The Festival Experience: One Blogger, One Day @ Sundance

by Shala · February 1, 2014 · Articles, Featured, Features · No Comments

story-sundance-2014-logo-web-2-220492.jpg?w=615Hey, there. Shala from Life Between Films. I started a collaboration series last year for bloggers attending film festivals to write a journal entry of sorts of one day in their life while they attended. We have since done this project for the Tribeca Film Festival as well as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). This time around it’s just me and another blogger named Iba, each attending Sundance 2014 with press credentials. Here we document  our personal experiences for one day:

Sundance 2014

Shala (@shalathomas) from Life Between Films

For the second day of the festival I attended the press & industry screenings of two very different films. One which promised to be a dark psychological thriller from its trailer, the new brain child of Brady Corbet (Simon Killer) that I was really looking forward to. Another, a family comedy-drama that was flew way under my radar with no expectations attached it but earned a spot of my film list based on the presence of Mark Ruffalo. Funny how things can turn out be so much different than you expect it to be.

Before my screenings I spent a couple of hours on Main Street, hanging out by the Entertainment Weekly studio. It’s a great place to see actors walk by. I actually ran with some photogs (literally) and benefited from them spotting them down along the main area of all the festival goings on. Some people that headlined the festival this year that I caught with my camera included Nicholas Hoult (Young Ones), Anna Kendrick (This Christmas), Michael Shannon (Young Ones), and Miles Teller (Whiplash). 

Nicholas Hoult Sundance 2014 Anna Kendrick Sundance 2014 Michael Shannon Sundance 2014 Miles Teller Sundance 2014

The Sleepwalker (Brady Corbet, Christopher Abbott, Gitte Witt, Stephanie Ellis): a tale of two half sisters who are barely in each other’s lives for reasons that become clearer to the audience as the film progress and are thrown together for a weekend in their childhood home. Accompanying them are their significant others, forming an uncomfortable foursome with stark personality differences and busied psyches, forced together due to circumstances.  It is designed to be a film about dark pasts, dark motives, and even darker inner selves that come to light, though it abet not in any way that is explosive or catches you off guard. 

I was most impressed by Christopher Abbot’s performance as the rough-around-the-edges Andrew, a far cry from the push-over techie Charlie he was becoming synonymous with on Girls and creepily moved into menacing and hostile territory I would never have know he was capable of. Armed with a rough New York/New Jersey-ish accent accent, touch-guy bravado, and humbled beginnings, Andrew comes to represent overt physical danger, an outright contrast to the moneyed and sophisticated Ira, and Abbott does it well. 

Unfortunately, the film suffers most from not delivering on all the tense and taunt moments promised to us. Every one of the four seem to be strangely odd and far more sinister than anything that plays out on screen. Because of it, much of the story, especially the revelations in the last moments, feel less weighed and significant.

–> Watch the official trailer for The Sleepwalker here

Infinitely Polar Bear (Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana): a highly personal, intimate narrative, the childhood story of first-time feature film writer-director Maya Forbes that delves into the both amusement and strain of her firsthand experience of having a loving but bipolar. It dwell on with how her parents (Ruffalo and Saldana) met and fell in love but rather choses to focus on a short period of time much later in the late 70s, when their daughters Ameila and Father (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide) are keenly aware of the difficulties that prevents their father from leading an ordinary life, sustaining a healthy marriage, being able to properly take care of them when their mother leaves them with their father in Boston to go off to further her education to better than future in New York. What comes from it is a very tender yet playful family drama, that offers one of the best performances from Mark Ruffalo to date. 

Along with the great narrative, a peek into the lives of these four people that make a family, there are very strong performances. Ruffalo’s portrayal of Cam, with a mixture of silliness, belligerence, and childlike wonder, is a little disarming at first but charms you along the way. Cam is not a perfect person; he exists with his own set of problems – borderline alcoholism, a propensity of F-bombs in from his kids, . But he is not a bad man, only a man , evidenced by the love he has for his children. Ruffalo reminds us of that time and time again  Saldana plays her part well, the dramatic center that must at times bend to the will of Cam while pushing him in order to reveal his potential. When at this point in her life she is forced to be without her kids, we feel the emotional weight of her decisions with her. The child actors are superbly natural, strong-willed in their desires, loving with their affections, and embarrassed in front of their friends by their father’s antics. 

Inflinitely Polar Bear is not a movie that delves deeply into the racial climate of the 70s or how race specifically yet surely played a role in lives of this family, but rather chooses to show how this family is like any other family dealing with mental illness. 

After this screening I attended Zach Braff’s film party of Wish I Was Here (his Kickstarter film) that I was invited to by a volunteer I met in the lobby of Festival Headquarters on the day before. She couldn’t go so she asked if I wanted to attend with her friends (so nice of her, right?). So yes, I sipped on some free drinks, watched Zach Braff and Josh Gad’s antics, and locked eyes with Donald Faison after I almost ran into him (I would like to say that this was the second Sundance that I have done so). Good times. 

–> I’ve started posting my recaps of my entire time at 6 days in Park City. Start here.


Iba (@iluvcinema) from I Luv Cinema

It seems like the theme that permeates my attendance at a film festival is “so many films, so little time…” This being my first Sundance did not make any difference in that regard. 

As I planned for this day ahead of time, I created several viewing scenarios that I must admit ended up playing themselves out rather well. In the end I was able to catch two films, which more or less was my standard pace for the four days I was in Park City.

Well technically Wednesday saw me catch three films. The day started off pretty early with a midnight screening of the Jim Jarmusch contemporary vampire tale Only Lovers Left Alive, starring Tilda Swindon and Tom Hiddleston. Maybe it was standing on line in the ‘brisk’ night air outside the Egyptian Theatre, the decadent dessert I had earlier that evening, or just the fact that I was out past my usual bedtime (not really) but I was not feeling 100%, which resulted in my departing the film a few minutes earlier than the actual running time. As for my thoughts of the film? I must say that it was certainly an ‘interesting’ take on the vampire and played out in a rather languid fashion, which the audience I screened it with chuckled quite a few times (not sure what that means….). But this much is certain – the programmers at Sundance were on the money for making this film a midnight screening. 

Egyptian Theater Sundance 2014

After sleeping in a bit I headed to the Redstone Cinema to see the documentary No No: A Dockumentary the redemptive story of late former MLB pitcher Dock Ellis. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that this is a story about the rise and fall of a man whose athletic career and ultimately life were cut short due to his substance abuse. The beautiful third act of the film however, chronicled Ellis’ redemption as he used his life’s experience to serve others who were vulnerable to the temptations he had decades before succumbed to. The narrative was part sports history lesson and coming of age story that accounts for a life lived fully and with a poignant legacy. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves sports stories or documentaries in general. 

I rounded out the day with watching The One I Love featuring Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, Ted Danson and Mark Duplass. The less I say about this film the better. Let me simply set this up for you – it is a tale of marital strife that takes many twists and turns and is sure to take you on a trip …

Wednesday also marked the midway point for my Sundance journey, one that I hope to repeat in 2015!


If you are planning on attending a major festival in 2014, please contact me at [email protected] or hit me up on twitter (@shalathomas). We are keeping this thing going and would love to have you participate. 

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