Sundance shares festival experience with students |

Sundance shares festival experience with students

Nan Chalat Noaker, The Park Record

Every year about 6,000 high school students and 100 lucky university students have the opportunity to attend exclusive Sundance Film festival screenings and hobnob with filmmakers.

Last year, local high schoolers were among the first in the world to see the award-winning documentary "Chasing Ice." They also talked with James Redford about his groundbreaking film about dyslexia and met the subject of a film about hunger.

This year, they will have front row seats at some of the festival’s most highly anticipated films including "The Crash Reel," about a young snowboarder’s recovery from a near-fatal head injury, "Linsanity" about the breakaway basketball star Jeremy Lin and "Austenland" by the makers of the previous Sundance hit "Napoleon Dynamite."

The two high school programs "Filmmakers in the Classroom" and "The High School Screening Series" are made possible through partnerships between The Sundance Institute, The Park City Performing Arts Foundation and a consortium of state and local agencies.

According to the program’s director Meredith Lavitt, "It is a fantastic opportunity for a younger audience to be exposed to independent film."

The High School Screening Series takes place at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City, the Peery Egyptian Theater in Ogden and Redstone Cinemas in Park City. Each school day during the festival students are bused to the theaters for screenings followed by question-and-answer sessions with the filmmakers.

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Lavitt said many of those discussions have been eye-openers for both the students and the directors.

"Part of what is so magical about high schoolers having this opportunity is that the light bulb goes on and a connection is made … and every year we receive feedback from the filmmakers that this was one of their favorite screenings because the questions that the students ask are not clouded. They don’t have an agenda so it is a great litmus test for filmmakers for how their films are playing."

Lavitt said the discussions with Redford about dyslexia and also the woman in film "Finding North," were especially meaningful. At each screening students opened up about their own experiences. No one wanted the conversation to end, she added.

Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Middle School students whose school auditorium serves as a busy festival venue, are especially fortunate. The filmmakers come to them. Through "Filmmakers in the Classroom" they are treated to intimate screenings and discussions with the directors.

"We are really interested in introducing them to all the amazing global stories that they represent, international and domestic, and give them the opportunity to meet with filmmakers from all over the world and hear their stories Every year students write us thank you notes and tell us how this changed their world views," Lavitt said.

For college-level students , Sundance offers 100 student passes for $300 each. This nationwide program includes access to many of the screenings as well as three unique panel discussions.

The first, "Meet the Programmers" allows participants to quiz the festival staffers who choose the slate of films. The second, "Speed Dating with Filmmakers" gives the students 10 minutes with each of several filmmakers to ask about their creative process or whatever sparks their interest. The third event, "Meet the Industry," which is new this year, will introduce students to a variety of industry representatives about their roles in the industry. Panelists will include other people who are essential to the film industry such as publicists, sales agents and distributors.

Sundance 2013 high school screening program selections:

Pandora’s Promise – Documentary premieres

Prolific documentarian Robert Stone and environmentalists, scientists, and energy experts share the reasons why they have changed their minds from being fiercely anti- to strongly pro-nuclear energy.

Google and the World Brain – World Documentary

Quietly and behind closed doors, Google has been executing a project to scan and digitize every printed word on the planet. Working with the world’s most prestigious libraries, the webmasters are reinventing the limits of copyright in the name of free access to anyone, anywhere.

The Crash Reel – Documentary premieres

Training to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics, Kevin Pearce suffers severe traumatic brain injury in Park City. His determination and support from family and friends keep him focused on recovery. But when he wants to return to the sport, his family objects.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints – U.S. Dramatic

Bob Muldoon and Ruth Guthrie, an impassioned young outlaw couple on an extended crime spree, are finally apprehended by lawmen after a shootout in the Texas hills. Although Ruth wounds a local officer, Bob takes the blame. But four years later, Bob escapes from prison and sets out to find Ruth and their daughter, born during his incarceration.

Blood Brother – U.S. Documentary

Rocky Braat was dissatisfied with his life in America. Having grown up without a close-knit family of his own, he found his calling living and working with kids at an orphanage in India for those infected with HIV. Despite formidable challenges, his playful spirit and determination proves to be an invaluable resource.

Life According to Sam – U.S. Documentary

Progeria is an extremely rare and fatal disease, exemplified by accelerated aging in the children who are afflicted by it. But when Leslie Gordon and Scott Berns’s son, Sam, is diagnosed with the disease at age two, they aren’t willing to give up. They spearhead a campaign to save Sam and the other children in the world who share this devastating illness.

The Summit – World Documentary

In August 2008, 18 of 24 climbers reached the summit of K2. Forty-eight hours later, 11 people were dead. What happened on that fateful day has never been resolved. Utilizing found footage interviews with survivors, and seamlessly realistic reenactments, The Summit zigzags back and forth in time, interweaving multiple narrative threads and piecing together events, hoping to solve the mystery of what actually happened.

Inequality for All – U.S. Documentary

Former labor secretary and current UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich has argued passionately that widening income inequality poses one of the most severe threats to our economy and our democracy.Filmmaker Jacob Kornbluth, inspired by Reich’s book Aftershock, tackles this massive topic by adapting Reich himself into documentary form.

Linsanity – Documentary premieres

Stuck in the mire of a disappointing season, the New York Knicks did what no other NBA team had thought about doing-they gave backup point guard Jeremy Lin an opportunity to prove himself. He took full advantage, scoring more points in his first five NBA starts than any other player in the modern era. Linsanity serves as an insightful study of the way we perceive race in America and shows what is possible if someone believes in himself.

Austenland – U.S. Dramatic

Even in her thirties, Jane hasn’t grown out of her obsession with all things Jane Austen. She saves enough to fulfill her dream of stepping into Austen’s world and heads to Austenland for an "immersive" vacation. There’s an imposing manor with verdant grounds for afternoon promenades, rosy-faced servants and trusty steeds for hunting expeditions but due to limited funds, she’s relegated to lesser quarters and dreary costumes, but her cares melt away as she catches the eye of a young footman, and she’s swept into a romantic adventure.

Blackfish – U.S. Documentary

Many have experienced the excitement and awe of watching 8,000-pound orcas soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks. Yet, this mighty black-and-white mammal is like a two-faced Janus-beloved as a majestic, friendly giant yet infamous for its capacity to kill viciously. Blackfish unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who has taken the lives of several people while in captivity.