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Rippling Effect

As we sit in the bustling airport, our heavy eye lids keep us from full consciousness, yet in the back of our minds, we’re reminiscing about the week’s events while also dreading the return home. We are left in the weakened and exhausted outer shells of our seemingly lifeless bodies, wondering how we will ever transition back into normal life. Sorenson put it best when she said our Sundance bubble has been popped. Seeing up to four films a day began to seem like routine, and now we face the disturbing prospect that most of us will not even have the chance to see a film for the remainder of the week.

While diving into film after film became emotionally draining, we fell evermore in love with our craft. This week we were faced with challenging themes concerning forgiveness, identity, passion, and the faithfulness of God which we will pursue in contemplation daily as we continue on from here. We feel blessed and honored to have experienced a multitude of films which the world may never have the chance to see again. We got to join in on the director’s journey as many films were premiered during this week. And we got to see how God can use non-believing film professionals in a secular industry to create a spiritual stirring in audiences. We saw this in films such as Circles, There Will Come a Day, & Linsanity, among others.

This so-called bubble felt like a truly unique community of professionals and film-enthusiasts. In these rare moments, even we Northwestern film students were considered to have valuable ideas, opinions, and critiques. The humble spirit that indwelt a large majority of the directors, writers, and producers that we met, made us feel like we were supporters and colleagues alongside them. Even today in this airport we got to see these genuine attributes played out through Srdan Golubovic, director of Circles.

Eagles with Srdan Golubovic, director of "Circles"

Eagles with Srdan Golubovic, director of “Circles”

It was yesterday while walking down Main Street that Chris, Krista and I passed the film’s crew. We panicked for a good thirty seconds debating whether or not to approach them yet again – as if they weren’t already sick of us. But the moment had passed and we simply missed our opportunity, which we all seriously regretted. But today, by either a miracle or God’s own design, we saw the entire crew just feet away from us in the airport. In a stealthy, stalker-like approach we followed Srdan as he was chasing his 15 month old son through the restaurants. We eventually caught up with him and re-introduced ourselves, though he already recognized us. He signed our ticket stubs and wished us well, and in an extremely kind gesture, gave us his email address, asking us to keep in touch with him. And if the morning couldn’t possibly get any better, his family and his crew boarded the same flight to Minnesota. In such a large world-wide industry, everything suddenly felt so intimately small.

Certainly, upon our return to the frigid Minnesotan air, we will have a tough time adjusting back to a regular academic or work schedule, we will miss spending nearly every moment with this tight knit group, and we will feel empty as we won’t have constant access to the challenging conversations about the art of film. But, we return also with a better knowledge of our craft, more inspiration, and a stronger passion to tell both compelling and impacting stories.

We would like to sincerely thank you for joining us on this adventure through reading our blog. Many details were spared from these posts so I encourage you to connect with one of us to hear more about this incredible experience. Ranko, whilst clinging to what small faith he has left, remarks: “You throw a mere rock in the water and something happens: those circles appear.” – from Circles (Krugovi).

These films have instilled so much in us, and soon you will have the chance to see the rippling effect of that inspiration through our forthcoming work. For now, back to the daily mundane, but expect to see some of our names on the Sundance marquees in the near future.

-Anna Marie Carey

The Bubble

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Northwestern group at the Windrider Forum

We lived in a bubble this past week of compelling stories, striking images and multifaceted conversations. That bubble burst today.

The students return to dorms and piles of homework. I return to a slate full of classes and a pile of laundry.

You’ve heard from our students this week as they grappled with story and shared some of what they’ve gleaned from this complete immersion into the Sundance Film Festival. We are all thankful for this opportunity and return with new ideas of visual storytelling and deeper challenges in living our lives.

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” This sentiment also reflects our time at the Sundance Film Festival. We went from one film masterpiece to the next, heard from directors and chatted writers and producers about their processes and intentions. We heard in a matter of minutes their years-long journey of financing, casting, and rewriting their films. While we nodded our heads and understood the sweat and tears of the process, we did not share the agony with them. We shared in their mountaintop experiences.

On one such mountaintop experience involved Rocky, the subject in the documentary Blood Brother, shared that his journey to live and work in an orphanage in India for those infected with HIV began with his desire to live an authentic life; he wanted his life to matter beyond his own comfort and security. Hearing and seeing his honest expression of faith tested me to think deeper about how I can live my faith life in a vibrant, tangible way.

Our challenge now as we return to tasks and to-do lists is to remember what we learned in the bubble of Sundance. But more than just remembering it, we are called to translate what we’ve seen and heard into our film work…and our lives.

- Professor Ann Sorenson

Coming Full Circle(s)

Good morning, America. I got a bit of rest the past few nights. Through further conversation and some processing time, I have been able to better collect my thoughts.

As mentioned in a previous post, a few of us were incredibly moved by a Serbian film directed by Srdan Golubovic, Circles. So much so that we had to see it again before leaving Sundance. Waking up early to stand in the wait list line was not ideal, but it was definitely worth the wait.

The film was even more incredible watching it a second time. Knowing the full story this time enhanced the moments that were meant to cause the audience to empathize with the characters. The repetition and parallels in story were more evident in the second viewing and powerful enough to bring us to tears. It was such a beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption that resonated with us deeply.

Following the film, there was a Q&A session with the director and a few of his crew. His passion and humility shined through as he spoke of his intentions for making this film. It was encouraging to see a director so ecstatic about simply having an audience to share his story with. Furthering the credibility of the film, Circles won World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award.

There Will Come A Day, an Italian/French collaboration, was a masterpiece of visual poetry. The protagonist is a young woman struggling with a recent divorce caused by her inability to have children. Due to her circumstances, she feels the best thing to do is to get away from the world she knows. The film follows her journey through the exotic Amazon and documents the different relationships that blossom. The landscape in which they shot was displayed beautifully in the cinematography and shot choices.

In my opinion, the performances were spectacular, but I didn’t personally connect with the story. However, I did have several things fighting against me, such as drowsiness and still pondering about Circles. If I were to see this film at a different time, I hope I would be able to appreciate the reflective theme it had. My emotions were a bit spent at that point due to seeing 11 other films previous.

Directly after seeing There will come a Day, we saw the film, Fruitvale. Many of us were anticipating seeing this film because of the overwhelmingly positive comments which had been floating around the Sundance community. It is a film based on a true story of a man named Oscar Grant, who was killed in a fit of racism and police brutality. Not only was this an incredible and emotional story, but it also raises very important issues that need attention. There were very few dry eyes in the theater when the credits began to roll. Not only did the Sundance audience think this was an beautiful film, but so did the Sundance jury. It won this year’s U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, as well as Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Film.

What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love , a foreign film from Indonesia, was certainly the most interesting film that we have seen thus far. It started out a bit like a foreign version of Moonrise Kingdom. However, the story quickly turned into something we were not comfortable with. Much of the content was inappropriate and unsettling. There were moments we liked, such as certain shots and a few themes portrayed in their relationships. But for the most part, it was a confusing and disturbing film. I would not recommend this to anyone, nor see it again.

Overall, Friday was a bit of an odd day and we were exhausted. But it was well worth it to experience the variety of experiences the filmmakers had to offer. I feel blessed to have seen so many fantastic films and experience Sundance with some of my closest friends.

- Krista Rose Koester

The Color Always Blooms Upstream

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Park City Sunrise

Today was our final day here in Park City. We finished off our 12-run movie week (13 for some of us) with Before Midnight and Upstream Color.  Both films fall into my favorites of the week. After returning to our hotel mentally exhausted from the long week, a few of us sat in the hot tub tonight reminiscing, sharing our highs and lows from the trip.

Aside from films, we came to the conclusion that we had the most fun just hanging out with everyone. It turned out to be an awesome time of fellowship and discussion for the 7 of us. From my perspective we all seem to know each other a little bit better and we will all definitely miss this time together.

One of the things that really struck me throughout the week was the way in which films move us. Its something that I have thought about a lot since becoming a film major but the fact that we subjected ourselves to between 3 and 4 films a day really accentuated this idea.

Whenever we watch a film (provided that we are engaged with it) we give authority to that director to take us where he/she wants us to go. The better the film, the more we feel what the characters feel. Though this sounds basic, it is amazing to think of how powerful the medium of film is. We are essentially giving our emotions to the control of someone else. We experienced this in some way or another for most of the films we saw this week; feeling emotions such as love, happiness, hopelessness, anger, relief, forgiveness, gratefulness, the list goes on. Its a weird but exciting prospect to be moved in such a way.

I would have to say that most every film this week was great in some way or another (there was one, maybe two, that did not cut it for all of us), but I would like to quick talk about my two favorite films of the week. Circles upon its first watch, was a beautiful depiction of forgiveness and redemption but its interweaving story left me amazed yet slightly lost at the end. A few of us went to see it again and the second viewing was so much more powerful.

The themes became more evident and the idea of our potential impact on those around us rose to the surface with emotionally invigorating force. Upon exiting the theater for the second time I was amazed at the impact this film had on me.

I had the opportunity to talk to the director and snag a picture with him.

My other favorite film of the week was Upstream Color and this is one that will be sure to divide audiences. Shane Carruth, a Christian, brought his debut feature Primer, to Sundance in 2005 and received the Grand Jury Award.

After an 8 year break his cult-following (including myself) was thrilled to hear about his world premier of his second film, Upstream Color.  Sitting through this film is an incredibly visceral experience. It’s abstract form, Malick like cinematography, pounding melodic sound design, and visual parallels make this a one of a kind experience that is better felt than understood. It’s not until after the film ends that the narrative begins to fall into place. Like the trailer says, “You can force your stories shape but the color always blooms upstream.”
– Christopher Behnen

Please enjoy this ringback tone while your party is reached.

Today, we hit exhaustion. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. 3 films for most, 4 films for me. Even though our brains felt like they were turning to mush, we still made time for discussion that was both insightful and intriguing. For now, I need time to digest and process. Check back tomorrow for details. It’s time for bed, please hold.

 

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Goodnight lovlies,

Krista Rose Koester

Thursday

Our class is in the high altitudes of Park City, Utah, but we’re not here for the ski slopes and snowboarding. This is the Sundance Film Festival. It has been my dream to see the films from this institution and meet the directors from all over the world.

The plane ride here was the first time I’ve been off the ground for more than 4 seconds. My head blew up like a balloon and my stomach spun like my mother’s chocolate mix. Still, I somehow seemed to have survived the epic air ride and slept well the first night at the hotel.

Before writing this post I began to ponder some ideas for a word that can describe my experience here, but the truth is there are no words to express my feelings. The films we see are beyond incredible and inspirational. Each film had a element of truth to society which made our conversations which each other deeper than ever before. Yesterday, we saw God Loves Uganda which showed the ideology of Christians in Africa and their immorality. This was a film which I greatly appreciated because of my personal struggles with handling homosexuality. It challenged my faith and encouraged me to be like minded, showing the same love to these individuals just as I would love my brothers in Christ.

Today we saw Life According to Sam, a boy struggling with progeria, are rare disease that causes rapid growth.

The film showed Sam’s progress through the help of his parents to help fight this terrible disease. From every shot it showed the beauty and love these parents had for their child and tried so hard everyday to finding the cure. Filmed over three years, the directors edited the movie in such a spectacular and inspirational way it will leave you in tears.

Not every movie is perfect here and some of those like Touchy Feely or The Square did not meet up to my expectation. Touchy Feely seemed to be lacking the elements of storytelling as well as character development. The film seems to get distracted with other lighthearted moments and drowns the attention span of the audience. It was like taking a mud bath. Some people like it, but the majority of us would rather use soap and water.

The Square had some great footage of the protesters in Egypt, but basically it’s everything I’ve seen regularly at a Nightline News report.

Still looking forward to watching Upstream Color which from what I heard from others is the greatest film at Sundance.

Tomorrow, I will be waiting in line to get tickets for the premiere showing of jOBS, the life of Steve Jobs and how he started the company. Mud is still my number one pick from Sundance which I hope to see on Saturday if I can find tickets.

-David De Leon

Dismantled

To say the least, today left us feeling dismantled. Torn apart. Broken in pieces.

We had the rare opportunity to experience three very weighty films back-to-back-to-back. While the anticipated schedule already prepared us for the exhaustion to come, we weren’t quite prepared for the emotional aftershocks which followed each film.

We began roller coaster ride wit The Square, a first hand account of the Egyptian  revolts which have plagued the nation for over two years now. The footage viewed proved the dedication to the cause of the revolution by the filmmakers as they placed themselves in harms way to capture the unfolding of these events, whilst maintaining high quality composition. While it was in documentary form, we were drawn into what seemed like a narrative. Rarely did we have the moment to pause for breath or even collect our thoughts. I don’t know how many times I wanted to release tears on behalf of these oppressed yet passionate individuals, but there was not even a spare second for that.

The sense of being bombarded by a collection of cultural chaotic sounds of street life and emphatic outcries of the revolutionaries, invaded our personal space to the point of discomfort. The desperate efforts to take down Mubarak were successful, but the goal to remove the regime still seeks completion. With Mubarak’s term at it’s end, the nation’s army took control of the government, leaving protesters without hope. In order to eliminate the peaceful proposals of the revolutionaries, the army resorted to a violent solution. While US media has been dominated by stories surrounding these events over the past two years, the film opened our eyes to the harsh reality of the situation in Egypt, leaving us feeling utterly helpless.

From there, we rushed to what ended up being for most of us one of the most stunning narrative films: Circles, a Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian collaboration by Srdan Golubovic. This reflection on true events concerning cultural conflict was a  refreshing story on the power of forgiveness. As the film’s title suggests, the central figures in the story saw their lives intertwine around the compassionate actions of the film’s protagonist.

Golubovic completed that circle by withholding the essential payoffs till the final scenes of the film. In a similar manner, the film played on various repetitions within character blocking and shot composition. In one example, there were many instances in which the audience watched the simple action of a character walking to his/her next destination. In each sequence, the shots were paralleled by a medium close up of the character’s face, followed by the exact framing focused on the back of his/her head, and a wide shot in which the character pressed in and out of frame.

Unlike The Square, Circles allowed for much breathing room as each shot extended over a long period of time and reflected the idea of loneliness by leaving empty space within the frame; even the color reflected a pallet of loneliness. All of these elements (payoff, space, and loneliness) were encapsulated by the final breath-taking shot, which unfortunately we won’t describe here. Hoping that the film picks up a theater release, we strongly encourage you to see it for yourselves.

Anticipating yet another difficult film to swallow, we apprehensively approached our final film of the evening: God Loves Uganda. This documentary possessed a more political agenda as it reflected on the Anti-Homosexual laws pending approval by the Ugandan Parliament.

First impressions of the film left us in a blur as we spent the first half hour trying to determine what the film was actually about. While we felt the entirety of the production value didn’t meet the standards set by previous Sundance films seen during the week, our minds had been opened to the degradation of homosexuals in that country. With a strong Christian presence in the film, while it wasn’t necessarily enjoyable to watch, we came to the consensus that the Evangelical community should have the opportunity to see the film. It’s not hard to see that the film reflects a lot of what shifts are happening within our present society.
Had we the opportunity to pick the schedule of film viewing for ourselves, we would never have suggested this line-up. Being overwhelmed by a visceral collection of vastly different emotions, we were reminded of the life-changing impact a film has the ability to possess.

-Anna Marie Carey, Krista Rose Koester, and Chris Behnen

Go Go Go

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Main Street

Wow, we’ve only been here a few days yet it seems like much longer. It’s been a great time so far! Today has definitely been the busiest day yet! The seven of us started our day with a Windrider forum at 8:30 am. We had to leave early in order to grab lunch and head to the Egyptian Theatre where we were seeing The Square. As soon as the film ended, we booked it to our next destination, the Library Theatre, to catch Circles. After a Q&A with the director of the film, we had the opportunity to chat and snap a picture with him. We then had about an hour to make it to our last film at the Yarrow Theatre, called God Loves Uganda. We went to dinner afterwards and enjoyed a nice sit-down meal. I got salmon, one of my favorite foods.

So far this trip has been a great experience. It’s awesome to actually be at the Sundance Film Festival and to take it all in. It’s different than what I expected; it’s pretty low-key and comforting. It’s in a small town, surrounded by mountains and ski hills. I find it absolutely beautiful here. I’ve never seen mountains before, and I was just in awe when we flew in (I still am!)

View of Salt Lake City from airplane

View of Salt Lake City from airplane

I’ve included some pictures I took in this post so you can see what I’m talking about. If you haven’t been to Park City, Utah, you should try to make it out here.

I’ve had a great time so far and I’m looking forward to the next three days at Sundance. I plan on coming back in the upcoming years!

-Laticia Mattson

Srdan Golubovic, director of Circles

Srdan Golubovic, director of Circles

Film Festival Survival Guide

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Q&A Session after screening of the film Linsanity

It’s not every day that I find myself attending a film festival that is as prestigious such as Sundance, but when I do I like to make sure I come absolutely prepared. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time, the key to making any film festival work in your favor is to make it look like you know what you’re doing. You want to give off the impression that you know film like David Oreck knows vacuums. Here are a few tips that may help you make the most of your film festivities.

1. Wear tight pants: For the ladies this is a walk in the park but it might take some getting used to for the guys, but trust me, anyone who knows anyone at a film festival shows off the slim cut. Nobody ever looks at a guy with baggy pants and thinks, “hmm… I bet he’s directed a movie or two.” But if the guys has tight pants… well… (You know you’ve done this.)

2. Wear festive sweaters: We all know that the more extreme conditions that a film festival is put in, the bigger success it will be (i.e. atop a mountain in Utah during the month of January). If it’s going to be cold, dress warm. But don’t just dress warm, look good while doing it. Thankfully if you forgot one, they have plenty of shops where you can pay way too much for a sweater that looks like you found it in a back-alley dumpster.

3. Wear dark-rim glasses: What better way for you to prove to other filmmakers that you do in fact possess the intellectual yet artistic personality that makes you such a great filmmaker. It’s amazing what a pair of RayBan’s will do.

4. Never take a shower or comb your hair: The last thing you want to do is give off the impression that you enough time to care for personal hygiene. No! You where busy all last night and this morning editing a video that needed to be sent off to your director in LA as soon as possible.

5. Starve yourself a few weeks before the festival: This way you can prove to the rest of the world that you, indeed, are a starving filmmaker. You want to get your cheeks good and sunken in before you even step foot onto festival grounds. Who knows, maybe someone will feel sorry for you and give you a million dollars to start your next project. It could happen.

6. NEVER carry a camera: The last thing you want to do is give off the impression that you are there as a tourist. You are at the festival only for business and networking purposes. You don’t have time for trivialities like picture taking. At the very most, use your camera phone and be discrete. After taking the picture with your phone, put it up to your ear and say these words, “Hello. Oh hey Jim! No I’m only here for the day. I fly out tomorrow for a shoot in Arizona. Yeah I’ll be there tonight! Love to get together with you and discuss the next project. sounds good! talk to you later.” Everyone within earshot of you will know that you mean business.

These are only a few tips and tricks you can use to get you noticed at your next film festival. You’ll be handing out business cards like a blackjack dealer in Vegas.

Now, completely turning around 180 degrees… It’s time to get serious…

It was a great to be able to get a chance to experience everything that this festival has to offer, but I think what makes this experience even better is the group of people I get to enjoy it with. Sharing the joys of movies with a community of believers gives a completely new and fresh perspective to the whole world of cinematic arts. It has been great to not only be able to watch the films featured at Sundance, but to process them through a Christian lens. Even though it is only our first real day at the festival, we have already taken part in numerous group discussions about what we saw, how each of us perceived the film, and how it affects us living out our faith among the community of believers.

This morning we watched a movie about the NBA star Jeremy Lin. The Documentary talked about how Lin, through his faith in God, overcame adversity and racism to become an incredibly influential player in the sport of basketball. It was great to be able to discuss how that film impacted us. We all came away with something different.

There is truly no better way to spend a week-long film festival than with other believers who not only love the art of film making, but more importantly, who have a passion to see Christ glorified through the art.

I Cor. 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of Christ.” Film making is just one area of our lives in which we can give the glory to God and it has been an amazing journey to see this played out this week at Sundance.

-Mike Niedermeyer