Passion. Perspective. Thinking beyond the lens of my own world view.
I just returned from my fourth year the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. It is probably worth saying up front that I’m not a huge movie person. A week at Sundance is more movies than I will see the rest of the year. Of course, if you are a true film buff there are a hundred reasons to put Sundance on your travel bucket list. My cousin Emily often says that she loves talking and engaging with people who are passionate about what their interests. While I’d never thought of it that way, I definitely agree with her. Passion is inspiring, and one of the best things about Sundance is seeing the final results of passionate and creative people.
All of the films at Sundance are independently produced and most are a labor of love that required years to create. At many of the screenings, especially the first showings over opening weekend, you get to listen to the directors and actors talk about the inspirations for the film, the creative and technical processes, and the challenges they overcame to bring their film to the world. One year at a screening the director was talking with the audience and had her mother on her cell phone to hear the applause. She cried as she told us how she sometimes doubted that day would ever come. I also recall a documentary about Chinese factory workers who go to work the city to support their families, and only have enough money and time off work to go home to celebrate the New Year. This is a subject that would not normally catch my interest, but I remember it clearly years later because it was a small, intimate venue, with a discussion afterwards, and the audience got to vote on the film as part of the awards process.
This year unfortunately we weren’t able to see a film at my favorite venue, The Egyptian Theater, in Park City. But we did go up on opening day to walk around, hunt for movie stars and have lunch at the Wasatch Brew Pub. We weren’t disappointed, I had a fabulous burger (maybe the best burger I’ve ever had – medium rare with blue cheese and bacon) and we saw Danny Devito walking on his way to a screening at The Egyptian. The movies we saw this year included Viva, by the Irish director Paddy Breathnach, a moving drama about family, self-worth, identity, and acceptance which takes place in the slums of Havana. We got the impression it might be picked up for small theaters. If it comes to your town I recommend it, we all gave it 4 1/2 stars. We also saw other movies that we graded lower, but loved the experience of hearing the directors and producers share their process and the stories behind the story.
If you have enough time, stay to go snow skiing, check out Temple Square, and head down south to visit some of the beautiful national parks like Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Canyonlands. Bryce is by far my favorite. If you have children with you, or if you are a kid at heart, spend an afternoon exploring Goblin Valley. Kennecott Copper Mine is not open to visitors in the winter, but if you visit Salt Lake City another time of year it’s definitely worth it. It is staggering, one of the few man-made single locations that can be seen from space with the naked eye.
Travel tips: Sundance has many venues. While Park City is the most famous and picturesque, you want to be mobile in order to see showings in Salt Lake City and the actual town and ski resort named Sundance, further south of Salt Lake. Since you will be mobile anyway, you can save some money by staying in Salt Lake City instead of Park City. This will also give you access to some of the other ski resorts in the area. However, while in Park City, park the car and use the free shuttle bus to get around. Parking is extremely difficult in Park City during the film festival. If you’re considering a trip to Sundance try to go over opening weekend. You can buy Sundance tickets as a package or individually. It’s vitally important to plan your trip well in advance, so start checking the Sundance Film Festival website early, in late summer/early fall, to review the timelines, deadlines, and process to purchase packages and individual tickets. This year they starting selling packages in October and sold out quickly.
Books/TV/Movies: I don’t have any book or TV recommendations for Sundance. But to get in the spirit of the event, some great movies that started at Sundance include: Little Miss Sunshine, Before Sunrise, Napoleon Dynamite, Reservoir Dogs, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Supersize Me, Precious, and the unforgettable Blair Witch Project.