Read more from Kim Masters’s Sundance Channel blog.
It may be cold in Park City, but the economy continues to melt down. That should make for some interesting tales from the Festival. John Cooper, the festival’s programmer, says the movies are wonderful, emotional, eclectic—but sales may be slow with fewer buyers, less money and a diminished appetite for risk. "It's kind of like the rug is pulled out," he says. "But you know what? The movies are better than they've ever been. . . If the independent film world is dying, nobody's told the filmmakers."
My dance card for Sundance isn't filled out yet but my plans include the opening night premiere of Mary and Max, a Claymation film about a pen-pal relationship between a lonely 8-year-old girl in Australia and a 44-year-old Jewish man in New York who has Asperger syndrome. Cooper says it's "a great story — dark and twisted and odd."
“If the independent film world is dying, nobody's told the filmmakers."
I also feel mysteriously drawn to Gael Garcia Bernal—I mean, to Rudo y Cursi, which sounds like an amusing tale of two soccer-playing brothers. And since I'm in the mood for comedy, like much of America, we'll go for Humpday. Described as a "buddy movie gone wild," this film from Lynn Shelton sounds like it might be a woman's take on Judd Apatow territory.
Some of the films sound like they require steely nerves: Push, from cheery Lee Daniels, about an abused teen in Harlem; The Greatest, with Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan as bereaved parents; The Cove, a documentary about dolphin slaughter in Japan. I'll try to catch Cooper weeping. He says he cries at everything—sometimes even when he introduces the films.
Through it all I'll keep an eye on those hopeful filmmakers, anxious sellers and secretive buyers. I'll check out the swag. Cooper expects that aspect of the festival to be dialed back this year because of the economy. "To me, that's the good news," he says. "We've been trying to control that for many years."
As a journalist, I have my own rules. I'm not allowed to cart off the high-end merchandise. But last year, maybe I picked up some high-end, environmentally correct lotion in the Lexus eco-luxury suite, and had a little hand massage. Is the environment unable to support eco-luxury this year? If the answer is aye, there goes the rub.
For the latest updates from the Sundance Film Festival check out Sundance Channel’s coverage.
Kim Masters covers the business of entertainment for NPR News. She is also the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everybody Else.