After years of hearing about this famed festival from colleagues and friends, I am finally here! From all of their descriptions, I was fairly confident I knew what to expect and was bracing myself for freezing cold temperatures, cramped living quarters, and celebrity attitudes.  Well, on day three of my visit, I am pleased to report that all of my initial expectations were wrong.  Getting off the plane on Thursday, I was pleasantly surprised (and somewhat disturbed) to discover that Utah was actually warmer than NY. Bizarre.  As for cramped living quarters, this year Thom is a juror for the World Docs category, so we are being treated by the wonderful people at Sundance to a lovely hotel, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains (Thom insists on reminding me that we’ll never have it this good again).  And as for celebrity attitudes, although I’ve seen Paris Hilton, the ex-wife of Hulk Hogan and other ridiculous Hollywood divas on the street, there is something quite democratizing about bulky winter clothing.  We all look a bit silly in our furry boots and poofy coats.

Surrounded by blue skies, white-capped mountains and tempting ski-trails, it was initially difficult to get myself inside a dark theater to do what I came here to do – watch movies! I overcame the hurdle to see several interesting docs:

imageBIG RIVER MAN tells the story of Slovenian endurance swimmer Martin Strel who swims the length of the Amazon to highlight environmental issues. Narrated by his son and manager John Maringouin, the film follows Strel 3,375 miles (66 days) as he completes history’s longest, most perilous swim. 

image Doug Pray’s latest film ART AND COPY explores the world of advertising with a focus on the minds behind some of America’s most influential campaigns, like “Got milk?” and “Just Do It!” Many of you may remember Doug from his STF screening of BIG RIG in Fall 2007.
image THRILLER IN MANILA tells the story of the relationship between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali (primarily from Frazier’s perspective), culminating in their third and final confrontation on October 1, 1975, in the Philippines.  Even though I’m not a boxing fan, I found this film thoroughly engrossing.
image Even though Charleston High School in Mississippi is integrated, proms have remained segregated. Actor Morgan Freeman offers to pay for an integrated senior prom and the school board accepts.  PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI captures the lead-up to the high-school’s first ever integrated prom in 2008.  Two high school members participating in the Q&A confirm that the high school will also hold an integrated prom in 2009.

image And completely unrelated to docs, I made a great musical discovery at the Sundance ASCAP music cafe today.  Among the line-up of Chad & Jeremy, Dan Wilson and Rachael Yamagata was an artist I had never heard of before called Katie Herzig.  Fabulous!