PARK CITY, UTAH – Sundance Closing Weekend has a reputation for being a star-studded, liquor-saturated, swag bag filled party zone full of frivolity and entitlement. Which, if you were getting all of your info from entertainment television then that is a fair assumption. However, if you actually spend time at the festival- this is my third year of attending from beginning to end- you begin to see a different picture altogether. Throughout the festival there are Sundance sanctioned gatherings, panels and group discussions dedicated to making life better. Whether it be about bringing atrocities to light, educating others about the environment, women’s rights, or human rights there are people here who not only feel passionately, but are prepared to do something about the causes that are important to them.
On Saturday Fred Hayes and I covered an event at the historic Egyptian Theatre called Reckoning with Torture, an extremely educational romp through the sometimes bassackwards world of Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. Detention facilities used in The War on Terror. The panel consisted of actors and filmmakers as well as a former CIA agent and a former interrogator for the U.S. Military as well as former detainees who had been imprisoned without charge or trial, sometimes for many years at a time. They read from papers that documented experiences from the people both sides of the bars. The subject matter was heavy and quite hard to hear at times, but what really stuck with me was how determined some of the interrogators and prisoners were to do the right thing, even after the serious wrongs done to them. The former detainees expressed that they still loved America and the good people they had met there, while the interrogators felt such a duty to live up to the proper training that they had received in the military that they were willing to sacrifice their careers to be good soldiers and human beings. This is the kind of important discussion you can readily find at Sundance, if you choose to look.After such a heavy afternoon we were ready to get back to some of the more frivolous and heady aspects of the festival. Namely, Awards Night! A beautifully decorated room that resembled Superman’s home planet, ample free nosh and booze was the setting for Awards Night where top entertainers like America Ferrera and Matt Groening handing out awards that looked like fancy blocks of ice. Acceptance speeches were mercifully limited to one minute, still plenty of time for some beautifully articulated thank-you’s and reminders to pay close attention to the world around you. The entire evening would have been spectacular left at just that, but I admit that even with the Sundance plague threatening to take my voice, I screamed my head off when the Grand Jury Prize (the top award of the festival) was announced. Top prize was given to a movie (Like Crazy) that Fred had worked on with 2 guys (Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones) that we’d met at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. We had immediately decided they were our favorite people of 2010. So, when I heard that a simple tale about love and 3 people who I admire and look up to for so wholeheartedly following their passions were part of the winning film of Sundance what did I do? I jumped for joy and screamed, Like Crazy.
Most Outrageous Quotes Overheard at Sundance:
The National Mall is NOT the same thing as Mall of America! Miscellaneous festival attendee.
All animated films are from good to great, while most live action movies are only from fair to good. Animated film studio representative.