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Our man at Sundance

FWR associate Chris Colcord rubs shoulders with next year’s award winners

By Chris Colcord

Fort Wayne Reader


Park City, Utah—

People will tell you they go to Sundance because they love film or they like to ski but they’re lying-- they’re there to see celebrities. And for celebrity stalkers, Sundance is the place to be in January, with the highest proportion of famous people to regular shmucks anywhere in the country. From the time we got there, on Saturday the 20th, until the time we left on Wednesday, the 24th, the only constant question was, “Who have you seen?” At the Yahoo! Party we were invited to on Saturday there was a notebook on the coffee table with “Sundance Celebrity Sightings 2007” scrawled on the cover (You want to know? Bono, John Cusack, Teri Hatcher, Justin Timberlake, Antonio Banderas, etc). Everybody at the ritzy resort we stayed at was starstruck, and I couldn’t help reflecting how perverse it was that these normally respectable, accomplished doctors and lawyers—people that could afford to drop the fifteen grand it took to stay here—went positively gaga at the chance to get a peek at Tara Reid or “Screech” from Saved by the Bell. And they would have loved to have gotten some VIP invites to the countless industry parties scattered all over town that week.

Ridiculously enough, I did manage to score a couple of VIP invites to a Big Deal event at Sundance—two ducats to the Film.Com party at the Star Bar on Main Street that Sunday. And I’m no high roller—hell, I don’t even have a job right now—but I did hold currency at Sundance that was better than money. In short: I Knew A Guy. And that’s how it goes—you Know A Guy, you get to go play. My Guy was a friend I hadn’t seen in 15 years, a big shot at a company that was sponsoring the festival. One phone call and BAM! I’m on the list, bellying up to the bar with all the Whozits. I never thought it would be so easy, but remember, it’s not what you know in this world. . .

With all the constant partying going on, it’s easy to forget that there are movies being shown. A lot of people go to the festival and never set foot in a movie theatre, but not me—there were a handful of movies I was dying to see. I caught six movies while I was there, including Hounddog, the Dakota Fanning movie that became the cause celebre of this year’s festival, because of the infamous rape scene. We listened to all the controversy after we saw the film, and it just seemed so stupid—the scene is essential, it’s done respectfully, nothing is explicit. The director, Deborah Kampmeier, obviously took great pains to take care of her actress, and the result is a film that deals with extremely difficult subject matter with great sensitivity. Having said that, however, I can’t say that seeing Hounddog was exactly a treat. The screening we saw began at 830am, and Man, was that a harsh morning—get up, get some coffee, then go to the theatre and watch a 13 year-old girl get crushed by Southern Gothic monsters. Yikes! I’m not sure when is the best time to see Hounddog—a good film, but humorless and almost unrelentingly grueling—but morning scones-and-coffee time was definitely the wrong hour. I had a Faulkner-sized hangover the rest of the day.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Julien Temple’s great documentary Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten left me exhilarated. This was the highlight of the trip for me, and I must confess there’s no way I can be objective about the film—I loved the Clash, I loved Joe Strummer, and I probably would have loved this movie if it had been made by a complete hack. It wasn’t, of course—Julien Temple is a great film maker with two legendary rock documentaries to his credit. He was also a good friend of Strummer’s, and the film is a loving and raucous tribute to a loving and raucous man. Remarkably, the movie never once canonizes its subject—Strummer could be a real prick and Temple doesn’t blanch from showing that. The screening I saw was packed with Clash fans who (like me) loved the liberal use of great Joe Strummer songs throughout. I usually dread the end of documentaries when you get to the part where the guy dies, but this movie is so full of life that when Strummer’s death is mentioned it doesn’t have the painful sting you’d expect.

At the Q & A session after the movie, Julien Temple was articulate and charming as he fielded questions about his film. In fact, at all of the Q & A sessions I attended, I was surprised at how respectful and patient the directors, writers, and actors were to the general public. This was in marked contrast to the insane, rambling, and narcissistic questions asked by the people in the audience. I was mortified by the gall of some of the audience members—at every session there was at least one bozo who would hold the room hostage with an indulgent and thoroughly idiotic question that would make everybody squirm. The topper came at the premiere of Longford, a startling HBO film about the friendship between Lord Frank Longford and notorious child killer Myra Hindley—a woman stood up and asked a question that never ended. After a preface, two asides, a rambling personal narrative, two qualifiers, and eight commas, the writer of Longford, Peter Morgan, finally put a stop to her. “Who in this audience wishes they were me right now?” he asked, earning a huge laugh from the room. He then proceeded to address, he said, “one of your twenty-six points.” You had to hand it to the guy—his movie is at Sundance, he just won a Golden Globe, that morning he got nominated for an Oscar for writing The Queen, and now he’s trying not to publicly humiliate a woman dead-set on humiliating herself. What’s happening here? It used to be that film makers were the pretentious brats at film festivals, but at Sundance, 2007, it’s the audience with all the attitude.

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