Making it count

Our last day in Park City was extremely eventful. David and I started the day walking around Main Street trying to get our required 30 business cards. Luckily we’re talkative and approachable people, so we easily reached out goal. We were lucky enough to get free tickets to a panel event titled “Reckoning with Torture” at which America Ferrera and Robert Redford himself were speakers. We were so excited to see both of them. We were literally star-struck, but not too much, because I managed to get my picture taken with America!

We happened to meet and get a business card from a documentary film producer, Alison Ellwood, on the street, and she gave us free tickets to her documentary called Magic Trip. We didn’t love it because it was a bit too long, but the editing was really great and the story was interesting enough.

Because it was David’s birthday, we all went out to dinner together, which was really fun. Earlier in the day, David and I talked with some ladies that had awards passes for the festival, and they were nice enough to give us four tickets to the awards party. So last night, David, Will, Blair and I got into the party with Joey, Kate and Parker, and we ended the Sundance trip right.

We’re currently in the Las Vegas airport, waiting to catch a flight back to Raleigh. It’s been quite a trip. We all had an AMAZING time in Utah, but I think we’re all ready to get back to Elon.

-Gabriela Szewcow

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conquering the world. one woman at a time.

While agonizing in the heat of Prospector Theatre this afternoon in the waitlist line for Miss Representation, a group of us, led by Kacey, happened to strike up a conversation with director, producer and writer Alison Beals. While chatting, she told us of her current film, Cool Planet, and the dilemmas she’s faced through the production process, including the difficulties of gaining the access to film a walrus.

Even though I was unable to contribute much to the conversation in line, Sarah Dodge and I happened to see Alison again in the Film Maker’s Lounge on main street later in the afternoon and continued our talk. She told us about her dreams to create films in which “women kick ass and take names.” She expressed her disappointment in the industry because it often limits the roles of women directors and producers to heartfelt, love interest stories. She explained that in order to avoid this lovey lull she wanted to make a film similar to The Hangover to empower women and present them as strong, independent figures in society.

She mentioned Cool Planet, “a sci-fi romance with mythological lore and ancient secret societies,” again, which is in the post-production phase and encouraged us to help her market the film via social media. Alison further explained the movie tells the story of a heartbroken woman who moves across the country in order to search for a better life and quickly experiences madness and excitement with the changes.

In order to check it out, visit and

Follow the film on Facebook in order to help make Alison’s dream become a reality.

-Sam Parker

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Lord Byron

Thursday at midnight, I attended a screening of Lord Byron. I was supposed to go with Dan, but he opted out in order to see Homework and I didn’t blame him because going into the film, I had absolutely no idea what it was about.  The official synopsis is pretty vague and gives you the impression that it doesn’t do the heart of the film justice.  Something seems off because the film is in the NEXT category of Sundance, which is a section for films made with minimalist budgets, yet the synopsis seems makes the plot sound like a traditional big budget film.  What I did know was that the film was shot in south Louisiana, aka Acadiana, aka where I’m from, by a filmmaker from Lafayette, LA.  Unbeknownst to me the producer was also from Lafayette and we actually have several mutual friends.

My initial reaction was chaotic; I both loved the film and doubted my own intuition, citing my Louisiana bias as the reason I enjoyed movie.  Now, having had several days to ruminate on the film, I have finally come to a firm opinion on it.

I think it was great.  I think it had major flaws.  I think it walked a serious line of feature film and art picture.

I’ve taken a surprising number of art classes at Elon considering I never had much of an opportunity to take art in high school, I was too hyperfocused on Theatre.  Taking a few video art classes at Elon has ignited in me a serious interest in the fine line between film and art.  When comparing Hollywood blockbusters to video installments the gap can seem massive and daunting, but smaller indie films often straddle the distinction.  Lord Byron doesn’t cross the boundary as much as The Nine Muses, which I saw Wednesday, but it does so in a much more successful way.  With The Nine Muses, I was irritated that the distinction wasn’t made.  In fact, I thought it was strictly video art, not a feature film.  There were no characters or narratives, simply a loose structure based in literature and myth.  It’s like a poem that tells a story versus a conceptual poem.

Lord Byron was, instead, a feature film with art tendencies: a loose plot, nontraditional perspective, nontraditional/linear editing, etc.  However, it also had several characters who made emotional journeys, intracharacter conflict, a linear/logical progression of time, first-person narrative, etc.  Its art house moments were at times a success, while on several occasions complete awkward failures, leaving the audience counting the moments down to when the story would progress from bizarre editing. It is for these moments that I find serious fallibility in Lord Byron.

Quite often, I find myself unable to fault art house films for attempting a new style of storytelling, editing, or cinematography as long as they commit to the style.  Despite being miserable while watching The Nine Muses, at its conclusion I truly appreciated the film and enjoyed watching it overall.  This however, for some reason, does not unanimously apply to narrative features that employ avant-guard techniques.  I find that because they are traditional features with nontraditional style, the nontraditional elements of their storytelling should be tight, effective, and necessary.  It’s a double standard I know, but a useful one.  Lord Byron would have benefited greatly from a third unbiased pair of eyes to weigh in on its unique scenes of multilayered opacity and undefinable metaphors.  A third party would have been able to trim the repetitive nature of the film and to weed out scenes that, despite great acting, were ineffective in conveying their emotional message or association.

The movie would benefit greatly from a serious recut that eliminates long lulls and awkward ineffective scenes that left the audience to infer the scene’s meaning and parts of the story.

This is all I can offer you for now folks as I am about to pass out ontop of my laptap, but I have many more comments and theories about Lord Byron and others so I’ll b e back


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Best Day Yet!

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My day began waiting in line to get wait list tickets to Like Crazy. Luckily the 2 hour wait paid off and we got into the Library Theater to see the film, which turned out to be my favorite film of the festival thus far.  To summarize this romantic drama, it involves an American boy who falls in love with a British girl and she ends up overextending her visa leaving difficulties ahead in their long distance relationship.  The movie shows love in its purest form.  So many audience members spoke about how realistic the movie was and during the Q&A we learned that the crew was able to achieve this realism by keeping the cameras rolling for sometimes 30 minutes at a time when the actors were improving.   Another reason the film was so strong was that this was the crew’s third film they’ve worked on together.  They said their collaboration in all that they’ve worked on has made them a stronger more efficient team.  The highlight of seeing this film was afterwards when I approached John Guleserian, the director of photography.  It was the first time I was able to speak to a real DP.  This was a monumental moment for me because I am an aspiring DP.  I was so eager to learn from a real DP’s experience and gain knowledge from him.

After lunch, Leigh, Michel, and I went to see Rebirth a documentary made over the span of 10 years that followed the lives of 5 people affected by 9/11 and their healing process.  It was my favorite film I’ve ever seen related to the subject of 9/11 because it focused on the most important part about that day, the victims and how it changed lives forever.  One of my favorite parts of the film was that it shared the perspectives of 5 completely different people (a mother who was trapt in the WTC and suffered severe burns, a firefighter who lost a friend, a wife who lost her husband, a ground zero coordinator, and a son who lost his mother).  Technically, I loved how the film had permanent cameras set up for 9 years constantly recording the reconstruction process of ground zero.  They used these hours of footage to capture the sight being rebuilt overtime in many time lapses showing different seasons and weather conditions.  Afterwards, the crew spoke about the film at the Q&A and also brought up two of the main subjects, which was really neat experience.  When the Q&A ended, I walked straight up to Tom Lappin, the director of photography.  I wanted to see if I could test my luck with talking to another DP in the same day, but this time getting the perspective of a documentary DP.  He was very nice and gave me his card.  After emailing him, he gladly accepted coming to our house for an interview.  I can’t wait to hear what he has to share with us!

– Will Anderson

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Life recap! Sundance continues

In the last few days I’ve been nearly dead with a migraine I just couldn’t beat and nausea / vertigo that stuck with me dispite several hours spent on a couch. So let’s just say I haven’t been much in the movie-going experience.

So where did I leave off? I guess Wednesday was the last time I blogged, and on that evening I believe I saw “Mad Bastards,” an Australian film about Aboriginal society in the backwoods and exploring a father-son relationship gone more than sour and on to bitter and hatred.

Previous to that I saw “Shut Up Little Man!,” a hysterical documentary about these two guys who recorded – secretly – their alcoholic neighbors, one who was gay and one who was a homophobe. Hilarity ensued, but the doc also brought up questions of who owns material, what is creative commons and who deserves payment… especially if they didn’t know they were being recorded.

Flashing forward in time again, yesterday we had our free day of snow tubing and relaxation. Despite my wacky illness (or whatever it is) I had a good time basically mega-sledding. I was exhausted by the end, but you know. It is how it is.

Today I woke at the crack of doom to see “Family Portrait in Black and White” about a Ukrainian mother who foster(s/ed) over 20 biracial children in primarily white (and racist) Ukrainian society. At first the film depicted her as a loving mother doing the right thing, but then delved into how controlling and manipulative Mama Olga could be. For instance, telling her children they could not be adopted until they were 18, and cutting off contact with those who did leave the family.

After a breakfast of delicious Samoa ice cream (more on that in a later post, I suppose) I came back to the house and, upon seeing bright shiny stars in front of my eyes, drank a liter of water (not really) and passed out (really.)

I’m harping on my sickness because I really feel like I’m being lax by not seeing 18 movies a day like some people here, but I truly don’t feel well slash am (as noted in previous blog posts) pickier than a picky thing.

I’m off to eat some dinner and then maybe to the movie. See you around!

Also, I’ve decided that I’m going to do a checklist recap of all the movies I’ve seen this week. Maybe that will prepare me more for my research paper too!


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Benevidas Born

This afternoon I saw Benevidas Born, which is in the US Dramatic competition. It was a coming of age story for a female power lifter who wants to break out of her small town by means of a scholarship to University of Texas – Austin.

I liked everything about the main character, Luz. It was partially the acting and partially the character’s actions. For the acting, it just seemed to fake. Certain parts of the dialogue seemed forced or a second faster or slower than a natural reaction. That’s just being picky though. For the character, I just never wanted to root for. It’s incredibly hard to watch a film when you don’t agree with, like, or believe in the protagonist. The whole film had too many issues arise that was capable of solving or processing and it had a fairy tale ending that was entirely too unrealistic. In the course of the movie, the character took steroids, torched a barn, aided illegal immigrants, hurt her family, and weaseled her way back in to admittance to UT-A with a full scholarship. All of it was just too much, especially when I doubted the actor’s talent to begin with.

Overall, I would say the movie was okay. I definitely understand why it was accepted into Sundance, just not a personal pick of mine. But honestly, after seeing films like Animals Distract Me, Knuckle, and Vampire, this film seemed like gold. Plus, it screened in Eccles Theater, which has become one of my favorite theaters due to the ample leg room!

– Hannah


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Pariah Playback

We’ve all been in hard places. We’ve all faced conundrums. And we’ve all experienced disappointments. Likewise, in the dramatic film Pariah main character Alike endures severe banishment from her family, specifically her mother, because of her sexuality.

In the movie, Alike struggles with her sexual identity of being a lesbian, and this is highlighted throughout the film as she seeks love in a friend from school and is then quickly rejected by the same girl. It becomes clear early on that Alike’s family disapproves of her lifestyle as her mother places extreme restrictions on her freedom in order to forbid her daughter from hanging out with Laura, Alike’s lesbian companion and best friend.

The film addresses the conflicts between religion and homosexuality as it leads the audience to believe Alike’s mother is extremely religious and therefore disapproves of her love life. At the end of the film, the last line distinctly demonstrates these judgmental feelings of the mother’s disappointment and disgust for her daughter when Alike attempts to resolve issues with her mother by telling her she loved her but is then rejected as her mother replies, “I’ll pray for you,” before walking away from the situation.

I appreciated the film because it addresses the negative results within a family’s structure and relationships as a result of conflicting beliefs. I think the story of the movie was crucial in delivering to the public because of its often taboo nature, and because it relayed its message without extreme force and more with poise, I consider Pariah to be one of my favorite films at the Sundance Film Festival thus far.

That’s all for now,
Sam Parker

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