I write this on Thursday, the end of my first full week of projecting at Sundance 2020. I have only 2 more days to go, although most venues will be showing films on Sunday. Since my venue closes a day early, I’m going to miss the fun goodbye party for the tech folk, which is too bad, but I’ll be happy to get home to Slava and the pets. We had a fun hello party, and I got to see a lot of peeps I haven’t seen in a long time, but the goodbye party is fun because you get to say goodbye to the old folks but also the ones you only met this week, and I met a lot of them – mostly in technical support and print traffic, plus three handsome gents who gave me much needed breaks, even if just for a few hours.
But what you care about is the movies, right?
MONDAY January 27
Friday night there was a break built into the schedule for Jewish reasons. Saturday and Sunday were full 16 hour days, and I was pretty damn fried by the end. Also, I showed a bunch of shorts programs, which is exhausting. There’s a lot to pay attention to. Monday morning I did the first two shows, then another projectionist came to give me a break. I tried to explain everything, but had to admit, I was too fried, and if he had any questions after I left, he’d probably not get a good answer from me. (He did fine!) I went to the grocery store for a minute and almost crashed into a divided street on the way out. Back to the house to nap.
The only film I watched Monday was TIME, which was excellent and had many surprising elements. It showed with a charming short, See You Next Time. I expected certain things about a documentary about an African American family shaped by the prison system, but I was surprised at every corner. Fully charming, outraging, beautiful, and important. Don’t miss it!
I got to sleep in, thanks to another projectionist. Man I needed that! He ran the first show, which looked interesting but the inside of my eyelids were more interesting. I showed the remaining 4 screenings, 2 of which were shorts programs. 😬
SHORTS PROGRAM 2: I liked He’s the One, but missed the ending!!! And it was key!
SHORTS PROGRAM 3: I liked most of them. I missed Starrs Sisters because someone was talking my ear off in the booth, so I watched it at the end of the night (only 10 minutes or so) while the cleaner was using an electric leaf blower to move all the spilled popcorn down to the main floor so he could more easily vacuum it up. I hope he wan’t offended by all the sex talk. If you like eccentric ladies in Los Angeles, check this short out. ❤️
THE KILLING OF TWO LOVERS: I was ready to hate this one. It had a weird aspect ratio: 1.33 for most, 1.66 for just one scene. Felt a bit pretentious. But I actually really liked it, and strangely didn’t notice the AR change because someone was distracting me, and I liked the director’s Q&A. So, happily surprised.
FEELS GOOD, MAN: Left to my own devices, there’s not a kitten’s chance in hell that I would have watched this. I am not interested in Pepe. But it turns out, I am interested in how and why the alt right co-opted him, how it played a part in the election of That Man, and what happened afterwards. The cartoonist is such a chill guy, which makes it all the more tragic. Worth a watch!
I got to sleep in again! The second show of the day was a real crowd pleaser, and a lovely way to start my day. MISS JUNETEENTH is a charming teenager and young mom tale. I was startled by the treatment of the church. (In a good way, as an atheist.) SEE IT!
oh look, I managed another break!
I came back to show the 9pm show, from the Midnight category, IMPETIGORE, a horror film from Indonesia, which I can fully recommend if you think that’s the kind of thing you might like (it’s the kind of thing I definitely like!). I haven’t seen many Indonesian horror movies, and this made me want to see more. The director was a hoot, and said as a kid he loved horror movies. His parents didn’t want him watching them and he gave them a choice: horror or porn. They relented.
DREAM HORSE is a Coffey family movie. I was truly sorry the whole fam wasn’t in attendance. But since it was sold out (theatre staff was surprised since there was no-one there for the Q&A, which usually is the draw), we’ll just have to watch it another time. Based on a doc, a rural Welsh community raise a race horse
RUN SWEETHEART RUN is a feminist horror film with some problems that may not be immediately obvious. I was surprised when a white woman turned out to be the director- we’ll leave it at that.
THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF is another fascinating documentary that owes a lot to being the in the right place at the right time. A young woman artist in Norway had her two most important paintings stolen. She meets one of the thieves and develops a surprisingly close (non-romantic) relationship with him.
Every American should watch THE COST OF SILENCE, which documents a tragedy and crime that could happen to any of us, due to the innate problems of capitalism, the lame state of the EPA, and “democracy.” Remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster, when an underwater pipe burst, destroying the oil rig and killing 11 workers? The oil spill lasted over 3 harrowing months. Not so well reported were the deaths and health effects that followed.
BREXIT! FRIDAY January 31
I started the day on a dark note with a 9am screening of INTO THE DEEP, which is a doc about Peter Madsen, that Danish psycho. It’s a story I’d followed in the news and was pretty fascinated by. I don’t know about other people who are drawn to grisly murder tales, but part of me wants to know what to watch out for, what to avoid. (Thw answer comes down to just “don’t be a woman alone among men or a man,” which isn’t very practical, but is 100% true. 😿) The doc footage began before the murder of journalist Kim Wall, so the (female) filmmaker was already in deep with Madsen and his group of volunteers, who were making rockets and had already built a submarine, before the murder occurred. It’s a movie that really widens our view of the story, thanks to its intimate perspective. The footage was used in court to help convict Madsen (who remains jailed for life, thank goodness), The movie will be on Netflix this summer – don’t miss it!
From dark and compelling to dumb. JUMBO (“she treats objects like people , man!”) Finally, that earnest romance between a young woman and a carnival ride you’ve been waiting for. Call me cynical, I guess, but what the fuck!?
AGGIE: A doc about art collector philanthropist Agnes Gund. The film is centered around her decision, following the premiere of Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th, to sell a painting and use the proceeds to try to end mass incarceration in the US.
LA LEYENDA NEGRA showed with a short, LITTLE CHIEF. Excellent portrayal of teens in Los Angeles. Of course the LA river makes an appearance.
I got to start my final day with a special treat, LUXOR. Slava and I went to Luxor, Egypt a few years ago, and I recognized many of the places in the film. In fact, one of the characters stays at the same hotel we stayed at, the historic Marsam Hotel. The main character in the film stays in the luxurious Winter Palace Hotel. The film is quiet and beautiful, and gives a lovely view of Luxor, although in real life it is usually much noisier. The filmmaker said the people who gave her the hardest time while filming were white European female tourists, who were angry she was shutting areas off temporarily for filming, even though she never did for very long.
CHARTER: A thoughtful, emotional, and complex tale of a family unraveling.
My final screening of the fest was both depressing and inspiring – the necessary ON THE RECORD.
I was both ready to go home and sad to leave, which is typical end of fest feelings. I watched 25 features and 22 shorts in 9 days. Most were great!