[Disclaimer: As editor of this site, I have found myself in an uncomfortably tricky position this year, but I am trusting that you all will agree that the most honest thing for me to do was to post these reflections as they were received and not edit mentions of my own film out of them. I believe strongly that each contributor has been honest with him- or herself in recounting their favorite memories of this year’s festival, and all I can do is hope that you feel the same way. — Michael Tully]
***SUNDANCE 2011: FILMMAKER/INDUSTRY REFLECTIONS (Pt. 1)***
Corey Bodoh-Creed (writer/director, Gil’s Brother)
My favorite line comes from Matthew Lessner’s The Woods, which was a hilarious film in the New Frontiers section. It’s about a group of hip city dwellers that move into the woods with their Nintendo Wiis and Mountain Dew to set up a new peaceful society. One of the characters, Lucas, goes back to civilization briefly, only to discover that the world has spiraled into chaos. The narrator comments, “Lucas said he saw a group of teenagers crucifying a German shepherd after beating it to death with a Guitar Hero controller. He was never the same.”
Karin Chien (producer, Circumstance)
Three moments that will stay with me:
1. Seeing micro-budget films, after fighting tooth and nail for years, embraced by audiences and selling for sizeable advances. Sundance 2011 will go down as a game-changer.
2. Live-streaming the awards ceremony on my laptop when our Farsi-language film Circumstance won the Audience Award in US Dramatic Competition!
3. Hearing Bradford Young’s name called for Excellence in Cinematography. Proves that hard work, perseverance and faith will pay off.
Erica Dunton (writer/director, NEXT Section award winner to.get.her)
Seeing ‘The Civil Wars’ play at the Music cafe and having their new album become my Sundance Soundtrack. INCREDIBLE.
Nolan A. Gallagher (founder and CEO, Gravitas Ventures)
My favorite moment was the post film Q&A of Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times where director Andrew Rossi and reporter David Carr deftly made a compelling and oftentimes hilarious case that journalism and media “new and old” can jointly raise the level of discourse globally.
Jason Guerrasio (managing editor, Filmmaker Magazine)
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest —Not only was I impressed by how Michael Rapaport brought me inside the group that defined my adolescence, but I was taken back by how he also weaved in the history of hip-hop and Tribe’s contribution to its evolution (though you could make the argument that hip hop music has been on a decline since they broke up). But the moment that gave me goose bumps: watching four high school kids discuss the group and sing their iconic hooks on the shuttle from the screening.
Jonathan Guggenheim (The Superkiiids!; writer/actor, Americatown)
One shining Sundance moment happened the very instant I opened up my eye-holes and took in the brilliant piece of brain pie from director Athina Rachel Tsangari and her film, Attenberg. Her animalistic wild creature characters were beautiful and strange, patient and provocative, all against a bleak and uninspired concrete wasteland. The film playfully leaped from the great chasm of awkward sexual inexperience to curiosities of “prick-trees” and Sir David Attenborough! Not to mention, but I definitely will—the furiously frisky arm in arm monster mash tandem dance transitional sequences were purely soul butter bliss. After the movie ended at the Egyptian, Courtney Bridgers, Alisha Payne, Chad Keith, and myself jumped into a Karaoke cab and began to sing “The Bad Touch” by The Bloodhound Gang, which according to the driver was, “the vibe tonight.” I guess in an odd way, he was right. Yes I’m Siskel/ Yes I’m Ebert/ And you’re getting two thumbs up!
Tom Hall (artistic director, Sarasota Film Festival)
Senna — I don’t like auto racing. At all. Which is why Senna, a look at the career of Brazilian Formula One legend Ayrton Senna, was the biggest surprise of Sundance. The film, which is comprised exclusively of archival footage of Senna’s life on and off the track, has it all; a hero, a villain, triumph, tragedy, redemption and a constant parade of visual thrills, including a lot of first person camera work from the driver’s seat of Senna’s car has he flies around the world’s most prestigious Formula One tracks. Senna is thrilling and contemplative all at once, everything you could want in a non-fiction film.
Matt Hoyt (Wormwood Films)
For me, the “most unexpected surprise” award goes to The Catechism Cataclysm because it had two things that made me fall out of my chair. The best line came from the Japanese tourist girl who said, “Please girve us arl yor freedom!” in the general store. The most memorable musical moment came when a ripping metal version of the theme from Phantasm plays from out of nowhere during a canoe trip! It made me realize that The Catechism Cataclysm is going to redefine the “buddy comedy” the way Phantasm redefined the “buddy comedy”!
Azazel Jacobs (director, Terri)
Granted I was emotional when I saw it, and even more so when I was playing its music on the flight home yesterday, but Michael Rapaport’s Tribe doc Beats, Rhymes & Life stuck with me in a great, big way. I was only able to see few films other than my own, and I guess walking around for days with your heart in your throat and days of poor sleep puts you in an ultra-sensitive mood, but I found that Rapaport was able to tell a tale about back in the day without being nostalgic, and about a conflict with no villains. Re-listening to People’s Instinctive Travels yesterday, I was able to hear the bands words (and music) in a different way, already full of heart and soul, but now with the weight of real bodies just doing what they can do, together, in a way no else could. And, hopefully with the help of this film, will soon again.
Jody Lee Lipes (director of photography, Martha Marcy May Marlene; January 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab participant, confederacy, co-written with Jeffrey Peixoto)
Favorite 2011 Sundance moment… Going to a gas station in Salt Lake with my boys and buying a used copy of Miss March.
David Lowery (director, Pioneer)
My favorite Sundance moment? How about my least favorite, which was saying goodbye to my wife when she had to leave Park City a few days before I did? Which would then imply that my favorite moments were all the ones spent with her, watching movies and then hightailing it to the shuttles afterwards, buzzing with the energy of whatever it was we just saw. It was our first Sundance together. I can’t wait for the next one (hopefully there’s a movie as good as the one by a certain H2N editor in the future editions).
Jared Moshe (producer, Silver Tongues; executive producer, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel)
Favorite Movie: Kinyarwanda — A beautiful, inspiring movie that was a complete surprise.
Favorite Moment: Silver Tongues winning the Audience Award at Slamdance. Or if you want to go Sundance, during the Q&A for Beats, Rhymes & Life, Michael Rapaport’s mother raises her hand and asks him what it was like transitioning from an actor to a director. His answer: “I told you all about this yesterday, ma.” And the world premiere of Corman’s World was pretty damn amazing.
Jeffrey Peixoto (January 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab participant, confederacy, co-written with Jody Lee Lipes)
Take Shelter slashed the throats of all competition this year.
Septien‘s subversive goodwill guided it safely away from the empty gestures of contemporary filmmaking through to some kind of nascent glory.
Todd Rohal (writer/director, The Catechism Cataclysm)
The Oregonian‘s midnight screening at the Library — the perfect ending, the aggressively angry audience members and the possibility of a fistfight made this worth the flight on Southwest airlines.
Mark Elijah Rosenberg (Rooftop Films)
Michael Tully asked me to write this little piece, but I would be lying if I said that my favorite film experiences at Sundance this year didn’t include his film. I loved the three consecutive nights of Midnight masterpieces: Tully’s Septien, Todd Rohal’s The Catechism Cataclysm, and Calvin Lee Reeder’s The Oregonian, with the Zellner Brothers’ Sasquatch Birth Journal 2 thrown in for good measure. It’s great to see old friends succeed so raucously, and at those screenings the spirit of community around truly creative cinema was overwhelming. [I wrote about the films on the Rooftop Blog.]
For non-film-going experiences, my favorite time was a dinner I hosted for collaborators on Orbit(Film), an omnibus movie about our solar system. Mike Plante and I produced the series, and Jessica Oreck’s Venus and Kelly Sears’ Jupiter Elicius, were both in the festival. Among others, Sundance attendees Brent Hoff and Todd Rohal also made shorts for the program. Mary Magasmen and Rachel Blackney will be screening it outdoors at the Aurora Picture Show in Houston in March, and most of us gathered for a home-cooked meal, a nice respite from the bustle of Sundance and a reminder that for all the crazy connections and non-stop action, sometimes it’s best to just to eat and drink quietly with a collective of collaborators.
Nat Sanders (editor, On The Ice; additional editor, My Idiot Brother)
Though I did think Martha Marcy May Marlene was great, I barely saw any movies at Sundance this year, because I guess I was too busy just hanging out. It was great. This was my third Sundance and easily my favorite. It felt like a watershed year – the year that our filmmaking generation or scene or whatever really broke through, with so many friends and acquaintances having movies there. In the past, for me at least, Sundance has been the festival that’s a great launch for the film, but SXSW is the one where you really have a great time. But this year’s Sundance was tons of fun and felt kind of like SXSW-in-the-snow.
Joe Swanberg (director, Uncle Kent)
Favorite movie: The Catechism Cataclysm — Todd Rohal’s beautiful new film injects a painful and confusing crisis of faith with poop jokes and heavy metal music. There is a cautious optimism present that makes the film special. It’s not the optimism of a fool, but that of a skeptic who knows life is unfair but often really funny.
Onur Tukel (actor/artist, Septien)
I was heading to the Wednesday midnight screening of Joe Swanberg’s Uncle Kent. Walking in the opposite direction was my friend Daniel Henry, who worked on our film. I invited him to come along, though neither of us had a ticket. When we got to the Egyptian, we saw Joe Swanberg outside of the theater. He asked us if we needed tickets then handed one to each of us. He was a sweetheart! Then we looked at the long line of people waiting to get in. “It’s a good crowd,” I said to Joe. He agreed, smiling. I could tell he was excited. Daniel and I stood in line discussing Swanberg’s films with dozens of curious film viewers, some who knew of his work, some who didn’t. The air was cool and crisp! Everyone was excited. The film was great! Swanberg’s Q&A was inspiring! It was the perfect Sundance experience.
Alicia Van Couvering (producer, Tiny Furniture; contributor, Filmmaker Magazine)
In Page One: A Year At The New York Times, David Carr is talking about the death/rebirth/re-death of journalism and the culture of trade conferences. I’m paraphrasing badly, but he says something like, “We go to gather around the fire and look at each other and see if we’re doing OK. Are you OK? I’m OK? We must be OK. We must be OK… because we’re wearing badges.” This got a huge, huge laugh at the screening, which could be looked at cynically, if you want to be cynical. But it actually did address the medium-to-high level of constant anxiety that permeates the festival, and made me feel, for a moment, OK.
Marc Vives (editor, Septien)
VOMIT was well represented this year. I saw four films in a row that featured a puking protagonist: Septien, HERE, Take Shelter, and Bellflower. Of the four, only Take Shelter, which was otherwise amazing, came wack with a mouthful of mashed up bananas. Overall however, a good showing of legit and occasionally beautiful regurgitation.
David Zellner (co-director, Sasquatch Birth Journal 2)
I only got to see a fraction of what I’d wanted to, but among the images that have stuck with me are Robert Longstreet’s rock head in The Catechism Cataclysm, the creepy preacher in Septien, and last but not least the absolutely amazing hilarious horrifying urination sequence in The Oregonian.
[NOTE: If more reflections continue to arrive in our inbox, we will certainly put them together for a Pt. 2 post.]