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Sundance Film Festival 2019

Risk Independence

Jaelyn Hawken, Arts & Entertainment

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The Sundance Institute has hosted their annual gathering for all film lovers around the world for The Sundance Film Festival. The festival started on January 24th all the way through February 3rd this year. The theme this year was “Risk Independence”; this was shown off on all posters, merchandise, theaters, etc. for promotion.

The first weekend consists of all premiering films to well, premiere, giving ticket holders access to films selected by the institute to be released early. The films compete for different awards they have been categorized into (winners were announced Sat. Feb. 3rd). The premiering category consisted of 16 films that will either be released to the public later this year or even in years to come. The films are submitted in hopes of being selected to play at the festival, so they have a better chance of being purchased by bigger companies such as television channels, Amazon, Netflix, etc.

With plenty of other categories including things such as, short films and documentaries, there was plenty of films for everyone to enjoy, even some for the pickiest of viewers.

Rhianne Barreto in Share,  an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

My stepmom, my sister, and I were able to attend the festival on Jan. 26-28 this year. We first saw the film Share. This was one of the many films that were playing in Salt Lake City, rather than Park City. The film addressed the dangers of sharing things on the internet that should not have been made in the first place. This can cause misconception and traumatic experiences for the people involved.

Later that night, we went to see the film The Nightingale, that we actually had tickets for, but there was a quick last minute decision to make the film an 18+ film, resulting in my 17 year old self not being allowed in. So, we got our refunds and headed to some short films. There was a variety of short films we managed to see that allowed us to speak with the creators about the process of creating such artistically made shorts.

Adam Driver in The Report, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Atsushi Nishijima.

The next morning we made it to Park City to the Eccles Theater where one of the biggest premiering films premiered the night before called The Report. The film starred Adam Driver, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Morrison, Annette Bening, etc. The film was based around the somewhat infamous report written by Daniel J. Jones. Jones was the lead investigator and author of the “Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Report of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program”, the largest investigation in U.S. Senate history at 6,700 pages with over 38,000 footnotes. He discovered the idea of “enhanced interrogations” and the amount of time it was used after 9/11 occurred. They used the techniques in hopes of finding who was behind 9/11. But, there was some dishonesty when it came to the qualifications of the psychologists suggesting the interrogations. Not to mention the clear ineffectiveness of the interrogations and how they were defended by the CIA for so long. The film addresses the true story behind his journey.

After the film, we, the audience, were given the opportunity to have a Q&A with some of the cast of the cast such as Jon Hamm, Annette Bening, Maura Tierney, and the director and screenplay writer of the film, Scott Z. Burns, about the creation of the film. We also got to speak with the real Daniel J. Jones about his contribution to the film and how accurate the film truly was compared to his journey writing the torture report.

Noah Jupe in Honeyboy, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Late that same night, there was a free showing of the long awaited film Honey Boy starring and written by well-known actor Shia Labeouf. The film was a screenplay written by Labeouf while he was in rehab a few years ago. It has the saddening story of a young boy who grows up becoming a successful actor, raised by an emotionally abusive father, later resulting in the boy having symptoms of PTSD as an adult. We go back and forth between the boy’s life as a pre-teen and the trauma driven, 22 year old actor, he had become.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo in Velvet Buzzsaw, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Lastly we managed to see the film Velvet Buzzsaw. The film starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalia Dyer, John Malcovich, Rene Russo, and Zawe Ashton. Gyllenhaal plays art critic, Morf Vandewalt, and attends an art exhibition alongside his friend and agent Josephina who works for tough art gallery owner Rhodora Haze, formerly a member of the rock band Velvet Buzzsaw. Josephina finds that a man in her apartment had died, Ventral Dease, and she decides to take a look into his apartment; after hearing the man clarified he wanted all of his work destroyed. She finds an array of stunning paintings the man had created. She decides to steal the paintings, and become Dease’s agent after his death. Haze is then enamoured by the pieces and displays them in her gallery. But, what Josephina didn’t understand is that Dease wanted his work destroyed for a reason. There was a sinister being within the paintings; anyone who made a profit or any sort of gain off of his art work were soon found dead. Not only that, but the deaths fit the crime; each death artistically resembled what they had done that resulted to their death. The film was later released onto Netflix on Feb. 1st this year, and in a few select theaters.

For my first Sundance Film Festival ever, I can easily say that I had a great time watching the films, but a not so great time solving how to get into all the films regarding waitlists. There was a continuous struggle to get onto waitlists and to get spots in line with the people I was planning on watching the films with. We were often separated, but that was not uncommon for people like us new to the system. 

All winners were announced on the last weekend of the festival on February 2nd, 2019 by the Sundance Institute.

 

 

 

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Jaelyn Hawken, News Staff

Jaelyn, a shy and quiet girl when you first meet her, but once you get to know her she is very outgoing and is extremely sarcastic. She loves to listen...

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