I’m home and have already done my headlong dive back into my daily life, but a part of my mind is still chewing over the last week. Here’s what I’ve been thinking:
We saw quite a few of the award winners – The Square, which won Audience Award: World Cinema: Documentary, American Promise, which won U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking, Upstream Color, which won U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Sound Design, Computer Chess, which won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, and The Date, which won the Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction.
The last time the Pirate and I went to Sundance in 2007, the impression I came away with was that we had seen a lot of movies about touching sweetness in the face of adversity. The Pool, about a pair of Indian boys who want to better themselves, Eagle vs. Shark, about Jemaine Clement being hideously awkward and Loren Horsley liking him anyway, Once, about a pair of singer-songwriters in Ireland. Every one of those movies was tender and sweet and, despite the problems the characters faced, nobody turned bitter or remained angry.
In contrast, it seems that this was the Sundance of “why is this still going on?” I personally saw a lot of emphasis on race and racial inequality, and I can only think it’s an outcome of the fact that, since the election of an African-American president, there has been an upsurge of overt racism in this country and filmmakers are trying hard to bring that fact to light so that it can be addressed. There were themes of poverty, political disenfranchisement, powerlessness and fear that seem to be products of the climate we’ve lived in since the 2008 collapse of the housing market and the subsequent financial crisis.
The last thing I’m thinking is that the visual theme of this Sundance was arrows. Before every movie, where you would normally see commercials or previews in another venue, there was a sort of screen-saver-y thing of arrows. They came in from different directions, they contained stills from this year’s films, they had a cute video of arrows representing fish and water and rain and trees and mountains blah blah. But it was jangly and loud and rough-looking and I wasn’t impressed. I contrast it with the 2007 visual theme of flames. The screen-saver-y thing then was a complex animation of little people with flames for heads in a little village, creating things and interacting. It was complex and engaging and I looked forward to seeing it again at every film. Step it up, Sundance. You can do better next time.