Now that the big dance is over, I thought I’d take a moment to wrap things up. Once again, the biggest buzz at Sundance was generated by the documentary lineup. Nanette Burstein‘s American Teen was the rare exception in an otherwise sedate year for film buyers. What’s nice about this of course, is that we can “focus on film,” as the festival encourages — and for me, that means looking back on a few films that really stood out.
Patti Smith: Dream of Life (POV 2008-2009), Steven Sebring‘s hypnotic ten-year collaboration with the singer herself would land at the top of my list of films that I wish I had seen at Sundance. Yesterday, Sebring and Phillip Hunt Watch won a much-deserved Excellence in Cinematography Award for Dream of Life, with Grand Jury prizes in the doc category going to Man on Wire (World Cinema) and Trouble the Water. (A complete list of award winners is available here.)
Other docs from the festival that I’m anxious to see also got enthusiastic responses from Sundance-goers as well. I’m looking forward to catching American Teen, I.O.U.S.A., Bigger, Stronger Faster, Fields of Fuel, The Recruiter, and The Greatest Silence. Luckily, I live in New York City and will probably be able to catch these films at any of several theatres that screen indy docs. But since we’re not all within arm’s reach of that kind of venue, I’d like to remind you that you can see at least three of the docs from this year’s Sundance Film Festival on POV — you can catch Nerakhoon, Patti Smith: Dream of Life and Traces of the Trade on your local PBS station in 2008 and 2009. Sign up for the POV newsletter for broadcast reminders and to connect to your local station.
I wasn’t in Park City this year, but I tried to mix things up by keeping up with a few narrative films as well. Happily, I was able to turn to the Sundance website, where over the ten days of the festival, ten short films were streamed. The most arresting to me was the film titled Pariah, directed by Dee Rees. Pariah is an authentic, layered look into the life of a lesbian teenage girl from the Bronx who is desperately trying to balance the constraints of home and other people’s expectations. It made for an intense 27 minutes — check it out for yourself.
And in case you weren’t paying attention, the nominees for the first-ever Cinema Eye Honors for Non Fiction Filmmaking were announced at Sundance on January 20. These awards, spearheaded by AJ Schnack, Thom Powers and Indie Pix will be handed out in NYC on March 18th at the IFC Center. Hey AJ — where’s my ticket?