Welcome to our Blog!

We are a group from Saint Mary’s College of California going to the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Check here for blog posts, photos, and video about our experiences at this 10 day-long festival in Park City, Utah!

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Join in our Sundance Adventure!  Check out the Sundance Website and the exciting indie films and events the festival offers this year!!

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A Review: Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes – Directed by Francesca Gregorini

                Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes follows a young girl in her perpetual search for her mother. Emanuel is an unusual girl, who lives in her own world and carries a holster of defensive, witty comebacks. She lives with her caring and well-meaning father, and his new wife, who just wants to be friends with her unreceptive new stepdaughter. When Linda, who bears a striking resemblance to Emanuel’s dead mother, moves in next door, Emanuel cannot help her curiosity and becomes drawn into Linda’s dark and delusional world. The strange exploration of the subject matter may polarize viewers, giving the film a 5. The film is beautifully shot and the heroine relatable, however the issue at its heart is about the mental incapacity to process pain.

Linda is a woman who suffered the loss of her child and was unable to bear it. Her psyche creates a myth, an alternate reality in which she did not lose her child, in which she is a happy single mother. The reason Emanuel is so drawn into this delusion is because, although she knows Linda’s baby is not a real child, she herself has a neurotic inability to move past her own loss. This makes her the most sympathetic to Linda’s situation, although she is just strong enough not to fall completely into her own delusions.  Yet Emanuel’s desire for a connection to her mother is strong, and is captured in the water and French motifs throughout the film. Emanuel’s mother knew French, and described the feeling of being free amongst the fishes before she died giving birth to her. Emanuel hears water all the time, sees it flooding up to swallow her at various times. She also has a preoccupation with French music and culture. Both of these motifs are symbolic of the way her mother’s loss has changed her and her painful longing to recapture anything left from that relationship.

As the narrative progresses, Emanuel herself becomes more and more unstable, until she feels utterly unhinged. She becomes as invested in the doll- as- child delusion as Linda is. There is a gorgeous under water sequence, in which Emanuel is finally swallowed completely by the water. At first this symbolizes the way she has become completely overcome by the lingering presence of her dead mother and the impact of the pain. However, it then shifts, and becomes an image of freedom and the ability to let go. After the traumatic explosion of Linda’s alternate reality, Emanuel is finally able to accept and move on.

– Mariah Torres

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A Review: The Lifeguard- Directed by Liz W. Garcia

The Lifeguard follows Leigh, a 29 year-old journalist living out the life she wanted in New York, when she has a mental breakdown and regresses into a state of adolescence. It is clear that the life she leads is not measuring up to the life she envisioned in high school, so she goes back to the point in her life when she had the most potential in order to start over. She moves back in with her parents and starts life guarding at the local pool. Here she reconnects with old friends, and starts an illicit relationship with a high school boy. The linear narrative is fairly straight forward and easy to follow, with an easily relatable main theme, and likeable, white, wealthy protagonist, giving this film a rating of 3 on the independent film spectrum.

The central theme of the film is feeling overwhelmed by life and the desire to relive when you felt most secure. Leigh does this literally by moving back home, making this a fantasy for people going through the same issues, and who can relate to the content on a symbolic level. Leigh needs to rebuild her confidence in a safe environment, but as she finds, there is a big difference between recuperating and hiding. Despite being almost thirty, Leigh does not really know who she is, she is lost, which is why she relates to the punky high school kids who hang out around the pool. On an emotional level they are at the same place in life, looking out into the abyss of the future with absolutely no idea what direction to go in.

Interestingly Leigh’s friends, who have remained living in town, seem to be having similar issues. Her friend Mel, who is vice principal of the high school and trying to get pregnant is also having a mini early -life -crisis and goes off gallivanting with Leigh and the teenage boys. Mel’s storyline strengthens the parallel theme running through their lives which is that you can feel lost and directionless and overwhelmed at any stage in life. And Mel has a lot to worry about; her issues getting pregnant have led to issues in her marriage. But through the tribulations of reclaimed youth they find they cannot go back, and have to deal with their adult problems in order to progress. The film is understated, funny at times, poignant when it needs to be, and makes you care about the characters as they meet adulthood head on.

– Mariah Torres

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Independent Film and the Sundance Experience by Mariah Torres

After researching and attending the Sundance Film Festival I feel like I have a greater understanding of the festival’s role in supporting independent filmmakers as well as increasing the public’s awareness and appreciation of independent film. Part of what was so exiting about being there was the sense that everybody was open and interested in experiencing something outside the norm. A passion for film as an art form pervaded the festival. I was surprised at the wide variety of content, it really covers the spectrum, from narrative feature films, to foreign documentary, to crazy experimental films; there is something to peak every interest. Yet having such a unique selection of films in one place also encourages you to seek out those films you don’t usually go for, and in this way it fosters growth and progression within the film going public.

As we learned in class, and saw at the festival, independent films tend to feature unusual or nonlinear plots, multi-dimensional characters who are often female, minorities, poor, homosexual, less attractive, and so on, not your usual Hollywood fare. The themes may be darker or more taboo than the average popular film, with an emphasis on character development. I noticed these attributes in literally every film I saw at Sundance, and while I love a good blockbuster or action flick, I really appreciated the intense characters studies most of the films I saw featured.  Considering the quality of a great deal of the work, it amazes me that they were able to film in such a short amount of time. In the Q&A session after one film, the young female director told us she shot the movie in 27 days, which was seemingly luxurious to the Sundance crowd. The low budgets and short shooting timelines these filmmakers have to contend with in order to create engaging and movies stories is a credit to their passion and skill. I was heartened to see so many young directors, female directors, writer-directors, and first time directors. I genuinely liked the majority of the films I went to, and I think the prevalence of quality is due to the fact that in the unglamorous independent film world, everyone there is committed and believes in the story they are telling.

At the Festival there is an atmosphere of fostering new up and coming talent, and a collaborative effort to get their work out. There are people there who work in film at every level, from directors to writers, production assistants and so on. For people in the industry it can function as a place to network or meet other people with similar interests in film. But there are also tons of people who come just for fun, because they love watching movies and are interested in what’s new. You can meet some interesting folks just standing in the waitlist line, most of them are pretty friendly and you might as well chat if you’re going to be there for a few hours.

The evolution of the festival, from its very humble beginnings to the prestigious and well respected event it is today is remarkable. It was helpful to have a working knowledge of the types of films that the festival has supported in the past, as well as how it got started. The U.S. Film Festival, as it was then called, was first held in 1978 in Salt Lake City. The festival only moved to Park City many years later when director Sydney Pollack suggested they move it to winter and have it in a resort community to attract more people; a golden suggestion on his part. The early evolution of the festival seemed so fly by the seat of your pants; it gives me a greater sense of appreciation for how it turned out and what a big role it has had in advancing independent cinema.

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Sundance End

ImageI was grateful to be able to go to the Awards Party on the last Saturday night of the Sundance Film Festival. Erik, Patrick, and I went to see if we could bump into any filmmakers or actors, only to find the directors from The Spectacular Now and The Crash Reel, perusing the party as well. The full ten days of Sundance was an experience I would not trade, having met so many interesting and inspiring people while waiting in wait list lines, chatting on the shuttle buses, and merely by being a part of the class. Having sat through my first quadruple feature, I have to say…I don’t know if I can do that again, but it’s safe to say that the tricks of Sundance have been learned. Never again will I wait list on the first weekend, bottom line…should have just taken Virginia’s advice despite the pressure to get all fifteen of my tickets right away, but live and learn! I would love to come back to the festival with friends and family in the future, and I already found out about how to volunteer…so I guess the only question of my next Sundance is not if, but when. Let’s hope all our favorite movies from the festival will soon be in wide release! Here were a few of my favorites: 

  • Crystal Fairy
  • Lovelace
  • Fruitvale
  • The Spectacular Now
  • Wrong Cops
  • When I Walk
  • Narco Cultura
  • The Crash Reel
  • Cutie and the Boxer

Ciao for now, Sundance! Until we meet again!

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Skiing in Park City

Skiing in Park City

The vibrant snowboarding scene in Park City made me really want to stay and hit the slopes after the crowds left Sundance. The runs at the resort in Park City featured pretty wide open bowls that provided tons of room to carve and shred the powder. If you wanted something a little more extreme the park runs ranged from novice to advance, the mountain had multiple half pipes, tons of jumps, and rails everywhere. Park City seems like a legendary mountain, although it might not have the same challenging backcountry runs that some places in California have it still provides a ton of room to experiment and try different kinds of ski runs. After watching the movie Crash Reel and seeing the affection that some of the snowboarders have for Park City, it was an exciting experience to shred the same mountain. The ski runs in Park City run into the town and right at the doorstop of the ski shops and pizza places off main street like Davanza’s and the High West distillery. You can hang out there with some really radical boarders and grab a slice of pizza then catch a movie at the Egyptian. Park City really has a lot of fun things to do during Sundance and they love their snowboarders and skiiers there!

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Independent Film and Sundance Film Festival By Gabriella Forster

After learning about the history, watching the films, and attending the festival, I can now honestly say that I understand so much more about independent film. Independent film is a classification that does not just apply to what sells at the box office, but what makes our nation tick. Through independent films, directors and screenwriters can speak to the subconscious of Americans, making us start conversations and even actualize what is happening in our culture and the many subsets of culture within the United States and beyond. These films make us wonder, imagine, and think beyond being entertained. Taboo subjects can be talked about freely, artists can experiment, and the personal myths that we all deal with amidst other overarching cultural values can finally be brought out into the open, for all to explore. Film demonstrates a type of truth that we can experience in life, and as such, independent film does the best job of telling the most honest stories in order to gain understanding, and at the very least, further thought on the most difficult of subjects.
In terms of myth, as mainstream films tend to reinforce and perpetuate the economy religion of western culture, true independent films challenge the dominant culture values in such a way that the stories of every particular group in the U.S. can be represented in a way that communicates their realities. Independent film often included clashes between a character’s personal myth and their meta-myth, creating a difficult road for them, but hopefully demonstrating a life that was lived truthfully, if not happily. And that is the thing about independent film. It is not happy; it is real. It is as if a person vulnerably bears their whole selves to you when you watch an independent film, leaving out none of the hard times, the good times, or anything in between. Symbols, metaphors, and various art mediums combine in a way that is expressive solely of what needs to be awakened within the observer, sometimes causing confusion, but ultimately meditation on a certain thought.
If there is one thing I have learned about the filmmakers and the crews involved in independent filmmaking, it is this: they do not do it for the money. Even as years pass by and the budgets become higher for some independent films, the majority of films are made with very little money and the message of the film is often important more important than anything else in the process of producing the film. The greatest care is taken in order to deliver that message in a truthful way to audiences and judging by this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it seems that many well-known actors are willing to take part in delivering these messages too. Now, there may be some who argue this makes independent film less independent, but in fact, it is only helping to create a larger audience for the truths that must be spoken.
It was surprising to learn that so many people attend the festival and that access to the festival is not as exclusive as I had thought before coming, myself. The popularity of Sundance is just one example of how much independent film is needed and desired in the country, and throughout the world. More and more, people seem to want more of the truth that is in essence, independent film, and it was exciting to be a witness to the magic of conversation and wonder that was constantly shared throughout the festival, from each shuttle bus ride, to every new screening and question and answer period after each film.

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