I am a massive fan of Sundance film festival. I’ve never actually been, but the line-up generally dictates a few day’s illegal downloading, or at least several hours of trailers and interviews if I’m not feeling up to committing to an actual film.
The festival offers a huge range of films which won’t (you hope) be an actual waste of time, and is a great platform for independent films and lesser known companies to get their voices out into the world. Specific awards for foreign films and documentaries hopefully also encourages people to explore beyond the usual parameters of their cultural intake.
So: the London Line-up. This is a refined selection of the original entries for those willing to fork out on a four-day pass at picture-house, AND live in London or have the money to get there. OK, yes, we all know that the arts are inherently elitist blah blah, but we can dream eh?
The great thing about the line-up is how topical many of the films feel, especially as these films were (duh) not made RIGHT NOW so their apparent commentary on the issues at the forefront of politics and the world RIGHT NOW highlight how long these problems have been occurring. Sometimes it just takes a while for the not-artists to notice these problems.
“The great thing about the line-up is how topical many of the films feel”
One particularly topical piece, Beatriz at Dinner follows a dinner party of America’s elite and one Mexican-American immigrant. Looking at the total lack of understanding between the classes in a hard-hitting yet humorous manner, the trailer alone makes you want to laugh, scream and punch someone really, really hard. “Aw it’s like Snow White”, “Ever dance in Vegas?” and “It’s good - you’re contributing” are some snippets to fuel your rage.
Also on the line-up is The Big Sick which is currently making me a little sick with its elusiveness: it doesn’t have a trailer, and it sounds amazing. This rom-com concerns a Pakistan-born and an American writer in New York; emphasis on the com and the difficulties of navigating their cultural heritages and lives as artists. Sounds the perfect combination of light yet pertinent but why isn’t there a trailer?!?.
“The short film section contains further potential gems, including Kristen Stewart’s directorial debut”
Another rom-com, The Incredible Jessica James also deserves a watch with its fab cast - Jessica Williams (listen to the Dope Girls podcast) and Chris O’Dowd. Say no more.
If Sundance is supposed to push the boundaries, show the films of tomorrow the re-thinking of old genres, updates to make them more appropriate to our time or simply the attempt to avoid clichés is interesting to see. A Ghost Story, for example, where the ‘ghost’ walks around in a sheet. In Bushwick, the apocalyptic takeover of the New York suburb is undertaken by the alt-right.
The winner of the documentary prize went to Dina, a romance about an ageing couple both on the autistic spectrum.
The short film section contains further potential gems, including Kristen Stewart’s directorial debut - love or hate her, her attempts behind the camera will be interesting to see.
So get your self some Sundance; dance not in the sun but the fluorescent glow of your computer screen as you desperately sift through download websites which haven’t been shut down yet.
I hope it’s worth it.