This afternoon I saw a "Just Another Love Story" at the Egyptian Theater. A Danish film with English subtitles. This was an interesting film but not remarkable. A psychological thriller about a man who unintentionally acts the part of the boyfriend of an amnesiac. Predictably he falls in love which understandably screws up his marriage. Complication ensue with some interesting twists. But you will never see this film in U.S. theaters because according to the gatekeepers of distribution, American audiences won't read subtitles. Each year a handful of foreign films penetrate the American market. The shame is not this particular film won't make the cut but that there many deserving foreign films that would be of great interest if American audiences had the exposure to more foreign films.
This evening I was at the Racquet Club to see "Sleep Dealer". A U.S./Mexico co-production ? Spanish with English subtitles. Geoffrey Gilmore, the head honcho of Sundance (not counting Robert Redford, spiritual leader), introduced this World Premiere as a 'true original - you have never seem anything like this before.'
I have to admit that this is not your father's science fiction story. The premise of the film is Mitt Romney's wet dream because it solves the problem of immigration by getting foreign labor in the U.S. but without the foreign worker. Basically mechanical drones in the U.S. are operated by Mexicans in Mexico. Bingo! Your fruit is picked and your buildings are built but workers stay out.
I recommend "Sleep Dealers". If suffers some of the awkwardness that often comes with a first time director but it is fresh and intelligent with well drawn characters. It is the "Matrix" meets "Soylent Green" meets "El Norte".
WHO ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE AT SUNDANCE?
Sundance is not only the epicenter of independent film for 10 days in January, but because it is where the beautiful people, Hollywood stars, media celebrities, power brokers, even politicians such as Al Gore gather, it the place to see and be seen. A gigantic herd descends on Park City, Utah.
Is it crowded this year at Sundance? Every year the crowds and the traffic get worse. The official count last year was 48,298 people attending the festival. Which means the real number was much larger.
Who are these people? A significant percentage is film lovers. Another large percentage is people in the industry who are here with a film or to buy a film or otherwise work in the business. The rest are aspirants and there are a lot of them.
Sundance sets up screenings and events all over town so there are a lot of people traveling from venue to venue. The buses pack them cheek to jowl. Well-dressed 20-something and 30-something hipsters in black with sunglasses roam from venue to venue balancing a Starbucks in one hand and emailing from their Blackberries and/or iPhones with the other. Everyone here is trying to meet people who will help them to the next level. Everywhere hands are shaken, cards exchanges, postcard and other promotion material handed out.
Looking at the herd, it is easy to dismiss 'those people.' But those people are by in large creative, talented and hardworking.
Esther Robin's film "A Walk into the Sea" recently screened at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. "A Walk into the Sea" is a beautiful, lyrical film with a strong aesthetic that matches its subject, an experimental filmmaker attached to the Andy Warhol factory. It has won awards at festivals and is well reviewed and you should see it. But I digress. I mention Esther because in her Q&A, she commented about her "art family" which she described as the people she has accumulated around her who support and nurture her and her art. As she says, she could not make her films without her art family. (Full disclosure: Esther Robins is a client of the law firm I work for in Minneapolis, Minn.)
Film is the most collaborative of all art forms. The auteur theory be damned, people must of necessity be gregarious, social, and know how to play well with other to make a film. To be successful, filmmakers must build strong long lasting working relationships - these relationships are not unlike families.
As I look at the herd trudging up Park City's Main Street in the snow and cold I realize they are members of various art families. Many are looking to expand their art families and they do that by coming to Sundance and meeting people at parties and standing in lining and milling around.
I am lucky that in independent film, attorneys are often included in art families. I am privileged to be part of a number of art families. Sometimes I'm the dad with the voice of reason, and, on occasion, I play the heavy or the enforcer. Sometime I'm the eccentric uncle that tells the bad jokes at Thanksgiving.