“Click to Begin Journey”

January 20, 2022

Here I am, in the comfort of my own home in Santa Clarita, California. Not Park City, Utah, like the dreams of many movie-lovers. It’s Sundance Film Festival 2022, Online Only Edition. I’m not complaining… this allows me to take part in the festival for the second straight year and lets me watch as many of the films as physically possible. Someday, I will get to visit the storied mountains of Park City, but until then, I will enjoy it by any means necessary.

Sundance uses a “New Frontier,” where you can virtually mingle with other festival-goers and see screenings together. It all starts on the landing page of your “current” location and then zooms you out into space, where you board a spaceship orbiting the Earth.

Over the next ten days, I’ve scheduled to watch at least forty films, if not more. I also work a full-time job that I choose not to take a vacation from, so I’ll be staying up late and fitting films in where I can. On my laptop, on my TVs, anywhere I can.

Courtesy of Sundance

1:00 PM — INDIE EPISODIC: “Bring on the Dancing Horses”

Shot as a feature and divvied up into episodes, “Bring on the Dancing Horses is created by Michael Polish and stars his wife, Kate Bosworth. In a modern-day Western, Kate plays an emotionless assassin who sits with her victims and describes the process they will go through before killing them.

Visually arresting, the landscapes are crisp and cinematic. Aside from Bosworth, the acting is quite stiff, and there’s no natural ebb and flow to the story, feeling like a random string of interviews rather than a beginning, middle, and end of an episode.

3:00 PM — OPENING NIGHT WELCOME

Besides a minor technical glitch that left virtual audience members waiting well past the 3:00 pm curtain call, the opening night welcome included a quick voice-over from Robert Redford and the forward by Sundance Festival director Tabitha Jackson. Following the intro, the documentary “32 Sounds” was shown,” which I missed due to work.

Courtesy of Sundance

5:00 PM — FILM #1: “FIRE OF LOVE”

Since the premiere of “When You Finish Saving the World” was one of the only showings sold out when I purchased my tickets, I filled the beginning of the festival with a few films I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, including the documentary “Fire of Love.”

FIRE OF LOVE is an intimate look at a French volcanologist couple who devote their lives to getting up-close with volcanoes. Their archival footage (images of active volcanoes and their aftermath) is beyond impressive. Captivating and charming on the whole.

Courtesy of Sundance

6:30 PM — FILM #2: “THE PRINCESS”

Having just seen “Spencer,” the topic of Princess Diana has been fresh on my mind. Director Ed Perkins takes an archival footage approach to the life and untimely death of the public figure, attempting only to present the footage as is without any biases.

Courtesy of Sundance

9:00 PM — FILM #3: “EMERGENCY”

In the U.S. Dramatic Competition, director Carey Williams turns his award-winning short into a feature-length narrative that will be tough to beat.

EMERGENCY entertains while shining light on the residual effects of systematic racism as two young black men tiptoe pitfalls after being afraid to call 911. What unravels is a funny, poignant, and consistently well-acted achievement from director Carey Williams.

Courtesy of Sundance

11:00 PM — FILM #4: “A LOVE SONG”

Dale Dickey and Wes Studi play two widows who meet at a campground to reconnect and explore whether they’re ready to move on.

Courtesy of Sundance

1:00 AM — FILM #5: “FRESH”

There’s not much I can say about Mimi Cave’s “FRESH” without spoiling certain aspects. It earns its place in the “midnight” category of the festival and showcases the multi-faceted acting prowess of Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan.

3:00 AM — DAY ONE WRAP-UP

And that’s that…Day 1 in the books. Now it’s 3:00 am, and I’m barely awake, with a 7:00 am call time for getting my kids ready for school. So on that note. Goodnight.

-Christopher Haskell

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