Seattle Filmmakers at Sundance Film Festival
By Robert Horton
The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing this week. The annual extravaganza of independent (and quite a few non-independent) movies, winds through deep Utah backcountry thick with designer parkas and all-access badges. You don't have to be a local booster to note that in recent years Northwest pictures have made a noticeable impression on the Sundance scene, and if this year's representation is smaller than previous installments of the fest, it's still a reminder that locals appear to have established a pipeline to this prestigious platform.
Sundance has the ability, rightly or wrongly, to make and break films, and it can also hold up a mirror to a play like Seattle or Portland and reflect back a portrait of a film scene. (Why do we need something else to establish that stamp of approval, anyway? That's a big subject.) For instance, the 2011 fest featured a strong slate of Oregon-made films, including the brilliant Meek's Cutoff and the vital documentary How to Die in Oregon. In recent years the notion of a Seattle film breakthrough has been validated by the Sundance success of Police Beat, Humpday, The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, and The Off Hours. At times the streets of Park City have positively swarmed with hopeful Northwest filmmakers heading toward the next screening venue.
This year, 2013, isn't quite as busy, with the highest-profile Seattle-made item being the return of Humpday director Lynn Shelton with her new one, Touchy Feely, shot in Seattle with an ensemble cast headed by Rosemarie DeWitt and Ellen Page. A few other connections are in place—Seattle-based actor Paul Eernhoorn stars in the feature This is Martin Bonner, for one—but it's a low-key year compared to recent installments.
Considering the ongoing action in Seattle and other NW sources, that's probably fine. The momentum's been laid down by these previous years, and shouldn't go away anytime soon. Next blogpost, we'll mention some of the reasons for that momentum to continue.
In the meantime, do give Hood to Coast a look-see. Featuring on Reel NW this Friday, the film is a chronicle of the 197-mile relay race that, as the filmmakers say, "winds through deep Oregon backcountry" for its grueling endurance test.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robert Horton is a film critic for KUOW (Seattle's National Public Radio station) and the Herald in Everett, Washington; he is also a longtime contributor to Film Comment and other magazines. He curates the Magic Lantern film-discussion program at the Frye Art Museum, teaches film at Seattle University, and is a guest speaker for Smithsonian Journeys and Humanities Washington, as well as a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. His books include Billy Wilder: Interviews, the upcoming Frankenstein, and the zombie-Western graphic novel Rotten and its prose spin-off The Lost Diary of John J. Flynn, U.S. Agent, and he blogs on movies at The Crop Duster and What a Feeling!. This year he is curator of the Museum of History and Industry's "Celluloid Seattle: A City at the Movies" exhibit.