I must admit that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to going to Sundance this year. The timing of the festival happens to coincide with the add/drop period of the college I work at—a particular hellish two weeks that consumes a ridiculous amount of air space for everyone who works in Academic Affairs and Student Records, keeping us all on an insane roller-coaster ride for a fortnight. “What do you mean this class now only has four people in it? It was full yesterday!”
So, my lack of enthusiasm was about me not being able to let go. I find the festival overwhelming; the film selections alone hurt my brain. Getting from place to place is ridiculously challenging. Yes, there are free shuttles, but no grid = John has no fucking clue as to where he is going most of the time. The road system in Park City seems like interlocking figure eights turned on 45-degree angles with one side smushed in, err something. The streets are large enough to move entire armies through, I mean really large armies, but the sidewalks are barely wide enough for two people to pass one another. I get it. It’s a different way of being. Residents of Park City have the luxury of space, and if you have a motor vehicle, then you are good to go! But if you are a walker, well, then wha-wha. It is kind of like an endurance test of obstacle courses.
But the endurance test is Sundance for me. This was my second trip to the festival and both times turned out to be a lot more fun than I thought they were going to be. I came without tickets to specific films this weekend and last year’s trip. It added another layer to the endurance test: eWaitlisting or negotiating with other individuals to score tickets to particular movies. There’s a lot of standing around and there’s a lot of scurrying from place to place. There are no guarantees. It leaves a lot to chance.
This go around, chance turned out to be these five films: Antibirth, Mammal, Tickled, Jim:TheJames Foley Story, and Mapplethorpe:Look at the Pictures. Of the five, the documentary, Tickled was my favorite flick. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It is on par with a story The Onion would publish, but in this case, even their satire can’t compete with the truth. You read a review here.
The other jewel at Sundance was an interactive piece called The Treachery of Sanctuary. Upon entering the exhibit, the viewer is confronted with a series of three screens and is instructed to move their hands and body. They then proceed to watch their silhouette transformed (first screen) and devoured (second screen) by birds (also in silhouette), and lastly reborn as the phoenix in the third screen. For me, it was an ephemeral Hitchcockian drama and I was the main character, who ended up dying in the second scene. It was humbling, and I was totally caught off guard. As I moved through the piece, I realized that it had been years since I was completely blown away by a work of art. I let go.