Teri Orr: Story shards
January 24, 2014
The kaleidoscope of images from the week shapes and reshapes and looks differently with just a twist of the glass/light/colors. There are jagged edges and smooth glass pieces and new designs you didn’t see coming. Sundance is a shape shifter for nearly two weeks in our town. And you need to keep moving, listening, watching to enjoy the art of it all.
In any other week of the year, if I go to one movie/film/screening it is a good week. I rarely make the time anymore to get into the theater. My movie watching is often in a home with friends or on my own in my home. The energy of seeing a film where many people laugh/gasp at parts you did/did not find funny/frightening is powerful. So when I say this week I feel like a slacker, since I only watched five films and ten shorts, it all sounds kinda unbalanced.
And I find by the end of week, all the staffers start to sound like learned film critics. "It could have used more editing, a sharper point of view, less/more music, more locations/characters to tell the story, less wooden/flowery dialogue." And we disagree on how much violence is too much to tell a story. And if there are no new stories left, how artful can the old one be retold.
And get caught up in all that I do. But I try to remember the dreams of the filmmakers who took a chance and found the money and the talent and the locations to put that story on a screen and then the guts it took to submit to Sundance. And you see director after screenwriter after producer take that podium and be filled with glee — they have made it to the pinnacle of independent viewing/reviewing at this festival.
So to everyone involved with "Camp X-Ray" and "God’s Pocket" and "Young Ones" and "Calvary" and "Dear White People," thank you for your hard work and storytelling. I have a lot to think about and chew on and consider in the days and weeks ahead.
The moment that stands out for me, however, was a short film (nine minutes, I think) and it was viewed by high school and middle school students as part of the filmmakers in the classroom series (in the interest of full disclosure, the organization I work full-time for, Park City Institute, is a co-presenter). Eve Ensler showed her short film about last year’s successful, global event, One Billion Rising — the dancing moment worldwide created to draw attention to violence against women.
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The footage opened in Australia with indigenous people welcoming the day and ended in Hawaii, two days later with indigenous people closing the circle. In the middle, joyful women and girls and men and boys danced and sang and played instruments and dressed up in all manner of colorful clothes. They displayed fancy placards and held up handmade signs. The powerful drumming towards the end was dramatic and the costumes were so colorful they were dizzying.
And as exciting and beautiful and lush as the short film was, it was nothing compared to the direct and thoughtful questions young men and young women asked of Eve about her global work against violence toward girls and women. She spoke frankly and bluntly and thoughtfully and energetically. And the students, male and female, peppered her with questions. They were shocked that one in three women are raped in their lifetime (hence the One Billion number). They wanted to know how they could stop violence. They wanted to know why language was dangerous. She explained the confines of living in a "Man Box" and how to break to out of it (hint: real men do cry, hug, express their wealth of genuine emotions). They talked about bullying and capitalism and the need for a paradigm shift to create a peaceful world. They talked about Martin Luther King and his nonviolent intolerance of intolerance. They spoke of being peaceful and powerful. The young men asked as many questions as the young women. They were hungry for honest communication about sexuality and reciprocity and kindness.
And for those us of a certain age, we listened in awe and envy. We didn’t grow up in a time, a culture, a place of opportunities where such tough subjects were polite conversation. To have them celebrated and appreciated and elevated could just be a game changer in how these young people view themselves going forward. In how they view each other, in how they respectfully demand respect of their feelings and their bodies.
Eve was just one of more than 20 filmmakers who came into the classroom to share their art and their stories this week for Park City students. More than 2,000 students had their own unique festival experience.
Sundance does/is so many things. Yes, it makes getting your mail /groceries/liquor a little tricky for a few days. And the traffic a little more congested than a regular winter ski weekend. But oh, what is gives back and plays forward, is impossible to measure. There is still time to join in. There are still tickets to be had. Discussions to join. Exhibits to view. All the way through this 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.