Sundance '13 Blog: Reflecting on Self-Reflection in a World of Cinema
by Alex Billington
January 22, 2013
Why do we watch movies? Why do we go to film festivals? What does all of this really mean? Is there more to cinema than just entertainment? Asking these questions is the way I continue to challenge myself while at this festival. It's the beginning of Day 6 at Sundance 2013, I'm 16 films in (with three more today and four more days to go) and I can't help but take a brief pause to think about my life at this point. The other night I caught the world premiere of Before Midnight, the third film in the Before Sunrise/Sunset series from Richard Linklater, and it floored me. But left me an emotional mess and I've been different ever since.
Whenever I return home from Sundance every January, I'm a different person. This is my New Year. That may sound cheesy, but it's the honest truth. I'm admittedly not a fan of the conventional New Years Eve and don't do much to celebrate. Instead, I patiently wait for the first two weeks of every January until Sundance rolls around. The festival kicks off, I travel to Park City, UT for two weeks (12 days in total), watch over 20 incredible, emotion, powerful films, and return home a changed man. I return home more reflexive of who I am, this world, the people in it; moved by the films I've seen, the experiences I've had, the people I've met.
My experiences this year, in 2013, have been particularly moving, particularly affecting and maybe even life-changing. In personal ways and in cinematic ways, and we're barely half way through the fest. It's not even over yet, with at least four more days of films and lots more to see. A few of my most anticipated films I haven't even seen yet, they haven't even premiered at all. But what I have seen has already changed me. My favorite films so far, The Spectacular Now, Before Midnight, Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, have been the ones that have left me the most emotionally stimulated. They're the ones I've thought about the most and, I think more importantly, have reflected back upon myself in brutally honest ways. I can't help it.
It's truthfully not easy to talk about these emotions, these thoughts, it's not easy to even think about all of this honestly. But a film like Before Midnight, where it addresses this exact issues so genuinely so perfectly, is the kind that I love seeing. The kind of film that gets to me the most. The recurring theme this year, or maybe I should say in life, everywhere, is love. The mystery of it, the power of it, what it pushes us to do, where it takes us, even if it's against everything we feel is right. We can't help it. It's there, it's a driving force in this world, and capturing that power on celluloid in a way that can then move other people who have no connection is ultimately the real beauty of cinema. And it's certainly found in Park City, especially this year.
While I could go on and on about how these films continue to force me to reflect upon myself, my ultimate hope is for these wonderful films to make it out to the public so that others can have the same experiences. As I've said before, cinema is global, it can affect anyone on any level anywhere around the world. While the films may only be playing here in Utah right now, the best of the bunch will soon make their way around the world, and the feelings they'll eventually evoke will be personal to each and every viewer, but nonetheless genuine. And that's where it really counts. That's when you know cinema is more than just entertainment.
Here's an updated list of all the films I've seen at the 2013 festival so far with a quick reaction for each one.
Alex's Sundance 2013 Films:
1. Who is Dayani Cristal? (dir. Marc Silver) - Liked It
2. Crystal Fairy (dir. Sebastián Silva) - Hated It
3. Shopping (dirs. Mark Albiston & Louis Sutherland) - Liked It
4. The Spectacular Now (dir. James Ponsoldt) - LOVED It
5. Don Jon's Addiction (dir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - Loved It
6. Touchy Feely (dir. Lynn Shelton) - Hated It
7. Breathe In (dir. Drake Doremus) - Liked It
8. It Felt Like Love (dir. Eliza Hittman) - Just Okay
9. S-VHS (dirs. Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Eduardo Sánchez, Adam Wingard) - Loved It
10. Ain't Them Bodies Saints (dir. David Lowery) - Loved It
11. The East (dir. Zal Batmanglij) - Loved It
12. Stoker (dir. Chan-wook Park) - Liked It
13. Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater) - LOVED It
14. Upstream Color (dir. Shane Carruth) - Just Okay
15. The Way, Way Back (dirs. Nat Faxon & Jim Rash) - Liked It
16. Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (dir. Fredrik Bond) - Loved It