I spent most of the weekend with my younger brother and half-sister at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City. The festival is a strange mix of experiences for me.
First, I was excited to be with my siblings and I always think of movies as impersonal events. Like if you take a date to a movie, you may as well just be watching a movie by yourself at home. You can't talk, you can't get to know each other. So I was a little resentful of the movies for dominating the time I could spend with family, but at the same time: They flew in from California for the festival. So I can't be that mad.
And it is possible that the movies saved my little sister from having her ear completely gnawed off by me. I can be loud. I can be obnoxious. I can take things too far. When I say things that may be overheard like:
"We'll just hang out here with the smokers... even though they aren't supposed to be smoking within 25 feet of the entrance to the building. AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT, PEOPLE?"
or when people are shuffling into the theater seats a row behind us and I stop talking mid-sentence to whirl around and hiss the word
at somone, and then my sister started laughing a hearty laugh... I want to believe that it was because she finds me wildly entertaining and not because laughing is just her way of dealing with an embarrassing situation. I ask that my sister please let me believe that, even if it isn't true.
My sister is in the "Film Society" at her respective university and she had a house with twentysome of her fellow students in the mountain town. There were two students in particular who seemed to be the designated Bosshogs who yapped and yapped about making everyone stand in line for tickets but never seemed to get anything accomplished aside from making everyone wait around and listen to their annoying boardroom-type banter. We were supposed to give some girls a ride into Salt Lake to their hotel and we felt obligated to listen to everyone gab for almost half an hour with no final decisions when my little sister just told them, "Well, we're going now." And then she walked away slowly with a sidelong glance as if to say, "going, going, gone." It was the right move.
When we got to the car, I said, "That one guy talked so funny. He's from the Future Micro-managers of America or something." I also added later, "He probably talks that way about everything, too, like taking out the garbage."
My brother said, "I've talked to him twice now and BOTH TIMES he used the word 'GOTTEN.' Is that even a word? It doesn't sound right."
And my sister lost her faith in the Future Micromanagers of America when it turned out that I kept buying my tickets right at the door when the movies started for less than what she was paying for tickets bought by her fellow students sleeping on sidewalks in freezing weather. After that she didn't have anything to do with her film society and made it into all the movies she wanted to see anyway.
The festival is a fun atmosphere as long as you don't gag on all the people flaunting money and trying to look important. It seems like most of the films are out to shock people. I commented that I would like to see ONE film that doesn't have a gun in it and everyone seemed to be doubtful that I would achieve that goal. Maybe the party got started on the wrong foot when the first movie I saw was called "Weapons" and the opening scene of the movie has Nick Cannon's brains getting Wild n' Out with the aid of a shotgun. That movie was well-made but still amounts to just hanging out with a bunch of dumb teenagers.
We watched a mexican movie called "Night Buffalo" and though I seemed to understand most of what they were saying, even without the subtitles, it still left me completely lost.
When we came out of the theater I said, "That movie was surprisingly boring considering how many naked people were in it." And I asked my sister, "Why didn't I understand it? Who was that guy with the longer hair?"
She said, "That was a flashback. It was the main character."
I said, "Oh crap. I thought the whole thing was in chronological order."
It was one of the most confusing movies I've ever seen. But even if I knew that most of the scenes were flashbacks I am still convinced that the ending was stupid.
I didn't see any stars while I was there. My sister got into Steve Buscemi's movie and he told everyone the backstory to the remake he made. My sister also knew the director of a movie called "Four Sheets to the Wind." He is a native american from Oklahoma and the movie is basically about an Indian who discovers that there is life off of the rez.
Before the showing of the film, we went to a luncheon being held by all of the people who made the movie. The director was there and all and we sat at a table with a bunch of people who are part of the film festival.
A lady who said she was a film-maker and "programmer" for Sundance started talking to my sister. My sister just told her she was there with her film society and that she had met the director of this movie and then my sister got up to buy us tickets to the showing of Four Sheets that started immediately after the luncheon. The Festival ladies turned to my brother and I and wanted to know what business we had there.
I said, "That girl is our little sister and we're just here to make sure nobody messes with her." And I tried to say it in a way that implied these little ladies had better watch out. I told them that I lived in Utah and that my brother was living on the rez. They asked where the reservation was in California and I asked them if they had heard about the 2002 fishkill in the Klamath River, as that is one of the more notable news stories of the rural area in recent years. They said no but they wanted to know all about it. I directed them to my brother as he has worked for the tribal fisheries department for years and years now.
My sister returned from unknowingly buying tickets to some after-party later in the week that none of us will be able to attend, and she was surprised to find us talking about the river and salmon. I started to apologize to my sister for being weird and she said, "No, I'm glad you are talking about this... I just don't understand how this conversation got going in the few seconds it took me to go buy tickets."
It turns out that the film-maker/programmer is from Oakland (which is near my sister's school) and is making a movie "about water." The lady told my brother she would like to talk to him more about the whole fishkill story because of his fish knowledge, but it was my sister who was there to make connections so we had to bump her into the spotlight. I told them that my sister was the leader of her tribal youth group and student body president and that she had won a major environmental award over a river project. My sister told me to hush and gave the lady her business card (18 with business cards!) and told her she could send her a good DVD about the whole thing.
My sister was a little disappointed that during her entire time at the film festival, she had only given out that one card. I told her it sounded like that might be the one that counts though.
There was another lady at our table who said she was in charge of all of the shortfilm submissions for the whole festival. My brother and sister didn't realize who she was but I told them, "I think she's just the lady who picks up the mail. Otherwise I would have laid on the charm." Instead of trying to impress her, I told her about my role in that "vampire western" movie I worked on. About how I played an Indian guide who is killed by vampire only to rise again as a vampire and be killed again. And I told her with a straight face that it was a shame that the film was never finished because "it was really groundbreaking stuff." The lady had no response.
Then I missed the "Four Sheets to the Wind" movie because there was no place to park the car and the movie would have been half over by the time I parked and rode a shuttle back to the Raquet Club. So I let my brother and sister watch the movie and I played Mario Kart in my car until the movie was over.
So I embarrass my sister but I do it for her own good. And I'm trying to help her. If I expect her to come back I think I will probably have to make my own awesome film for the festival and then I can be her connection. I am going to get to work on it right away.
I like the movie-makers probably more than I like the movies themselves. It's interesting how it all comes together. And the lesson my sister should learn from this experience is the same lesson we should all learn: It doesn't matter what knowledge you have, it matters what you will do with that knowledge. Think about it.