Films in Abundance

The actors Jon Hamm and Tim Robbins presenting the movie Marjorie Prime at Sundance Film Festival
The actors Jon Hamm and Tim Robbins presenting the movie Marjorie Prime at Sundance Film Festival
The movie Crown Heights being presented at Sundance Film Festival with both the cast and Colin Warner himself (with family), who wrongfully served 21 years in prison in USA
The movie Crown Heights being presented at Sundance Film Festival with both the cast and Colin Warner himself (with family), who wrongfully served 21 years in prison in USA
The director Mark Pellington and the actress Shirley MacLaine talking about the movie The Last Word at Sundance Filme Festival
The director Mark Pellington and the actress Shirley MacLaine talking about the movie The Last Word at Sundance Filme Festival

I have just returned from a week full of excellent movies. As usual at the end of January, I have attended this year’s Sundance Film Festival. And as usual it’s a week full of stress to be able to see as many movies as possible, getting from one venue to another in time, eating whatever you can get to in between movies, trying to figure out which movies to watch among close to 120 movies, navigating piles of snow, high altitude, freezing temperatures, even getting some time to go skiing in Utah’s famous powder snow and finally throw in some hours of sleep in between.

This year we watched 23 films (the record is 37) during the week we spent in Park City where the Sundance Film Festival takes place. It’s probably the best and biggest festival for indie films in the world, this year no exception. In fact, I don’t know if we just were able to pick the better films or if the level was even higher than usual this year. But we did see some amazing movies, both dramas and documentaries.

I would like to recommend a few of these movies, which hopefully will make it out into the world over the next couple of months. It’s not possible—or it wouldn’t be advisable—to review all the movies we watched. Instead, I will briefly describe what I regard as the best in each category that are showcased at Sundance.

In the Premier category, for me, the strongest movie was without doubt Wind River. Not the most pleasant film, but intense, honest, direct and powerful. On a basic level it’s about a murder of a young woman in Native American reservation, but what really makes the movie stand out are the tough characters and their not always unproblematic relationships. This is probably the best movie I watched at Sundance this year.

In the US Dramatic Competition the movie Crown Heights stood out. A dramatisation of a true story, about Colin Warner who was wrongfully sentenced to life in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. It is also a film about how the US justice system does everything to prove itself an injustice system, rather—particularly when you are black and poor. Personally, it was an amazing experience to witness Lakeith Stanfield who played Warner as well as Colin Warner himself presenting the film at Sundance.

In the World Cinema Dramatic Competition the Mexican movie Sueño in otro ideoma or I Dream in Another Language totally captivated me. A beautiful movie, magical and both funny and sensitive at the same time. It’s about old languages disappearing, it’s about getting old, it’s about love and the ever divergence between being outside and inside a community.

In the US Documentary Competition, there were quite a few strong movies. My favourite was Bending the Arc about the extraordinary doctors and activists whose work 30 years ago to save lives in a rural Haitian village grew into a global battle in the halls of power for the right to health for all. One of the doctors ended up becoming the director of World Bank. Extremely powerful.

My favourite in the World Cinema Documentary Competition was 500 Years. It is a film about the fight in Guatemala to get rid of presidents who were responsible for genocide in the last decades of previous century. The title refers to the struggle for the indigenous Maya population against the white oppressors who have ruled the country since the Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado conquered Guatemala.

If you ever get a chance, these five movies I all strongly recommend.

On a different note, I want to remind you that you could win a free participation in my online photo workshop «Finding Your Photographic Voice». It’s an eight weeks workshop that starts up May 22nd. Just send me an email, stating your name and why you would like to attend the online workshop and you will be in for the draw. But remember, you will have to enter before the end of January. In other words, only few days left. I will present the winner next week.

Facts about the photo: The photo was taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II and either a 24-105 mm lens or a 100-400 mm. The photos were processed in Lightroom.

53 thoughts on “Films in Abundance

    1. I am not one who gets star struck, but it’s always very inspiring to hear people behind the movies talking about the work. Hopefully you husband (and you too) will get to go to a film festival. 🙂

      1. i used to hand out with a groupie, and take pics of the rockstars, but also was not one to get starstruck, and would often end up in fights with the rockstars, because they expected to be treated a certain way lol

  1. They all sound great, thank you for short recommendatins. Hopefully at least “I Dream in Another Language “and “Wind River” will reach Sweden. It must be a fantastic privilege to attend this festival.

  2. I’m not much of a film-goer myself, but I have some friends who are terrifically interested in indie films and who often attend festivals. I’ll pass this on to them. I don’t think any of them made it to Sundance this year, so I know they’ll appreciate your observations.

    I lived in Salt Lake City for a year, and spent plenty of time hiking the Wasatch. There are some beautiful little alpine lakes tucked into those valleys.

  3. I will keep an eye out for the movies. Living in Utah for so many years, I’ve only been to the festival a couple of times. Kinda sad really.

  4. I imagine the experience of Sundance is exhausting and thrilling. Your photos are fascinating as a more real portrayal of people we usually only see in managed portraits.

  5. Lucky you! I’ve always wanted to visit Park City during Sundance, and take in a little skiing while I’m there. Seems like you would have to choose one or the other though. I enjoyed your movie recommendations – It will be interesting to note their progress over the year and see which are the most well received. I’m saving your list! Great photos, too.

    1. I would think quite a few will make it out into the world. As for skiing, it’s possible to combine, as I do try to. And the advantage going skiing during the festival is that hardly anyone is in the slopes.

  6. I already knew this about you, but your success at negotiating Park City during the Sundance and getting in some skiing also, proves that you are a master at logistics. I’ll be watching for your top picks to come to the Flicks in Boise.

  7. Sundance is a great festival. I published a top 10 article this year. Heading to Berlin to review Logan!

  8. You have captured the magic of the Sundance Festival in your words and images, Otto. What an amazing, wonderful experience – year after year. Thanks for your thoughtful reviews.

  9. Attending Sundance would be on my Bucket List. We have a really great film festival here in the summer (TIF-Toronto International Film Festival) but Sundance has always seemed like a much more intimate setting for reviewing films. I will be on the lookout for some of the ones you reviewed.

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