Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dancing Under the Sun

Sundance Film Festival

      For the first time with my "Person of the Week" segment, I will award a non-person. It's my blog and I wield all the power. Therefore, I am entitled to make these kinds of ironic judgments. It's a refreshing exercise of opinion boosting. Don't expect me to break rules like this all the time though. I tend to be very methodical. My mechanisms for content generation, generally, are defined by a purposeful consistency, as well as a scrupulously high standard of excellence. It is in this spirit of genuine irony that I award the Sundance film festival as my newest, "Person of the Week."
      I must sheepishly admit a fact that some may claim is a mark of journalistic dishonesty. I have never attended the Sundance film festival. But in my defense, I thoroughly enjoyed 127 Hours and I have never mountain climbed. One can appreciate any number of differing enterprises without actually participating in these enterprises. It is a purely sensory fueled experience. This arresting fact, after all, is why we all love film. I can visibly discern the stunning beauty of Tolkein's Middle Earth or Indiana Jones' many harrowing journey's through antiquity. But I will never experience these revelations from a place of physical discovery.
      As I delve into movies on a more regular basis, my itch for experiencing all-that-the-film-world-has-to-offer becomes overwhelmingly resonant. Logically, Sundance is an ideal meeting ground for film lovers. Logistically, it is a disappointingly faraway land from my house. But since I have been contagiously bitten by the film bug, I absolutely must make a concerted effort to attend Sundance. And by this time next year, I hope to be sharing my thoughts with you bloggers, as I joyously lodge in Park City, consorting with a swath of promising new films, inside scoops, and everything indie. Honestly, I cannot wait for this cinematic bombardment.
     For those of you unfamiliar (shame on you) with this iconic US film festival, I will provide some background. Held every January in Utah, Sundance is the foremost showcase for emerging works from American and International independent filmmakers. The festival consists of both feature-length films and short films (dramatic or documentary), as well as non-competitive showcases: the New Frontier, Spectrum, and Park City at Midnight. The festival has undergone a stark change over the decades; a little known venue for independent productions has now definitively become a media extravaganza for everything Hollywood. The infamously cumbersome paparazzi have even managed to parade around the festival. Rules of thumb; if the paparazzi find you newsworthy, then you are newsworthy...for good or for bad.

      Sundance is an admirable festival because of its tenacity in highlighting the works of independent filmmakers. Robert Redford's involvement from the outset has been integral to Sundance's abounding growth. Fittingly, the name Sundance derives from Redford's iconic role in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As the inaugural chairman, Redford's role in the development of the festival has been enormously fruitful.
      Independent filmmakers consider Sundance an invaluable resource. Aside from the increased exposure, placement alone in the festival carries weighty prominence. A rigorous selection process is the hallmark of any new film entry. Time is of the essence. With only a limited amount of manageable hours in the day to watch each new film on the festival's line-up, the expectation of reasonable quality exists. Sundance is a ten-day film bonanza. Therefore, it is critically (no pun intended) important to present films that have an indelible quality. If a film critic is immersed by ten films a day, the necessity for impact-style cinema is crucial. This factor does not preclude the presence of any art house or non-dramatic films. It just reaffirms the fact that substantive judgments must be made, when determining which films deserve the spotlight. Inevitably, some films will be left out, mistakenly or intentionally.
      The beauty of Sundance is, in essence, synonymous with the beauty of discovery. This fact is quite vivid. 10,000 submissions are sent out to Sundance every year, but only about 120 feature films make the cut. As the technology to make a film—particularly an indie film—becomes less expensive and more accessible, the volume of submissions to the festival prodigiously rises. According to Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds, "business is a-boomin."  Consequently, the process of selection is daunting, as selectors must cull down this gigantic list of entries into a formidable array of movies. The festival undergoes an assembly line style selection process that begins with lower-level volunteers and contract employees who sign up to sift through the myriad submissions. Their job is to rank the films and then pass them onto a second tier of review; a programming associate, whose job it is, to screen hundreds of hours of film for the festival. These film-festival gatekeepers are instrumental in the review process, as their work influences the top decision makers—who ultimately, decree the final judgment. Thus, entry into Sundance is a significant accomplishment. The process of ferreting out which films will be screened during the festival's run is arduous. But film fans, such as myself, reap the glorious rewards, as many of the films spotlighted by Sundance go on to be some of the best movies of the year; truly diamonds in the rough.
      Like Crazy, a romantic drama from director Drake Doremus, has become the festival's hottest commodity thus far. After an intense bidding session, Paramount Pictures won the rights to the film for an estimated $4 million. If you are like me and do not consider this a paltry sum of money (Mike Tyson would probably scoff at this amount), then it is abundantly clear that Sundance has a negligibly robust impact on the film industry. From both a financial and artistic standpoint, Sundance is mightily instrumental to the medium. If you refuse to take my word for it, ask Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh, Darren Aronofsky, Christopher Nolan or Paul Thomas Anderson. If Sundance did not exist, many of these directors may still be toiling in obscurity; a sobering thought indeed. The greatest quality of Sundance is its relentlessly proficient mode of discovery: Reservoir Dogs, El Mariachi, Clerks, and Napoleon Dynamite represent just a few samples of the magically inventive work that Sundance spotlights. Well Sundance, I am shining the spotlight back on you. Undoubtedly, Sundance is a festival designed for the film-centric personality. Intentionally, Sundance is also a festival, where an unsuspecting film fan can uncover The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. If you do not believe me, just ask Morgan Spurlock.

Reservoir Dogs: The film that launched Quentin Tarantino's career and, according to Empire, is "The Greatest Independent Film of All-Time," first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival back in 1992.

Click this link for the Official Sundance Film Festival Website

*Also, below is a unique video documentation of ten days @ Sundance. I give my warmest thanks to the guys who made this video. Bravo.


  1. Sundance definitely is the cream of the crop. I would absolutely love to go. That's my dream really. Maybe I too will be there soon enough enjoying the film extravaganza in all its glory. I think I could die happy then lol.

  2. Bravo for your selection. Sundance is indubitably one of the most important events each year for film. I have not been either, although I long to go. I've been to the Chicago International Film Festival several times. Attending the various screenings and talking with industry people is a treat. I hope you get to Sundance next year. I would love to read about your experience.

  3. Lol yes it is JL!

    Who knows? If we both become bigger players in the film industry, Sundance will be our prime first stop.

    It is a mecca of independent film, and consequently, the medium. I think my biggest reason for wanting to go is the idea of witnessing a film gem before everyone else does. Just so I can go write about it and have some influence on who might go to see it. Plus, I would love to hobnob with all the key players in the industry!

  4. Melissa,

    Thanks for the encouragement. What I would give for a ten day stay in Park City, Utah right now? Well...let me just say the list is enormous, lol.

    That's awesome! I've read some literature about the Chicago festival before and it definitely is a distinguished place. Kudos!

  5. lovely post, dear Matty! What's also great is when some of these smaller independent films appear from nowhere and score box office success as well!

  6. I will go there one day! I know it!

  7. @ Dezmond

    Thanks Dez! Yes that is exactly what makes the world of independent filmmaking worth all the hard work. Plus, it is always a good practice to root for the underdog!

    @ Doo

    Nice! That's what I'm saying. Only, I expect you to report about your experience!

  8. amazing post Matty. Glad to see a mention of 127 hours as I not long agao watched that and thought it was amazing.

    I would love to go to the festival too, I love what it does for the film industry which your rightly pointed out in your post, really enjoyed the read

  9. Dempsey,

    Thanks for stopping by! You run a pretty awesome movie blog, so I'm delighted to make your acquaintance.

    127 Hours was spectacular cinema. It easily made my top ten list of the year. I will no doubt sing its praises to all my friends. If competition for Best Actor (Oscar) was not so intense, Franco would be a lock to win. At least he will get a well deserved nomination.

    For those of us who love film, Sundance is a must. Good luck to the both of us making it there one day (hopefully soon)!

  10. Hi Matt, glad you found my blog as now I've found yours :D I'd LOVE to go to Sundance one day, too, but it's rather far for me too as I'm in MN. I've only been to one film festival, which was TIFF back in 2005. I'd love to go back there one day also. I hope you make it there next year so I can live vicariously through you!

  11. That's awesome. I'd also love to go to TIFF!

    I have no problem with you living "vicariously" through me, if it means a trip to Sundance. I'll take all the good karma I can get. I will earnestly document the experience.

    Thanks for the support!

  12. I will for sure! If it ever happens! :)

  13. magnificent pointѕ altоgether,
    you simply ωon a nеw reader. What may you suggest in regaгds to yοur publish that you just made a few days in the past?
    Any сеrtain?

    Ηere is mу weblοg: same day payday loans
    Here is my website :: same day payday loans

  14. Wow, incrеdіble blog lауοut!
    How long haѵe yοu bеen blogging
    foг? yοu makе bloggіng look easy.
    Thе overall looκ of your web site is eхсellеnt,
    let alοne the сontent!
    My weblog ... payday loans online

  15. I gо to see dаy-to-dаy a few blogs and sites to гead articlеs, but this
    weblog gives feature based aгticles.
    My website > quick loans

  16. I blog frequently аnd I ѕeгіously thаnk you
    for your content. The aгtiсle has really рeaked my interest.

    І'm going to book mark your website and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.
    My blog - Loans for Bad Credit

  17. Ηi, i think thаt i saw you visited mу site
    thus i came to “retuгn thе favοr”.I am trying to find things to imρrove my
    website!I ѕupρose its οk
    to use ѕome οf yоur ideas!!
    My site :: instant payday loans

  18. nаtuгally lіκe yοur webѕіte hоωevеr уоu nееԁ to
    test the sрelling οn seveгal of уouг pοstѕ.
    Several of thеm aгe rifе with ѕpеlling
    іssues anԁ І find іt vеry troublesοme to inform thе reality οn thе other hand I'll definitely come back again.
    Also see my page - unsecured loans for bad credit

  19. Thiѕ іs νeгу intеrestіng,
    Үοu're a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I'vе shaгed
    yοur ωеbsitе in my sοcial netωorkѕ!
    my page ::

  20. Heуa і'm for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and aid others like you helped me.
    Also visit my web-site :: payday loans

  21. Generаlly I dоn't learn article on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, quite great article.
    Feel free to surf my webpage ... same day loans

  22. What's up Dear, are you truly visiting this web page regularly, if so after that you will definitely obtain pleasant knowledge.

    Also visit my web-site :: New Bingo Sites