Sundance Film Festival: A Blizzard of Creativity

By Elizabeth Latenser

Just like that, the hustle and bustle of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival concludes.  We agree with Festival Director John Cooper when he said, “This has been one of the wildest, wackiest and most rewarding Festivals in recent memory. From a new government to the independently organized Women’s March on Main, to power outages, a cyberattack and snow at record levels, the work of our artists rose above it all and challenged and changed us these last 10 days. I am most proud that, through it all, we have formed a community that is bound tighter by the art we make and the ideas we support.”

The Utah Film Commission team is giving Sundance Institute, the Festival team, all the artists and all the volunteers a standing ovation for making this incredible event happen.  And now we also wish you all a good night’s rest for the first time in weeks!

Our team had a great Festival experience and by measuring the energy of the over 2,500 people that came through our space on Main Street; filmmakers, industry and festival-goers did too. We got a chance to connect with artists, share our story and hear their ideas.  Our panels included in-depth discussions with LMGI location managers from across the country, a deeply moving conversation with Latino Reel, documentary film director Peter Bratt, and Delores, the subject of his film, Delores. UVU organized two incredible panels for their students with filmmakers from Litte Hours, The Hero, Nobody Speak, Patti Cake$, Strong Island and Trophy around the future of storytelling, the importance of diversity in art and more.  If you want to see more check out our Sundance photo album.

The four movies that were filmed in Utah premiered for audiences for the first time ever which is exciting but also sometimes scary for an artist.  Though we know Cooper would caution these filmmakers from taking a  critic’s review to heart, it is nice to catch someone saying something positive about your project. Here are a few of our favorite quotes from the trades about those Utah-connected films:

Brigsby Bear was purchased by Sony Pictures Classics during the Festival and made Variety’s top 13 list. Peter Debruge and Owen Gleiberman said:

“This sweet, super-creative comedy is pretty much exactly what you’d want from a bunch of ‘Saturday Night Live’ talents — not another one of those lame Lorne Michaels-produced features that stretches a popular sketch too far, but a zany comic premise that delivers steady laughs and social satire in a disarming new way.

Wind River was Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut and the Salt Lake Tribune said:

With “Wind River,” screenwriter and now director Taylor Sheridan completes a trifecta of deeply layered, character-driven neo-Western crime dramas, and one that tops the other two, “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water.”

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train premieres on Netflix on March 17. Robert Abele of The Wrap said:

“…because Freeland and Farrell keep close tabs on how the good criminal fun starts to affect Deidra and Laney as turbulent adolescents in dire straits, the movie always feels socially conscious and smartly sympathetic, even when it’s effortlessly humorous.

The movie also does well thoughtfully addressing the complicated feelings stressed kids have for their struggling parents and, in a late confrontation scene, it finds a touching way to re-examine what sparked mom’s breakdown, a scene initially played as comedy. Also, the fact that the Tanner family is biracial adds a welcome tinge of modern reality, even with a dusty rural backdrop (Utah for Idaho) usually associated with ethnically homogeneous casts.”

Snatchers will be available online sometime this Spring on the new streaming service, Stage 13, a division of Warner Bros. Fred Topel from Bloody Disgusting said this about the horror comedy flick:

“There’s clearly more to Snatchers. The origin of the creature has not entirely been confirmed by the end, and there’s a big teaser. I already want to see more Snatchers and these first eight play well as a standalone movie.”
For a full recap of the Festival award winners take a look at the Sundance Film Festival live blog or watch the award ceremony live stream.

Contributing writer Elizabeth Latenser is a film fan, mountain momma, dog lover and tree hugger.

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