Sundance 2016: Day 7

Complete Unknown - Sundance Film Festival 2016

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 19th to 31st.

Festival Day 5

Forgot to set my alarm last night and was just lucky to wake up at 6:20am on my own. I was definitely a little worse for wear this morning at the Film Office. My shift was from 8:00am to noon, and I got to check in our last two film teams, so that tied a bow on things. At noon, I was able to walk over to the Blind Dog restaurant for the Telefilm Canada lunch. I ate a couple of small ham and cheese sandwiches and had a glass of Chardonnay. I talked to the director of Mobilize, a mesmerizing short film created from NFB archival film. She was flying home right after lunch, so it was good to make that connection. And I got to spend some quality time with Danny Lennon, the Short Film Pope of Quebec. Seriously, though, Danny has been a great supporter of Shorts That Are Not Pants and of me personally. He sort of (jokingly?) offered to become my agent so that I can find more paid festival work. He certainly has the experience and the network. I got to enjoy his deadpan sense of humour, too.

I also got to chat briefly with Shane Smith, Hot Docs’ new director of programming, and The Chickening co-director Nick DenBoer. I saw Don McKellar briefly but didn’t say hello. He’d been in the Film Office just before noon asking if he could store his luggage for a few hours. International Shorts category volunteer Celine had been joking around with him all weekend and so she gladly took possession of his bags, while I warned Don to put a lock on them or he might find his underwear missing.

After lunch, I saw my second film of the festival, or I should say films. Shorts Program 3 at the Yarrow featured a few great comedies, including How To Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps and Her Friend Adam. It also featured Kasia Gondek’s Figure, a sort of remix of her 2014 film The Supreme which we screened at Hot Docs. I met her that year and it’s been nice to reconnect with her and her editor Kasia Szczerba (who was also here last year with Object). Hopefully we can spend more time together as the festival slows down.

I headed home for a nap, intending to eat a proper dinner later, but I ended up meeting up with Jackie and lining up for a volunteer ticket for Complete Unknown at the massive Eccles Theatre. It was my first time seeing a film there, and this high school auditorium (really!) is Sundance’s largest venue and home to all the big premieres.

The film itself left me with mixed feelings. Michael Shannon (that’s him in the camel hair coat on the left in the picture) and Rachel Weisz are both good, as are all the supporting cast, but the story of a woman who constantly reinvents her identity didn’t quite know what tone it wanted to strike. The funny parts were very funny (especially the extended scene with Kathy Bates and Danny Glover) but overall the story needed more weight to develop the unease that the premise begins with.

Home to bed by just after midnight, after a good long chat with my roommate Joel. He’s the category volunteer for Premieres and it’s his first Sundance. He’s from Australia and works at the Melbourne International Film Festival. We’ve not crossed paths too much at work, but he’s been a great roommate and we’ve had several long talks whenever we’re at home.

Tomorrow I’m back in the Film Office at 8:00am until noon. I have the afternoon free but then it’s the Shorts Awards and Party in the evening, which I’m really looking forward to. Last year it was a great party and I really got to talk to the filmmakers in an environment where everyone’s not so stressed out.

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