FILM: Sundance All Year

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

Have you heard about this? I can be almost homogeneously certain that you have not, because I hadn’t before last week. It’s called the Sundance Institute Film Series, and it’s perhaps one of the coolest things ever.

Our editor, Steve, e-mailed me recently about a set of animated films that would be screened up at the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City. The press release billed it as an “Animation Spotlight,” wherein audiences could see films that had been featured at recent Sundance Film Festivals. How could I pass this up? Easy answer: I couldn’t. So I petitioned my wonderfully accommodating and open-minded girlfriend for her company, and off we went last Thursday night to see what this thing was all about.

There were three filmmakers whose films were featured — Corky Quakenbush, Yi Zhou, and Carson Mell, all of whom were present during the screening of their respective films. Each of the filmmakers’ styles of animation were about as different from each other as the medium will allow.

Quakenbush is a stop-motion guy, and his stories tapped into the rich irony of pop culture and were often very funny. Zhou is every inch the abstract artist. Her films were feelings rather than stories, and the images that she created were haunting, beautiful, and wonderfully inaccessible. Mell is a one-man show. His animation consisted mainly of cartoonish drawings with his own mouth inserted into the image to give life to his characters. And his stories were utterly fabulous, demonstrating a poetic sensibility that is… well, rare. (Here’s an example, but be forewarned: some of the language and subject matter are not for children.)

The filmmakers also took the stage for some casual Q&A. I even raised my hand with this disquieting question, “How do you eat?” Their answers were personal, honest, and informative. (Quakenbush talked about his desire to see micropayments escape the confines of a pipe dream — Jon, if you’re reading this, I’d like to request an article…)

All in all, the event was delightfully satisfying. I expected good things, and they were delivered. Are you jealous? Don’t be. You see, the Sundance Institute does something of this nature every month. Next up:

“Samson & Delilah” (with director and screenwriter Warwick Thornton)
Thursday, May 6th
Park City Library, 7:00 p.m.

The deal gets even sweeter: these screenings are free. You may find yourself thinking that living in Utah doesn’t afford you the kind of opportunities for cultural exposure you would find elsewhere, but the fact that Sundance is here and active more than just one month out of the year proves that you’ve just got to know where to look. So right now, I’m telling you, look here.

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