Friday, January 29, 2010

A Trip to the Sundance Film Festival


Howdy folks! Last weekend I attended my third Sundance Film Festival (and my second time as a SDAFF representative). I wish I could say I saw a ton of films, but my main agenda was to meet as many filmmakers and industry peoples as possible and also help host the annual APA Filmmakers reception.

About 10 filmmakers with works in Sundance and Slamdance showed up at the reception to enjoy a Chinese buffet with over 100 industry professionals and supporters. I think I enjoyed this year's reception the most because there was a good number of people without it being too crowded and loud to mingle. I ran into Dave Boyle (WHITE ON RICE) and Mynette Louie (CHILDREN OF INVENTION) who were pushing their DIWO release in NY and COI YouTube rental stream. I also saw director Alexander Lee (THE REAL SHAOLIN) and LIXIN FAN (LAST TRAIN HOME), plus a countless number of festival programmers like Sundance's Trevor Groth (he's like the most important person after Robert Redford but personally I think he's way cooler). It was a lively event and I loved catching up with old friends like my friend Yen Tan from Dallas experiencing Sundance for the first time with Clay Liford's short "My Mom Smokes Weed" which Yen produced.

My other 2 days were filled with more receptions and meetings - I got more invites to receptions than I could possibly attend. I met random filmmakers in the most random places. One guy was German and he shot a film in India, and it got into Sundance, and...I guess it's eligible for SDAFF!
I got into ONE film screening - LAST TRAIN HOME by Lixin Fan. Fan's documentary follows Chinese migrant workers, one family in particular. It is a devastating look at the consequences of a couple's choice to leave their infant behind in the countryside to work in the factories. Once a year, the workers are allowed to go back home to see their families for Chinese New Year. The film follows this family after they have been migrating for 16 years and their grown up daughter now must choose whether to continue school or follow her parents' fate.

Although depressing as you can imagine, LAST TRAIN HOME is so beautifully photographed and intimately revealed that I did not want to see it end. With not a single member audience member leaving before the Q&A I can guess that the audience felt the same. The closest film I can compare it with is UP THE YANGTZE, but LAST TRAIN HOME is for more intimate and perhaps even more universal as it portrays the struggles of a working lower class family.
I have to end this blog by saying I always have a love/hate feeling towards Sundance. The festival is the same organized chaos it has always been and you might be disappointed to not see all the films you want. I love how the entire city becomes the festival, but it's also what I hate about it at the same time because Park City doesn't have the capacity to serve all (or even most) of the people who want to attend it. Sundance is for the die-hards. Even for me, it was a test. How bad do I want to see this movie? Do I really want to stand in line for 2 to 4 hours for a mere chance at a rush ticket in a line of 200 people? Do I want to trek through 10 degree snowy weather and risk slipping on ice at every corner? Do I want to wait for that darn slow shuttle bus that never seems to be going to the venue I want? Is this worth $15 a ticket? In the end, I assured myself that whatever movie I wanted to see would probably eventually get to an arthouse theatre, so I went off to networking and walking around Main Street to try to catch as much free swag handouts as I could.

But I do give a few props: Sundance's theme this year was Cinematic Rebellion and their marketing efforts made my experience fresh and exciting. Who doesn't want to be part of the "revolution?" Who doesn't envy those hot Sundance volunteer jackets outfitted by Kenneth Cole? And yes, I bought a souvenir mug and it is cool. And I bought the bags made out of recycled festival banners from the year before. A rip-off but I'm trying to support the cause. They wouldn't take my money when I was late to a screening but they got me in fest merch. Sometimes it's more about the style and the hype than seeing the films I guess.

-- Mye Hoang, Associate Director

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that it was lucky that you got to go to Sundance and get some really great experiences under your belt.