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Notes from Sundance Film Festival: Benjamin Bratt, Cirque du Soliel magic, and patriotism
by JENNIFFER WARDELL
Jan 21, 2017 | 2880 views | 0 0 comments | 338 338 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo by Jenniffer Wardell | Davis Clipper
Photo by Jenniffer Wardell | Davis Clipper
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PARK CITY - No two Sundance Film Festivals are the same.

Even if certain features of the festival return year after year, there’s always variety in every festival-goer’s individual experience. This is especially true if you venture up the mountain to Park City, which always has a whole host of events planned. From the panels and events you choose to attend to the celebrities you happen to see, every visit is just a little different no matter how many times you attend the festival.

Private lounges and celebrity sightings

While there are several official Sundance locations in Park City you need festival credentials to get into, there are others that just require you to have the right credit card. These lounges will usually have hot chocolate, coffee and possibly even snacks throughout the day,

The lounge SPG American Express has set up this year gets points for being warm, cute, and having excellent treats (various exciting jerkies and snacks from New York restaurants). For celebrity watchers, though, the biggest draw may just be the fact that the L.A. Times has space in the back where they hold interviews and do photo shoots. This means that any celebrities the L.A. Times does an interview with need to go through the lounge in order to get back to Main Street.

When I was there, Benjamin Bratt magically appeared out of the back room not more than two feet away from me. He was in town for his brother’s documentary, “Dolores,” and they were just finishing up a photo shoot with the Times. There were only a handful of other people in the lounge, several of whom seemed to be with Bratt’s group, and as soon as I was able to pull myself together enough to form words we had a brief but lovely interaction. It was, by far, the best celebrity experience I’ve ever had at Sundance.

Snagging a few VR treats

Though the festival’s New Frontier VR Exhibition continues to be a challenge to get into (though people say it quiets down from Tuesday onward), one particularly delightful exhibit has a manageable waitlist. “Heartcorps: Riders of the Storyboard,” mixes projection-mapping technology and Cirque du Soleil performers to bring a story to life for the group of attendees. I don’t want to spoil it for you – the show runs throughout the rest of next week – but I will say that there’s not a piece of the performance space that doesn’t end up getting involved in the story. If you remember books like “Harold and the Purple Crayon” with any kind of affection, then ”Heartcorps” is pure magic.

Another unexpected gem of this year’s VR offerings is one of the simplest – two tablets, placed back to back, and spun quickly enough that the images on their surface appear to be three-dimensional. It’s oddly magical – even now, seeing a 3D hologram right in front of you feels like something straight out of science fiction – and fascinatingly simple. Movies themselves started by running images together so fast that they fool the eye into thinking they’re something more, and there’s something wonderful about seeing “Full Turn” work its wonders with the same trick.

Re-evaluating the definition of patriotism

Though I was heartbroken when the Cinema Cafe panel was cancelled for the morning I was in park city, Sundance TV made sure I didn’t go panel-less. In preparation for their next set of Take 5 short films, which will premiere on Sundance Now later this year, they gathered the filmmakers behind the films for a discussion of what it means to be a patriot these days. Some of the highlights.

Kiran Deol: “To me, patriotism has such a connotation. It’s a word I associated with propaganda. It was really interesting to go ‘No, we all live here.’ You can re-appropriate the term, and make the experience what it is to you.”

Keith Maitland: “The past is present, and the political is personal. I like to talk about people in unique circumstances, but those circumstances play out over and over again. We’ve been here before, and we’ll be here again.”

Jordan Ching: “Mainstream media always paints this huge division across our country, but at the end of the day we’re all humans trying to get by.”  

Razan Ghalayini: “How can you feel like a patriot when you don’t have a say in the system that’s running the country? What is a country – the land, the people, or the government? What happens when those things don’t connect?”

Jason Cohen: “We need films that bridge the divide a little bit, and don’t just preach to the choir.”

Jehane Noujaim: “People are going to be looking and watching. I think that’s a good thing.”  

Sundance HQ panels will be held from 1-2 p.m. throughout the festival, and will be streamed live on the Sundance TV Facebook page. 

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