We named Waste Land our favorite documentary of the festival because we knew nothing about the subject and everything about this film surprised us. Vik Muniz is a Brazilian artist, who uses his art to bring attention to social concerns. The film documents a project that took him to the largest landfill in the world, Jardim Gramacho, in Rio de Janeiro. The site is home to “pickers” who gather two tons of recyclable materials from the garbage daily. He befriends several pickers, photographs them and they help him transform those photos into large scale portraits made entirely of the recyclables they collect. We expected it to be depressing, but instead it was a story of stoicism, hope and the power of art to change lives.
Shorts Program IV
Here’s one of those cases where the Film Guide description did nothing to inform us about these films. With every short film programs, there always seems to be at least one film that is so bad we can’t wait for it to end. This program lived up to that expectation, but thankfully, there was more that we liked than disliked. Here’s what we saw:
A five-minute film featuring stick figure animation where one friend offers to remove the other’s mouth stitches. The result is something that can only happen in animation.
This story of a woman leaving her family to serve as a translator in Afghanistan quietly shows her inner conflict and the strain it puts on her marriage.
ICK -- Creepy guys, doing creepy things! One watches the other have sex with a prostitute, they eat pink and blue cake with creepy guy #3, and accidentally shoot creepy guy #4’s ear off while he’s having sex with creepy guy #5 in the woods. ICK!
This film distills what is likely a typical conflict at this Mexico/America border town by following a pay phone coin collector as he trains an undocumented worker to do his job.
A Polish film involving two young boys accused of a crime. This film, like a lot of shorts, left me with more questions than answers.
A somewhat disturbed young boy “copes” with the death of his best friend when a game of Truth or Dare goes terribly wrong.
Can We Talk?
Our favorite film of the seven, Vince tries to dump his girl friend, but ends up getting dumped instead. Deadpan delivery of cheeky British humor makes this 11 minute film hysterical from beginning to end. After the show, we met Sam (who plays Vince.) We told him how much we enjoyed the film and I’m pretty sure we even promised him a new pair of Nikes. He’s a starving artist “pulling pints” in London, so we instantly became surrogate mothers to him.
This is Dede, Sam (from Can We Talk?) and I outside the theater. You can't see his shoes, but trust me, he could use a new pair.
8: The Mormon Proposition
This was the hottest ticket at Sundance this year. The theater was packed for this disturbing look at the deceit, manipulation and money the Mormon Church used to get Measure 8 passed in California. (Yes, I’m biased, but it’s clear that full disclosure is a foreign concept to the Mormon Church.) As disturbing as it was, it did clearly explain what the Mormons believe that makes them so opposed to gay marriage. It also sheds light on the suicide and homeless problems plaguing Utah due to the ostracizing of gay children born to Mormon families.
A particular thrill for me was meeting Linda Stay, the Mormon mother of two gay children who started "Moms for Equality" in Southern Utah. She and her son are featured throughout the film. I had met her by phone before I left Portland (she contacted me looking for extra tickets for her family.) This woman is an inspiration to me -- epitomizing the courage, dedication and devotion that come from that all powerful place, a mother’s love.
Me, Linda and Steve Stay after 8:TMP
The Q & A was different from any I have attended. It was part gay pride rally, part political activism and part testimonials. It is my hope that this film informs everyone, angers “fence sitters” to the point of action and, in some way, provides strength to the gay youth of Utah and the rest of the United States.
Thursday morning before our flight home, we caught one more movie and boy am I glad we did. The first film directed by Diego Luna was a smash hit in my book.
This is the story of an emotionally damaged young boy, who snaps out of his non-communicative state when he is released from the hospital and decides to become the head of the household. It’s about the resilience of children, the difficult decisions moms have to make on behalf of their kids and the struggles of single parenting. The children in the movie had never acted before and they bring a fresh innocence and beautiful honesty to the film. Funny and tragic at the same time, I loved this movie.
I’m back in Portland now, but hope to add a postscript about some of the wonderful interesting people (see photo below) we met during our time in Park City and some of the lessons learned for next year.
This is Parker and Hailey. I met them in the audience of Waste Land. Parker made his blue yarn beard and planned to wear it all day. "It's keeping my face warm. My brother's making one too."