A.I. and the natural world are common themes of Park City Film’s fall season
Heartfelt stories kick off the weekend screenings
Mountainfilm on Tour’s Big Green World short documentaries list
Submitted by Park City Film
Screenings will take place Sept. 30 during the Twilight Drive-in at Utah Olympic Park series. Note, the films are all not rated.
- “I Am Salmon,” directed by Whit Hassett (USA, 2022, 3 min.) Connecting humanity with salmon and the sea through the subtle art of poetry and Gyotaku (fish rubbing), Duncan Berry shares his experience as a longtime environmentalist and former captain of a salmon troller. In adopting the perspective of this transcendent fish, the beauty and power of the Oregon coast become the canvas through which the evolution of the salmon is illustrated.
- “American Scar,” directed by Daniel Lombroso (USA, 2022, 13 min.) When wedding photographer John Kurc decided to spend a few days between assignments exploring the borderlands of southwest Arizona, he had no idea he would spend the next eight months documenting the devastation of the desert ecosystem created by the construction of Trump’s border wall. In the blitz to build the barrier as fast as possible, the administration ignored 47 laws protecting bears, deer, jaguars and javelina roaming the mountains in both the U.S. and Mexico. In addition to being a failed re-election campaign prop and racist monument, the wall also inhibits wildlife migration, putting 70 vulnerable plant and animal species at risk.
- “Finding Hetch Hetchy,” directed by James Q Martin and Chris Burkard (USA, 2021, 9 min.) When the O’Shaughnessy Dam was constructed in 1923, the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park became nearly inaccessible to visitors. It has since become the subject of great environmental controversy. Eager to explore this wild and largely unvisited corner of Yosemite, veteran climbers Timmy O’Neill and Lucho Rivera set out to experience Hetch Hetchy firsthand, scaling its granite walls and advocating for its restoration.
- “Wood Hood,” directed by Alexander Cullen (USA, 2022, 16 min.) From the hood of Rockaway, Queens, 15-year-old Devon finds a safe place and brotherhood in the woods along the Appalachian Trail, thanks to the Camping to Connect mentorship program. For urban kids of color historically unable to access natural places, we witness the joy and growth that is possible when kids have an opportunity to find that “quiet place.”
- “Flow (with Sam Favret),” directed by Maxime Moulin (France, 2021, 5 min.) Skier Sam Favret embarks on an adventure of epic proportions, traversing the slopes of a closed ski resort on a majestic bluebird day. Moulin takes us on a cinematic aerial and symphonic journey as we are enveloped in powerful skiing and the complete unreality of such a serene landscape.
- “Loon,” directed by Jason Whalen and Chris Zuker (USA, 2021, 10 min.) When hiking the Appalachian Trail, thru-hikers often choose a trail name that says something about their home or history. Mike Freed, now in his 80s, chose the name Loon as a symbol of the spirit of the wild, interconnected lakes of his Minnesota homeland. The Appalachian Trail is also where Loon had a revelation about what course of action to take with his 2,000-acre expanse of unfragmented land in the pristine Boundary Waters region.
- “Eco-Hack!” directed by Josh Izenberg and Brett Marty (USA, 2022, 16 min.) Due to increased human activity, desert biologist Tim Shields has been watching the tortoise population of the Mojave desert decline since the 1990s. Rather than sitting back to let nature take its course, Shields combats the depressing nature of conservation biology by accessing its antithesis, modern engineering. Through the use of specialized drones, desert rovers, laser cannons and fake exploding tortoise shells, Shields and his colleagues take what control they can over the ecological levers in play to save the tortoise population. Akin to a cathedral builder laying bricks, Shields may never get to see the true effects of his work, but he does not let that deter him in his endeavors.
- “The Ocean Solution,” directed by Darcy Hennessey Turenne (USA, Canada, 2021, 15 min.) Bren Smith isn’t just redefining ocean farming; he’s turning it upside down. After experiencing a string of pitfalls in conventional fishing, Smith decided to reimagine the future of aquatic farming by asking the ocean, “what should our relationship be?” He found his answer and returned to the sea with a new method of restorative ocean farming that produces a sustainable food source, restores the ocean, fights the climate crisis and mimics nature’s penchant for biodiversity.
- “Stories of You and I,” directed by John Davies (UK, 2021, 19 min.) Starring Academy Award-nominated Jonathan Pryce, Stories of You and I is a series of love letters to the Earth and a plea for environmental justice. What feels like universal memories of moments with the natural world, are director John Davies’ recollections of a lifetime spent in love with nature. Alongside Davies’ true accounts and personal anguish over the environmental crisis are striking images of the wild that emphasize what is at stake.
- “Powder Snow Hokkaido,” directed by Jake Cohn, Charlie Cohn and, George Knowles (Japan, 2021, 3 min.) The essence of Hokkaido skiing is as pure and unique as each snowflake that falls on this Japanese Island.
Park City Film has programmed a strong slate of movies to celebrate its autumn return starting Friday at the Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium.
The weekend screenings, which start at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays, begin Friday with the charming “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” a Cinderella-esque story directed by Anthony Fabian and stars Leslie Manville in the title role, said Park City Film Executive Director Katharine Wang.
“It’s about a British cleaning woman in the 1950s who falls in love with vintage couture Dior dresses and makes it her life’s mission to go to Paris and buy one of her own,” Wang said. “We thought this would be a fun one to start off with.”
Filmmakers created the film in collaboration with the House of Dior, which gives it more of a sense of authenticity, according to Wang.
“It’s about the history and art that is imbued with these dresses, and how they come together,” she said. “So you will see some recreations of his fabulous styles.”
Adding to the ambiance of the evening will be beer and wine that will be available for adults to purchase, Wang said.
“So you can sip on your rosé and enjoy watching Mrs. Harris as she heads off to the Dior world, while experiencing being back in the theater together,” she said.
The screening for the following weekend, Sept. 16-18, is Dean Fleischer-Camp’s “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” rated PG.
“This came up at the Telluride Film Festival last year, and people loved it,” Wang said. “These are a curated, well-versed audience of film lovers, very much like Sundance, and they could not say enough about this film.”
“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” is a heartwarming story of a shell, his grandmother and their pet lint, according to Wang.
“They are discovered by a documentary filmmaker in his Airbnb, and he decides to make a film to help them connect with their lost family,” she said.
Not only is the film — which is appropriate for all ages — clever, funny and heartwarming, it also has a sense of connection, Wang said.
“I think we’re all still feeling a little disconnected from what happened over the past couple of years, and I think people love that it is an unexpected story that is relatable,” she said. “The beauty and artistry come together in a unique fun story.”
The third weekend screening on Sept. 23-25 gets a little more serious and spotlights the natural world with Sara Dosa’s documentary “Fire of Love,” rated PG.
The film won the U.S. Documentary Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, Wang said.
“It’s about French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who rode all over the planet chasing volcanic eruptions,” she said. “They were unbelievable pioneers and basically defined the field of volcanology.”
The film uses archival footage to convey a celebration of fearless commitment and unwavering dedication these two scientists, who were killed in a volcanic eruption, had for their craft, Wang said.
“You see them putting on costumes, and I say costumes, because they look like they’re from ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space,’ that they say will protect them from these eruptions,” she said. “The spirit of adventure that our community finds compelling and relatable is so infectious as you watch them.”
The final weekend screening of the month is Jim Archer’s “Brian and Charles,” which will screen from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2.
The comedy, a 2022 Sundance Film Festival premiere, filmed in the pseudo-documentary style, is about the relationship of an eccentric inventor named Brian, played by David Earl, and his robot, Charles, portrayed by Chris Hayward, Wang said.
“It reminds me of (Craig Gillespie’s 2007 comedy) ‘Lars and the Real Girl,’ because it’s so lovely at how the community comes to embrace this kooky inventor guy, who reminds me of Caractacus Potts in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,’” she said.
Brian invents Charles, a robot with the body of a washing machine, and the story centers on their relationship with themselves and those who live in their small Welsh community.
“It’s so intentionally lo-fi for a hi-fi concept – artificial intelligence — that amplifies what the story is really about,” Wang said. “It’s about friendship, community, finding love and letting go. And since comedians play the characters, the film allows us to suspend our belief.”
While the film is a comedy, it also addresses darker issues such as bullying and prejudice, according to Wang.
“The serious content brings this unusual and delightful gem together,” she said. “In the world of serious films, this is an outlier, and that’s what makes it more fantastic.”
In addition to the regular weekend screenings, Park City Film has scheduled a couple of one-date screenings this month.
The first is Kogonada’s “After Yang,” rated PG, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22.
“This is another Sundance film, and it’s about an android named Yang who is given to a girl by her adoptive parents,” Wang said.
The android is supposed to help the girl learn about her Chinese heritage, but when it malfunctions, the journey to repair uncovers a void in the family that the father, played by Colin Farrell, didn’t realize was there, she said.
“The film is about family, what defines a family, how we connect with each other and what is community,” Wang said.
“After Yang” is part of Park City Film’s STEM Education Film Series, a subset of the Reel Community Series, and funded by Verizon Foundation, according to Wang.
“The STEM Education Film Series is a program we designed five years ago to connect communities that are underrepresented in sciences — people of color, women and girls and younger people,” she said. “We show films with casts and characters that represent and inspire them to connect in the STEM sciences.”
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Eliane S. Wiese and Ana Marasović, assistant professors at the University of Utah’s School of Computing.
“They will talk about the future of artificial intelligence and some of the ethics behind it,” Wang said. “It seems like the gap between fantasy and reality is getting smaller, and they will discuss some of the issues that are being addressed in their field.”
The other one-off screening will be an evening of Mountainfilm on Tour short documentaries at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 during the Twilight Drive-in at Utah Olympic Park series, Wang said.
The films are part of Mountainfilm’s Big Green World playlist that celebrates the wild places, spaces, people and animals that inhabit this big green world, she said. (See accompanying box for the films):
“This collection of short films from the Mountainfilm Festival at Telluride is about celebrating the spirit of adventure,” she said. “These are environmentally themed films that present stories of the different actions people are taking from different parts of the globe in celebration of the beauty of the world around us. We thought they would resonate without community, because we do have a strong connection with the natural world and have an interest in protecting it.”
Wang looks forward to starting up an autumn season that will be “a kind of return to normal,” after the past 2 ½ years of maneuvering through the pandemic.
“It’s been interesting to see how people have engaged with film during this time, and while we know it won’t be the same as it was in 2019, we are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to operate as we did pre-COVID,” she said. “We are ready to get back into the usual rhythm of how we operate and bring our community together in a very unique way around cinema.”
Debate is a great way for students to learn communication skills.
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