Park City, UT – It’s finally here! Last night, I attended the legendary Volunteer and Staff party which did not disappoint. Within seconds of entering I had the privilege of meeting one of the festival’s Senior Programmers John Nein and it wasn’t too long before we were comparing our top 10 films of 2014. To put things in perspective, the programmers see every film that is screening here before the festival begins! That’s over 200 films, not to mention the ones that aren’t accepted to the festival. In other words, these people see a lot of movies, and the way in which they digest them must be completely different than any other moviegoer. Shortly after I bumped into a friend of my mom’s who I hadn’t expected to see, and over the course of the 4 hour event, I met countless other people who I will likely cross paths with again. I am continually impressed with the friendliness and outgoing nature of every volunteer. It is a great group to be surrounded by.
Today, the rest of the festival crowd slowly made their way in and tonight everything took off. I was thankful to part ways with my accommodation at the Chateaux Dorms, which is the most affordable place to stay in Park City, but definitely not somewhere ideal for the entire festival. I gave a ride to a volunteer at the Temple Theatre a ride to his job since the buses haven’t completely started running yet. Afterward, I ventured toward Main Street for the first time this year, and in typical Sundance fashion, I met three volunteers in the corporate section on the bus and joined them for lunch! With all the volunteers I meet, you never know if you’ll see them again, but in the meanwhile it is great company, and in the likelihood that we do see each other again, it will certainly be serendipitous.
After lunch, a group from Chapman University who I’ll be spending a lot of time with arrived so I met up with them and showed them around a bit. This place is certainly overwhelming at first but after you’ve gotten your bearings it’s fun to master.
Because Day 1 is nearly impossible to see movies at for non-ticket holders such as myself (and other volunteers), we volunteers were treated to another screening, this one in the US Dramatic competition: The Witch. My thoughts:
The Witch (US)
Director: Robert Eggers
Writers: Robert Eggers
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Set in 1600’s New England, a devout Christian family settles in the wilderness and slowly finds their lives torn apart by witchcraft coming from the nearby woods. If the description didn’t make it already clear, this is a horror film, and may be one of the scariest movie experiences I’ve ever been in. If I find myself saying, “It’s only a movie,” I know I’m really getting scared! Going into the movie we were told how much the first time director had painstakingly researched this time period in order to maximize historical accuracy. Sure enough, the film truly looks like it is that old, and the time period makes the movie what it is. These characters are devout Christians and their strong sense of duty toward God and belief that He is doing what is right is brought to the test when a witch may be among them. It seems like every horror film has to bring in some religious element, but never before has it felt so essential to the storyline than here. While the story itself is a little confusing at times (it is taken from an old New England tale), everything the film does to set up the fear and suspense is beyond effective. Almost the entire film takes place with just the family members, and no character is left undeveloped or underutilized. There are two technical standouts. First, the cinematography, which often lingers on shots but never loses interest and delivers some really powerfully composed imagery. Secondly is the musical score, which isn’t even in a lot of the film but maximizes its potential every time it is used. It is my understanding that all of the instruments that were used on this film were from the time period or older, another example of the powerful measures the filmmaker took to ensure a sense of historical accuracy.
Again, this is a film that I would only recommend to someone looking for a horror film, and it is without question one of the most effective horror films in recent memory. But for those who get scared easily, stay far away from this picture. The film officially premieres next week, and I look forward to seeing how it gets released (I have no doubt it will). This is the type of film that generates buzz at Sundance because it evokes such a visceral reaction from the audience (I may or may not have said ‘What the f*ck?’ out loud during one scene). Therefore, it was a great choice for a volunteer screening and I am grateful to have seen it.
Immediately following the film screening, I finally took my first shift as a Sundance volunteer! One word: cold. Admittedly I’ve been spoiled the last couple days with indoor training and screenings, but I will definitely be earning every film I see with standing in the cold. I love when people are there and I can actually help them, but there is a lot of time in between screenings and buses when people aren’t around. After my phone died, I had to start being creative, and that meant reading the film guide thoroughly. Fortunately, from here on out all of my shifts are in the morning, meaning my friend the sun will be there to keep me company. Tomorrow will be the first full day of the festival, so sleep will be imperative and slowly will become more difficult to acquire. The best still lies ahead!