A and one lady in the audience cried?