Sundance Day Two: Flu Hits Hard

Park City's Medical Services is giving out hand sanitizer right and left and advising everyone to wash hands frequently, avoid kissing contact, eat well, and get enough sleep. Peter will probably not make it to Sundance at all; his flu is not contagious but he is extremely tired. Since we have to be ready to go to an even colder Berlin five days after returning from Sundance, he's laying low. After returning home last night at 2:30 am, I wanted to sleep in and to forego seeing the 9:30 am screening of the Cambodian film A River Changes Course. But I was up at 7:00 am rearing to go. The family and Harlan were talking in the kitchen and I joined in and the time passed as we discussed the movies we had both seen – Harlan of Talk Cinema talked of May in the Summer, unique because the American sisters were Jordanian America with Haim Abbas their Jordanian mother and Michael Poland their American father. Their visit to Jordan for the marriage of one of the sisters was the notable element which took the film out of the realm of "typical Sundance family dramas". Their frolicking in the Dead Sea when a jet flies overhead and everyone freezes momentarily in anticipation of what might happen was the only reference to Israel's proximity. Word is that the film is mixed, some light touches and some heavy handed moments. The fourth opening night film (Who is Dayani Cristal? And Crystal Fairy are the two I saw and wrote about yesterday) Twenty Feet from Stardom was the best by far. About the lives of backup singers to Michael Jackson, Bruce Springstein, Bette Midler, Joe Cocker and the Rolling Stones, this film was already snapped up for U.S. Distribution of Radius, The Weinstein Company's genre arm and is an audience favorite.

As we talked on about our families, my plan to attend Fallen CIty and Soldate Jeannette, two films in the Contemprary World Cinema section, went unseen. However, in the long run, staying in was helpful for my health and I was so tired that I cancelled my dinner but went into town anyway to get a ticket for tomorrow's film Inequality for All in the New Frontier section. Christine Vachon's Kill Your Darlings was sold out so I couldn't get it for tomorrow. Getting the tickets and getting on the wrong tram to go to Main Street for the Documentary Reception hosted by AFI and Ida and the Sundance Channel Reception put them out of reach, and so much the better as I was still too exhausted to mix with people. Instead, I hung out a while at the Yarrow with Kathleen Dunn, the Palm Springs publicist who is here with a Peruvian short and the Italian French co-production There Will Come a Day whose star Jasmine Trinca was too tired to show up at the planned media event. Sorry I missed seeing her so this is all I can write about the film. Clay Epstein, the international sales guy from Arclight was there too and we made a plan for dinner after my two or three evening screenings. Andrew Mer from Snagfilms was also hanging a round and we all spoke together about our names, pronounced LevIne with a hard I, Epstine with a hard I (both of us hear our names pronounced with a hard e most often) and Andrew also commented on his name pronounced like mur or mer.

Off I went to see Lasting by the Polish director Jacek Burcuch and produced by Piotr Kobus of Mañana Productions whom I had met in November at the American Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland. He loves Spanish (this film is set in Spain where two Polish students are working and fall deeply in love) and plans to make his next films in Latin America. The stars Jakub Gierszal and Magdalena Berus are beautiful on the screen; he is especially magnetic. One to watch and see more of. Afterward I went to see God Loves Uganda which I could barely sit through. It made me sick to see the self-righteous evangelistic American preacher and his so-certain-of-herself wife preaching the evil of homosexuality with such charisma, certainty and articulation that even the legislative body was taken in to enact laws to execute anyone guilty of homosexuality or lesbianism The clergy that speaks out against such anti-human measures are expelled from the church. Church and state work hand-in-hand in cleansing their country of homosexuality which they credit with bringing down the world. It as so nauseating to watch and hear that I left after the first 20 minutes. Speaking about it later, I was reminded that Uganda had been the home of the madman ruler Idi Amin as well. Is there something in the Ugandan personality that welcomes insane extreme dictators to suppress the people's natural development? They all seem rational, organized, attractive and intelligent. No insight is given into this.

The subject was so stressful that I decided to forego the next stressful film After Tiller, about the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in 2009 to today's only four doctors in the country who provide third trimester abortions. Another brutal abrogation of human rights in which extreme male establishment (and church) mix in with the human right to own one's own body. Too much for my tired self. And so I also forewent the pleasure of seeing the Mexican film Halley and opted for dinner with Clay. We ate in a good Mexican restaurant next to the Holiday Village Theaters instead speaking of the courses we teach about the international film business, figuring a way to combine efforts to create something really exceptional. You will hear more on that soon I hope! Clay and I parted at the bus stop and will meet tomorrow for the Creative Coalition Luncheon on Education and the Favorite Educators of certain stars. On the bus to my car, I sat with Ula and we made plans to meet for tomorrow's breakfast hosted by Woodstock Film Festival. I plan to meet and interview filmmakers from We Are What We Are, the feature remake of the Mexican film and to see Inequality for All, a film about the widening income inequality and the effects it has on our economy and democracy. The docs this years are all quite issue oriented, less focussed on the odd individual or odd family sagas that seem more fictional than real. And the fiction films themes seem to run into cross-cultural issues more as the world becomes more internationalized. See you tomorrow!
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