Posting has been light (actually nonexistent) for the past week because I’ve been in Utah for the Sundance Film Festival, primarily to see the premier of the film, “Infinitely Polar Bear,” on which I was an executive producer. So this is mostly a combination apology post and self-promotion post. But I also thought I’d say a word or two about the whole experience.
As a budding filmmaker myself, my main take-home from Sundance was: “yikes!” I saw about a dozen films, and the weakest of them was thoroughly intimidating if I imagined trying to make it myself. If I put on my critic hat, it was pretty easy for me to say, “I would have shot that scene differently;” “that character’s pretty severely underwritten;” “isn’t the film kind of missing its third act?” etc. But if I put on my teeny-tiny filmmaker’s hat, I was just amazed by the amount of talent out there. And most of these films won’t even get much (if any) distribution!
All of which means that I came away strongly agreeing with most of Tim Wu‘s criticism of Manohla Dargis’s piece about how there are too many indie films being made, and too many released into a the same small market. There is way, way too much talent out there to worry that too many films are being made, and I can’t imagine a better way to develop that talent than to put it to work making films. But Wu doesn’t adequately address an important component of Dargis’s argument, which is that the best small films get lost in the shuffle because everything with small commercial expectations is distributed in roughly the same way.
I’m not convinced that’s 100% true, but to the extent that it is it suggests that independent filmmakers could use better tools for reaching beyond the circle of aficionados to the larger universe of potential fans. As films get cheaper to make, and as the theatrical audience continues to shrink, independent film looks more and more like independent music. That has implications for distribution strategies.
In any event, highlights from the festival for me included:
- “Frank,” a cult comedy about a low-on-talent but high-on-hopes keyboardist who, on a fluke, is asked to join a bizarre noise-band fronted by a fellow who wears a giant papier mache head at all times (played by Michael Fassbender, which is a pretty funny joke in and of itself, casting Fassbender to play a role where you never see his face);
- “Blind,” a Norwegian film about a woman who has recently gone blind, and which does a fascinating job of making the interior life of said woman cinematic; much of what we see is her visualization of what she deduces – or imagines – or outright fantasizes – what might be going on around her;
- “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night,” a delightfully atmospheric Jim Jarmusch- or David Lynch-esque vampire flick set in an imaginary Iranian ghost town of Bad City (it’s an American film, shot in California, but the cast is all of Iranian extraction and the dialogue is all in Farsi);
- “Web Junkie,” an Israeli documentary about internet addiction in China, filmed in a rehab center where teenagers are sent by their parents (generally the kids have to be tricked or kidnapped) for a tough-love cold-turkey cure – just amazing for the level of access the filmmakers got to the kids, their parents, and the facility generally.
I don’t know that any of these films will get distribution. Frankly, I don’t know that they should! But they all stuck with me, and they’ll no doubt show up on the internet at some point. So now you know to look for them.