Sundance is a bit of a blur to me . . . almost 30 films in 9 days. Makes it difficult to decide exactly what to write about them all.
I loved many, wish I had walked out of a couple, a few I wouldn't recommend. But for the most part the films were informative and/or entertaining.
The documentaries were plentiful and some were really extraordinary - a veritable feast of information. The focus of many was the US and to some extent the world economy.
99% - The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film — This film, done as a collaborative effort was remarkably well done. It was difficult to tell that it had been shot by so many different film crews. Really great editing job. It covered many Occupy sites and it set the stage for so many other films that focused on other aspects of the 99% movement.
Citizen Koch — focused on the occupy movement in Wisconsin after the election of Scott Walker through the eyes of several conservative state employees. Political allegiance dies hard even in the face of irrefutable facts and voting against one's own self –interest. I loved Charles "Buddy" Roemer (former Louisiana governor and US representative and a presidential candidate 2011). Never heard of him? Small wonder, he was running against big money interests. Special interest PACs AFP (Americans for Prosperity) and the Koch brothers and the news media and TV networks didn't want any of us to hear what he had to say so wasn't allowed to join the endless debates for the Republican nomination for president.
Inequality for All — must see film that actually explains the economy and how we got into the pickle we're in terms I understood and could actually explain to others. When I walked out of it I said to my husband "That's the best film I've ever seen. Robert Reich rocks!" I surprised myself saying that – since it was essentially a lecture – but for the first time I clearly understood what was going on in the world. Robert Reich was formerly Secretary of Labor, and he has the amazing knack of making economics clear and fascinating. Everyone told Director Jacob Kornbluth that a lecture about the economy was a terrible idea for a film, but he had the vision to Carry on, and now has revealed to the world the "inconvenient truth" about the economy! It won the Sundance U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking – and was picked up for distribution by Weinstein Company's Radius-TWC label.
The World According to Dick Cheney — brought to us by Showtime . . . is aptly titled. Cheney firmly believes that everything he has done and tried to do politically is for the national good. Even in the face of conflicting facts he never questions the rightness of his actions including lying about the WMD intelligence that led the US into the war on Iraqi. It was/is all for our own good.
And speaking of "for our own good" in Dirty Wars investigative reporter and author, Jeremy Scahill gives us a devastating look at how the U. S. wages covert wars on the world. In military jargon, JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) teams "find, fix and finish" their targets who are selected through a secret process. No target is off limits for the "kill list", including U.S. citizens. I literally sobbed for half an hour after the film. We should all be ashamed, horrified and angry that these crimes are being committed in the name of freedom and justice for all.
Google and the World Brain presents a dilemma: wouldn't it be nice to have ready access to every book in the world? Google is attempting to scan every book to build a library for mankind, can we trust that Google doesn't have other intentions?
We steal secrets: The Story of Wikileaks — In the story of Julian Assange and Bradley Manning we are left with many questions. Are we right to admire the skill and intention to shed light on "secret" information? Should the information have been secret? Or do we have a right to know what is being done in our name? The footage of helicopter pilots shooting down Reuters reporters, civilians, and those who came to rescue them like it's all a video game was chilling, and perhaps even more chilling was the military's conclusion that the shooters were correctly following the rules of engagement! Julian's flaws and foibles are also exposed by the film-makers — but Bradley Manning comes across as very human, a hero being victimized by a system that doesn't want its faults revealed. A film sure to provoke a great deal of discussion.
Linsanity — wow what a trip from high school and college basketball player to almost surely being an NBA draft pick to being literally a game away from being dropped by the NBA to becoming an NBA idol just a year ago. Fun trip. What's Jeremy Lin doing now? Still playing for the Houston Rockets.
The Moo Man — Stephen Hook is a hard working dairyman, doing what he loves for all the right reasons. He loves his cows, especially Ida, and his cows love him and we come to love all 55 of them. Almost makes me want to drink milk again, if I could buy Hook and Son's raw organic milk! They sell it at farmer's markets and deliver it to homes – but alas only in Southern England. Of course, corporate dairies want him out of business and the Moo Man has had to go to great lengths to remain in business even at a loss. I'll be cheering the Moo Man on until the cows come home and then some.
Salma — Interesting look at being a very bright and talented woman from Southern India. What a strong young girl she was to remain locked up for 25 years rather than bend to the traditions of her small town. And a strong woman she has needed to continue to be to become a nationally known poet and to serve on the council of her small town. She works continuously to change the traditions regarding young girls in India.
Sundance wasn't all just for improving my mind and world view. There were plenty of feature films to view just for fun. These are the films I would definitely recommend seeing.
Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes — A great title for a lovely film about the relationship between a troubled teenage girl and the disturbed woman next door.
Kill Your Darlings — based on the true story of the irreverent and brilliant relationship between Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, their time together at Columbia University; the murder that binds them and is the spark that ignites the Beat Generation. Fascinating film.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete — Two kids try to survive on their own in a crime & drug-ridden Brooklyn Housing project. Abandoned when his Junkie/Hooker mother is swept up in a police raid, an eighth-grader oddly named Mister, dreams of escaping his ugly reality to audition to be an actor. Ethan Dizon plays the even younger Korean kid who starts out as a pest, but ends up as Mister's friend and buddy. At the Q & A after the showing, we asked the actor who played Mister, Skylan Brooks, about his own journey to audition to be an actor. While he started the audition as nervous as his character, he ended up wowing the director, getting the part, and now wowing all of us in the audience. So here's to the inevitable success of Skylan & Ethan!
A.C.O.D. — Adult Child of Divorce. Smart and funny and probably oh so recognizable by ACOD's. Richard Jenkins and Catherine O'Hara are the divorced parents you're so glad not to have but so wish you could watch all the time.
jOBS as in Steve Jobs, a brilliant and difficult man, well played by Ashton Kutcher. Interesting story of how Apple came into being. One version of the story with many sides I bet.
May in Summer — A successful author, May, returns home to Jordan from NYC to plan her wedding. Instead she re-evaluates her plans as she renews her relationship with her divorced parents and her sisters.
Touchy Feely — This quirky film about a therapist who loses her touch until she gets her act together still makes me smile.
C.O.G.— Based on David Sedaris essays and short stories we meet poor little rich boy with an attitude, David. David appears to be rebelling against everything his family stands for without much understanding of where he wants to go. Everyone he encounters seems to blow apart his preconceived notions and at the same time confirm them. Thus presenting him with many valuable lessons . . . it's not real clear that he benefits from all those lessons. But one certainly hopes he figures it out and finds his way.
Very Good Girls — A summer romance comes between best friends during their last summer together before college. I liked it.
The rest I wouldn't recommend:
Virtually Heroes . . . Toy Story meets Groundhog Day. A video game character recognizes the pointlessness of his "existence" and tries to change the game. Game over? Never!
Concussion is mostly soft porn disguised as a woman's search for meaning. Abby is a sometimes decorator/stay at home mom with an over extended, high powered attorney for a wife. Couples . . . straight or gay . . . still have the same problems; compromise and keep the family together or chose hedonistic pleasures? At the end of this film, I didn't really care.
The Lifeguard . . . really, is that bright young almost 30 year old woman so confused and unhappy with her journalistic award winning life in NYC that she risks everything? And are her high school friends that easily distracted from their real lives? Didn't ring true to me.
Sightseers . . . what did Sundance see in this one? Possibly no one got far enough into the movie to see it change from a potentially charming, quirky romp in the English countryside to an anger management issue gone hopelessly and pointlessly awry. A waste of talent and good cinematography.
We Are What We Are . . . another what the hell was Sundance thinking? Who even thinks of such a dumb storyline? Good costumes, make-up, acting, production quality. It was supposed to be scary . . . but it wasn't. I felt stupid for having watched the entire film.
Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer . . . three brave young women stand trial for their satirical protest performance in a Moscow cathedral. Russia prosecutes three members of Pussy Riot for "offending the church and some of its members". Clearly this is a serious offense with prison sentences of up to 7 years. The young women handle the trial with great spirit, pointing out the ridiculousness of the charges with their honest answers to questioning. What is most interesting is the total access accorded the press that cover the trial. Interesting contrast.
And then there were a few documentaries that focused on other subjects.
Running from Crazy — Suicide is mostly a taboo subject but one that doesn't go away because it isn't brought up for discussion. It was really brave of Mariel Hemingway to allow the filming. And clearly she is dedicated to removing the stigma and mystery surrounding suicide, she and her partner, Bobby Williams, appeared at all the screenings for a Q & A. Mariel seems to have it so together and getting more so every day that it was disappointing to see her avoidance of a relationship with her sister. And irresponsible that she and her boyfriend don't wear their seatbelts. But I guess if you're going to risk your life doing extreme sports, you might just as well also risk your life while driving a car.
No — Based on the true story of the brilliant ad campaign that helped give "The people" their voice and the courage to remove Chilean military dictator, Augusto Pinochet, from power. An inspiring and happy movie.
Thanks for joining me as I relived my 10 days in beautiful, fun filled Park City, Utah.