We Dance Again - Celebrating Independent Cinema at Sundance 2019
by Alex Billington
January 25, 2019
"The idea of independence is global, but it means different things in different places." It's time for the 2019 Sundance Film Festival - which kicked off on Thursday, January 24th (a week later than usual) this week in snowy Park City, Utah. I'm back here for my 13th year in a row, and I am always so happy to be here. There's no where else I'd rather be every January, and I don't mind the cold and snow - it's all part of the experience. And this year there is a TON of snow, one of the best snow years they've had in Park City for a while. That doesn't make it easy to get to all the venues, but once I'm there, sitting in the cinema, nothing else matters. Bring on the films, bring on the filmmakers, take me away to another time and another place. This year's motto at Sundance is "Risk Independence" - encouraging filmmakers to be unashamedly unique.
The best part about Sundance (and most major film festivals) is not knowing what's going to be good or bad, and not knowing anything about the films we're all about to see. There's no marketing, barely one or two photos released, and a basic description - that's it. We make our choices based on that gut feeling, or based on filmmakers we've known and followed, and hope for the best. There's a purity in that experience, without any expectations or considerations or emphasis on what it should be or that it will be good. Instead, it's up to use to decide, to experience first hand what each filmmaker has created for us. And I love that. I love being here, I revel in that true world premiere moment where 1,000 people sit quietly in a cinema watching the screen, watching a story be told in the most beautiful, engaging, moving, thrilling way. So here we go…
I could write about what I'm really looking forward to, but the point is, maybe one of the big discoveries is something none of us are talking about. Yet. But we will be soon. You can check out my 10 Most Anticipated Films I Can't Wait to See from the 2019 selection, which includes extra lists of all the other ones that are already on my radar. I have a good feeling about I Am Mother, Late Night, Selah & the Spades, Judy & Punch, Photograph, and Sweetheart. But beyond that, I'm not really sure. I just want to see as many films as I can, hedge my bets and go with the ones I've got a good feeling about. And then keep me ears open for whatever else ends up getting great reviews from friends & colleagues. I always try to ask everyone about what they've enjoyed, because the mix of opinions are fascinating, as are their thoughts on all these films.
Here's a quick photo of my ticket from my first screening on Friday for the stunning documentary Apollo 11:
— Alex Billington @ Sundance (@firstshowing) January 25, 2019
For the past few years at Sundance, I've ended up seeing over 30 films by the end of the 10 days. That's the number I'm always aiming for - mostly because it means I've been able to see a hefty amount of all the good stuff. And I don't want to go home feeling like I missed something major. So stay tuned, and follow along as I head back out into the snow and start watching films at Sundance. I'll review as many as I can on the site.
Follow my daily coverage and instant reactions on Twitter as usual @firstshowing, follow my photography updates as usual on Instagram @abillington, follow my reviews on Letterboxd, and check the site for daily updates on films. Back in 2016, I wrote an essay about Why I Can't Stop Going to Film Festivals. What I said then is still true. It always is. "Film festivals are my jam… I still love walking in to watch a film I don't know anything about, in hopes that maybe it's everything I've been waiting to see. I still love meeting people at film festivals, talking with friends old and new, and catching up with my colleagues in the industry. We're all here with the same goal - to be moved by unforgettable stories; to seek out great films and rave about the ones we love. This is what cinema is all about – the power to connect, inspire, engage, change, improve."