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January 18, 2013

Report from Sundance: Day 1

By John Lopez | Festivals, Films

Stella Artois
Photo by Annie Leibovitz for Stella Artois

The glitz, glamour and indie madness of the Sundance Film Festival descended on Park City, Utah, on Thursday with a quadripartite set of premieres: documentaries Who Is Dayani Cristal? and Twenty Feet from Stardom and narrative features Crystal Fairy, by Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Silva, and May in the Summer from Palestinian-American director Cherien Dabis. Of the openers, Crystal Fairy seems like a particularly intriguing prospect since Silva’s previous films, The Maid and Old Cats, demonstrate a gritty, ironic flair tempered with engaging humanism. Sundance’s official day-one party followed at the Legacy Lodge.

The festival kicks into high gear today as the last bulk of journalists, cineastes and fashionistas hop off early morning flights into the deep mountain freeze. The most pressing question (second only to “Where did I put my jacket?”) is what to line up for first? The advance word and star wattage of Don Jon’s Addiction and Kill Your Darlings secure them as Friday’s main events. The former, directed by indie prince Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and starring himself and Scarlett Johansson), apparently lives up to its celebrity quotient. As for the latter, if industry insiders are to be believed, Daniel Radcliffe pulls it off as Allen Ginsberg ensnared in a murder during his formative years at Columbia. (Also intriguing, based on their synopses on the Sundance app, are Circles and Sightseers, though one hears mixed opinions about Austenland.)

For a guaranteed dose of gripping, thoughtful filmmaking, check out No and The Gatekeepers—both nominated for Oscars this year in the Best Foreign Film and Best Documentary categories, respectively. No stars Gael García Bernal as an advertising wunderkind who helped topple Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet with a peppy TV campaign after the international community pressured Pinochet to put his rule before a plebiscite. In The Gatekeepers, director Dror Moreh interviews the six heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service, offering a compelling and necessary examination into the failure of the Middle East peace process. Both films offer political junkies eye-opening food for thought and grist for many a late-night conversation.

The Parties

Sundance is far from just sobering cinema; there are plenty of parties on Park City’s Main Street. Chase Sapphire sponsors afternoon cocktails with indie godfather/actor/director/writer Ed Burns, and Sony Classics has evening drinks planned in honor of No and The Gatekeepers with García Bernal and Moreh.

Stella Artois, one of the festival’s sponsors and by far the most ubiquitous beer at Sundance, is throwing a party hosted by Noah Huntley to celebrate the launch of its new campaign (a sneak peek is pictured above), which Annie Leibovitz photographed.

Later, club bunnies can warm up from the cold at Hyde Lounge, the venerable L.A. club Hyde’s Park City outpost for the weekend, and the nonprofit Minga will throw a private bash with an appearance by Adrian Grenier + the Skins. As always, too much to do.