Sundance: A Cultural Overview of a Film Fest

Every film festival I have been to has it's own culture: Rotterdam favored a sweeping international landscape with a focus on the artistic and the auteur, True/False a homegrown socially progressive the-most-awesome-summer-camp feel, New Horizons promoting Polish cultural betterment and the finest of new classic independent directors and so on. Sundance too has it's own distinct culture but in a really evolving and peculiar way. This independent cinema orgy began with an industry feeding frenzy, people from the coasts pouring in, taking notes and surveying the landscape of what is being offered and in turn what they were willing to offer certain films. This was then followed by a kind of local push and volunteer push, Utah natives coming out to support the festival and (the large army of) volunteers being a little alleviated to allow for a movie or event or two. Then, the fest winds down with a weekend party leaning crowd of skiers, college kids and just plain film lovers out to see what all the fuss is about. Overall a complete change in vibe as Sundance progressed over it's nearly two week period!

As for the other parts of the festival... Getting into screenings was a task, usually rewarding and sometimes frustrating, mostly you would rely on arriving at the theater two hours early, procuring a number for a spot in a wait list line, returning a half hour before the film to the numbered spot and then slowly fill with anticipation as ticket holders filtered in and empty seats were revealed. If you were able to buy advanced tickets a few weeks before the fest you were given a time slot in which to purchase them but reliable sources were met with many sold out screenings even then! After a few days I understood that screenings would also have a certain amount of tickets released a day or so prior to the show giving another chance to the slow ticket getters (points at self)...Lesson learned: just getting tickets to screenings can be a job unto itself at Sundance, diligence is required!

The free citywide bus system and the Sundance FF shuttles would take you on loops of Park City and the outskirts that held many of the festival's venues housed inside everything from multiplexes, high schools, local gyms, synagogues, ski lodges and even a local library! I do have to say the whole community opens it's doors for this generative event- and why wouldn't they, look at the numbers!- but the smiles still seem genuine and made even the most tiring of 9am film screenings a pleasant experience!

And then there are the parties....heavily catered and alcohol laddened, these events were all a little on the club-like side (except for the Shorts Awards Party whose location at a local bowling alley allowed for a nicer feel of happy gourmet pizza eating-pool playing- fun time and the many house parties where homemade food, cold beers and hot hottubs with friends made for a nice post-film calmness)...the sponsorships for this huge celebrity attended event was also kind of crazed, a thing I never really have experienced before. Constant bling and swag were thrown about in hopes to catch a famous handling the items in a publicity shakedown (tons of photographers were everywhere all the time in a serious controlled media chaos)...I can't complain though, I am perfectly content with my Sundance/Brita-Nalgene bottle and complimentary extraordinarily functional Timberland filmmaker boots! ...but all this make up? I could do without...

And, lastly, SNOW! It snowed so often and so beautifully that the town was blanketed nearly every day making for treacherous driving but beautiful scenes! O, and I am also told there was skiing somewhere...up a mountain maybe? I dunno? Ok everybody, so there is a brief recap of what Sundance 2012 was all about, a huge undertaking in the name of American Independent Film! (pictures of outlying areas including the Bonneville Salt Flats & the Great Salt Lake- where the salt water is so dense it is made crazy reflective, visited on our final day in Utah! This place makes me feel like an extra in the pioneer wonderland of McCabe and Mrs. Miller! A feeling I couldn't be happier about!)



Donna K. lives in the Midwest and on the internet. Mostly she writes about her interest in the offline world.