Teri Orr: Carnies and hipsters and sawdust…
January 18, 2014
Yes, there is a carnival element to the next ten days. And it can be dizzying. And if you are very, very lucky, there is at least one time — a film, a panel, an unexpected song in the Music Café — where you find yourself on approach to the top of the Ferris wheel of emotions and your heart, maybe in your stomach, is filled with anticipation and then you reach that sweet spot, where you know it will all turn out all right and you head down and around with elation and surprise and giddiness at the discovery of it. And then if you are luckiest of all, you go around again. And again.
Don’t tell me, you don’t have, can’t get, a ticket. There are always tickets to be had if you are willing to experiment on an unknown film or an early or very late time slot. Maybe heading into the theater isn’t in your budget. Not to worry. The most extraordinary people-watching costs nothing. Just walk around the market. Hang out in the bookstore. Take the free bus… anywhere. And if you have plans to hang out at your favorite watering hole, plan on spending a little extra time. You can see the bearded lady, and the tattooed man, and all the other carny characters that pose as hipsters.
But you’d be missing the best part of the midway. The place where you spin the wheel, guess the weight, try to win the goldfish. When you just wander up Main Street and see a multimedia presentation, or brush past an actor you sorta recognize, or wander into an art gallery only to discover the artist exhibited is related to a famous actor/director/screenwriter who has a film in this year’s festival. The serendipity of Sundance is that thing you cannot plan for, dress for or rehearse for. And if you are missing that, you are most likely missing so very many other moments that are within your grasp.
The moon was full when I left the theater on Day One. And the night clear. Just minutes before, thousands of people had rushed and stuffed themselves into seats all over town, to be on the ready when the trailer disappeared to see The Main Event. Dramas and Documentaries and Shorts and World Cinema. And all around town, thousands more were already dissecting the first round of films that had played. Critiques of point-of-view and cinematography styles and nuanced sound were being melted over ice cubes at dinner parties and in front of fireplaces. What did it all mean?
Good art is like that. Different folks seeing the same white canvas/screen and finding a way to use it as a backdrop for their creative expressions. Abstract or aboriginal. Primitive or progressive. Impressionistic or impassioned. Eye. Art. Beholder. And you find yourself getting lost in it all. The frame, the focus, the film.
We are the envy of the world in this place at this time… the Belle Époque as Redford called it/us all those years ago. Which quickly translated means the magic moment when it all makes sense — art and architecture and story and song and transparence and transcendence. And you worry… have we peaked?
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Then you see The Source in Swede Alley at night where films are emanating out of the inside of a circular structure elevated and brand new, created just to please us for the festival days. The bright turquoise vests of the volunteers wander up and down and around the town and you can hear accents from the world over from the hundreds of folks who have come here to spend their vacation from their other lives and jobs just to be at the epicenter of the independent film industry for ten days.
And we hear folks grumble the cotton candy isn’t as sweet or the roller coaster as fast or the barn animal carved out of butter not as amazing as last year. But they still want to see it. All. Amazement can’t be forced, predicted, pre-packaged. And we all have different thresholds of wonder and delight.
So when morning comes in the dusky early light and the full moon which had been outside the living room window when you went to bed is now outside your bedroom window sliding behind the mountain, you ponder: did the moon change its place last night… or did I?
And that should happen over and over and over and over. Let yourself be ready for the moments of surprise. See the glitter in the sawdust. And in the midst of all the music and chatter and camera clicks and horn honking and special effects and enhanced sound, turn down the volume. Step into your own quiet moment and pinch your sweet self. In the movie of your life, this, is a great scene. And it is happening for days on end, including this very Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.