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Past Sundance film reappears in theaters

MATT JAMES Of the Record staff
Graham Greene plays a vegetarian hotel chef in Christmas in the Clouds. Photo courtesy of Kate Montgomery.
3Christmas-Clouds

Films and particularly independent ones almost always have stories behind them.

For many, those stories come from months spent looking for funding or years spent waiting as a script, or any number of incidents endured at the hands of limited funding and tight filming schedules. But for "Christmas in the Clouds," a big part of the story came after the film’s debut.

The feature was shot in 1999 in the area at Sundance Resort, around the Heber Valley, on Guardsman Pass and in the Lodges at Deer Valley and premiered almost five years ago at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.

There, according to writer, director and producer Kate Montgomery, the film found some popularity.

"When we took it to Sundance, we had actually added screenings to meet demand," she said.

But distributors, she noted, were not forthcoming.

So from there, for the next 18 months, the film, a Native American romantic comedy, took a tour of festivals around the country, winning a few awards, including the Audience Award for the best competition film at the 2001 Austin Film Festival, and the Luminaria Award for the best Native-American-themed film in the 2001 Santa Fe Film Festival. But the film found no distributors, and so for a few years it simply languished, pushed by Montgomery and her friends, but without a company to put it into theaters.

"It’s been an epic sort of ordeal," said Montgomery.

But this past year, one of the film’s producers, finally organized a distribution deal with Majestic Films, allowing for the film’s limited release in cities around California and the western U.S., and also including Chicago and Philadelphia.

"I think it’s just very gratifying to see it get out there and get its moment," said Montgomery.

"Christmas in the Clouds" opened on Friday at the Redstone Eight Cinemas in Kimball Junction, bringing the film full circle.

Watching the piece closely, one can recognize the locales. Dozens of scenes take place at Sundance and in others, if one looks closely he or she can recognize the Uinta foothills to the East of Heber or the slope of the Wasatch Back as it spills down from Guardsman toward Midway. Taken together, the scenes make "Christmas in the Clouds" a picturesque film, and give the work a bit of intrigue for the average Parkite before he or she even considers the movie’s story.

The film tells a family-friendly Christmas-time tale about a tribally-owned ski resort receiving a visit from a prominent hotel critic. The hotel’s general manager, recently returned from a job in the city mistakes a beautiful woman whom he doesn’t know is his father’s pen pal for the critic, while the real critic is subjected to a whole host of hotel horrors and the general manager’s father works to win a Jeep Cherokee in a bingo match.

Throughout the movie, the storyline turns its plot relatively cleverly and remains upbeat, offering some cute, if occasionally sweet, comedy the stuff date movies are made of. At the same time the film acknowledges several Native American misconceptions and myths, poking fun at them as the story moves along.

According to Montgomery the film is the first if not the only Native American romantic comedy.

She said she decided to make an Indian film because she had many Native American friends, and the films she was seeing didn’t reflect them. She also said she consciously tried to keep the story upbeat to provide a positive Native American story.

"The screen is powerful in terms of role models," she said, "and these people haven’t had much in terms of role models I really tried with this [film] to provide a positive picture."

At the same time, Montgomery noted that the film wasn’t created to remind viewers about the plight of some Native peoples.

"This is not an edgy film," she said.

Indeed, the movie stays focused on its narrative, even as it shows the lives of one fictional group of Indians, and despite the relatively narrow demographic present in the work, the story is an easy one to identify with, particularly for a person used to mountain winters and Wasatch views.

"I have very fond feelings about Park City and about that part of the world," Montgomery acknowledged.

At the very least, almost five years after it originally appeared here and six after it was filmed in the area Montgomery’s movie has been able to return.

To find the show times for "Christmas in the Clouds" at the Redstone Eight Cinemas in Kimball Junction, call 575-0221.


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