Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sundance Film Festival

Last year it dawned on me "Hey! I live in Salt Lake City, near where the world-famous Sundance Film Festival is held! Maybe I should go to it sometime!"

So, that's what my sister Tracy and I did this January. We liked it. A lot. We'll probably make it an annual tradition. I'm too lazy to write any more. The end.

Just kidding. That would be really rude of me to write this post at the request of my sister Laurie and then not include the juicy details, so I will resist my urge to go take a nap and will tell you more about it.

Our first movie was on a Saturday night up in Ogden. Tracy's kids were with their father for the weekend, and so her schedule was free and we decided to make a day of it. First, though, we had to drive up to Park City to pick up our tickets. (Next year I'll know to have them shipped to me instead). We didn't see any stars or famous people in Park City, but we did see the entertaining sight of these trees along the side of the road, with hundreds of shoes draped over them, like big happy shoe Christmas trees. Very artsy. It was so cool that we thought about throwing our shoes up there too, but we were too practical to go shoeless the rest of the day. Ok, not really, we really didn't think that. I just made that up. But, truthfully, the next time I have some shoes to get rid of, I'm going to save them so I can throw them on the shoe trees on my next visit to Park City.

Here's a closeup:


The shoe trees as they appear from the road:


[Editors Note: My home teachers just came over, and when I told them about this, they thought that a tree with shoes all over it was entirely wasteful and impractical, and that I would do much better by donating my shoes to Deseret Industries or another thrift store. I can totally see their point, but donating your shoes to D.I. is so much less fun than throwing them onto the Park City shoe trees. I wonder if D.I. could make their drop off locations more like the shoe tree, so you can be virtuous and responsible, but also have fun while you are doing it?]
So, moving on...enough about shoe trees...from Park City, we drove to Ogden's Union Station, which is a grand old train depot built in Ogden's heyday. Now it's filled with museums and a restaurant. We loved the railroad and antique car museum, but ran out of time before we could see the Browning gun museum. We totally loved the gift shop, because it had all sorts of adorable and entertaining things.

Another fun thing we did while we were in Ogden was go to the iFly simulated skydiving center and watched a little girl and her father do a simulated skydive. The people go into a clear Plexiglas chamber with a wire mesh floor, and operator turns on a huge fan below them and then the people start flying around. The instructors are totally awesome, and do flips and all sorts of tricks. Watching them was great entertainment.

Ok, so I'm not quite sure how I got this far into a post about the Sundance Film Festival without talking about any films, but I really am going that direction. Really.

The first show we attended was at Ogden's Peery's Egyptian Theatre, which is a very grand place. It has all these fabulous Egyptian paintings and carvings both inside and outside the building. The thing I loved best, though, is the little twinkling lights embedded in the dark purple ceiling, so if you look up to the ceiling during the movie, you feel like you are outside looking at the twinkling stars in the night sky.

As we entered the theater, the Sundance volunteers gave us paper ballots, with the corners of the paper marked with one, two, three, and four stars. We were instructed that after the movie ended, we should rip the ballot on the corner next to the number of stars that we wanted to give the movie for the viewer's choice competition.

The first film we saw was called "Before Tomorrow". Before the film started, the director spoke a few words, and then after the film we had a question and answer session with her, which I thought was awesome. How fun to be able to ask questions of a director immediately after you watch his or her movie! The film was about an Inuit grandmother and grandson who left their village to go to an island where they could dry that year's supply of meat without animals or others there to steal the meat while it was drying. While the two of them were gone, a tragedy happened that decimated their village, and so when they came back, they found that they were all alone.

The movie had some beautiful moments, and had a lot of potential, but it moved too slowly for my taste. It also had an unsatisfying ending, and so I didn't give it very many stars.

The next movies we saw were in Park City the following weekend. We parked our car in a day-long lot and then rode the free Sundance shuttle buses around town between the different theatres. That was a fun way to travel, because it gave you a chance to talk with other people at the festival. One man on the bus had a long ponytail and was wearing a silver three-piece suit and a bright purple shirt. He noticed me checking out his threads and started talking to me, and was quite hilarious. I can't remember the details of the funny things he said, except that he asked me "Are you a stand up comic?" and I said "I would love to be a stand up comic, but I'm not funny". And he said "Yes, I think that would be definitely be considered a career impediment. You're not funny. I see." It made me laugh at the time, but I don't think I can do it justice as I write it here.

While we were waiting for the bus, we chatted with one of the Sundance volunteers. She was a retired lady from California who volunteered for the festival each year, because by working 4 hours each day, she would earn a free pass to go see movies the rest of the time. Maybe sometime when I have more time, I'll do something like that too.

So the next movie we watched was "The Reckoning", a documentary about the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and their efforts to bring to justice those who are responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity. It was intense. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it sparked numerous discussions between Tracy and I. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay for the question and answer portion, because we had to rush to get to the next film.

The next film we saw "Once More With Feeling" was a lighter movie. It was about a father and daughter going through life challenges, and the father's attempt to get through them by singing karaoke. It was pleasant, but I probably wouldn't go see it again.

We then headed back to Salt Lake to see the screening of the film "Big River Man", a documentary about a crazy, overweight, heavy-drinking, 50ish man who decides to swim the length of the Amazon river. There were parts where I was laughing my head off, and other parts that were totally tender and gripping. I loved it. After the movie ended, and we all felt endeared to the quirky, lovable people in the film, I was delighted when the director announced that the people in the film were also there in the audience with us. We all cheered as they stood up and came to the front, and we loved asking them questions and talking with them. That was probably my favorite experience of the festival.

Last, but not least, we watched a sweet little documentary about love called "Paper Hearts", by a young woman who thought that she would never fall in love, and so she goes around interviewing people about it, and happens to fall in love herself during the movie. The movie was delightful and fun.

I wish we could have seen more, but tickets were hard to come by. One of my friends always puts the Sundance winners on her Netflix list, so maybe I'll have to start doing that. But, for now, I was just really happy to have experienced a Sundance Film Festival.

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