Posts Tagged 'Sundance 2012'

Sundance Update: The Theaters of Sundance

Temporary theater in a gym at Sundance 2012

A local athletic club has allowed Sundance to take over a tennis court for ticket holders waiting for screenings, and a gym that Sundance converts into a 550-seat theater. This picture was taken a few minutes before a late Friday screening of the new documentary QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, which won an award last night.

The Eccles, Sundance's largest Theater.

The largest theater at the Sundance Film Festival is called the Eccles.  It was added to the Park City High School with Sundance support. The Eccles has 1270 seats.

This photo was taken just before a screening of Stephen Frears’ new film, LAY THE FAVORITE, starring Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall. When the film started, the theater was full.


–Jed Dietz, Sunday, 1/29

Sundance Update: Children’s Performances Rock the Festival, MFF Alum So Yong Kim’s FOR ELLEN

So Yong Kim answers questions after the screening of FOR ELLEN. Her husband and producer, Ryan Smith, is holding their child.

Everyone is talking about the amazing performances from children in this festival. There are many notable performances, maybe starting with writer/director Mark Webbers’ two-year old son, his supporting actor in THE END OF LOVE, and certainly including LUV‘s Mark Rainey, Jr. and the remarkable Quvenzhane Wallis, the six-year old who anchors BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.

The young actress Shaylena Mandigo, another six-year old, plays the title character in MFF alum So Yong Kim’s FOR ELLEN, and gives one of those mostly quiet and powerful performances that perfectly fit the film she’s in. Kim found her in a PE class in Massena, NY where the movie is set. Paul Dano plays her Dad – he’s the center of the film and also gives a great performance. Their scenes together are heartbreaking.

–Jed Dietz, Friday, January 27

Sundance Update: Parker Posey hosts Q&A after screening of PRICE CHECK

Parker Posey answers questions after the PRICE CHECK screening at Sundance 2012

You can’t have a Sundance without Parker Posey, and here she is answering questions after the screening of the new film she stars in, PRICE CHECK, by writer/director Michael Walker.

In the film, she plays a kick-ass boss who enthralls one of her employees, played by Eric Mabius who is standing to her right. Writer/director Michael Walker and producer Dolly Hall are also in the picture. Parker hosts the big Sundance Awards ceremony tomorrow night.

-Jed Dietz, Friday 1/27

Sundance: A Gathering of the Tribe

Sightings from Sundance 2012: a festivalgoer looking for tickets.

In addition to being an invaluable marketing tool for independent (and not-so-independent) film and also new products of all sorts (cars, Brita filters, coconut water, et al), Sundance is also a gathering of the tribe, like any convention. Few examples:

I ran in to SXSW‘s head, Janet Pierson, while re-filling my water bottle at the Library Center Theater. She’s been to MFF a couple of times and it’s always fun catching up with her. She introduced me to Sarah Green, a terrific producer whose work I’ve admired (TREE OF LIFE, TAKE SHELTER, Mamet’s works, etc. ) but had never met.

Walking into a screening, I noticed an MFF bag and saw it was on Marcus Hu‘s shoulder, the head of Strand Releasing, one of the great art house distributors. He introduced me to Carl Spence, Artistic Director of the Seattle International Film Festival, a wonderful 25-day extravaganza that contends with Toronto for title of Biggest Film Festival in North America.

At another screening, I sat next to filmmaker Michael Tully (director of SEPTIEN) and a few seats down from writer/director Lynn Shelton (director of YOUR SISTER’S SISTER and Sundance jury this year), both MFF alums, and then, coming out of DETROPIA I hear a woman introduce herself to one of the film’s directors, MFF Board member Rachel Grady, and it is Laura Bennett, the new Artistic Director of the Chesapeake Film Festival in Easton whom I’d never met despite some emailing .

I drop by the temporary WireImage studio to see its CEO, and Baltimore native, Jeff Vespa, and run in to Mark Duplass who is an MFF alum and is in two movies here and produced several. Oscar-nominated Laura Poitras was at the screening of Eugene Jarecki‘s new film about the disastrous drug war, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN,  (he did WHY WE FIGHT and last year’s fascinating documentary on Ronald Reagan) and the new film features excellent interviews with David Simon. Well, you get the picture.

-Jed Dietz, Thursday 1/26

Sundance Update: Baltimore Boasts Vibrant Film Education Scene

Tuesday evening I met with about a dozen John Hopkins University film students, here in Park City, UT with teachers Linda deLibero and Meredith Ward. They got some tickets that were arranged by one of the parents, who is the CEO of Sundance Theaters, and are finding other things on their own.

The JHU students were jazzed about everything Sundance, and were dazzled by the scale of the entire Sundance operation: 1,850 volunteers, a whole bus system created on top of park city’s already good system, Main Street buildings transformed in to corporate lounges, etc.

They were focused on the movies and had seen and pursued interesting selections (though none of them were alive during the events in Rory Kennedy’s ETHEL, they were just as interested as I was ). They wanted to know a lot about MFF and some were specifically interested in film programming.

It was a nice Sundance interlude for me and reminded me how vibrant our film education scene is- including MICA, UMBC, Towson, Stevenson.  Already strong, it could become nationally important with a very little push.

–Jed Dietz, Thursday, 1/26

Sundance Update: DETROPIA by MFF Board Member Rachel Grady is “Film Poetry”

Film still from DETROPIA, playing at Sundance 2012

At 8:30 this morning, I learned that Detroit was once the fastest growing city in America and is now the fastest shrinking city.

It is on the verge of bankruptcy and of being taken away from its citizens and put in the hands of a “manager.”

I learned this from a piece of beautiful film poetry. It’s a new documentary called DETROPIA from MFF Board member Rachel Grady and her film partner Heidi Ewing. Among others, they made BOYS OF BARAKA, JESUS CAMP (Oscar nominated) and 12TH & DELAWARE. Hopefully, it’ll be part of our program in May.

–Jed Dietz, Wednesday, 1/25

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady in post-screening Q&A

Sundance Update: Mike Birbiglia’s SLEEPWALK WITH ME has Baltimore Connections

SLEEPWALK WITH ME Screening at Sundance 2012

Comedian-turned-playwright-turned-filmmaker Mike Birbiglia‘s new film, SLEEPWALK WITH ME is his autobiographically inspired, fictional feature debut.

In this photo, Baltimore native and NPR essayist Ira Glass (who co-produced the film) is in the center in the dark gray coat, and Mike Birbiglia  is closest to the camera.  They’re talking about adapting Mike’s successful one-man show for the screen.

The project came through the Sundance Labs and is a fascinating (and funny) tale about figuring out career, relationships, and how they might fit together. Or not. Lauren Ambrose is wonderful as the girlfriend.

Photo still from SLEEPWALK WITH ME

–Jed Dietz

Sundance Update: Slamdance Film Festival and Other Park City, UT Happenings

Slamdance 2012 Film Festival

Because of Sundance, lots of other activities gather in Park City, UT – both commercial and otherwise. One of the most important is Slamdance, an exuberant film festival organized years ago by filmmakers to catch work that Sundance misses.

Skizz Cyzyk, former MFF programmer and a key part of the Slamdance team for years (our Film Office used to sponsor filmmaker awards there) had mentioned a Sunday “coffee” w Neil Young and Oscar winner Jonathan Demme.  Moderated beautifully by Slamdance’s Paul Rachman (he made the great doc about American punk rock, AMERICAN HARDCORE, that premiered at Sundance a few years back), it was an intimate portrait of two very different and great artists who have worked together multiple times. I remembered Jonathan announcing the great HEART OF GOLD project from the MFF stage a few years back.

I wish every emerging filmmaker I’ve ever talked w could’ve been there. Understand corporate selling power. Listen to everyone. Don’t doubt. Embrace failure. Demme mentioned Dan Deacon and Jimmy Joe Roche’s new work several times and we got to talk about the Gunky’s Basement series after the group conversation.

–Jed Dietz

Sundance Update: Danny Glover in Attendance for Premiere of LUV

It can’t be summed up easily, of course, but seeing Danny Glover chatting with fans while waiting for a movie to start is part of it.

Danny Glover at Sundance 2012

He is in LUV, a remarkable first time feature by Baltimore native Sheldon Candis. Shot in Baltimore on an indy budget, the incredible cast includes Common, Dennis Haysbert, Charles Dutton and amazing young newcomer Michael Rainey Jr.  I remember meeting Producer jason Berman, also from Baltimore, with Jennifer Tufaro when they were both film students at USC. I think Jennifer had done production design on a student movie Jason produced. He hasn’t stopped working since, and is building himself a great career.

–Jed Dietz

Sundance Update: BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD a A Mythic Masterpiece

We had all admired Benh Zeitlin’s short, GLORY AT SEA, sent to us a couple years ago by filmmaker, journalist, and MFF alum Michael Tully.

But, even that couldn’t prepare me for Benh’s first feature, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, premiering here. It came out of the Sundance Labs and was written by Dudley Clendenin’s niece, Lucy Alibar (Dudley has ALS and has been doing that remarkable WYPR series with Tom Hall. I didn’t know about his connection to Lucy and the film until I got emails from him here after I’d seen the film).

Mythic and visually indescribable, the movie deals with the profoundest issues of family and our dangerous disconnect from nature. Anchored by an amazing performance by non actor Quvenzhane Wallis, who is 8 or 9, it is too audacious to be an easy sell. I pray we can show to you in May.  It is why Sundance was invented.

–Jed Dietz

Image from Benh Zeitlin's 2012 Sundance film, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD