Tag Archives: Sundance 2019

Sundance 2019: Day 13

Sundance 2019: Risk Independence

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 22nd to February 3rd.

Festival Day 11

Happy to say that not overindulging last night made getting up to pack at 8:00am much less painful than last year. Nevertheless, the work and play and disrupted sleep and eating schedules of the past two weeks are all finally catching up with me. My roomie Bryan and I were able to get out by 10:00am but didn’t spot our other housemate Chad. I’d barely seen him during the festival but assume he got out okay.

Bryan was staying one more night with friends at a different Park City condo, so we said goodbye somewhere on Empire Avenue with him hauling his luggage through the freshly fallen snow, and me on my way to HQ for one last goodbye. I spent about 15 minutes having a chat with Bobby and it was sobering to see the Artist Relations office almost completely taken down. We sat with a few of the rest of the team and just chatted before I made my goodbyes. Hoping to work with everyone again next year.

I had the idea to use the last of my “grub stubs” at the Grub Steak’s salad bar but discovered it was closed on weekends for lunch. And I was too early (11:30am) to grab some last slices at Este Pizza, too, which didn’t open until noon. I wanted to get to the Holiday Village cinemas by then to grab a volunteer ticket for The Sharks which won the World Cinema Jury Award for Best Direction. This small Uruguayan film turned out to be my favourite of the festival. 14-year-old tomboy Rosina lives in a beach town and works with her Dad doing landscaping. One day she spots what she thinks might be a shark in the ocean near home, and soon rumours are swirling that there are sharks offshore. This hinted but unseen danger makes a great background for Rosina’s own budding attraction to her co-worker Joselo, who seems uninterested. A series of actions that seem halfway between cries for attention and cruel pranks leads Rosina to a final act that leaves her walking toward the camera and flashing her first and only smile. It’s a really assured debut from Lucia Garibaldi, and I hope more people get to see it.

After that, I grabbed some lunch at Fresh Market with my grub stub (chicken tenders and potato wedges) before heading to the Prospector to see The Infiltrators, a documentary-fiction hybrid that won two awards: Audience Award for the NEXT programme, as well as the NEXT Innovator Award. I enjoyed this one a lot, too, which features activists breaking INTO an immigration detention facility in order to try to get detainees scheduled for deportation freed. The hybrid form is a little unwieldy in places, but overall it adds urgency and tension to an issue that most of us know little about.

At the shuttle stop afterward, a woman was attempting to engage people to see what they thought. When I said I liked the film, she started talking about the need for people to obey the law and not jump the (immigration) line, etc. so I sort of tuned her out. It’s a huge issue but the film is clearly focused on people who have done nothing illegal and who are being unfairly detained. Hopefully it gets a wide viewing, particularly among young people, who will be inspired by the youth of the activists portrayed.

The film ended around 5:00pm and was followed by a short Q&A with one of the producers, who was generous enough to stick around so long, but it made getting back to the Park City Mountain Resort to pick up my luggage a bit of a race.

I was scheduled for a 6:00pm shuttle pickup with Susan, and then she was early. It had also started snowing again. I got a shuttle back to the Fresh Market stop but was waiting a while for the connecting one back to the condo, so I walked, only to be passed by two busses just a few minutes from home. Then I got a message that Susan had gone on to HQ to pick up more people and would come back. I had to wait outside and had a bit of trouble finding her, but soon we were on our way to Salt Lake City.

Another volunteer named James (whom I had met last year and who I bumped into a lot over the past few days) was in the seat right behind me, but nobody really talked much. We were all exhausted by this point and looking forward to our flights, or in my case, a quiet night at an AirBnB. For me, it’s off to LA for some much-needed sunshine and time and space to plan our upcoming screening season!

Sundance 2019: Day 12

Artist Relations Colleagues - Sundance 2019
Colleagues from Artist Relations: Bobby, Hester, Fabiola, and Doug

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 22nd to February 3rd.

Festival Day 10

I slept very late today since I wasn’t going to be seeing any films. We were advised to make ourselves available for the whole day to prepare for the Awards Ceremony but Bobby told me I wasn’t really needed in the office until 3:30pm. I went in for 12:30pm just to be on the safe side, but things were very quiet.

We all piled into four cars around 4:00pm and headed for the Basin Amphitheatre in Kimball Junction, the site of the awards ceremony ever since I started volunteering in 2015. There wasn’t a lot for me to do, just be ready to greet filmmakers at the entrance.

About half of our teams had already gone home, but I was able to greet filmmakers from a few of our films, including Adalmadrina, Birds in the Earth, Fast Horse, Docking, Muteum, Those Bad Things, and a few more.

The only other job I had was to clear chairs after the awards were finished around 9:15pm, and then we were free to enjoy the party. I met up with my friend Mike Lane from Toronto, and hung out a bit with him, and with Bobby, and with a few of my other Artist Relations colleagues, but I was ready to go home by about 12:30am. It had started to snow again and I didn’t want to get caught in a snowstorm, especially when everyone else was leaving.

Tomorrow I need to be out of my lodging by 10:00am and I haven’t even packed yet. I might try to see some of the award winners, which screen at several venues tomorrow, but I have a shuttle ride back to Salt Lake City at either 3:00pm or 6:00pm, depending on which one has room.

I had fun this year, but the general consensus is that the films weren’t as strong as in 2018, and overall I just didn’t connect with as many people. I’m still interested in coming back next year, and I’m sure upon reflection I’ll find lots to love about Sundance 2019.

Sundance 2019: Day 11

To The Stars Q&A - Sundance 2019
To The Stars Q&A. Director Martha Stevens is at far right.

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 22nd to February 3rd.

Festival Day 9

Another hour in the office this morning, and then off to the enormous Eccles Theatre to see To The Stars, a rural 50s story about two misfit young women. Great performances, really nice black and white cinematography, and an excellent score. There were some touches that made it feel like an old-fashioned melodrama, but it had a sweetness and a love for its characters that made it really enjoyable. And nice to see young Kara Hayward in something. Moonrise Kingdom seems so long ago now.

I met up with my Toronto friend Mike Lane at the screening. Remarkable because Mike doesn’t own a smart phone and we’d tried to arrange our meeting by email. But when I got to the Eccles, the largest cinema at Sundance, it was impossible to spot him, thanks in part to my diminished eyesight. I sat in the middle of a row but happily there was a free seat in the row in front of me, and he somehow found it. After the film, we walked back toward HQ and had lunch at Este Pizza. It was nice to hear how his festival has been.

I put in another couple of hours at the office but found myself getting sleepy. I’d originally planned to see Greener Grass at the Ray and then try to stick around and get a ticket to Blinded by the Light which was playing next, but I decided to come home for a nap and then get into the volunteer ticket line early so I didn’t miss Blinded by the Light, which a few of my colleagues had recommended.

It’s a very frothy crowd-pleaser about an English Pakistani kid in the 80s who discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen. Despite some downright silly moments, it was hard to resist. A feel-good movie was just what I needed at this stage of the festival. The film let out at 11:30pm and I just stopped at Fresh Market on the way home for some snacks.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the last full day of Sundance 2019. I don’t need to be in the office until 3:30pm when we’ll be heading over to work the awards ceremony and party. If I’m keen, I’ll get up early and try to see a film, but I wouldn’t bet on it. 🙂

Sundance 2019: Day 10

Carla Patullo - Sundance Talent Forum Closing Party 2019
Carla Patullo performs at the Talent Forum Closing Party

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 22nd to February 3rd.

Festival Day 8

Another very quiet day in the office which allowed me to see two films. At noon, there was a volunteer screening of Penny Lane’s documentary Hail Satan?, which was an excellent examination of the rise of The Satanic Temple, which turns out to be a much more political organization than you might think. The film explores issues of religious liberty, the separation of church and state, the nature of organized religion, and even the limits of anarchy and resistance. All with a generous helping of (forgive me) black humour.

Then at 5:45pm, I was able to catch This Is Not Berlin at the Library Theatre, an enjoyable 80s-set coming-of-age story. Director Hari Sama explained that it was a semi-autobiographical look at his early exposure to the art and music scenes of Mexico City. This one had a killer soundtrack, too.

I was conveniently nearby The Shop, an events venue that was hosting the closing night party for the Sundance Talent Forum. I was determined to attend to see my friend Carla Patullo perform. I met Carla back in 2015 at the Scruffy City Film and Music Festival in Knoxville, where she was attending with her film Cinderella, a Shadow Ballet. Last year after Sundance, I stayed with her and her partner Elizabeth in Los Angeles for a few days. It was great to see both of them here in Park City, and to catch up on how they’re doing. Carla is just finishing a feature score for a film which will premiere in a few weeks at SXSW.

I ended up running into lots of people I knew at the party, including the filmmakers from Adalmadrina (Pepe, Carlota, and Oriol), my friend from Toronto Grant Cermak (15 year Sundance volunteer), and Natacha, a Slamdance programmer I have bumped into several times this year. I also had good chats with longtime Artist Relations volunteer Hayley and my US shorts counterpart Angelo. Bobby was there for a while, too, and invited me to join him later at the Park Avenue hotel bar, where the shorts programmers were gathering with some of our filmmakers.

That began at 11pm, and I think I stayed just over an hour. We said goodbye to the team from Brotherhood and I had a good conversation with producer Maria Gracia Turgeon, who also produced the Oscar-nominated Fauve. She was saying she was disappointed she couldn’t go to Clermont-Ferrand this year, but that it was because she had to be at the Oscar nominees’ luncheon, which didn’t sound too terrible. She’s having a very good year. We also said goodbye to Gregorio Rodríguez, the producer of End, who’s returning to the Dominican Republic.

A busy and social day, and I realize how close to the end of the festival we are now. I’m going to try to see as many films as I can over the next few days, but we’ll also be preparing for the Awards Ceremony and party on Saturday night.

Sundance 2019: Day 9

Sundance 2019 Puppy Day
Artist Relations Manager Tony Coppola gets some puppy love

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival from January 22nd to February 3rd.

Festival Day 7

Slept in today, as might be expected, and didn’t get into the office until just before noon. Nothing really happening, but today was “Puppy Day” so Bobby and I piled into a car with Artist Relations Manager Tony, along with jury liaison Alyssa and her volunteer Megan (who works year-round in the advancement department at TIFF!) and we drove over to somewhere near the Library Theatre. A rescue organization had brought three adorable pups for festival staff and volunteers to cuddle. There was a lot of oohing and ahhing and passing the puppies around. Two of them seemed to just want to sleep but one was lively, and they all were remarkably tolerant of all the handling and attention. It was a great bit of therapy for all of our tired souls.

Other than that, things were pretty dead, so I left at 4:00pm for a bite at Burger King (used one more of my “grub stubs”) and then got a volunteer ticket to see State of the Union at the Park Avenue cinema. It’s a unique ten-part series (each episode is ten minutes long) that will eventually air on the Sundance Channel. Directed by Stephen Frears and written by Nick Hornby, it’s a smart and funny look at a couple meeting up each week ahead of their marriage counselling sessions. Chris O’Dowd is schlubby but likeable, while Rosamund Pike is the bored one who has a brief affair after her husband stops having sex with her. It’s quirky and poignant and for someone like me, it often hits pretty close to home. Sadly, there was no Q&A since none of the talent were here.

I was considering going to the Volunteer Appreciation party down on Main Street, but opted instead to come back to the condo and just relax. I need more rest and “alone time” to prepare me for a few days of film-watching. Plus we have the final Awards Ceremony on Saturday, so now is the best time to catch up on my sleep.