Tag Archives: Sundance 2016

Sundance 2016: Day 13

Sundance Film Festival 2016

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

Festival Day 11

I’d been starting to feel reasonably human last night and that was fortunate since we were being tossed out of our lodgings at 10:00am this morning. Joel and Eric and I crammed our stuff into an Uber and rode back to HQ, where I stored my bag for the day. Lots of screenings of award-winners today and I wasn’t sure how busy things would be. I had a ride arranged to Salt Lake City for 8:00pm so I really had nothing else to do but see films today, and luckily I was feeling well enough to tackle it. I’m glad.

I began my day at the Yarrow Theatre, with an 11:00am screening of The Lure. This Polish musical featured two mermaid sisters who join a very odd cabaret show, with tragic results. Bags of style and the music was great. It may be the most visually gorgeous film I saw this year, too. I hope this one gets some sort of release in North America.

It was easy to just stay at the Yarrow, and I was happy that the 2:00pm screening was of Penny Lane’s animated documentary Nuts!. I’d met Penny back in 2014 at Hot Docs when she brought her last film Our Nixon and so I knew she’d approach her story creatively. And what a story! Dr. J.R. Brinkley was a pioneer of alternative medicine and of radio, and one of the savviest marketers in history. He made his name with an impotence cure that involved transplanting goat testicles into men, with seemingly remarkable results. It’s an amazing, funny, and ultimately very American story. Highly recommended!

After my lost day yesterday, I thought I’d missed my chance to see the Daniels’ Swiss Army Man but luckily their win for Best Direction in the US Dramatic category meant they’d get another screening, and that made me very happy. I ended my Sundance with the farting corpse of Daniel Radcliffe, and I laughed and cried in equal measure. If you can get past the rather crude setup, this first feature from the visually inventive team of Daniel Kwon and Daniel Scheinert is a plea for us to examine the things that separate us from each other. Paul Dano’s depressed character needs to form a relationship with a dead guy (Radcliffe) to see what it means to be human, and alive. Audacious and wears its heart (and its fart) on its sleeve. Sure, this isn’t for everyone (what film is?), but if you’ve seen their previous work (and especially Interesting Ball, which we showed you in 2015), you’ll get this, and hopefully love it as much as I did.

This 6:00pm screening at the Library got out just after 7:35pm, and although Daniel Kwon was there to do a Q&A (bless him, on the last day of a very long festival), I had to hurry back to HQ so as not to miss my ride. I never got to meet him, though I did briefly chat with his fiancée Kirsten Lepore, whose incredible stop-motion film Bottle we just showed a few weeks back. Maybe I’ll be brave and try to get in touch with them when I’m in LA.

Being out all day meant that I didn’t get a chance to dose up on Theraflu again and so the ride back to Salt Lake City found me sounding worse and worse and starting to feel feverish again. Susan, a local from SLC and first-time volunteer, had driven fellow volunteers from the airport at the beginning of the festival and made the same offer now to drive people back. She was nice enough to drop me at my AirBnB. I have two more nights in SLC before flying out to LA on Tuesday.

I felt like a horror film character as I met my hosts, who quickly boiled me up some water for my Theraflu. So my Sundance concluded with a bang (great films today) AND a whimper (still sick).

Sundance 2016: Day 12

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

Festival Day 10

This will be a weird entry. I tossed and turned all night, feeling ever sicker. I had the scariest fever dreams, and when I “woke” at 10:30am, I realized I’d be too sick to work the Awards Ceremony and Party later in the day. I tried to compose an email to Kevin, Courtney (Assistant Manager of the Film Office) and Kir (Manager of the Film Office) but I must have dozed off while writing it. I next woke at 3:00pm and texted Kevin that I was really sick and to check his email. He texted back that he hadn’t received anything. Very surreal. But I was disappointed that I couldn’t be at the final party, both because I felt like I was letting the team down and because I was going to miss the last chance to party and say goodbye to my colleagues.

I spent the entire day in bed. Luckily I’d bought some Theraflu the night before and took some of that along with ibuprofen when I was lucid enough to get out of bed. There were some hours where I was in a weird sleep-waking state where I was terrified I might die, alone and forgotten in my little twin bed in some basement in Park City.

I was awake enough in the evening to try to watch the Awards Ceremony live stream, but technical problems quickly killed that plan, and so I was reduced to following along on Twitter.

A truly miserable day.

Sundance 2016: Day 11

Freedy Johnston - Sundance Film Festival 2016

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

Festival Day 9

We’re in the home stretch now. My last early shift at the Film Office ran from 8:00am until noon. I met Jackie (whom I feel I haven’t seen in a couple of days) for lunch just after 1:00pm at Red Banjo on Main Street. I had ravioli and garlic bread, which was a (very) small change from all the pizza I’ve been eating. Then we wandered down to the bottom of Main to the ASCAP Music Cafe, where we saw three sets: Genevieve (sort of twee hippie folk), Freedy Johnston (a semi-legendary “songwriter’s songwriter”) whom I wanted to see, and Sibling, a fairly new indie pop band whom Jackie knew about and loved. We left just before 4:00pm and headed to our separate lodgings. She leaves tomorrow, while I’m here in Park City until Sunday.

I had been starting to feel sickly as early as last night, but the aches and pains and coughing and general lousiness caught up to me today, so I slept for two hours and skipped a film I had a ticket for (The Fundamentals of Caring with Paul Rudd). I hadn’t even really wanted to see it, but director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed, Jurassic World) turned it in at the Film Office for whomever could use it. It’s not even his film, but I expect because of the cast it will come out theatrically at some point, so I’m not worried about missing the screening.

I did head out to Redstone pretty early, though, to get a volunteer ticket for my friend Robert Greene’s new film Kate Plays Christine. Before the film, I used my last “grub stub” at Red Rock Brewery to enjoy a hearty burger and mashed potatoes. Even as I felt myself getting sicker, I knew I should have a good meal.

Kate Plays Christine is another examination of performance a bit similar to his previous film Actress, and features Kate Lyn Sheil preparing to play Christine Chubbock, a television journalist in 1970s Sarasota who became the first person to commit suicide live on air. It’s an intense film at times, as it examines our morbid need to see horrors like this at the expense of valuing ordinary life.

Despite feeling ever-lousier, I gave Robert a quick hug after the screening. Hopefully I haven’t passed along this sickness! Redstone is far and isolated at the best of times, and coming out of the cinema after midnight was a bit scary, but I did somehow find my way onto the right shuttle. I got to bed sometime after 1:00am, after drinking a mug of Theraflu.

Sundance 2016: Day 10

Brent Kiser - Sundance Film Festival 2016

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

Festival Day 8

Another long and quiet shift in the Film Office, from 8:00am until around 1:00, when I left to attend a panel at the New Frontier Gateway venue downtown. It featured the DANIELS (Daniel Kwon and Daniel Scheinert) along with their sound designer Brent Kiser (who looked like a hipster guru, resplendent in his beanie and poncho!). For 90 minutes, they discussed their approach to the sound design and the score of their film Swiss Army Man which I’m trying to see on Saturday morning. They showed several clips and it was pretty enlightening. Some of the audience weren’t thrilled with the amount of time devoted to discussing how best to record farts, though. I couldn’t help but tweet some of the surreal discussion:

Sound Panel - Sundance Film Festival 2016

I had plans to see Polish mermaid musical The Lure afterward but the journey to Redstone Cinemas seemed daunting and my energy on this particular day was very low, so I opted to nap and recharge my batteries for a few hours. Good decision. I did walk from my lodging to the Library Theatre for a 9:00pm screening of Tickled, an utterly bonkers documentary from New Zealand. What starts as an investigation into “competitive endurance tickling” videos online turns into a creepy and ultimately scary exposé of a pretty disturbing individual. Director David Farrier was present for a Q&A, and seemed both amused and stressed when someone told him that one of the film’s antagonists was present in the screening taking copious notes. The presence of three police officers to escort the director also added a sinister element to the evening.

I just enjoyed a brisk walk home afterwards, and listened to some music before bed. This introvert desperately needed this day to recharge his batteries, so I didn’t feel bad about skipping movies. Just a couple of days left!

Sundance 2016: Day 9

Shorts Award Winers - Sundance Film Festival 2016

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

Festival Day 7

I got to sleep in until almost 9:00am this morning, and surprisingly had no hint of a hangover. My Film Office shift was 10:30am until 4:00pm, and there were a few small crises to sort out, which kept things interesting.

I was very happy to be able to get a ticket for the Shorts Award Winners screening at the Yarrow at 6:00pm. I sat in the row right in front of the reserved section and before the film started I felt a pair of hands grabbing my shoulders. It was Thunder Road director Jim Cummings (far right in the photo), who’s been remarkably nice to me the entire festival. I was happy for him and his team for their Grand Jury Prize win, and it was even more satisfying once I actually saw the film. It’s just an extended take of a police officer breaking down while delivering the eulogy at his mother’s funeral, but Cummings blends awkward humour and naked grief in a really unique way. He mentioned during the Q&A how people laughed constantly at the first screening, but in the context of this lineup, the audience were able to absorb the sadness a little more. I can’t wait to show this in Toronto!

All of the films in the lineup really shone, and even ones I’d seen before seemed to resonate more. Maïmouna Doucour√©’s Maman(s) really hit me hard emotionally on second viewing in an unexpected way. It’s the story of an 8-year-old girl whose father returns to France after an extended absence in Senegal with a second wife and a baby, whom he moves into the family’s small apartment. She tries to fix the situation the only way she knows how. It’s all seen through her young and unknowing eyes, and features some great music, too.

The selection also featured less serious fare. Calvin Lee Reeder’s The Procedure is only four minutes long but I think I laughed for at least another four minutes into the next film. Unforgettable.

Also: great bit of serendipity. I had an empty seat next to me and the guy who eventually sat in it started chatting with me. He programs for the Key West Film Festival and we talked about Art House Convergence and the Facebook group for Film Festival Organizers. Neither of us had a business card so I asked if I could friend him on Facebook. And then I noticed that he had already sent me a friend request some time ago. I didn’t know who he was then, so I didn’t respond. What are the chances of us sitting next to each other like that? In any case, Quincy Perkins and I are now friends!

None of the other films showing later in the evening appealed to me so I stopped in at the Volunteer Appreciation Party that was being held at the ASCAP Music Cafe on Main Street. Three Stellas and an alarming amount of lukewarm macaroni and cheese later, I joined my housemates at an informal gathering where I enjoyed much more delicious food (turkey chili and bacon wrapped dates!) and played beer pong for the very first time in my life. I was actually pretty good! But another 8:00am morning shift loomed, so I headed for bed somewhere around 2:00am. Hopefully I’ll see more films in the next few days.