By Suzanne Lezotte
Attending the Sundance Film Festival always involves two major dilemmas: how to screen as many movies as you can while attending other events, and how to dress for the weather. Last January, the second part was resolved fairly easily because the weather was milder than anticipated.
As for the films, I saw eight movies in four days. A few, heavy on star names, made me question the criteria for getting into Sundance. For example, The Singing Detective, based on a 1986 TV miniseries, had Robert Downey Jr. in the lead, with Robin Wright Penn, Katie Holmes and Mel Gibson in supporting roles. Directed by Keith Gordon, the only reason I sat through the film was the outstanding cinematography of Tom Richmond, the gruesome makeup job done on Downey Jr. and the clean production values. Others walked out. Another film that didn’t stand out was It’s All About Love, directed by Thomas Vinterberg—a love story starring Claire Danes and Joaquin Phoenix. But again, the production values were slick and clean, and the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle was stellar.
Films worthy of Sundance included Raising Victor Vargas and The Whale Rider. The first was directed by Peter Sollett and shot by Tim Orr. It follows a teenager and his interaction with his family. Whale Rider is part of the wave of talent coming from New Zealand. Directed and written by Niki Caro and lensed by Leon Narbey, the story follows a Maori community’s struggle to overcome its own limitations and the coming of age of an exceptional little girl.
What would Sundance be without the parties and corporate sponsors? Variety held its yearly Ten Directors to Watch event, presented by Dell and event partners Volkswagen, Nintendo Gamecube, Heineken and Grey Goose Vodka. The honored directors were Niki Caro (Whale Rider), George Clooney (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen), Peter Hedges (Pieces of April), Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans), Gregor Jordan (Buffalo Soldiers), John Malkovich (The Dancer Upstairs), Fernando Meirelles (City of God), Carlos Reygadas (Japon) and Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas).
Eastman Kodak hosted its annual party, attended by cinematographers Nancy Schreiber (Robert Capa: In Love and War) and Wally Pfister (Laurel Canyon). Dean Lyras, owner of Rocky Mountain Motion Picture, held a party cosponsored by EFilm/Deluxe/Dattner, Dispoto and Associates. Following that was the FujiFilm/CFI/Technicolor/Visionbox Media Group/Innovation Film Group/Iron Mountain Film and Sound Archives/Harris, Tulchin and Associates/Goldcrest Post Production party. (Did I mention that it’s all about the sponsors at Sundance?)
At the panel Next Steps: Postproduction, moderator David Hays, executive producer at EFilm, was joined by a group of producers, editors and post professionals to examine how today’s technology influences the creative decision-making process. The topic gravitated to digital intermediates. The issue of over-shooting with film or video came up. “The best video shooters are those with a background in film, because they have the training to plan the project. Those without it just turn on the camera and let it run,” said one panelist.
By Suzanne Lezotte