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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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This acts as a testimony to the insanity and importance of…Sundance 2005

If you are now, or have ever been, a resident of Salt Lake City or Park City, you know that January brings with it more than just a slew of resolutions, snow flurries and shortened days-January is the official kick-off month for the Sundance Film Festival.

If you are now, or ever have been, interested in things like the state of independent cinema, the burgeoning music scene or trends in modern culture, you know that Sundance is probably the biggest deal of your year-the festival showcases the work of up-and-coming directors, actors and producers alongside larger, more mainstream work by well-known studios and “big” names like Robert Redford.

But what about the rest of the population?

What about the people who know Sundance is coming because everyone and his or her respective mother are talking about it, but are still somewhat unsure about what the word Sundance means. More importantly, why should they care?

The question these people probably find themselves asking is, what does Sundance mean, and what does it to me?

Sadly, there is no deadpan answer to this question.

Of course, there are reasons why you might be inclined to care about Sundance: Sundance means movies, Sundance means art, Sundance means underground vision. To certain people, these are important things. The fact that Sundance is arguably the best opportunity for talented, unknown filmmakers to showcase their wares makes Sundance a very big deal for some.

To others, the fact that Sundance means these things is pretty much meaningless-who cares if movies are underground or not? Who cares about the state of cinema and the opportunity to expose important young auteurs? Or more accurately, why do all these other people seem to care so much, and are they valid in their reasoning?

In answer to your questions:

In order to answer this question, it’s helpful to take a look at a unique and somewhat unsettling tradition amongst the Sundance faithful: The act of braving the bitter cold to sleep out and buy tickets to Sundance films.

Year after year, an ever-increasing number of cinema-philes gather in their winter gear outside designated locations with plans and hope to obtain tickets to the Sundance films of their choice. As the festival gains more notoriety, tickets to certain “buzz” films become hotter and hotter commodities. So hot, in fact, that upward of 200 individuals, old and young, get chilled to the bone (literally) just to get their hands on them.

This year alone, there were about 250 stoic individuals standing in line for tickets at Trolley Square, with an equal amount in Park City. These individuals were uncomfortable, cold and unsettled, yet generally pleased to be given the chance to see some potentially good films.

This act is a testament to the insanity and importance of Sundance-a film festival of such note that people are willing to go to great lengths to be a part of it.

How should I know?

I was one of them.

With my younger sister, Dana, I packed the sleeping bags, donned the parkas and braved the perils of standing/sleeping in line for Sundance tickets. Some 20 hours after my arrival in line (after maybe three hours of something that can hardly be called sleep), I was rewarded for my patience with tickets…though not to every film I had wanted.

Such was the case with many. People, even those who stood in line, were not given everything they wanted. In fact, many of the “buzz” films were sold out within the first 100 people in line.

You know what? It wasn’t that big of a deal.

The act of waiting in line for tickets is not-though it may seem otherwise-all about getting tickets.

There is a degree of camaraderie amongst the frozen, a sense of brotherhood and friendship in the turmoil. At its most basic level, waiting in line/sleeping in line is an act of love and devotion-we cared enough about a handful of silly little films to do outrageous things to be with them.

The same goes for the entire Sundance Film Festival.

Though it’s hard to explain to some people, there is a way in which folks just plain-old care about the festival. More than just care-they love the festival, worship it almost. Maybe it’s unfounded, but it’s the truth-and the truth ought to be enough to make people confident in Sundance’s ability to impact their lives.

So to get back to our bigger question, the issue here is, why?

Why make yourself uncomfortable for hours, sometimes even sleeping outside in the freezing weather, for a handful of tickets to movies that haven’t even been proven yet, many of which you may not even get into anyway? Why is Sundance so worth the energy people expend on it?

Honestly? Who knows.

It certainly has something to do with being on the cutting edge of cinema. It has something to do with being a part of something that not everyone knows about. It has something to do with getting the chance to catch a first glance at the movies that are going to matter tomorrow, the next day and years from now.

It has something to do with the simple act of caring about something, and in so doing, deifying it. Sundance-love may not make sense to everyone, but that’s OK-it doesn’t have to. It makes sense to the brave and the exploratory. It makes sense to those standing in the cold and sleeping on the hard tile floors of shopping malls. It makes sense to the filmmakers and the judges and to everyone who makes Sundance a big deal.

Sundance matters because it matters, plain and simple.

And really, when it comes right down to the bitter point, that’s reason enough.

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