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The Sky is Falling? Not at Sundance.

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Eric Kohn January 15, 2009 at 7:28AM

The Sky is Falling? Not at Sundance.
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I'm not one of those people with a decade's worth of Sundance experiences to my name (this is year number three for me), but I have been to the festival enough times to know that I love the hell out of it. Simultaneously quaint and chaotic, Sundance engenders a kind of giddy thrill — at least among those willing to make the trip. No matter the state of independent film community, this annual review of countless distinct cinematic accomplishments demonstrates that there enough smart and talented people to keep the momentum going.

There have already been several sales and the opening night film has yet to unspool. Last year, everyone spoke of a buyer freeze, but during this economically troubling time, a number of high quality Sundance movies are already poised to live on after the conclusion of the festival. I'm not sure why struggling journalists and filmmakers prefer to bemoan Sundance's negative qualities when the program holds so much promise (Slamdance has a few good ones, too). It's easy to look at the festival from afar and scoff at it, but once you're on the ground, the ubiquitous good vibes are palpable (unless, that is, you're a baseless complainer).

The state of the media right now has put a lot of smart people out of work. As a freelancer, I can't exactly say that I feel their pain, because they now occupy the same space as I do. (Cozy on up, folks, there's plenty of room down here in the barracks!) I'm very happy to be covering the festival this year for indieWIRE, and guarantee my coverage will advocate quality cinema, note a few disconcerting flaws and emphasize some general trends of modern independent filmmaking based on the immediate information at my disposal. Does that mean my opinion matters than any others? Of course not, but at least it's out there. I know I'm part of the younger class of film critics ostensibly poised to inhabit a vaguely defined and possibly somewhat oversaturated film culture, but I often feel like Old Man River — just rolling along, with nothing to do but keep on rolling. The public increasingly consumes cinema in bite-sized pieces — a phenomenon that I playfully refer to as "screen rush" — and it's our job to digest its evolving tastes while simultaneously pushing them further. On that front, the work never ends.