Sundance Film Festival Diary Day Five Monday, February 1, 2021

Read my 2021 Sundance Film Festival Diary. You’ll feel like you’re in Virtual Park City.

Filmmaker Sam Hobkinson pairs an astounding Holocaust story and detective sleuthing in the Sundance documentary ‘Misha and the Wolves.’

The second half of the reimagined Sundance Film Festival is underway; another value of an all-digital Sundance becomes clear. During what I call Sundance Classic, many attendees would exit Park City after the opening weekend. Many Main Street brand houses would close doors. Industry panels and screenings would plummet in attendance. That’s not the case in 2021, thanks to a custom digital platform delivering XR activations, talks, sponsor programs, screenings, and networking opportunities. The panels and discussions I’m attending continue to boost high attendance numbers. Granted, virtual attendees are hopping in and out of Sundance from their offices and homes. While networking with other festival attendees in the daily Artist Meetups, I’m learning how Sundance artists balance life and work while streaming the festival.  It makes for a different festival experience than diving into the Park City bubble 24/7. Hopping in and out of an all-digital Sundance feels right to the new work realities of the COVID-19 era. Establishing a healthy life/work balance continues to be a daily priority in the Coronavirus time. How could a reimagined Sundance be any different?

What I’m Watching:

‘Misha and the Wolves’

Making its premiere in World Cinema Documentary Competition at the reimagined Sundance Film Festival, ‘Misha and the Wolves’ brings together doubts, childhood memories, and a Holocaust survivor’s story for a compelling documentary feature. Filmmaker Sam Hobkinson shares the fantastic tale of Misha Defonseca, an American immigrant. She attracts attention with her one-of-a-kind story about surviving in the German forest and running with wolves as a young girl while searching for her missing parents during World War II. Hobkinson skillfully balances storylines involving a big-money lawsuit with her American-based publisher, growing acclaim around the European releases of her book and a film adaptation, and investigating Misha’s real family history. Hobkinson’s filmmaking talent delivers one of those true stories that are richer than fiction. Click here for the full review of ‘Misha and the Wolves.’

‘Passing’ director Rebecca Hall shares her creative backstories and design decisions at the Dolby panel The Power of Cinematic Sound & Images for Independent Directors.

What I’m Learning:

‘The Power of Cinematic Sound & Images for Independent Directors’

Sundance filmmakers Rebecca Hall (‘Passing’) and Natalia Almada (‘Users’) share the creative backstories and design decisions around the cinematography, musical scores, the sound design of their festival features with Glenn Kiser, Director, Dolby Institute. Hall and Almada lead a fascinating conversation and provide inspiring case studies on hard work, perseverance, and risk-taking, resulting in two beautiful movies. Hall and Almada also promote the Dolby Institute and their grants that provide Dolby Atmos sound technology to independent films.

‘It’s like taste. I don’t know why I like one thing over another thing. I knew how I wanted it (‘Passing’) to feel. I knew how I always wanted it to look. I started working on the first draft 15 years ago. If you trust something, you make something that’s yours.’ –  Rebecca Hall, Director, ‘Passing.’

What’s New:

Festivalgoers attending the daily Artist Meetups can dive into small Zoom groups and connect with other storytellers from around the world. Add your contact info to a shared Google spreadsheet and grow your Sundance community.

What’s the Same:

It’s inspiring watching big deals take part in the reimagined Sundance Film Festival. Apple lands worldwide rights to ‘CODA,’ the crowd-pleasing story of Ruby, a teenage girl, and the only hearing person in her deaf family of Massachusetts fishermen. Apple sets a new Sundance acquisitions record with the $25 million purchase price. Filmmakers and their producers need to see that a healthy marketplace can be part of a virtual Sundance.

Behind the Screens:

Long lines inside the Sundance Film Festival tent outside Park City’s Holiday Village Cinemas are commonplace for highly anticipated press & industry screenings. I can only imagine what the long wait for a buzzy film like CODA would have been like this year. Granted, waiting in the press & industry line offers the chance to swap festival likes and dislikes with colleagues. There’s no need to wait for online viewing and premiere screening windows. However, digital waiting rooms before screenings provide opportunities to connect.

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