Monday, February 4, 2008

Film festival for the big shots, not little guy

I love this article from the Collegian, in which a random college student who took a ski vacation to Park City during Sundance reveals her hurt feelings about being shut out of Sundance screenings.

"I primarily went out there to ski and see some friends, but I wanted to get a feel for how Sundance was, so yeah, I was a little disappointed," she said. "I thought it would be different. A lot of the stores were closed at like 6 or 7 at night for private parties and stuff. You would really have to know someone to get in."

Bird said she thinks the Sundance cannot be considered truly independent anymore.

It reads a lot like a facetious article from The Onion -- except that if it were in The Onion it would be even funnier.

Two things: if you can't get into a screening in Park City during Sundance, you're just not trying. Sure, most of the more anticipated flicks are sold out, but there are always smaller films or showings at odd times with tickets available. Then there are the satellite festivals -- there are no fewer than four other festivals besides Sundance (Slamdance and the Park City Film Music Festival, just to name a couple) going on at the same time. You can see some great movies at those fests, too -- particularly if "independent" (i.e. unknown low-budget) film is your thing. Parties are pretty much the same way -- for every high-end soirée guarded by a surly bouncer there are a handful of open-to-pretty-much-anyone parties going on at nearby condos, bistros, and retail shops. You just have to talk to enough strangers around town and make enough new friends to get invited to them.

The other thing? It's been a long time since Sundance pretended (if it ever did) to be anything but a festival for the very best independent movies out there. Sure, a lot of those independent films are well-funded efforts with full crews and big name stars, but Sundance prides itself on showing great pictures, not just the ones made by struggling and emerging artists. It all goes back to the question of "what is an independent film, anyway?" -- something people are going to be arguing about for years to come, probably without any meaningful resoluton.

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