Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sundance, DAY TWO - Time to Take Control Back from the Man

Who says gays and lesbians don't get along or help each other out? I wasn't at that OUTFEST party last night ten minutes, when one man gave me a prescription pain killer and another one lifted me up and cracked my back (check yesterday's post - I took a total Jerry Bruckheimer-inspired wipe-out on my condo steps and thrashed my poor back). So thank god, I am now a few steps further on the road to recovery so I can continue to run around this wonderful festival and drink up all the indie film making energy.

Robert Redford used words like "artists", "change" and "first time director" in his Opening Night speech, and indeed this year, this festival bares shades of grassroots indie, do-it-yourself filmmaking.

God bless Redford, as always.

Not just because out of the hundreds of films playing, 58 are by first time directors, but because all the associated panels, discussions and industry events have to do with do it yourself marketing and film making. Many of the panels are sponsored by companies such as AVID or HP, and hope to teach and empower people to make their own films.

To me, this reads as a message of... take back your power. There was mention that at the beginnings of this festival, the movie business had abandoned the 1970's style of film making for the big blockbuster and the dumbing-down of film. Sundance was there to spotlight and encourage film makers who were telling different stories.

It's true. Toward the mid '70's after the success of JAWS and STAR WARS the studios adapted a model of just producing 3-5 big, high-concept blockbusters as opposed to 10-15 smaller films per year. Remember some of those more intelligent, edgy films like KLUTE, DOG DAY AFTERNOON, SERPICO, NASHVILLE, ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANY MORE, JULIA, ORDINARY PEOPLE. Films like these were eventually replaced with what we're used to seeing from the studios these days like I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY.

After twenty years of plots that are watered down for general interest, with the same high concept three-act structure, we have seen a dumbing down of audiences in regards to subject matter and execution.

But the rise of the independents started about the time Sundance was born. Films like SEX, LIES and VIDEOTAPE (and in our LGBT arena, THE LIVING END and GO FISH) brought attention to these kinds of films.

Cut to twenty odd years later, and Sundance is now shining the spotlight on films that are eventually reaching large audiences and seeing big box office, while going against the grain of the studio assembly line. Films like JUNO, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE and SHINE just to name a few.

So kudos to Sundance, Redford and his programing team for not only showcasing indie cinema, but providing a week of programs, panels, installation videos and discussions about creating your own projects and widening our range of subject matter to include not only social and political issues but all areas of the human condition (as opposed to boy-meets-girl or boy-blows-up-things).

Is it not time that our stories are told as opposed to just having film and tv out there that meets the status quo?

Another thing I just LOVE about this festival is that it uses it's spotlight to bring attention to important documentaries. Documentaries that education the public on subjects that EVERY FUCKING SINGLE NEWS OUTLET in this country are too scared to talk about.

A few year's back it was AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. After its Sundance run, this film went on to screen theatrically and a very rich home release. Even though Gore could not take office as president, he found another way to affect change in this country... he used film and media. Now...look... the grumblings of the the right wing-leaked "global warming is hogwash" has been completely stonewalled and everyone is going green. (Including this festival, more on that in a later post!)

Gore was able to do more for humanity by making this documentary, than if he took office and tried to work within our political bureaucracy.

And The Sundance Film Festival helped him out by showcasing this film.

This year, taking a look at the line-up of docs is like looking at a bullet list of everything that's wrong with this world.

There's a doc on the rise of fuel/oil dependency, FIELDS OF FUEL; one on the recruiting of youth to enlist and the sales tactics relied upon in lieu of a draft in AN AMERICAN SOLDIER ; Morgan Spurlock of SUPER SIZE ME fame with his WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA bin LADEN?; the next "oil" issue will be water -a subject highlighted in FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER (many claim the next world war will be fought over water, not oil); and IOUSA about the unbelievable financial hole we're in with the economy.

Let me tell you, I'm scared to see some of these docs because they are going to force me to pull my head out of the sand, where this government has encouraged me to keep my head with years controlled news in television and print outlets combined with the slow dumbing-down of American culture (please refer to everyone's fascination with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton if you really need proof of that) with diminishing funding in the American education system and the rise of simplistic reality show programing.

I mean, does that Miss America speech or that woman on the View thinking the world is flat really shock you?

Anyway, I digress I'm sure. Can't help it. This is what Sundance does to you. It provides a fertile ground to think again and discuss not only the creative side of filmmaking but larger issues in this world.

Redford, you rock dude.

I'm off to a panel.

Keep up the gay work,


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