i-D call on co-founder and executive director of the Woodstock Film Festival, Meira Blaustein, for her final thought on Sundance 2012.
I have been going to Sundance for twelve years now and have seen it grow, change, twist and turn over and over again. There were the years when the doc com world exploded onto the scene and the most lavish, giant parties were thrown everywhere in luxurious resorts on top of the snowy mountains of Park City. There were the years when Paris Hilton and her likes took to Main Street and you could not walk on the sidewalks or drive on the road because of the massive amount of fans and gawkers everywhere. And then there were the years where the parties became smaller, the attending celebrities became more connected to the films premiering at the festival and where the emphasis was truly on the art of film.
Sundance 2012 was a mixture of all of the above. You had a good number of edgy, independent, artistic films, such as I’m Not a Hipster (which was one of my favourites in the Next Section – a program dedicated to extra low budget, indie films), or the charming, quirky and utterly enjoyable Your Sister’s Sister (starring the wonderful Mark Duplass and Emily Blunt), or Safety Not Guaranteed which is the quirkiest, sweetest time travel romantic comedy I have ever seen (and the winner of the Waldo Scott Screenwriting Award at Sundance). Alongside those were the high profile yet high quality films, such as the charming and compelling Liberal Arts (acquired in Sundance by IFC), written, directed by and starring Josh Radnor along with Zac Efron and Elizabeth Olsen (the younger and very talented sister of the Olsen twins); the funny and entertaining Bachelorette starring Kirsten Dunst, which came into Sundance with the biggest buzz; the “cold blooded” Arbitrage starring Richard Gere, which was acquired in Sundance by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate; or The Surrogate (winner of the Dramatic Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize in Acting for the Cast at Sundance). The latter is a wonderful and touching film that the New York Post described as “To call it an American “My Left Foot” is to diminish its accomplishment.” The Surrogate, directed by Ben Lewins, produced by Steve Nemeth and starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy, all of whom are giving the performances of their lives, received long standing ovations and within hours after its world premiere at the Eccles to a sold out audience of 1300, the film was acquired by Fox Searchlight to the tune of 6 million, the highest selling film at the 2012 Sundance so far.
Of course, with all these films came lots and lots of parties where you could spot the celebrities and brush shoulders with industry movers and shakers. Richard Gere, Will Ferrel, Helen Hunt, Kirsten Dunst, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Spike Lee, Vera Farmiga and Parker Posey were among the many actors and directors who attended various events and could be seen hanging out on the streets of Park City. And so it wasn’t too hard to drink a glass of wine or a cup of coffee standing right next to an actor you have always wanted to talk to.
So here’s to Sundance 2012; its filmmakers, its actors, its industry members and its corporate supporters. It was fun, interesting and as always, a learning experience. A place where dreams come true for some. A place to discover new ideas and reconnect with old friends. A place to slush your way through the snow banks in an attempt to get from one venue to another on time, or to sit down to a fabulous dinner with your long time idol, be it Donovan or Justin Long… Now let’s wait and see how many of the films that premiered here this year will be nominated for an Academy Award in the beginning of 2013. I bet you there will be quite a few.
Text: Meira Blaustein, Co-Founder/Executive Director Woodstock Film Festival