Sundance Film Festival: Old enough to have a past
January 13, 2009
The Sundance Institute has successfully shepherded its fledgling film festival into adulthood and now, with 25 years of memories, the institute is making a concerted effort to preserve its past.
Sundance artifacts on display
This year, to mark the festival’s anniversary, there will be a gallery exhibit of artifacts at the Sundance House. Curated by Tanya DeAngelis, archive coordinator for the institute, the display will include a variety of memorabilia including everything from publicity knickknacks and Sundance posters to original screenplay manuscripts.
One of De Angelis’ favorite mementos is a framed application and thank-you note from filmmaker Todd Haynes, whose film "Superstar: the Karen Carpenter Story," was accepted by Sundance in 1987. There are also original scripts from Quentin Tarantino and Miranda July.
"Sundance has a history of introducing new work by new filmmakers," said DeAngelis, noting that after their Sundance debuts many have gone on to become movie industry moguls.
True to Sundance’s commitment to new media, visitors will have the opportunity to pull up additional images on three HP computers and will also be able to hear and see historic footage and interviews from past festivals.
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"We’ll have three mannequins dressed in old Sundance hoodies and we’ve re-created a poster kiosk covered with historical movie posters," DeAngelis added.
The exhibit interweaves the histories of the Sundance Institute and the festival and will include photographs taken during some of the workshops at Sundance resort in Provo Canyon.
"The history is so incredibly rich, there is so much information, press kits, scripts, film stills, posters from the early ’90s it is a real cultural history of independent film," she explained.
The exhibit will be installed at the Kimball Art Center, which is transformed into The Sundance House hospitality center during the festival. It will open Jan. 16 and will be dismantled as soon as the festival ends. But DeAngelis hopes the collection of eclectic artifacts will continue to grow and that ultimately Sundance will find another place to display them.
The exhibit is free and open to festival badge holders from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 16-25.
Sundance jewels go into the vault
Only a handful of the films shown during the Sundance Film Festival each year achieve wide distribution. Fewer still appear on the shelves at Blockbuster. So what happens to those other little gems, the quirky shorts, the brilliant documentaries and poignant dramas? John Nein, a Sundance Institute programmer, worries that they may be lost forever.
So, when Nein is not busy helping to select films for the next festival, he works on preserving films from past festivals.
"This is the heritage of American cinema," says Nein, who is based in Los Angeles and works closely with the University of California.
"People have a false notion that film is permanent, but all technology becomes obsolete," he adds
To help filmmakers preserve their work, the institute established The Sundance Collection at UCLA and it is Nein’s job to convince the filmmakers who come to the festival each year to donate a copy to the archives.
It’s not always an easy sell, Nien says, explaining that some filmmakers can barely afford to make an additional high-quality print and others get tied up in copyright issues with big distributors. Too many, he says, slip through the cracks.
After 10 years the archives has about 600 titles, barely 10 percent of the films shown at Sundance or nurtured by the institute over the last 25 years.
"The goal is to save them all, absolutely," he says with conviction.
To help bring attention to the archives, each year Nein and the staff at the institute dig into the vault for a couple of classics to re-screen at the festival. This year they chose 1989’s "sex, lies and videotape" by Steven Soderbergh and "Chameleon Street" by Wendell B. Harris Jr. Nein describes both as pivotal pieces in independent filmmaking history.
For more information about the program or to contact John Nein, log on to http://www.sundance.orgcollection