By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall January 17, 2008 at 9:53AM
The inevitable first blog post from a film festival is one of my least favorite writing rituals; I, like everyone else, flew into Salt Lake City. I was indeed on an airplane. I landed. I caught a shuttle. I checked into our condo (it's fancy pants). It's cold here. I went and got my badge and catalogue. My schedule is set. I had a wonderful dinner last night with some new friends and some old. Tonight, another dinner with my co-workers, another cozy get together, and sleep. Tomorrow, screenings begin in earnest (I have 6 scheduled). Who gives a shit? Same as it ever was.
But this year, with all of the talk once again focused on the acquisitions business and the lofty commercial expectations many of the films at festival enjoy, I feel almost completely detached from everyone else's festival. I come here every year in search of films that we can share with audiences back in Sarasota, and ever since we've started coming, we've always found some terrific movies. The Press and Industry Office staff, the Programming staff, the festival volunteers, everyone is working hard to celebrate the art of film; They all do a great job. That said, it's hard not to grow tired of the double life of Sundance, the way in which the festival nurtures and cultivates this frenzied industry activity while maintaining an aloof distance from what they've sown. After a few visits, it all starts to feel like déja vu. Every year, we're celebrating the annual "best ever line-up" of "diverse films." At this point, every time I read a quote from a festival staffer standing back from the sales activity as if they were victimized by it, my eyes automatically roll. How do you quote a $45 million dollar sales figure after prefacing it with "The industry is exhausted?" Focus On Film? Sure, but you can't have it both ways.
That said, who am I to argue? I really do love it here, love seeing friends and colleagues, talking about the films, making connections with new and interesting people of all stripes and hopefully bringing some films that we like back to our own festival. Sundance is a great film festival, maybe because of all of its contradictions. I'll be writing plenty of posts from the festival and taking in a ton of movies... plenty more coming soon. Off to dry my socks and put my feet up for a few minutes. Not that anyone would possibly care about that. Sigh.