Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Opens In Park City

Redford Asks For Change

The 2008 Sundance Film Festival opened in Park City Utah with a simple press conference, featuring Robert Redford, the Founder of the Sundance Institute; Geoffrey Gilmore, the longtime Director of The Sundance Film Festival; and Martin McDonagh, the director of the Festival’s Opening Night film, “In Bruges.” The Festival runs from January 17-27, 2008 and will screen 125 feature films and 83 short films, selected from 8,731 submissions (meaning that 1.6% of submitted shorts were selected, and 3.4% of submitted features won a slot at Sundance.) Included in these films are about a dozen with Jewish themes and characters, and even more with hidden elements of the parochial Jewish interest that are dear to my heart.

As in years past, the Festival has become the place to see and be seen; celebrities have followed the press, and more members of the press have followed the celebs and celebutantes, forming a cycle of media, publicists, gossip, money, sponsors, gift bags, and queen bees, in a way akin to prostitutes who follow a troop ship. At times it feels like a clique-filled high school or Camp Ramah reunion. And then there are the films.

Redford said, “As from the beginning, the Sundance Film Festival is about discovery of new talent and of issues that are resonating with filmmakers and artists alike.” He stressed that although media and celebrities have latched onto the fest for their own ends, the Festival has not changed. It is still about discovery, nurturing, development and showcasing; it is the periphery which has changed.

He added, “In 2008, what excites me is that this year there are more new filmmakers that we have discovered than in recent years.” He went on to expound on the new spirit and the range of expression and storytelling he has witnessed in new filmmakers. The future Paul Thomas Anderson’s Coen Brothers’, and Tarantino’s are showing a new spirit, diverse voices, and the driven desire to make unique films based on very personal stories, and it is best that, like grass pushing its way through sidewalks, “we get out of their way” and nurture them.

Asked about the dark nature of many past Sundance films, Redford said that at times, despair and lack of hope leads to the creation of small personal stories which will reflect back upon our times. It is a time of dark humor and dark films and change. On the topic of change, Redford has heard enough of politicians talking about “change,” to the point of causing nausea. If you want real change, according to Redford, find an artist. “Artists are really agents of change. They’re the first responders and they document the change as it is occurring in the world around us.” Redford continued, “When you think of change, I am looking at what artists are doing to further change. That’s what the festival is really about.”

Among the less dark films are the following “Jewish” films that I will be covering for Jewlicious readers: DEAL, a Canadian film directed by Steven Schachter, which stars William H. Macy, Meg Ryan, and LL Cool J, in which Charlie Berns, a guy whose suicidal tendencies give him the chutzpah to con a major studio into a $100 million deal on a script he hasn’t even read about Benjamin Disraeli about for a recently converted black action star who is actively seeking Jewish material; ANVIL! THE TRUE STORY OF ANVIL, a hilarious “spinal tap-like” documentary by Sacha Gervasi and Rebecca Yeldham, about the nicest and funniest Jewish guys from Toronto who vowed to rock forever and their band, Anvil, the “demigods of Canadian metal”; MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH, directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber and adapted from the novel by Michael Chabon, which is set in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s, and chronicles the last true summer of Art Bechstein’s youth; and STRANGERS, an Israeli drama directed by Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv, about a love between an Israeli kibbutznik, Eyal, and a Palestinian, Rana, living in Paris, who both descend on Berlin for the World Cup finals and meet accidentally when their identical backpacks get switched on the subway.

And now off to the films.

Written by Larry Mark from for Jewlicious.

Larry enjoys sitting in dark rooms surrounded by lots of people, and also watching films. When he sits in lit rooms, he enjoys editing and

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Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

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