By Chris J. Russo (doddleNEWS)
I’m staying in Deer Valley this year for the first time, so I’m relying on public transportation to get me to the Transit Center where I generally have to connect with another bus to get to a theater. This means I have to get up super early if I’m going to one of the first screenings of the day, and to further complicate things, the first bus around the Deer Valley Loop is 7:35am, which sometimes isn’t early enough. So, I’m kind of winging it. I’ve even had to stick my thumb out for a ride, because it’s a pain in the ass to wait for a bus in a blizzard.
Saturday was another marathon day at Sundance. First up, “Filly Brown” at the Egyptian Theater at 8:30. I was totally excited about this movie and it did not disappoint. Jamming with beats and rhymes and filled with heart, “Filly Brown” is the story of a young hip-hop artist who’s driven to find a record contract so that she can help her family find a better life. (I interviewed cinematographer, Ben Kufrin about his approach to shooting the film, which will appear in a future article.) Standout performances by Gina Rodriguez as Filly — who got a standing ovation after the film, and an incredible soundtrack and look of the film make this little indie shine.
By the time I left the theater, the snow was really coming down. I love this weather and enjoy the novelty of snow coming from Los Angeles, but it does make it quite difficult to walk up and down main street. I headed to the Sundance Channel HQ, which has been a great place to write and grab some snacks. I had some time to kill before my next stop, so I checked out the ticket availability at the Box Office and thought I see what the Sundance Store had this year. I noticed there was a new venue called the Sundance Co-Op, which is a dedicated space for festival sponsors to show off their wares and give away. Set up like a mini-trade show, Canon, Entertainment Weekly, L’Oreal, Yahoo, and Chase Sapphire amongst others were demonstrating their products and handing out trinkets.
From 3:30-6pm, Technicolor had a small party up near the top of main street, where filmmakers and industry vendors gathered. I stopped in to say hello to a handful of folks before I headed to the Library to see “For Ellen.” At this point, the snow was making it difficult to get from one place to another and the buses were at a crawl leaving the Transit Center.
“For Ellen” is one of those quiet, poetic films that Sundance loves to bring to audiences and is a rare treat amongst other higher-profile films. Directed by So Yong Kim, the film is about a struggling musician, Joby, played by the incredible Paul Dano, who drives overnight to have a meeting with his ex-wife to sign divorce papers. But even though Joby hasn’t been around to be a dad, this is his last chance to fight for shared custody of his daughter, played by the incredible Shaylena Mandigo. Kim lets the camera roll to watch the scenes naturally unfold in almost real-time, allowing the viewer to feel like they are on the journey with Joby as he deals with his tormented emotions of possibly letting his relationship with his daughter go.
Cinematographer, Reed Morano, captures the characters and the landscape with beautiful and poetically composed 35mm images, cinema-veritae style, perfectly complimenting the sense of alienation of the main character, without bringing attention to the camera’s presence. (Look for an upcoming interview with Reed Morano, detailing her work on “For Ellen” and her other Sundance feature, “Shut Up and Play the Hits.”)