This post is by August Cyr '16, a Cinema Studies and Film Production major at Burlington College. Each year, the College sends a group of students to the Sundance Film Festival to learn from those that have been chosen to present their films. Matt Wohl, Faculty Chair of the Film School, led the trip.
As soon as I learned I was going to the Sundance Film Festival, I started counting down the days and then the hours until we left. When I woke up that morning, I was so excited that being at the school at five a.m. was not difficult. Later that night when we got to Park City, I was still excited. I could not believe I had finally made it! But it was not until the title credits ran for the first film which I saw, that it hit me that I was really there. This dream I had for years was finally coming true. It was a very emotional moment.
Park City is similar to Vermont, but one step better. Park City is in the valley surrounded by mountains that make our Green Mountains look like hills. Their pointy peaks stood out in the sky around us. The cloudless sky at night made the stars bright and beautiful. The mountains were so close you could see the skiers jumping on the jumps; the ski lift even ran into the center of town. We lucked out on the weather the whole time we were there. It was sunny and a warm high thirty degrees (but felt almost fifty).
A small amount of my time was spent sleeping and eating, but the majority of my time was split between watching films and standing in lines. At first, hearing that I would be standing in line for hours did not seem like the most ideal thing to do. However it was not as bad as you might expect. The lines are in heated tents, and there is wifi available almost everywhere in Park City, including the tents.
There were so many people in lines waiting for films, and everyone was really friendly with each other. I often found myself passing the time talking to those around me about where everyone was from and what movies they liked and did not like. It was a great atmosphere. The volunteers for the festival all had blue vests on, which made them easy to spot, and they were extremely helpful.
My favorite film at the festival was Whiplash, which won both the jury award for best drama as well as the audience award (two of the biggest awards in the drama category). I was fortunate enough to see this film the night the awards were announced. Whiplash is about a college drummer who just wants to be one of “the greats.” He is confronted by a devil of a music conductor and they have an abusive relationship towards each other. I loved this film. I was emotionally connected to it and so was the audience. We all gasped when things went tragic and moved along with the beat of the music. We felt for this character, which is how you know it had a great story. When this movie comes out I encourage people to go see it.
It seemed that there was a theme for the festival this year - zombies. There were elementary school kid zombies who brutally played jump rope with a teacher’s intestines in Cooties. Zombies that somehow came back from the dead, but started out their process as humans in Life After Beth. And then of course you had the famous Nazi zombies and some Russian zombies in Dead Snow II, Red vs. Dead.
Weirdly enough, the one film that I keep finding myself going back to is The Disobedient, a Serbian film. It is about two lovers who were close friends as kids and run away on an adventure biking through the country. The landscape was so beautiful it made me want to ride along with them. They run into a wedding reception and disturb the party by taking the roasted pig and smoking through, running around and taking shots from the guests and just causing mischief. At one camping site they find a local boy who is fascinated by them, and continues with them on their journey. This story has stuck with me, and I often find myself thinking about these people and whether their connection continues or whether it stops. It’s probably a film that will never be seen in the States, but if it does please just go along for the ride with them and enjoy their disobedience.
There were a lot of films I saw over the five days -- eighteen to be precise. Some were excellent and some not so much. Through this I learned one important thing.
You do not have to be the best to have your work shown, even at such a large festival as Sundance. There were films I saw that were missing key story elements or had parts of story, but not the complete thing. But they were still being shown and people were actually there to watch them. And not just a few people scattered in a theatre – there were large numbers of people.
So no matter what anyone tells you, even if your film or work of art is not a masterpiece, it can still be seen. Art of all crafts is most appreciated by those who love it.