We are writing this column from Park City, Utah in the middle of Sundance Film Festival‘s 30thanniversary. Sundance remains the single most important film festival in North America. Its dedication to independent film making has remained the core mission that Robert Redford first proclaimed 30 years ago when it was a small festival in a ski-centric liberal Mormon community, a half hour outside Salt Lake City. Both the City, which later hosted the Winter Olympics, and the Festival have grown enormously since that first year.
This year, a total of 12,218 submissions were made for consideration from 37 countries and the final program includes 123 feature films, 66 shorts, 100 premiers, 54 first time filmmakers with 9 Park City Theaters and 1,825 (1200 retiring) volunteers. The Sundance Institute is a full-time program and sponsors the Festival. During the year, it conducts labs for filmmakers that include director, script, producing, theater, native, new technology and composing to help a filmmaker realize the fullest potential of their individual storytelling.
Redford remains very visible and the new Executive Director John Cooper, Programing chief Trevor Groth,and New Frontiers principle curator Shari Frilot have their aesthetic fingerprints over all the choices. The Festival is a film lovers’ version of a dream vacation meshed with some of the best skiing slops in the world.
I will review many of the films as they become available in theaters or as video on demand. However, I do want to tell you about some of our local filmmakers who live in Westview News community.
Ira Sacks, a SundanceGrand Jury prize winner, returns with an authentic look at Greenwich Village and the people who have been living here for some time. Love Is Strange is a wonderful look at a small community of Village friends and what happens when two of them, two senior gay men, marry after 38 years of living together (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina). Disaster results. One loses his Catholic school music director job and the loss of income forces the couple to leave their apartment. The friends come to the rescue and offer to put them up until they find new quarters. Marisa Tomei (brought up in the Village) sizzles as the successful author who invites Lithgow to share a bunk bed bedroom with her 14 year old son who wants his privacy. It is a smart comedy with serious undertones and for me, at least, it seems the characters could be people who live in my building on Waverly Place.
Thomas Allen Harris has been working for 10 years on a documentary and interactive installation on the history of black photography in the US. Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photography and the Emergence of a Peopleisan important historical uncovering of the work of black photographers. Allen combines the film with an interactive project of documentation titled One World Family. I certainly learned about images suppressed or forgotten. It documents history that for the most part has been hidden and in a smart way, asks and answers the question: does it matter whose fingers hold the camera and takes the shot?
Sam Greene,last at Sundance with the documentary The Weather Underground, returns with a New Frontiers project, The Measure of All Things, based on the old Guinness Book of World Record. His attempt to bring empathy back into the digital world of film-making has him combining live performance including musicians (Ymusic) and human narration. Greene reminded us that you cannot google nor iTunes nor Netflix his film and live performance. It will tour.
Returning filmmaker Madeleine Olnek brings her Woody Allen wit meshed with John Waters outrageous to The Foxy Merkins, an adult fairy tale of two hookers; one is a lesbian, Lisa Hass, and one straight, Jackie Monahan. It portrays how they bond to face homelessness and an increasingly economically difficult world in which they live. Hilarious and at the same time quite serious in its critique of contemporary culture. Hass is a force of nature and one of the bravest actors at Sundance. TheFoxy Merkins is a very, very funny movie,
Sundance has always been a place to discover fresh new talent. Rising to the top of the class of 2014 is Brooklyn first-time feature director Desiree Akhavan with her first feature Appropriate Behavior.Set in the new Greenwich Village of Williamsburg and Bushwick, Akhavan, who wrote, directed and plays the lead, turns a laser beam sharp lens on the new hipster culture in search of authentic identity in a sea of theory vs. practice. Her web series Slopewas funny and about the same generation. In Appropriate Behavior,she digs deeper and hits the lodestone of fashionable transgression and wears it like a new perfume stinking up the room
There were, of course, more New Yorkers showing their work at Sundance but these are five that stuck with me.
LET’S GO TO THE MOVIES!
Generation War dir Philipp Kadelbach
Repressed memory allows people to be silent about the trauma of their life. We have seen in numerous movies how Holocaust survivors, people who lived through the AIDS Plague and The supporters of Allende for example all shut down for a generation or two as if it never happened to them, as the lived through a historical moment. Generation Warwasa three part miniseries made for German TV (shown here in theaters in two parts) that begins to ask the question, ‘Just what did you do during the Hitler years?’
We meet five close friends in Berlin in the late thirties and see how their lives were impacted. Ordinary German citizens, two are brothers, a young woman secretly in love with one of the brothers, a singer with her heart set on becoming a star, and a Jew involved with the Aryan singer. The brothers join the Army, the singer takes up with a married Nazi office, and the Jew flees, leaving and losing his entire family. Around them, the Nazis begin their ethnic cleansing, the brothers go to fight in Russia, the singer becomes a star, the lovesick woman a nurse on the front, and the Jew sneaks back in. What is revealed is just how insidious Nazi-thinking was and the coming to terms with the Germans losing the war. Generation War is a complex and provocative, breaking the silence on what the role grandparents played.
Charlie Victor Romeo in 3D co-Directed by Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels, and Karlyn Michelson
Originally an Off-Broadway theater piece, this exciting cockpit story of a plane and its crew in trouble has a script based on black box recordings of planes in trouble. While it may be any air traveler’s worse nightmare, it should not be missed. The company consists of the original actors and they are just terrific. Storytelling at its best, and yes, it will make you hold on to your seat.
Gloriadir Sebastián Lelio (Chile)
In her bestselling book The Female Brain, neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, M.D lays out the five stages of the female brain and how hormonally driven a woman fulfils the genetics of her body. Gloria focuses on the final 5thstage.
When a woman has passed through the previous four, she arrives, where in a self-nurturing, selfish way she puts her needs above all the other roles her body has thrust herself into. Gloria, as played by Chilean actress Paulina Garcia, has been divorced 13 years, her child is an adult, she has a good full time job, and is somewhere in her late 50s. Still attractive and wanting a man in her life to at least play with, she goes out hunting in all the usual places middle age people go to see what is available in Santiago. She is of the generation who did nothing during the years of the Pinochet administration. This is not a political drama. It is a glorious look at a woman who is unwilling to fade into the shadows as she ages and feels good about her life. Garcia is fearless in her performance including allowing her well-kept but middle age body be full frontal. It is a romance film like no other around. Women should flock to it. Men, if they are smart, will too.
Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq dir Nancy Buirski
Nancy Buirski follows up her award-winning The Loving Story with this sensitive documentary about the prima ballerina wife of George Balanchine. It is a portrait of a dancer and wife who, at 27, has an accident which prevents her from ever dancing again. Tanaquil le Clercq has to figure out who she is both in the world and in particular to her husband. To her credit, the director, does not allow the larger than life George Balanchine and his world to suck up the screen. When a dancer can no longer dance, particularly at the peak of her career, her whole identity is challenged. This lovely work looks at how she adjusts or doesn’t. For any high art viewer, it is also an intimate look at the world of dance when Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, Tanaquil’s best friend, ruled. Maintaining a respectful tone, Buirski allows us to see a nuanced world of art and personal drama
More reviews: http://jimfourattsreeldeal.blogspot.com .
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