Piers Marchant at Sundance Day One

January 24, 2020

Sundance 2020: Day 1

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Number of Films: 1
Best Film of the Day: Crip Camp

Crip Camp: The beauty of a good summer camp experience is the way it conflates everyone’s individual outside experience. Suddenly, you don’t have your home, your family, your friends or your enemies, all you have is the thrown together crew of people around you, all experiencing the same peculiar setting at once. In Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht’s galvanizing doc, we begin at a camp in the Catskills for handicapped kids in the early ‘70s. For many of the campers, it was their first experience of unity, of seeing other kids like themselves, and feeling free enough, at last, to be themselves. So far; so good. But this particular camp also stirred something else in the kids, a sense of purpose and outrage at being so disenfranchised  —  with many such kids being sent away to nightmarish and grossly underfunded institutions  —  so abandoned by their country. Strengthened by their unity, many of those campers banded together to take political action to change the laws in this country, staging protests, sit-ins, and marches, until the government had no choice but to take notice. Taking over a government building in San Francisco to air their grievances, a large group of activists staged a sit-in that lasted more than three weeks until they finally got their legislation signed. It is fascinating to watch these proud, fierce activists as free-wheeling teens at camp, whooping it up at a softball game, or digging an impromptu jam session on a cabin porch. The film, executive produced by the Obamas, is indeed heartening, showing the power of a unified call to action, even if, from the harrowing perspective of our current political climate, such successes seem almost unimaginable. 

Tomorrow: In contrast to my light-as-air schedule today (Sundance begins roughly at sundown on the first Thursday of the festival, but only two screening slots are available), I might be looking at the dreaded six-film day. If things go as scheduled, I’ll start the day taking in Viggo Mortensen’s debut feature, Falling; race over to see Janicza Bravo’s highly anticipated Zola; then, the Guatemalan political horror movie La Llorona; followed by Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always; then, to watch Christopher Abbott and Aubrey Plaza in Lawrence Michael Levine’s taut-sounding thriller, Black Bear; and, then, finally, top all of that off with my only scheduled midnight screening, The Night House, which promises further spookiness. 

Into the frigid climes and rarefied thin air of the spectacular Utah Mountains, I’ve arrived in order to document some of the sense and senselessness of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Over the next week, armed with little more than a heavy parka and a bevy of blank reporter’s notebooks, I’ll endeavor to watch as many movies as I can and report my findings. 11:39PM  |   URL:  https://tmblr.co/Z52bPy2nMmQAN
(view comments)  (Notes: 1)  FILED UNDER: sweet smell of successssospiers marchantfilmsmoviessundance 2020park cityfilm festivalcrip campNicole Newnhamjim lebrechtarkansas democrat gazette


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