Category Archives: Sundance

Sundance 2020 Wrap-up: So many films, so little time

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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Robert Redford, Former President of the Sundance Institue, announced he was stepping down as the face of the festival in 2019 so he could spend more time with filmmakers and their films at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival Press Conference. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival started off most curiously….again. Last year in a highly dramatic moment, the face of the festival Robert Redford made an entrance with a deafening silence to announce, “I think it’s time for me to be going.” I sat in a semi-state of bodily paralysis as my mind searched for an answer to his opening words. Whew! Thank heavens I didn’t have to wait long for an answer as Redford continued speaking explaining he wanted to spend more time with the films and the filmmakers. This year, his letter (1_SFF 2020 Robert Redford Letter-1) says much of what he communicated intentionally last year on that fateful day.

This year I was ready for anything….except a virtual press conference with a content-rich digital Day One Press Kit, including video remarks from executive leadership as well as details about the Festival and the Institute’s global year-round work. Watch Keri Putnam, John Cooper, and Kim Yutani explain the importance of freedom of speech, the freedom of expression, the metaphysical principle of change, and the driving force behind programming and curating a film festival from more than 15,000 submissions. You’ll be glad you did!

That evening, Sundance Institute’s annual fundraising event An Artist at the Table Presented by IMDb Pro began with the premiere of Crip Camp, winner of the Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura and was followed by a celebratory dinner during which the Institute honored Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, with the Vanguard Award for Philanthropy. Proceeds from the evening went to advancing Sundance Institute’s mission and programs that discover, support and amplify risk-taking and exciting independent film, media and theatre artists. And, as luck would have it, I quickly ran into several of my cohorts from the Telluride Film Festival. One of which, I would have the distinct pleasure of conducting a sit-down interview. Sam Doerge, the Telluride Art Director, was handling duties at the New Frontiers Center Festival Installation Coordinator. More on that later!

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New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator, Sam Doerge. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

Taylor Swift

The film I was most excited to see – Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, a documentary directed by Lana Wilson was making its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the late slot. Admittedly, in tears after seeing Swift perform “Better Man,” in Brian Loschiavo’s extraordinary documentary, Bluebird, at the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival, I was not disappointed! No tears. Just an overwhelming sense of awe-inspiring respect.

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The Climb

Friday morning brought a wonderful opportunity to catch The Climb, winner of the Coup de Coeur prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, at a Press & Industry screening at the Holiday Village Theatre. Traversing the ups and downs of life, the film “utilizes ingeniously self-aware dialogue” to capture the chaos of fractured friendships and its accompanying family life. Highly recommended!

Friday,  January 24th, ushered in the opening of numerous venues on Old Town Main Street. The 2020 Sundance ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, a professional membership organization of songwriters, composers and music publishers) Music Café launched with a special introduction by Peter Golub, Director of the Sundance Film Music Program. The Music Café was standing room only throughout the weekend.

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Matt Berninger and his band with a view of the room – Photo by Fred Hayes
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Ron Artis II and band on the Café stage – Photo by Fred Hayes
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The Easterseals Disability Services hosted a panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah, February 25, 2020. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

On Saturday, Easterseals Disability Services hosted a panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood in increasing the visibility of/opportunities for talent with disabilities in the entertainment industry. An underreported phenomenon is seemingly occurring in the film and television industries. Included below is the taped panel in its entirety. It’s inspiring and insightful!

ESSC Diversity Panel - Sundance 2020 #2

Standing behind Nick Novicki (front), ESSC board member and founder of the Easterseals Film Challenge, are L-R: Angela Williams, CEO, National Easterseals; Franklin Leonard, Founder and CEO, The Black List; Mark Whitley, CEO, ESSC; panel moderator Britt Stephens, Celebrity & Entertainment Editor, Pop SugarShoshannah Stern, Creator, Executive Producer, Writer and Star of Sundance TV’s This Close; Shanique Bonelli-Moore, Executive Director of Inclusion, United Talent Agency; John Travis, VP of Brand Marketing, Adobe; and Nancy Weintraub, Chief Development Officer, ESSC. (Photo courtesy of Vicki Greenleaf)

 

Panel moderator, Britt Stephens, Celebrity & Entertainment Editor, Pop Sugar, participates in the Easterseals Disability Services panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah, February 25, 2020. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)
John Travis, VP of Brand Marketing, Adobe, participates in the Easterseals Disability Services panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival at the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah, February 25, 2020. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

On Saturday, Easterseals Disability Services hosted a panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood in increasing the visibility of/opportunities for talent with disabilities in the entertainment industry. An underreported phenomenon is seemingly occurring in the film and television industries. Included below is the taped panel in its entirety. It’s inspiring and insightful!

Has Recent Industry Emphasis on Diversity & Inclusion Influenced the Way We Tell Stories?

 

In addition, Brand Storytelling at Sundance Film Festival wrapped it’s fifth annual “festival within a festival.” Over 250 attendees were present at the invite-only, sold-out event for keynote chats, panel presentations, film premiers, and screenings, live musical performances while bringing in major brands, media and production companies, talent, advertising, and PR agencies.

Ariel Tweto, star of _Into America's Wild_
Ariel Tweto, star of Into America’s Wild, speaks at Brand Storytelling at Sundancer Film Festival (Photo courtesy of Prana PR)

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Presented Feature Film Prize to Tesla. Michael Almereyda’s Tesla was formally presented with a $20,000 check for winning the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize. The awards were presented at an afternoon cocktail reception at High West Distillery. These activities are part of the Sundance Institute Science-In-Film Initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize Reception
Actor Ethan Hawke, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize Winner Michael Almereyda and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Vice President and Program Director Doron Weber attend the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize Reception at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. © 2020 Sundance Institute | photo by Jovelle Tamayo.

The World Premiere of Horse Girl from writer/director Jeff Baena took audiences by surprise with a sizzling performance from Alison Brie. An official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Horse Girl was executively produced by the Duplass Brothers, Jay and Mark. Stay tuned for a full, unadulterated review

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Actor Alison Brie attends the World Premiere of Horse Girl by Jeff Baena, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. © 2020 Sundance Institute | photo by Lauren Wester.

Talent Forum convened for three days, January 28-30th during the festival bringing together a robust slate of artists with projects across all platforms and at varied and pivotal stages from development through completion.

Anne Lai
Anne Lai

“We’re thrilled to [have} welcome(d) an extraordinary collection of artists from 22 countries who bring remarkable voices and work to connect with industry, advocates, and each other as they move their work and careers forward,” noted Anne Lai, Sundance Institute’s Director of Creative Producing & Artist Support.

SFF20 Talent Forum Projects & Fellows

The Movie That Blew My Mind kicked off the 2020 Talent Forum panel at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. An Offscreen event the panel featured hosts John Cooper (Director, Sundance Film Festival) and Tabitha Jackson (Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program) with Tessa Thompson, Tom McCarthy, and other special guests, each of whom selected a cinema moment that was inspiring or formative (in their life or in shaping their creative sensibility).

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Actor Tessa Thompson at The Movie That Blew My Mind, a festival panel at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. © 2020 Sundance Institute | photo by Maya Dehlin.
The Movie That Blew My Mind - Panel
Tabitha Jackson (Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program) at The Movie That Blew My Mind, a festival panel at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. © 2020 Sundance Institute | photo by Maya Dehlin.

An unexpected treat happened with the French episodic Laetitia. Acting on a suggestion from Antoine Maron, an Art Director in the French film industry, I squeezed into the Academy Award-winning Jean-Xavier de Lestrade screening and stayed for the Q & A with de Lestrade. His extraordinary attention to detail propels a powerful story based on an historically documented criminal case. This 2002 Academy-award winner for Best Documentary is worth listening to and has a captivating presence. Please see the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Meet the Artist video and stay tuned for a capsule review of the evening.

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Academy Award-winning French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival following a screening of his Indie Episodic, Laetitia, in Park City, Utah, Tuesday, January 28, 2019. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)
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Academy Award-winning French filmmaker, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival following a screening of his episodic, Laetitia, in Park City, Utah, Tuesday, January 28, 2019. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)
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Academy Award-winning French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival following a screening of his Indie Episodic, Laetitia, in Park City, Utah, Tuesday, January 28, 2019. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

Other favorites were Okavango: River of Dreams, Kajillionaire. Max Richter’s Sleep, Ironbark, Dissident, Softie, Glorias, Horse Girl, Be Water, On the Record, The Father, Sylvie’s Love, and Mucho, Mucho, Amor. Check back regularly as these films, all of which are worthy of review, will soon be making their way up the “films to be reviewed” list and hopefully be available for viewing.

Without further adieu, the Festival wrapped up with the Awards Night Ceremony & Party on February 1, 2020, and with previously announced jurors awarding prizes to films in the U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic, World Cinema Documentary, and NEXT categories. 2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS

Until next year, I’ll see you at the movies!

*Featured photo: A still from Breathe by Diego Galafassi, an official selection of the New Frontier Exhibitions program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

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2020 Sundance Spotlight: Sam Doerge

Posted by Larry Gleeson

First-year New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator, Sam Doerge, is making the most out of her 2020 Sundance Film Festival experience.

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New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator, Sam Doerge. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

First-year New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator, Sam Doerge, is making the most out of her 2020 Sundance Film Festival experience. Doerge has a background in art having majored in Visual and Critical Research with a minor in Sculpture at the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition, Doerge is the Programming Coordinator for Denver Film and is the Art Director for the Telluride Film Festival.

While working as the Telluride Art Director, Doerge came in contact with Spheres, a three-part virtual reality series written and directed by Eliza McNitt, produced by Jess Engle, and executively produced by Darren Aronofsky. Spheres made a huge splash at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival as it sold for a seven-figure sum. Producer Jess Engle is attending this year’s festival as a producer for the augmented reality installation, Breathe.

Having dreamt about Immersive Storytelling and voraciously reading about installation management, Doerge seemed to be in the right place at the right time to explore the exponentially growing field of virtual reality/augmented reality. Always an admirer of the New Frontier at Sundance from afar, Doerge seized the opportunity to apply for an opening this year as the Interim Manager of the New Frontiers Lab. Due to her Telluride Art Director commitment, however, Doerge could not accept the Interim Manager position and was consequently offered the New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator contract.

With the enormously talented artists, including Diego Galafassi (Breathe), and their assistants, Doerge coordinated a process whereby the Sundance personnel could augment and amplify the immersive virtual/augmented reality experience. Working closely with her manager Boji Wong, a mother of three who singly managed the New Frontiers Center last year, the duo trained staff, volunteers, and docents to facilitate a smoothly operating, cutting-edge installation for the artists and patrons alike. Doerge believes the 12 hour working days (the new Frontiers Center’s first day wound up being longer, 7:30AM – 2:30AM, concluding at the end of the artists’ Opening Night party) have offered a wonderful opportunity to learn from highly professional and highly respective peers.

What also is working for Doerge as the New Frontiers Center Festival Coordinator at Sundance is the overall working environment, the strong sense of community inside New Frontiers, and the opportunity to learn. And, as anyone who has ever been in the fray of a battle knows – planning helps! Nevertheless, “being in the moment making decisions that balance and manage expectations of all parties involved have been the keys to a smoothly operating New Frontiers Center,” according to Doerge. And, as the environment is in a constant state of change, each day and, in reality, each moment, has its unique characteristics requiring a moment-to-moment response.

With several fully-realized sculpture creations to her credit, Doerge understands how to bring a vision to fruition and had sincere appreciation watching the New Frontiers Center come to life. Moreover, Doerge’s New Frontier Center experience has brought her into contact with seasoned professionals possessing high skill sets such as Jamie McMurry, New Frontiers Production Designer, and Shari Frilot, Chief Curator. “Shari Frilot has impeccable taste. The best I’ve ever seen,” said Doerge.

The New Frontiers Center is in its second year of operation. Thus far this year, the women docents have provided unswerving support in ensuring the artist’s needs are being met with VIP’s, industry professionals, and festivalgoers all clamoring for a chance to experience the exhilarating displays. Furthermore, the installation seems to be operating smoothly as two previews on Saturday for the publicists and the press and industry professionals were conducted successfully.

With the three weeks of coordinating Immersive Experience under her belt, Doerge plans to return to her Denver Film post and Telluride Art Director position with a fresh perspective and looks forward to the challenges ahead – including the 2021 Sundance Film Festival with run dates from Thursday, January 21st, through Sunday, January 31st, 2021.

Until then, I’ll see you at the movies!

 

*Featured photo: A still from Breathe by Diego Galafassi, an official selection of the New Frontier Exhibitions program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

 

Festival Favorite Award From 2020 Sundance Film Festival Announced

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Giving Voice Wins Audience Vote

Giving Voice
A still from Giving Voice by James D. Stern and Fernando Villena, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jonathon Narducci.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                             February 4, 2020

Park City, UTSundance Institute announced Giving Voice as the winner of the Festival Favorite Award, selected by audience votes from the 128 features screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, which took place in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Sundance, Utah, from January 23–February 2, 2020.

The Festival Favorite Award is the 29th and final recognition bestowed on this year’s features, including juried prizes and category-specific Audience Awards; others were announced at a ceremony in Park City on February 1, and a full list is available here. Runners-up and close contenders for the Festival Favorite Award – besides the Audience Awards per category given out on Saturday, titles that also ranked high with festivalgoers include Boys State, On The Record, Binti, Crip Camp, The Fight, The Reason I Jump, Softie, Uncle Frank, and Welcome to Chechnya.

Giving Voice, directed by James D. Stern and Fernando Villena, follows the lives of six students as they compete against fellow high schoolers from around the country in the riveting, high-stakes August Wilson Monologue Competition in New York City. As they hone their individual performances, Wilson’s singular talent and artistry empower them to find their own voice and persevere in an increasingly complicated world. The film was produced by James D. Stern, Karen Bove, Fernando Villena, Schoen Smith, and Craig Piligian.

 

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John Cooper

“This film is a compelling and inspiring portrait of six remarkable young people as they discover their power,” said John Cooper, Director, Sundance Film Festival. “We’re thrilled that it resonated with audiences at this particularly exciting moment in our culture, where we see the next generation of leaders, artists, and change-makers stepping out, speaking up, and finding their voice.”

Runners up for the Festival Favorite, as ballots were counted, include:

Boys State / U.S.A. (Directors: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine, Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss) — In an unusual experiment, a thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

On The Record / U.S.A. (Directors: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Screenwriters: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Sara Newens, Producers: Amy Ziering, Kirby Dick, Amy Herdy, Jamie Rogers) — A brilliant former hip hop executive grapples with whether to go public about her rape by one of the most powerful men in the music industry. A gripping and profound examination of race, gender, intersectionality, and the toll sexual abuse takes on survivors and on society at large.

Other close contenders for the Festival Favorite were:

Binti / Belgium (Director and Screenwriter: Frederike Migom, Producer: Katleen Goossens) — Twelve-year-old Binti dreams of becoming a famous vlogger like her idol Tatyana. But when the police raid her home, and try to deport her and her dad, they are forced to flee. Together with her friend Elias she now plots the perfect plan to stay in the country. Cast: Bebel Tshiani Baloji, Mo Bakker, Joke Devynck, Baloji.

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Crip Camp photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

Crip Camp / U.S.A. (Directors: Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht, Producers: Sara Bolder, Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham) — Down the road from Woodstock in the early 1970s, a revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers, transforming their young lives and igniting a landmark movement.

The Fight / U.S.A. (Directors: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Producers: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Drexler, Kerry Washington) — Inside the ACLU, a team of scrappy lawyers battle Trump’s historic assault on civil liberties. As the president separates families, blocks abortion access, expels transgender soldiers, and rolls back voting rights, these gutsy attorneys struggle to stop an unpredictable adversary with unlimited resources.

The Reason I Jump / United Kingdom (Director: Jerry Rothwell, Producers: Jeremy Dear, Stevie Lee, Al Morrow)  — Based on the book by Naoki Higashida this immersive film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world.

Softie / Kenya (Director and screenwriter: Sam Soko, Producers: Toni Kamau, Sam Soko) — Boniface Mwangi is daring and audacious, and recognized as Kenya’s most provocative photojournalist. But as a father of three young children, these qualities create tremendous turmoil between him and his wife Njeri. When he wants to run for political office, he is forced to choose: country or family?

Uncle Frank / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Alan Ball, Producers: Alan Ball, Peter Macdissi, Michael Costigan, Jay Van Hoy, Bill Block, Stephanie Meurer) — In 1973, when 18-year-old Beth and her uncle Frank take a road trip from Manhattan to Creekville, South Carolina for the family patriarch’s funeral, they’re unexpectedly joined by Frank’s lover Walid. A story about family, forgiveness, and our inherent power to choose who we want to be. Cast: Paul Bettany, Sophia Lillis, Peter Macdissi, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer, Margo Martindale.

Welcome to Chechnya / U.S.A. (Director: David France, Producers: Alice Henty, David France, Askold Kurov, Joy A. Tomchin) — This searing investigative work shadows a group of activists risking unimaginable peril to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ pogrom raging in the repressive and closed Russian republic. Unfettered access and a remarkable approach to protecting anonymity expose this under-reported atrocity–and an extraordinary group of people confronting evil.

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will run from Thursday, January 21–Sunday, January 31, 2021.

The Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Eighth Grade, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2020 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire, AT&T; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines®, Stella Artois®, WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, Fire TV, GEICO, High West Distillery, Hulu, IMDbPro, Lyft, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Variety, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Partner seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

Sundance Institute

Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Co//ab, a digital community platform, brings artists together to learn from each other and Sundance Advisors and connect in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discovering original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as The Farewell, Late Night, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Little Miss Sunshine, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, State of the Union, Indecent, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Sundance 2020

(Source: Sundance media press release)

 

 

2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS ANNOUNCED

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Top Prizes Go To Minari, Boys State, Epicentro, and Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness 

Minari, Crip Camp, The Reason I Jump, and Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) Win Audience Awards

 

(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE) Park City, UT — After 10 days and 128 feature films, the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony took place tonight, with jurors presenting 28 prizes for feature filmmaking. Honorees, named in total below, represent new achievements in global independent storytelling. Bold, intimate, and humanizing stories prevailed across categories, with Grand Jury Prizes awarded to Minari (U.S. Dramatic), Boys State (U.S. Documentary), Epicentro (World Cinema Documentary) and Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness (World Cinema Dramatic)..

 

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Kerry Putnam

“At Sundance, we believe art can break through noise and polarization. In volatile times like these, democracy and storytelling aren’t separate – they’re inextricably linked,” said Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute’s Executive Director. “Congratulations to each and every one of tonight’s winners, and to all the extraordinary artists who joined us at the Festival.

 

“As my final Festival as director comes to a close, it has been the honor of a lifetime to stand with these artists, and to see their work meet audiences for the first time,” said John Cooper, Sundance Film Festival Director.

Putnam also announced Tabitha Jackson as the incoming Director during the ceremony; that news release is available here.

The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 2020 Festival, where 128 feature-length and 74 short films — selected from more than 15,100 submissions — were showcased in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance, Utah, alongside work in the Indie Episodic category, panels, music, and New Frontier.

This year’s jurors, invited in recognition of their accomplishments in the arts, technical craft and visionary storytelling, deliberated extensively before presenting awards from the stage; this year’s jurors were Rodrigo Garcia, Ethan Hawke, Dee Rees, Isabella Rossellini, Wash Westmoreland, Kimberly Reed, Rachel Rosen, Courtney Sexton, E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Noland Walker, Haifaa Al Mansour, Wagner Moura, Alba Rohrwacher, Eric Hynes, Rima Mismar, and Nanfu Wang. Gregg Araki was the sole NEXT juror.

Feature film award winners in previous years include: Clemency, One Child Nation, Honeyland, The Souvenir, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore., Weiner, Whiplash, Fruitvale Station, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Searching for Sugarman, The Square, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Cartel Land, The Wolf Pack, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Dope, Dear White People, The Cove and Man on Wire.

Of the 28 prizes awarded tonight to 25 films – comprising the work of 29 filmmakers – 12 (48%) were directed by one or more women; 10 (40%) were directed by one or more people of color; and 2 (8%) were directed by a person who identifies as LGBTQ+.

2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE FILM AWARDS

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, for Boys State / U.S.A. (Directors: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine, Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss) — In an unusual experiment, a thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Lee Isaac Chung, for Minari / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lee Isaac Chung, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh) — David, a 7-year-old Korean-American boy, gets his life turned upside down when his father decides to move their family to rural Arkansas and start a farm in the mid-1980s, in this charming and unexpected take on the American Dream. Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Hubert Sauper, for Epicentro / Austria, France, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Hubert Sauper, Producers: Martin Marquet, Daniel Marquet, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Paolo Calamita) — Cuba is well known as a so-called time capsule. The place where the New World was discovered has become both a romantic vision and a warning. With ongoing global cultural and financial upheavals, large parts of the world could face a similar kind of existence.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Massoud Bakhshi, for Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness / Iran, France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg (Director and screenwriter: Massoud Bakhshi, Producers: Jacques Bidou, Marianne Dumoulin) — Maryam accidentally killed her husband Nasser and is sentenced to death. The only person who can save her is Mona, Nasser’s daughter. All Mona has to do is appear on a TV show and forgive Maryam. But forgiveness proves difficult when they are forced to relive the past. Cast: Sadaf Asgari, Behnaz Jafari, Babak Karimi, Fereshteh Sadr Orafaee, Forough Ghajebeglou, Fereshteh Hosseini.

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Crip Camp received the Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura, at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony, February 1st, 2019. (photo courtesy of Sundance Press)

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was presented to: Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, for Crip Camp / U.S.A. (Directors: Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht, Producers: Sara Bolder, Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham) — Down the road from Woodstock in the early 1970s, a revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers, transforming their young lives and igniting a landmark movement.

The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was presented to: Lee Isaac Chung, for Minari / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lee Isaac Chung, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh) — David, a 7-year-old Korean-American boy, gets his life turned upside down when his father decides to move their family to rural Arkansas and start a farm in the mid-1980s, in this charming and unexpected take on the American Dream. Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Jerry Rothwell, for The Reason I Jump / United Kingdom (Director: Jerry Rothwell, Producers: Jeremy Dear, Stevie Lee, Al Morrow)  — Based on the book by Naoki Higashida this immersive film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: Fernanda Valadez, for Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) / Mexico, Spain (Director: Fernanda Valadez, Screenwriters: Fernanda Valadez, Astrid Rondero, Producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Jack Zagha, Yossy Zagha)  ― Magdalena makes a journey to find her son, gone missing on his way to the Mexican border with the US. Her odyssey takes her to meet Miguel, a man recently deported from the U.S. They travel together, Magdalena looking for her son, and Miguel hoping to see his mother again. Cast: Mercedes Hernández, David Illescas, Juan Jesús Varela, Ana Laura Rodríguez, Laura Elena Ibarra, Xicoténcatl Ulloa.

The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was presented to: Heidi Ewing, for I Carry You With Me / U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Heidi Ewing, Screenwriters: Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga, Producers: Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing) — An epic love story spanning decades is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same. Cast: Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Arcelia Ramírez, Michelle González.

The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to: Garrett Bradley, for Time / U.S.A. (Director: Garrett Bradley, Producers: Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley) Fox Rich, indomitable matriarch and modern-day abolitionist, strives to keep her family together while fighting for the release of her incarcerated husband. An intimate, epic, and unconventional love story, filmed over two decades.

The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Radha Blank, for The 40-Year-Old Version / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Radha Blank, Producers: Lena Waithe, Jordan Fudge, Radha Blank, Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Jennifer Semler, Rishi Rajani) — A down-on-her-luck New York playwright decides to reinvent herself and salvage her artistic voice the only way she knows how: by becoming a rapper at age 40. Cast: Radha Blank, Peter Y. Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Reed Birney, Imani Lewis, TJ Atoms.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Iryna Tsilyk, for The Earth Is Blue as an Orange / Ukraine, Lithuania (Director: Iryna Tsilyk, Producers: Anna Kapustina, Giedrė Žickytė) — To cope with the daily trauma of living in a war zone, Anna and her children make a film together about their life among surreal surroundings.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: Maïmouna Doucouré, for Cuties / France (Director and screenwriter: Maïmouna Doucouré, Producer: Zangro) — Amy, 11 years old, meets a group of dancers called “Cuties.” Fascinated, she initiates herself to a sensual dance, hoping to join their band and escape family dysfunction…Cast: Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Myriam Hamma, Maïmouna Gueye.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Edson Oda, for Nine Days / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Edson Oda, Producers: Jason Michael Berman, Mette Marie Kongsved, Matthew Lindner, Laura Tunstall, Datari Turner) — In a house distant from the reality we know, a reclusive man interviews prospective candidates—personifications of human souls—for the privilege that he once had: to be born. Cast: Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgård, Tony Hale, David Rysdahl. Dolby Institute Fellowship

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast was presented to: the cast of Charm City Kings, for Charm City Kings / U.S.A. (Director: Angel Manuel Soto, Screenwriters: Sherman Payne, Chris Boyd & Kirk Sullivan, Barry Jenkins, Producers: Caleeb Pinkett, Clarence Hammond, Marc Bienstock) — Mouse desperately wants to join The Midnight Clique, the infamous Baltimore dirt bike riders who rule the summertime streets. When Midnight’s leader, Blax, takes 14-year-old Mouse under his wing, Mouse soon finds himself torn between the straight-and-narrow and a road filled with fast money and violence. Cast: Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Meek Mill, Will Catlett, Teyonah Parris, Donielle Tremaine Hansley, Kezii Curtis.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Auteur Filmmaking was presented to: Josephine Decker, for Shirley / U.S.A. (Director: Josephine Decker, Screenwriter: Sarah Gubbins, Producers: Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Sue Naegle, Sarah Gubbins, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman) — A young couple moves in with the famed author, Shirley Jackson, and her Bennington College professor husband, Stanley Hyman, in the hope of starting a new life but instead find themselves fodder for a psycho-drama that inspires Shirley’s next novel. Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, Logan Lerman.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Neo-Realism was presented to: Eliza Hittman, for Never Rarely Sometimes Always / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eliza Hittman, Producers: Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy) — An intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin Skylar embark on a brave, fraught journey across state lines to New York City. Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Tyler H. Walk, for Welcome to Chechnya / U.S.A. (Director: David France, Producers: Alice Henty, David France, Askold Kurov, Joy A. Tomchin) — This searing investigative work shadows a group of activists risking unimaginable peril to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ pogrom raging in the repressive and closed Russian republic. Unfettered access and a remarkable approach to protecting anonymity expose this under-reported atrocity–and an extraordinary group of people confronting evil.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling was presented to: Kirsten Johnson, for Dick Johnson Is Dead / U.S.A. (Director: Kirsten Johnson, Screenwriters: Nels Bangerter, Kirsten Johnson, Producers: Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness) — With this inventive portrait, a cameraperson seeks a way to keep her 86-year-old father alive forever. Utilizing moviemaking magic and her family’s dark humor, she celebrates Dr. Dick Johnson’s last years by staging fantasies of death and beyond. Together, dad and daughter confront the great inevitability awaiting us all.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker was presented to: Arthur Jones, for Feels Good Man / U.S.A. (Director: Arthur Jones, Producers: Giorgio Angelini, Caryn Capotosto, Aaron Wickenden)  — When indie comic character Pepe the Frog becomes an unwitting icon of hate, his creator, artist Matt Furie, fights to bring Pepe back from the darkness and navigate America’s cultural divide.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking was presented to: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, and Eli Despres, for The Fight / U.S.A. (Directors: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Producers: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Drexler, Kerry Washington) — Inside the ACLU, a team of scrappy lawyers battles Trump’s historic assault on civil liberties. As the president separates families, blocks abortion access, expels transgender soldiers, and rolls back voting rights, these gutsy attorneys struggle to stop an unpredictable adversary with unlimited resources.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting was presented to: Ben Whishaw, for Surge / United Kingdom (Director: Aneil Karia, Screenwriters: Rupert Jones, Rita Kalnejais, Producers: Julia Godzinskaya, Sophie Vickers) ― A man goes on a bold and reckless journey of self-liberation through London. After he robs a bank he releases a wilder version of himself, ultimately experiencing what it feels like to be alive. Cast: Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Ian Gelder, Jasmine Jobson.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking was presented to: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, for This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection / Lesotho, South Africa, Italy (Director and screenwriter: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Producers: Cait Pansegrouw, Elias Ribeiro) — When her village is threatened with forced resettlement due to reservoir construction, an 80-year-old widow finds a new will to live and ignites the spirit of resilience within her community. In the final dramatic moments of her life, Mantoa’s legend is forged and made eternal. Cast: Mary Twala Mhlongo, Jerry Mofokeng Wa Makheta, Makhoala Ndebele, Tseko Monaheng, Siphiwe Nzima.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay was presented to: Fernanda Valadez and Astrid Rondero, for Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) / Mexico, Spain (Director: Fernanda Valadez, Screenwriters: Fernanda Valadez, Astrid Rondero, Producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Jack Zagha, Yossy Zagha)  ― Magdalena makes a journey to find her son, gone missing on his way to the Mexican border with the US. Her odyssey takes her to meet Miguel, a man recently deported from the U.S. They travel together, Magdalena looking for her son, and Miguel hoping to see his mother again. Cast: Mercedes Hernández, David Illescas, Juan Jesús Varela, Ana Laura Rodríguez, Laura Elena Ibarra, Xicoténcatl Ulloa.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling was presented to: Benjamin Ree, for The Painter and the Thief / Norway (Director: Benjamin Ree, Producer: Ingvil Giske) — An artist befriends the drug addict and thief who stole her paintings. She becomes his closest ally when he is severely hurt in a car crash and needs full-time care, even if her paintings are not found. But then the tables turn.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented to: Mircea Topoleanu and Radu Ciorniciuc, for Acasa, My Home / Romania, Germany, Finland (Director: Radu Ciorniciuc, Screenwriters: Lina Vdovii, Radu Ciorniciuc, Producer: Monica Lazurean-Gorgan) — In the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, nine children and their parents lived in perfect harmony with nature for 20 years–until they are chased out and forced to adapt to life in the big city.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Mila Aung-Thwin, Sam Soko, and Ryan Mullins, for Softie / Kenya (Director and screenwriter: Sam Soko, Producers: Toni Kamau, Sam Soko) — Boniface Mwangi is daring and audacious and recognized as Kenya’s most provocative photojournalist. But as a father of three young children, these qualities create tremendous turmoil between him and his wife Njeri. When he wants to run for political office, he is forced to choose: country or family?

The NEXT Innovator Prize was presented to: Heidi Ewing, for I Carry You With Me / U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Heidi Ewing, Screenwriters: Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga, Producers: Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing) — An epic love story spanning decades is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same. Cast: Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Arcelia Ramírez, Michelle González.

The following awards were presented at separate ceremonies at the Festival:

SHORT FILM AWARDS Presented by Southwest Airlines®
Jury prizes in short filmmaking were awarded at an earlier ceremony in Park City on January 28. The Short Film Grand Jury Prize was awarded to So What If The Goats Die / France, Morocco (Director and screenwriter: Sofia Alaoui). The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction was awarded to -Ship: A Visual Poem / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Terrance Daye). The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction was awarded to The Devil’s Harmony / United Kingdom (Director: Dylan Holmes Williams, Screenwriters: Dylan Holmes Williams, Jess O’Kane). The Short Film Jury Award: Nonfiction was awarded to John Was Trying to Contact Aliens / U.S.A. (Director: Matthew Killip). The Short Film Jury Award: Animation was presented to Daughter / Czech Republic (Director and screenwriter: Daria Kashcheeva). A Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting was presented to Exam / Iran (Director: Sonia K. Hadad, Screenwriters: Sonia K. Hadad, Farnoosh Samadi). A Short Film Special Jury Award for Directing was presented to Valerio’s Day Out / Colombia, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Arcos).

SUNDANCE INSTITUTE | ALFRED P. SLOAN FEATURE FILM PRIZE
The 2020 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented to an outstanding feature film about science or technology, was presented to Tesla. The filmmakers received a $20,000 cash award from Sundance Institute with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Features went to Diane Becker and Melanie Miller of Fishbowl Films, for Whirlybird.

The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Features went to Huriyyah Muhammad for Farewell Amor.

The Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Documentary went to Carla Gutierez and the Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Narrative went to Affonso Gonçalves.

The Sundance Institute | NHK Award went to Kirsten Tan, from Singapore, for her film Higher.

The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Eighth Grade, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs, and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2020 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire, AT&T; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines®, Stella Artois®, WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, Fire TV, GEICO, High West Distillery, Hulu, IMDbPro, Lyft, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Variety, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Partner seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Co//ab, a digital community platform, brings artists together to learn from each other and Sundance Advisors and connect in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discovering original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as The Farewell, Late Night, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Little Miss Sunshine, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, State of the Union, Indecent, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

(Source: Press release provided by Sundance Institute Media Relations)

 

SUNDANCE FILM REVIEW: Taylor Swift Miss Americana

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, directed by Lana Wilson, made its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival on Opening Night. Admittedly, in tears after seeing Swift perform “Better Man,” in Brian Loschiavo’s extraordinary documentary, Bluebird, at the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival, I was intrigued. Utilizing present-day narrative voice-over from Swift, archival footage, still photos and current interviews from those closest to the megastar and cultural icon, a portrait of who Taylor Swift is, was, and will be is painted with both smooth and coarse strokes. Others appearing in Miss Americana are Swift’s mother, best friend, publicist, producer and a plethora of others inside the star’s orbit. Using at times both documentary recording techniques of direct cinema and cinema verite, Jenny Roh, reveals as much and probably more than the spoken words. Admittedly, after seeing Swift perform in Brian Loschiavo’s documentary, Bluebird, at the 50th Anniversary of the Nashville Film Festival, I was intrigued.

Wilson begins with Taylor’s first song-writing attempts captured on home videos providing a glimpse into the driving force behind Swift’s rapid ascent into stardom. At the age of 9, Taylor, seated on a performer’s chair looks directly into the camera and shares with her audience she’s going to sing a song she wrote yesterday. Without missing a beat a cut returns to Taylor, again in a chair looking into the camera sharing with the audience she about to sing a song she wrote five minutes ago. These moments set the tone for the journey Miss Americana takes the audience. At once serious. At other times playful and introspective.

A few pivotal moments occur when Ms. Swift wins album of the year at age 16 – an unheard-of achievement – the youngest person to ever write, record and perform a number one hit and her rise to stardom is just beginning. What could have been a massive train derailment occurred at the VMA Awards. Swift was honored with the Video of the Year award. Mid-way through her speech a fellow performer under the influence jaunted out on stage, droopy drawers and all, high-jacked a microphone and began belligerently crying foul. Later this artist dubbed “a jackass” by the then President of the United States, Barack Obama, would lay claim to Swift’s success by his sheer stupidity, ignorance, mean-spiritedness and jealous nature.

The young woman’s biggest career moment, normally a monumentally happy occasion, turned nightmarish as the young starlet appeared bewildered and somewhat dumbfounded by the chaotic moment. Loud boos and barbs were hurled from the audience as Swift left stage head-down, shoulder slumped. In present-day time Shift shares what was going through her mind. What transpired over the next few years is unparalleled in the history of the music industry. Swift pumped out four number one albums back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Each album remained at the number one slot on the charts for at least six weeks. No other group or performer, including the Fab Four (The Beatles) has accomplished such a feat.

Alone at the top without a life partner despite a close and loving mother-daughter relationship, Taylor realizes she wants an intimate partner to share the ups and downs of life. The only caveat is both parties decide it needs to be a private relationship. An exquisite camera shot of the couple walking focuses on the shadows cast on willowing grass. A maturing woman, Wilson reveals Swift’s understanding of life and actions to ensure she and other women have an equal opportunity to enjoy success and live their lives to the fullest without regrets and without needing approval from an audience.

All I can say is stay tuned for more on this iconic performer as Swift will continue to reveal (seemingly at times reinventing) who she is in what is truly an art form. Her recent performances and videos continue to receive critical acclaim and her stadium and arena concerts are the hottest tickets in town. And, if that’s not enough, Swift has entered the political ring with an endorsement for the 2018 U.S. Senatorial race in her home state of Tennessee.

If you don’t know who Taylor Swift is Miss Americana is the doc for you. And, if you think you know Taylor Swift, check out Miss Americana for a look into what makes Taylor tick. Highly recommended.

SUNDANCE FILM REVIEW: Crip Camp

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Seemingly, the documentary to see at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival is Crip Camp premiering in the U.S. Documentary Competition. I saw it and I wholeheartedly agree.

Crip Camp, executively produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, tells the story of Camp Jened, a summer camp for disabled teens in upstate New York, close to Woodstock. What started out as a rather traditional camp in 1951, morphed into a social experiment as the times were a-changing. In 1967, a new methodology, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and engineered by hippies, was implemented. Allowing camp attendees full expression to share intimate thoughts and feelings, a shift in consciousness was implanted. Social interactions were encouraged and became normalized.

Crip Camp

Filmmaker/Directors Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht (Camp Jened attendee) utilized archival footage captured by The People’s Video Theatre company from 1970-72 at Camp Jened as well as personal video footage from camp members provided an introduction to the future leaders and prime movers of the American Disabilities Act. Present-day interviews and voice-over narrations provided valuable context to these pivotal moments for the disabled community in the United States.

No longer allowing themselves to be institutionalized in horrific environments like the one portrayed in the film, Willowbrook State School, where one voice-over narrator commented she had never heard such an unnerving sound as the wailing howl emanating from the institutionalized at Willowbrook. Statistics revealed 50 Willowbrook disabled residents were cared for by one attendant. Malnutrition was rampant and the individuals residing within its dark walls only hope was death.

In juxtaposition, the members at Camp Jened held meetings to discuss what dinners, entertainment, exercise, and social events would be like. They co-created their environment. Those that needed attendants had them – often times their attendants were camp veterans.

The disabled were emerging from Camp Jened stays hungry to experience a full life and make valuable contributions to society. Unfortunately, the disabled were not allowed access to a normal life. Thus began, the movement. Headed by Camp Jened committee leader, Judy Heuman, the disabled organized themselves, to gain access to schools, universities, hospitals and federal buildings. Many would go on to achieve college educations, Master’s Degrees and make valuable contributions to society in the arts and sciences as well as in business.

Unbeknownst to many today, this small group also caused a major uproar. And Crip Camp lays it all out in the open. In 1973, the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act gave the disabled status as a minority. Demanding access to schools, hospitals, and federally funded buildings, the disabled were told no by President Richard “Dick” Nixon. An archival recording of Nixon’s voice saying “it would cost too much money to provide the (disabled) access. An ensuing lawsuit citing Brown v Board of Education and the shooting down of “separate but equal” beamed light into the lives of the disabled.

Yet, the provision included in Section Clause 504, stating any new federally funded buildings had to provide the disabled access was not being enforced and plans to forgo any re-authorization were undertaken by the Reagan Administration. Yet, the Disabled would not be denied and began a protest in San Francisco. Footage and archival photos were captured and voice-over narration explained the feelings and angst. Aided by various groups and business owners including Vietnam veterans, the Black Panthers and a lesbian bar owner the group found support and hope. Yet, nothing was coming out of Washington, D.C. and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph Califano would not recognize the group publicly or privately, the group had to go to war with the nation’s capital to win.

With a stroke of luck, the networks were having technical issue and the American Broadcasting Company ran work gathered by an embedded reporter that reached a national audience. Finally, Secretary Califano provided the group with an audience. The archival news reports, Presidential tape recordings and footage captured by an embedded reporter verifies the struggle.

Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy got behind the movement and the American Disabilities Act was finally introduced into the 101st Congress (1991). It passed and made discrimination against the disabled a civil rights violation. ADA and the disabled were given a long-awaited and much-needed access. They were finally given a voice and were allowed to be heard.

Judy Heuman
Nick Nickson, left, holds a microphone for Judy Heuman of Crip Camp, at the Easterseals Disability Services Panel ‘Has Recent Industry Emphasis on D&I Influenced Storytelling.’ (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

The fight continues today, as numerous statistical data finds disabled storytelling has a financially lucrative viewing audience. Several of the Camp Jenet attendees were in Sundance including the unofficial leader, Judy Heuman. The dream to be part of the American way of life burns brightly. And, ever so brightly in Crip Camp.

Crip Camp is a must-see film!

 

 

SUNDANCE FILM REVIEW: The Climb

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Climb, featured in the Spotlight section of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival is directed by New York actor and filmmaker, Michael Angelo Covino. Covino most recently received the Special Jury Prize at SXSW for Hunter Gatherer. In 2016, he was named to Moviemaker Magazine’s “25 screenwriters to watch” list. In The Climb, from Sony Pictures Classic, Covino tells the story of two best friends navigating adulthood and what it means to be a best friend. The film opens with the two main characters, Kyle, portrayed by Kyle Marvin, and Mike, portrayed by Covino himself, biking up a long incline in France.

CLIMB-1
Best friends, Kyle, left, portrayed by Kyle Marvin, and Mike, portrayed by Michael Angelo Covino, star in the Sony Pictures Classics, The Climb. (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classic)

 

Both riders are climbing vigorously when the fun begins. Kyle reveals to his best friend and soon-to-be best man at Kyle’s upcoming wedding his anxiety about the thoughts of married life. Without missing a beat Mike drops a silent but deadly bombshell – he slept with Kyle’s fiance’, Suzi, portrayed by Talia Balsam, multiple times. But before Kyle and Suzi began dating. Mike a standout high school football player swears it meant nothing and they broke it off long ago.

Adding to the raucous opening, a small Italian car arrives blaring its obnoxious horn. Mike comes undone swearing for the driver to go by and then he proceeds to chase the car profusely. When Kyle finally catches up, the driver is pummelling a prostrate Mike culminating in a few well-placed stomps that land Mike in the hospital. Suzi arrives to check on Kyle’s well-being and discovers Mike in an examining station. Both swear they have no feelings for each other before engaging in a no-holds-barred passionate kiss. Kyle walks in and the wedding is off while the story is just beginning.

Covino delivers brilliance with a sharply written script he and Morgan co-wrote. Adding into the mix some nicely placed diegetic musical performances and The Climb is quickly elevated into art cinema. A strong musical score from Jon Natchez and Martin Mabz heightens the film’s revealing truths. Cinematographer Zach Cupperstein executes several French New Wave shots that speak volumes in the film’s cinematic language. Sara Shaw provides seamless editing and complementary pacing consistent with the narrative. Callan Stokes handled costuming augmenting the setting while enhancing an eye-pleasing mise-en-scene. A strong supporting cast includes veteran actor, George Wendt, Judith Godreche, and Gayle Rankin in well-executed roles.

The Climb is a treasure-trove of filmmaking techniques with strong screenwriting, well-executed cinematography, and compelling performances. It’s is a fun ride and a highly recommended viewing.

Additional screenings at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival are Sunday, January 26th, 6:30 PM, at the Ray Theatre, and Saturday, February 1st, 6PM, at the Park City Library.

Until then, I’ll see you at the movies!

Larry 2020 Sundance

 

 

Easterseals Presents ‘Has Recent Industry Emphasis on D&I Influenced Storytelling’ Panel Jan. 25th at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Actors & Decision Makers Will Spotlight Need to Include Disability in Diversity Conversations; Organization Serves as Member of Sundance Institute’s Accessibility & Inclusion Alliance

PARK CITY, UTAH Jan. 23, 2020 For Immediate Release — An Allied Organization of Sundance Institute and member of its newly announced Accessibility & Inclusion Alliance, Easterseals Disability Services will host a panel on the influence of diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood in increasing the visibility of/opportunities for talent with disabilities in the entertainment industry. As a go-to resource for filmmakers and actors with disabilities, ESSC has worked with the Institute since 2018, helping to make the annual Sundance Film Festival more inclusive and accessible.

Moderated by Britt Stephens, Celebrity & Entertainment Editor, Pop Sugar. Guest panelists include Shanique Bonelli-Moore, Executive Director of Inclusion, United Talent Agency; Franklin Leonard, Founder and CEO, The Black List; John Travis, VP of Brand Marketing, Adobe; and Shoshannah Stern, Creator, Executive Producer, Writer and Star of Sundance TV’s This Close.

The disability community, which makes up 25 percent of the U.S. population and commands $21 billion in discretionary income, is represented in less than three percent of on-screen roles. It is time for Hollywood to take the opportunity to capitalize on new, authentic stories and reach a large segment of the marketplace by including people with disabilities in their content.

Said Mark Whitley, CEO, ESSC, “It’s been just three years since Sundance and Easterseals joined forces to advance disability inclusion and greater accessibility across the Festival and the entertainment industry at large. We’re making real progress, but still have more to do to make disability inclusion, whether in front of or behind the camera, commonplace— an industry practice and standard. This year, we’re honored to extend our work and partnership with Sundance Film Festival, bringing together new and diverse voices to share their unique perspectives, address challenges and push the needle forward on inclusion.”

As part of Easterseals’ vision of building a more inclusive future for more than 61 million Americans with disabilities, the organization is working with Sundance Institute to increase accessibility for filmmakers, critics and film enthusiasts with disabilities at the Festival.

For more information about Easterseals and the work it does to support the disability community, visit www.easterseals.com and www.wecelebrate.org 

Sundance Film Festival 2020

 

(Source: Press release provided by EasterSeals)

 

AUDIBLE INVITES SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL ATTENDEES TO EXPLORE DYNAMIC AUDIO STORYTELLING AT THE FIRST-EVER AUDIBLE SPEAKEASY

Posted by Larry Gleeson

THROUGH PANEL DISCUSSIONS AND DAILY SOUND BATHS, AUDIBLE CELEBRATES THE NEXT FRONTIER OF BOLD, TRAILBLAZING VOICES

WHAT: Audible Inc., the world’s largest producer and seller of spoken-word entertainment and audiobooks, today announced it will make its Sundance Film Festival debut as the Festival’s exclusive audio entertainment sponsor with The Audible Speakeasy, where stories are stirred, shaken and spoken. Creators and Festival attendees will have the opportunity to attend Los Angeles Times-curated and -hosted panel discussions, daily sound baths and more.

The Speakeasy will provide a home for powerful voices and feature innovative filmmakers and creatives through panel discussions curated and hosted by the Los Angeles Times. Audible Speakeasy attendees are also invited to relax through daily, 30-minute sound baths hosted by a leading voice in sound bath experiences, Sara Auster. Guests will be introduced to sound meditation with guided instructions focused on breathing practices.

The Audible Speakeasy will provide Festival attendees, creators and industry professionals with an inspiring and comfortable meeting place at the center of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Space will be open to the public on Main Street in Park City from Friday, January 24 through Monday, January 27.

Audible has a robust slate of original content featuring exclusive audio entertainment created by celebrated storytellers from the worlds of entertainment, theater, journalism, comedy, literature and more. Audible Originals offer powerful performances created specifically for listeners, spanning every genre and length, from Patti Smith at the Minetta Lane, the intimate portrait of an icon via spoken-word stories from her life, interwoven with the music from her beloved catalog; to Evil Eye, an episodic light-hearted family dramedy turned supernatural thriller by playwright Madhuri Shekar; to Kate McKinnon’s Heads Will Roll, a raunchy episodic satire set in Medieval times produced with Broadway Video and featuring Kate McKinnon, Emily Lynne, Meryl Streep and Peter Dinklage.

 

WHERE &                  THE AUDIBLE SPEAKEASY

WHEN:                       Address: 692 Main Street, Park City (at 7th Street)

                                   Public Hours of Operation: Friday, January 24 – Sunday, January 26:

10:30am – 4:00pm & Monday, January 27: 10:00am – 3:00pm

*Speakeasy will close promptly at 4:00pm (Jan. 24-26) for RSVP-only private events

 

                                    Daily Public Programming:

                                    9:00 – 10:00am: Sound Bath with Sara Auster (RSVP required)

Afternoon: Los Angeles Times Panel (Jan. 24-26)

ABOUT AUDIBLE, INC.
Audible, Inc., an Amazon.com, Inc. subsidiary (NASDAQ:AMZN), is the leading provider of premium digital spoken audio content, offering customers a new way to enhance and enrich their lives every day. Audible content includes more than 475,000 audio programs from leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters, entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers, and business information providers.

(Source: Press release provided by Gabrielle Flamand, CIVIC on behalf of Audible)

 

Latest Additions to 2020 Sundance Film Festival Announced

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Brothels
Born into Brothels

The Social Dilemma Joins Documentary Premieres; Born into Brothels and High Art Are From The Collection Films

Special Event Love Fraud Confirmed as Day One Screening

 

(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE) Park City, UT — Sundance Institute adds three feature films to the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s robust slate of independent work today, alongside previously announced work. The Institute also confirmed that previously-announced Special Event, Love Fraud, will screen on Day One of the Festival. The Festival will take place in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort on January 23–February 2, 2020.

Pulling from the vault of festivals past, archival selection High Art will be presented thanks to a newly created DCP provided by Focus Features/Universal Pictures. Lisa Cholodenko’s feature debut, featuring a breakthrough performance from Patricia Clarkson and Radha Mitchell, and an award-winning turn from Ally Sheedy, High Art premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. High Art follows an ambitious female magazine editor who has a chance encounter with her neighbor, a brilliant photographer who’s lost in an underworld of sex and drugs. As the two begin a passionate love affair, a powerful struggle ensues and a story of ambition, sacrifice, seduction, and other career moves unfolds.

Born into Brothels, the second archival screening, won the Documentary Audience Award when it premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children of prostitutes living in the red light district of Calcutta. Photographer Zana Briski gives the children cameras as they learn to see the world with new eyes. The film, which highlights the immensely restorative, empowering, and liberating nature of art, went on to win an Academy Award® for Documentary Feature in 2005. Nearly lost in a fire, Born into Brothels has been digitally restored, and a DCP was created through a collaboration between Sundance Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, and the Academy Film Archive branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Archival screenings are made possible by the Sundance Institute Collection at UCLA and give audiences the opportunity to discover and rediscover the films that have shaped the heritage of both Sundance Institute and independent storytelling. To address the specific preservation risks posed to independent film, including high costs of storage, lab closures, issues around intellectual property rights, and damage from neglect, Sundance Institute partnered with UCLA Film & Television Archive in 1997 to form the Sundance Institute Collection at UCLA.

The Collection has grown to over 4,000 holdings representing nearly 2,300 titles, and is dedicated to preserving independent feature-length and short films supported by Sundance Institute. Celebrating the history of independent film, past From the Collection screenings have included The Blair Witch Project, Hours and Times, River of Grass, Paris is Burning, Desert Hearts, Daughters of the Dust, El Mariachi, sex, lies, and videotape, Hoop Dreams, and Paris, Texas.

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES

The Social Dilemma / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Orlowski, Screenwriters: Vickie Curtis, Davis Coombe, Jeff Orlowski, Producer: Larissa Rhodes) — Never before have a handful of tech designers had such control over the way billions of us think, act, and live our lives. Insiders from Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube reveal how these platforms are reprogramming civilization by exposing what’s hiding on the other side of your screen. Cast: Vincent Kartheiser, Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward. World Premiere

FROM THE COLLECTION 

Born into Brothels / U.S.A. (Directors: Zana Briski, Ross Kaufman) – A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children of prostitutes living in the red light district of Calcutta. Photographer Zana Briski gives the children cameras as they learn to see the world with new eyes.

High Art / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lisa Cholodenko, Producers: Dolly Hall, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Susan A. Stover) – A story of ambition, sacrifice, seduction, and other career moves. Syd, an ambitious female magazine editor, has a chance encounter with her neighbor one night, the enigmatic Lucy, a brilliant photographer who’s lost in an underworld of sex and drugs. As the two begin a passionate love affair, a powerful struggle ensues – will Lucy be saved or will Syd be destroyed? Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Tammy Grimes, Gabriel Mann, Radha Mitchell, Bill Sage, Ally Sheedy.
The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Eighth Grade, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs, and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2020 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire; AT&T; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Southwest Airlines®, Stella Artois®, WarnerMedia; Sustaining Sponsors – Audible, Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dell Technologies, Fire TV, GEICO, High West Distillery, Hulu, IMDbPro, Lyft, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Variety, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Partner seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival

Sundance Institute
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Co//ab, a digital community platform, brings artists together to learn from each other and Sundance Advisors and connect in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discovering original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as The Farewell, Late Night, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Little Miss Sunshine, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, State of the Union, Indecent, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Sundance Film Festival 2020

(Source: Sundance press release)