L.A. Rain Dampens Sundance Start

Festival starts under blanket of snow

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival opened on Thursday night with a lower profile than in most years partly because the organizers nixed the gala opening – a very good idea, since this has been a perenially weak filim experience.

But it was mainly low key because a lot of people were still missing. The torrential rains in Los Angeles led to the cancellation of flights and frustrated film professionals left to harangue airport personnel.

Meanwhile, Park City was quiet and lovely under a heavy carpet of snow.

The first evening featured two feature films and a menu of shorts. The buzz out of "Howl," a film about Allen Ginsberg starring James Franco as the beat poet (with a strangely wandering accent) was not good, and I’m being kind. The film directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman sent some out of the theater looking for drink.  

Much better reception for ‘Restrepo,’ the documentary by Sebastien Junger (see Eric Kohn’s previous), the series of shorts, led by Spike Jonze.

The recession is still being felt too. The list of parties sent out to local merchants – usually a 12-page document – is about half as thin this year, a sign of missing corporate sponsors. (I suspect another reason why the opening gala was nixed.)

This year will continue to be focused intensely on how independent film can survive in the digital world. While there are dozens of films for sale, and while this year Slamdance has an aggressive line-up that gives Sundance a competitive run, the concern that informs everyone’s moviegoing experiences will be – how to bring these films to a broad public? And how to make a living at doing that ?

More on that as the festival unwinds.