[In her first dispatch, STF passholder Melissa Hibbard wrote about Sundance docs HIS & HERS and SECRETS OF THE TRIBE; and in her second about SPACE TOURISTS and THE RED CHAPEL. Now she dives back in for this report filed on Jan 26]:
So, first I have to say that for those of you who are filmmakers, if you haven’t been to Sundance without a film, or any festival for that matter, I encourage you to attend. It’s a great experience to attend a festival without the pressure to sell your film, yourself or your next project.
Today my head is whirling with images of aging comics, freedom fighters and graffiti artists. I started the day with JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK by powerhouse directors Ricki Stem and Annie Sundberg [pictured in Q and A]. I went in expecting not to like the film; I’m not a big fan of celebrity docs. But I have to say it was thoroughly entertaining. And more than just being entertaining, it was a revealing look into the insecurities, obsessions and fears that propel great talent to stardom. For the Q and A, Joan Rivers surprised audiences with an appearance and took questions from fans. Popping one joke after the next, she thanked the gay community for their endless support, encouraged young women comics to keep pushing boundaries and insulted the locals. She even confirmed a rumor that she has collections of ashes from all her dear friends who have died. When someone in the audience gasped, she reassured them that the ashes were resting peacefully in small Louis Vuitton cases.
Can anyone say, “The buses are a’coming”? Stanley Nelson captures the flowering of the civil rights movement in his historical documentary FREEDOM RIDERS, about an integrated band of college students—many of whom were the first in their families to attend a university—who decide to risk everything and buy a ticket on a Greyhound bus bound for the Deep South. It’s a beautifully told story that combines archival footage and interviews in a way that takes you right into the heart of the events that transformed America. Audiences were captivated and sniffles could be heard through out. At times that songs were sung in the film, you could hear murmurs from the audiences who were humming along. At the end, the filmmakers and 2 freedom riders who attended the Q and A got three standing ovations, and deservedly so. It’s a poignant film for the times that encourages people to get out there and make a difference.
Then I made a run for a last minute addition to the line up, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, by the infamous graffiti artist, Banksy, who actually left his mark on Main Street in the middle of the night before the film was announced. The film takes on a lot: Banksy himself, the art of graffiti, Terry Guetta – who’s been documenting graffiti artists for almost a decade and becomes the subject of the film – and an expose on the art world with it’s mid-altering mix of hot air and hype. I’m a big fan of Banksy so it was exciting to see a film about him work and even more so to witness the art in person that’s decorating the walls of Main Street, and causing a bit of controversy as well.