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What Does It Mean To Be A "Sundance Rock Star"?

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by Eric Kohn
December 1, 2011 8:35 PM
5 Comments
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Sundance

That's the question I asked myself shortly after assembling the gallery of filmmakers featured in several recent Indiewire articles about the festival's upcoming lineup. The term sprang to mind because I immediately started compiling a list of notable directors in this year's program. The myth of the Sundance breakout tends to dominate the festival's reputation, just as the usual cast of acclaimed auteurs usually define Cannes.

However, Sundance has its own roster of regulars precisely because it discovers a lot of emerging talent. It's also commonplace to dismiss Sundance for favoring red carpet glamour, which is sometimes merited when the movie associated with said carpet utterly blows. But the truth is that Sundance can and does attract first-rate filmmakers, both from its so-called "family" and beyond--from the Duplass and Zellner brothers to So Young Kim and Quentin Dupieux. Does that mean that they'll deliver? Well, that's a different question we'll have to wait until next month to answer. Needless to say, just because you're a rock star doesn't mean you can always rock out. 

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5 Comments

  • Eric | December 5, 2011 10:31 AMReply

    Chaz: I'm not saying that the festival lineup is mandated by said friendships, but rather that, because many of these filmmakers have played Sundance in the past, they are naturally friendly with its programmers. And I don't think anything is wrong with that. I also firmly believe that, while most festival programmers actively program bad movies for various reasons, they also (at least at this festival) don't accept anything solely based on existing relationships. So it's not JUST the friendship that counts, nor do you need that friendship to get into Sundance. I think it's more that the friendship happens as a natural result of getting into the festival.

  • chaz | December 5, 2011 11:04 AM

    I think you protest a little too much. At a festival where celebrity films already consume programming space which unknowns consider priceless, it's a little strange to be told that these friendships are inevitable and that they don't in slightest affect programming decisions, that the filmmakers and the producers who are back year after year are just better than everybody else. Maybe there are, but that's all the more reason to keep everyone at arm's length. And if you really believe that Sundance doesn't accept anything based on existing relationships, I have a bridge a sell.

  • nancy olmez | December 2, 2011 10:59 AMReply

    It means your friends with Trevor Groth usually

  • chaz | December 5, 2011 9:45 AM

    I can't speak to Trevor Groth's conduct or his relationships, he may be a model of probity and disinterested programming for all I know, but it would be entirely inappropriate and unethical for any festival director to maintain friendships with festival applicants, either directors or producers. That Mr. Kohn sees nothing wrong if the films and the friendships go "hand in hand" (see his response below) is remarkable. This is rather like the other story in indiewire, which finds Scott Rudin and Dave Denby corresponding on a first-name basis, and nobody thinks twice about how inappropriate this kind of relationship is.

  • Eric Kohn | December 2, 2011 3:59 PM

    Nancy, I'm not crazy about these kind of hit-and-run observations. Is the implication that Groth only invites people he likes? And does that invalidate the work of the filmmakers in question? If Groth likes the movies these people make, so what if he's also friends with them? Don't those two things go hand in hand?

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