It’s show time, synagogue |

It’s show time, synagogue

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Sundance Film Festival schedulers did not need to worry about offending the leaders at Temple Har Shalom when they picked what movies would be shown at the Snyderville Basin synagogue.

The rabbi at Har Shalom says Sundance alone was given the responsibility of scheduling the films to be shown at the site when the two sides reached an agreement to turn the synagogue’s multipurpose hall into a screening room. The Har Shalom theater makes its Sundance debut this week.

Josh Aaronson, the rabbi, says he and others at the synagogue do not hold influence with Sundance’s schedulers. Aaronson says he holds views similar to some films in the documentary category of the festival, where politically charged films frequently are placed, and he disagrees with the ideals of others.

"We have no editorial control over the films, period," he says, calling Sundance "a forum for the exchange of ideas."

The screening room, which Sundance has dubbed the Temple Theatre, has 267 seats, putting its capacity in the midrange of the Park City theaters. Sundance and Har Shalom officials reached a five-year deal to show movies there, according to Brooks Addicott, the chief spokesperson for Sundance.

Aaronson says talks started between the two sides three years ago, before the synagogue, which is situated off S.R. 224 just outside the Park City limits, was built.

As part of the agreement, Har Shalom hands over most of the facility, with the temple remaining in control of the sanctuary, some offices and storage space.

Aaronson says Sabbath services on the two Friday nights during the festival are planned and a bar mitzvah tutor will continue lessons at the synagogue. Religious school classes will be canceled, but Aaronson says the students will miss little class time.

In a message to worshippers in the Har Shalom newsletter, Aaronson says he plans to start a series of sermons about the history of American Jews during the Sabbath services.

Sundance has primarily scheduled documentaries made in the U.S. to show at Har Shalom. Documentaries have long been a favorite genre of Sundance crowds, with Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth" and the fast food critique "Super Size Me" being among the best-known documentaries to show at Sundance.

"It’s what we do and central to storytelling. At the same time, audiences have responded to documentaries," Addicott says about the importance of the category, calling the screening room at Har Shalom "absolutely gorgeous."

Adding the space at Har Shalom allowed Sundance to shuffle the two smaller theaters at The Yarrow into one larger one set aside for people in the film industry and reporters.

Sundance in the last decade has expanded its theater lineup, adding the Racquet Club gymnasium and the space at Redstone 8 Cinemas. The demand for tickets, however, remains strong, and many screenings are sold out.

People cannot park at Har Shalom. It is on one of the Sundance shuttle routes. Sundance suggests people park at The Yard off Kearns Boulevard. The shuttle route serving Har Shalom stops at The Yard.

Aaronson hopes he can score a ticket to one of the films that will be shown at Har Shalom. He says he had never been to a Sundance movie before this year’s festival started. Still, though, he calls Sundance a "mammoth community asset."

"I’m very supportive of whatever they show," he says.