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Tales from an indie film festival

A Sundance virgin returns to Boise with plenty to talk about


Never having mustered the energy to attend Sundance Film Festival, I had the notion that it was overrated—a bunch of wannabes, star-struck groupies and excessive hoi polloi crowds. Although there is some of that, as I discovered this year on my first Sundance excursion, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was mostly wrong. Yes, there are many movie stars, but who really cares? It's not my style but many people do care, and the star mobbing, photographing, staring, gawking people did freak me out. More importantly, the people who make it all happen are there, and these are some hardworking folks. They are passionate about their work, with a plethora of creative ideas stewing. In fact, so much is happening at Sundance, it's hard to keep track of it all, even when you are in the thick of it. It's like being at a convention where everyone attending just happens to be in the film business and some of them are movie stars. Make no mistake. This cadre of Sundance folks is here to do business and deals are going down. Sundance is a filmmaker's festival and they know it and respect it.

The experience is not the festival itself but instead what you glean from it. For me Sundance was a kick-your-ass dose of independent spirit. It is the film festival, after all, that put independent film on the map. And it's no secret among my friends that I have an aspiration to be a film producer one day. Going to Sundance was not helpful in quelling this desire; rather, I am freshly inspired with such brio.

Just as the alternative press pursues truth, understanding and tolerance, the voice of independent film pursues discovery. The values of Sundance reiterate this pursuit and reward independence and creative risk-taking. There is a commonality between the voices of Boise Weekly and the voices of independent film, there's just a difference of medium. The independent voice is indeed a sine qua non, since without it, mankind would cease to question, discover and learn. Why not try to change the world one week at a time or one film at a time?

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Sundance lined up a stupendous schedule with all the supporting folks to boot. To have the opportunity to be at the American premiere of Don't Come Knockin', the latest collaboration from Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard, with both of them in attendance to talk about the project, was over the top for me. Their last collaboration was Paris, Texas in 1984, which is one of the best movies of the '80s.

Another film of note on the Sundance roster, Iraq in Fragments, told through the eyes of specific individuals from Baghdad, the Shiite province of Nasiriyah and Kurd country, was a documentary providing insight to the complexity of Iraq and its future. And The World According to Sesame Street poignantly reminded us of the responsibility of media and TV and the powerful role each plays. I could go on and on. Rather than sharing my thoughts on each of the films I did see, or the ones that I did not get to see but wanted to, check out all of the films at to determine which ones you do not want to miss when they start hitting the theaters.