#REVIEW: THE 2015 SUNDANCE EXPERIENCE
By Jonathan Godfrey for Mr. Will Wong
My earliest memories are cinematic ones. So to say that I have an affection for Film is well-put. Living in Toronto fuels this passion. It is filled with Movie Houses catering to every taste and type; it is where Movies take place, take shape, and are celebrated with an international major player of a Film Festival every September.
My Family lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. To many it is nothing more than the Mormon Mecca. However, to those in the know it is near the grounds of another acclaimed Film Festival, Sundance. For decades now, Park City, Utah (a small mountain town just southeast of Salt Lake City) has played host to the Festival. This year, with the help of Mr. Will Wong, I endeavored a chance not only to return home, but also savour the prestige of Sundance.
Things kicked off at the Egyptian Theater, a small multi-purpose Art House that has been home to Sundance from the start. Situated aside press from around-the-World, I listened to Co-Founder Robert Redford discuss the essence and intention of the Festival. In the wake of recent events in Paris, Redford reiterated that Sundance is a space wherein Artists can speak without fear of censorship. He also posited that Sundance fosters this free expression amidst the hallowed halls of nature. In other words, Sundance is where art meets the outdoors; where freedom of speech takes in the open air.
The Festival is also a means of celebrating the technology that pushes the medium forward. New Frontiers is the Festival’s Showcase for these advancements. Canadian Attendees included Felix & Paul, a Montreal duo renowned for their work in Virtual Reality. By utilizing publicly accessible VR Tech, Felix & Paul crafted three experiences aimed at transporting the viewer into foreign cultures and famous stories. Regarding the latter the two created a companion piece to the Oscar-nominated Film Wild. With nothing more than a smartphone and a pair of headphones I was whisked away to the woods of the Pacific Trail. There I sat between the Film’s Lead Characters as they shared an emotional moment. It was impressionable to say the least. A sign of things to come in the world of cinema, one I believe we should welcome with open arms and eyes.
Then there were the Films themselves, more than any one person could hope to take in. So with my taste in mind I took in what I wished. Bande De Filles, or Girlhood as it is titled for Anglo audiences, is a French Film by Indie Darling Céline Sciamma. Similar to her previous works, Girlhood is a Coming-of-Age Story from the female perspective. The Story follows Vic (Karidja Touré) and the trails that afflict her at every turn. It is a testament to the need for Film to challenge us, to make us witness what we otherwise could not, and think beyond the boundaries of our own experience. Expect this to have a presence on the Festival Circuit later this year.
Listen to Me Marlon is another noteworthy Film I must mention. Considering the Festival’s love for documentaries I took my Parents to see this retrospective on Marlon Brando, and we all left impressed beyond belief. Director Stevan Riley utilized the extensive audio files left behind by Brando, tapes he recorded in his solitude, filled with his thoughts and opinions. Thanks to a 3D Facial Scan, Brando, undertook before his passing, the aforementioned tapes, and a plethora of archival footage, the Documentary acts like a Swan Song from beyond the grave. It invites the Viewer to see Brando as he saw himself, to share in a moment what he endured over a lifetime.
My thoughts on Andy & Lana Wachowski‘s hotly-buzzed Sci-Fi/Fantasy Jupiter Ascending – presented as a surprise Screening this year as in the manner of Lars von Trier‘s Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 last year – to be found here. The attention was feverish on first-time Director Justin Kelly‘s controversial I Am Michael, starring James Franco as former Gay Rights Activist-turned-Christian, Michael Glatze and perhaps we will be hearing more about it later this year in the Festival Circuit.
There were parties and celebrities as well; ski slopes and snow bunnies; winter fashion and natural wonders. Yet in the end I was reminded about what Redford exclaimed from the start: Sundance is a Festival about Films – Films that speak freely and emote endlessly. As a Fan of Film I am comforted by this fact. Because though the money and the fame are alluring to many, there are still artists and the fans of such that have a space to come together, to create, and to enjoy those creations.
(Photo credit: Jonathan Godfrey)