This year’s Sundance Film Festival began with Founder/President Robert Redford addressing a large crowd at a press conference held at Park City, Utah’s Egyptian Theatre. He spoke about an inevitable change in the film industry and how Sundance would take advantage of the opportunities created as a result. “When you think of art, in this case film, you can look at it as a vehicle for change, because of its diversity,” he explained. “So as change comes, what we have done is to accommodate it.” Redford went on to say that as long as Sundance stays adaptable, it will keep its original purpose to support, develop and promote new voices in film.
The new films and filmmakers that graced Salt Lake City and Park City theaters for Sundance 2013 prove that Redford is fulfilling his promise. Korean Director Park Chan-wook came to the Festival with his first English-language film Stoker, starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver and Nicole Kidman. After a morning screening at the Ellen Eccles Theatre, the stars of the film took turns praising the celebrated director. “It’s wonderful when you come in and the director has such a strong vision,” said Kidman. “You go, ‘I can relax because I’m going to be able to show up, and I’ve got to do all my character work,’ but ultimately he knows exactly what he wants,” said Kidman. “He makes you feel like he’s got you by the hand and it’s going to be fine, and that’s a wonderful feeling as an actor because you’re able to then help color in his palette.” Goode added, “He’s a bit of a genius really. As an Englishman, you’re not thinking you’re going to get to work with a Korean master.” Since Chan-wook doesn’t yet speak English, he directed the production through an interpreter. At the Festival, he conveyed the foundation of his cinematic style, adding that his success comes from working with talented actors: “Communicating with the actors to find out what their thoughts were, listening to them, and trying to reflect this back into the script, back into the storyboards, this ultimately involves how the film is visualized, how the sound scape is created.”
The cast and crew from Lovelace were on hand after the screening to field questions from the audience. Co-directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and starring Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard, Lovelace is the true story of Linda “Lovelace” Boreman who became world famous as an international porn star only to spend the rest of her life struggling to redefine herself. “We really wanted to find a story structure that could somehow convey her psychological state at those different junctures of her life,” said Friedman. “That is what really excited us in terms of what the film might have to say and how we might try to tell it.”
Filmmakers Logan and Noah Miller screened their Western Sweetwater, a story that pits a fanatical preacher (played by Jason Isaacs) against a former prostitute (January Jones) and an eccentric sheriff (Ed Harris). Set in New Mexico territory in the late 1800s, the film was wonderfully photographed by Cinematographer Brad Shield. Logan Miller was grateful when speaking with pleased audiences after the screening: “Thank you everyone at Sundance for honoring and believing in the film.”
Writer/Actor Patrick Daniels attended a screening for his 3D film Charlie Victor Romeo. Derived from the black-box transcripts of six major airline emergencies, the film illustrates the tension-filled cockpits of actual flights in distress. “Since we’ve got invited to [Sundance], I’ve never had people that are more motivated and willing to help,” said Daniels, adding that this was his first time at the Festival. “It’s a dream come true to actually be a part of this.”
The documentary Fire in the Blood took five and a half years to make while filming in eight countries on four continents. Directed by Dylan Mohan Grey, the doc explores how medicine is withheld from developing countries. “People are dying as a result of it,” said Mohan Grey. “I do think that people in this country are very interested in debates where human rights intersect. I think the audiences have been very responsive as well.” While the film has been shown in other foreign countries, Sundance provided its first screening in the U.S.
When Redford learned of the film The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, about a guy who falls for a woman claimed by a violent crime boss, he had Sundance contact its producer Craig J. Flores. “Sundance reached out to us and asked for a screener,” said Flores at the Festival. “They watched it right away and loved it.” Flores was also pleased with the film’s debut at Sundance. “The audience had a phenomenal reaction. They were laughing at scenes I didn’t think would get a laugh. They were totally engaged in the movie and [Shia LaBeouf’s] performance and this sort of ramped-up journey that he is on, trying to come to the heart of Evan Rachel Wood’s character. I thought to myself, ‘These guys are really getting it.’”
Cinematographer Kenny Stoff enjoyed a great Sundance experience after working on Sound City, a music industry documentary directed by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. “[Our film] had a huge response,” said Stoff. “It’s great to see that everyone loved it, they want to buy it and they want to show it to their friends. So that’s the greatest feeling in the world.” The documentary aims to help resurrect the rapidly vanishing human touch behind today’s creation of music. The actual Sound City was a well-known recording studio that was tucked away behind train tracks and dilapidated warehouses in Van Nuys, Calif. Stoff reported that he really enjoyed working with first-time director Grohl. “It was incredible,” he said. “That’s the secret to good moviemaking: collaborating with talented people. That’s what he did. His crew and my crew, the film world and music world came together beautifully, and we all worked together and made it happen.”
Director Zhao Qi was delighted to have a large audience see his documentary Fallen City at Sundance. “You can only imagine how grateful and how joyful I [am],” said Zhao. “This is something I never see in China because very few documentaries … [can] be shown in cinemas.” Focusing on the 2008 earthquake in China that utterly destroyed the entire city of Beichuan and took thousands of lives, Fallen City documents the struggle to rebuild the city amidst the ruin.
Director Jenni Toivoniemi traveled from Finland to show her short comedy The Date (Treffit), the story of a teenage boy who must host a date for his family’s stud cat Diablo. “The crowd liked it [and] people started laughing,” said Toivoniemi after the screening. “The American audiences are so much more open with their reactions then the Finnish ones.”
Co-directors Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier and their talent also traveled from far away to attend Sundance. Their documentary The Moo Man is about a family of organic dairy farmers who are resistant to corporate big business. “We know how difficult it is to get into Sundance,” said Heathcote, who jetted in from southern England. “So we said, ‘We’re really low on cash right now so instead of going out to dinner, let’s take the 70 pounds and apply to Sundance.’” He now reports that as the best investment he ever made, as The Moo Man is now receiving significant attention.
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