Friday, January 28, 2011

Dinner Time!!

On Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday each student condo hosted a home cooked meal for the rest of the class.  Great time to gather and swap stories about our adventures.  Here are some photo highlights.

Yes!!  That is REAL FRESH SNOW from the snow garden behind the condo.
Brian House sure knows how to mix a delicious snow cone!  Yum!!

DJ Bowen and Lauren Lahey ponder their options.
Chris Kovar, cheese slicer extraordinaire, and Hailey Yaffee.

Adrienne, Natalie, Cynthia and Lauren feasting.

DJ, Chris, Brian and Sami humor me with a group photo.
Jay Surface, BBQ chef, takes a break from the Barbie to pose
with Stephanie Milz.'s cold out here!
Okay, Jay.... back to work.  We have a hungry crowd inside.
Hey, Steph, pretend you're helping Jay.
Good Job!!
Maddy and Alison baking cookies behind the remanants of a scrumptious
pan of lasagna made by this suite of Gaels.
A very popular Hailey passes out cookie joy to all as DJ tries to figure
out how the pitcher works.
Eating great food and watching President Obama deliver his
State of the Union address.

These talented SMC scholar chefs bask in the afterglow of creating
and serving a successful meal to grateful classmates and instructor.


Tuesday was an amazing day!  I had the pleasure of seeing 2 phenomenal documentary films with several students from our class.  We were all blown away, moved and enlightened.  We met remarkable HEROES at the festival.   Those who truly deserve celebrity status and recognition not only at Sundance, but from the global community.  After the film we spoke with Guatemalan forensic anthropologist Fredy Peccerelli.  Fredy, who has a radiant and joyful presence, lives daily with death threats as he works in mass burial pits to exhume and identify bodies of "the disappeared" - victims of the genocide perpetrated by the Guatemalan government and army in the 1980s.   We also met 28 year old Guatemalan attorney Alejandra Garcia Montenegro who has spent her entire young life relentlessly seeking the truth about her father's (labor leader Fernando Garcia) disappearance in 1984 when he was kidnapped by the army and government.  We also spoke with filmmaker Pamela Yates, the director of "Granito," and one of the most courageous persons one could ever imagine on the planet.  The footage shot by Pamela Yates - who risked her life to record - in the 1980s in Guatemala during the period of the genocide has provided critical evidence against Guatemalan officials responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Mayan citizens.  "Granito" is the story of how Yates' film - "When the Mountains Tremble" - and unused footage from that film has and is assisting in bringing the those responsible for the heinous crimes against the people of Guatemala to justice.
DJ Bowen, Virginia McCarthy and Chris Kovar with
Guatemalan Forensic Anthropolgist Fredy Peccerelli.

DJ, Brian House, Chris Kovar, Virginia ,McCarthy, and Jay Surface,
with GRANITO director Pamela Yates (behind Virginia) attorneyAlejandra Garcia Montenegro(in front ofChris Kovar), producer Paco de Onis,  and Fredy Peccerelli.

Our Very Own Prince Harry!

Christopher Kovar has been approached for autographs a number of times here at Sundance.  Prince Harry double, or not?

Your call !  ;-)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SLAMDANCE !! What a trip..... Really !!

Hit the web and get the 411 on Slamdance.  Spawned in 1995, this renegade festival has been going strong ever since.  I remember my first Slamdance experience in 1995.  Spike Lee's brother, Christopher, had a film in the renegade festival (the film was awful!!) and the one screening room had no chairs....  only bean bags and floor space.  ugh!!  I haven't seen a Slamdance screening since then and thought they must have improved a lot by now.  So, I scored 6 tickets to the one and only screening of PETE SMALLS IS DEAD starring Peter Dinklage, Steve Buscemi, Rosie Perez, Tim Roth and Seymour Cassel and directed by Alexandre Rockwell, a protege of John Cassavetes.   Picture me and 5 SMC students heading into a room with the other ticket holders and discovering that - YES! - there ARE chairs, AND they're on risers.  Sweet!   However, there are only 75 chairs and nearly 100 of us.  As the last few chairs available became scarce, a musical chairs, keystone cops energy took over and people were flinging their bodies at empty chairs, elbowing and 
T-Boning total strangers in their scramble for a seat.  Needless to say, some of us ended on the floor and I took a seat on the edge of a riser.  Then, I notice a little boy who looks maybe 10 years old holding a microphone and standing in front of the movie screen. Next to him is a keyboard and an accompanist.  Hmmmm??  Cut to:  30 minutes later and 3 incredibly looooong and strange musical numbers performed in Barry Manilow-in-Vegas style (which is really weird when a little kid does it!).  At first the spirit of the audience was very generous and supportive.  C'mon, a cute little kid (turns out he was 12) singing songs he had composed himself about love, longing, heartbreak, the vicissitudes of relationships, and one number that I found quite alarming as the refrain was; "They're coming.  They're coming.  Watch out.  They're coming."  Needless to say, a rift quickly formed between audience members who couldn't refrain from cheering the kid on, and those who responded to: "Do you want to hear another one?" with growls and grumbles that would frighten a wolf.  Truly bizarre.  By the 3rd number, I reeled back and forth between rounds of giddy laughter to existential moments introspection.  Audience members, total strangers, shot pleading glances across the room at one another as a collective WHY? hung in the air.  Pete Smalls was Dead (though not really), and we were oh so alive to the mystery!!

Jay Surface and Sami Al-Asfour before the TEST on nerves unfolded....

Adrienne Kwok-Lundy and Cynthia Osborne on their little slice of floor heaven.

Grace Bosque wondering....when will this kid STOP!!

Cynthia and Adrienne posing during the Q&A with the director and star: Peter Dinklage (in BG).

Actor Peter Dinklage with Jay Surface and Grace Bosque.

On far left, famed director Alexandre Rockwell, his friend?, Jay, Grace and Sami.

Steph here!! Day 6

I have already seen so many amazing movies here!!! My first film was called The Woman, which I watched Sunday at midnight, as part of the Park City at Midnight section. It was a wild trip of a film! I was so confused the whole time about what was going to happen next. But it was a very exciting journey getting to the end. We met the entire cast after, and even joked around with the main girl after because she was around our age!
Full cast of The Woman

Grace, Steph, Sean Bridgers and Chris

Steph, (Pollyanna McIntosh The Woman), Chris, Grace and Cynthia

Chris and Director Lucky McKee     
Cast of The Woods

 On Monday, I saw The Woods. Which was a really funky satire movie which attacks young, modern globally conscious citizens. 8 young adults go into the woods to "escape" what our world has become; but before leaving preset their DVR's, and pack a U-haul with flat scenes, xboxs, washers/drier and other various appliances. Yeah.... really roughing it, haha!! It was a fun movie with a very unique concept but was sort of slow in the middle. The cast looked like they stepped out of an Urban Outfitters catalog!

Tobey McGuire

The Details
Then on Tuesday, I saw four movies!! Which seems like a lot, but here at Sundance; it's just the way things go! I had my first movie at 9:!5, called the Details, which featured Tobey McGuire and Elizabeth Banks. It was a very off-beat romantic comedy... more on the comedy side. It was amazing, full of laughs, but VERY mainstream. It will definitely be in a theater near you soon enough!! During the Q and A Tobey McGuire showed up! Which was a very nice surprise.
After The Details, I went straight to the Egyptian witch is the theater on main street that is the background :) and saw Attenberg. I appreciated the independent-ness of this movie... but it wasn't really for me. It was definitely very unique... but so far has been my least favorite movie here. After that I had a little break, came back to the condo and took a nap then went to Hell and Back Again!! Which was a documentary about the war from the Marines perspective and the trouble of the transition from war to back home. It was the best thing I think I have ever seen... so beautifully filmed and edited. If I didn't go into it knowing it was a documentary I would have thought it was a regular feature film. It was amazing... look for it come next Oscars haha. The we had a movie at midnight all together called Shut Up! Little Man. Which was another documentary. It was very funny!! So far today I've seen Here and Little Birds. Here stared Ben Foster and had gorgeous cinematography. Little Birds was amazing! The main actress Juno Temple was remarkable in the film. I got a chance to meet her after and she was so cute and sweet! Too bad she's leaving tomorrow or I'd definitely try to hang out with her haha! That's all for today!! Tomorrow I have a 9 am moving so get back to you all with that!!

Q and A from Pete Smalls is Dead, a Slamdance film featuring Steve Buschemi

Our Very Own Sundance Celebrity!!

BRIAN HOUSE, SMC student and filmmaker extraordinaire, is here with us at Sundance!!   In July, Brian was working in Haiti to help with the relief effort along with other SMC students and Professor Shawny Anderson.   Brian submitted footage that  he shot in Haiti to Ridley Scott's international project called: Life in a Day.  The film has its Sundance premiere on Thursday, January 27. That's tomorrow!   Brian's footage was selected out of 86,000 submissions from all over the world !! AMAZING!!  Only 1,000 entries were selected out of the total submissions.  Nice work, Brian.  Let's hear it for the Gael !!
Brian in front of the Sundance Box Office

DJ's take on Granito!

Granito.  In English, means a “tiny grain.”   However, this translation doesn't totally do justice to the Sundance film's motivation, agency, and powerfully presented message. In the Guatemalan Mayan tradition, a granito is more analogous to a stepping stone or a rung on a ladder.  After decades of American backed dictators stripping Latin America of its history, culture, and identity, the native Guatemalans know that swift justice would not be realistic. Enter the idea of a single granito.

A single tiny grain may seem to some so insignificant, so ineffectual, so powerless.  However, together a collective of many tiny grains  can contribute to momentous change.  Together many granitos can work to identify and confront injustice.  Together many granitos can stage a protest and raise awareness.  Together, many granitos can unite and change the world.  It is not typical for one to wake up in the morning, yawn, stretch, and say, “I want to change the world.”  In Guatemala, that sentiment would more likely be “WE want to change the world,” because a central value is community.  And a community is a collective of granitos.
A spark inside me arose when I recalled the College from which I will soon receive a degree. Saint Mary’s has three distinct traditions: Catholic, Liberal Arts, and Lasallian. The Catholic ideals originate from social teaching by members of the faith such as Dorothy Day and Father Damien. The Liberal Arts angle provides students a pathway to converse about the intricacies of life through Seminar, then experience them during January Term, not the least of which I am partaking in by attending this Sundance Festival. The Lasallian tradition contains many core values, including quality education concern for the poor, and respect for all persons. Saint Mary’s has only 2,500 students, but they contribute over 42,000 hours of service every academic year, according to the social justice center on campus, CILSA. But one person did not perform all of this service alone; in fact, over half of the student body contributed to the final number. When all is said and done, I will have contributed over 1,000 hours during my four-year career at SMC. I consider myself a grain in the midst of a field of change that contains many other like-minded granitos.
Granito, is a Sundance documentary film that revisits the tragedies of a revolution seeking justice in Guatemala.  It features several people who are working towards positive retribution and transformation in the aftermath of a struggle of the people, by the people, and for the people. Some granitos include a lawyer seeking redemption following her father’s disappearance, a forensic archeologist uncovering and cataloguing mass graves of some of the 200,000 murdered despite facing daily death threats, and lawyers working on the case on an international level to bring the perpetrators of the Guatemalan genocide of the 1980s to justice. The moving portrayal of a country attempting to heal MUST be seen to understand the effects of the United States’ involvement in international affairs - particularly in Latin America - to understand the importance of a film festival to demonstrate an urgent social justice problem, and to understand a culture regaining its relevance and identity.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day Four from Jenna

So basically, this whole adventure in Park City has been amazing! We've got acquainted with the town and also have all been able to hang out from time to time. The first night I was fortunate enough to go to the premiere of Pariah. It was a remarkable film dealing with the struggles of fitting in while being an African American lesbian in a big city. It deals with so many more everyday issues that high school students deal with everyday. We were able to meet the lead actress and the director. The next day Natalie, Chris, and myself went to Eccles Theatre and saw Shorts Program I. There were six short films involving serious, awkward, and hilarious themes. Lake Bell had her short, Worst Enemy featured in the program who Natalie and I had the pleasure of meeting. She's been in It's Complicated, What Happens in Vegas, and most recently No Strings Attached. After, we embarked through the town and were able to meet up with Brian, a Saint Mary's student who has footage featured in Life in a Day. Life in a Day is a film at Sundance that has numerous clips from people from all over the world on one particular day. That evening, Brian, Natalie, and myself ran into Fred Stoller. He's appeared in numerous sitcoms including Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends. He has a film in Slamdance titled Fred and Vinnie. Saturday involved wandering Main Street and searching for celebs. We were only able to see Nicholas Braun a Disney channel star, Eliza Dushku who was in Bring It On, and Paul Giamatti through a window.
Today included getting free stuff, searching for stars, and trying to get into places that are extremely exclusive. I guess you could say we were only successful with getting free stuff........ Don't get me wrong we got incredible stuff including beanies, makeup samples, and a pair of Sorel boots, pretty sweet to say the least. We did see some celebs though including Tenley from The Bachlorette and Ross Matthews from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Chelsea Lately. Other classmates managed to see Zooey Deschanel, Paul Rudd, and even James Franco all today. I must say though, these same students did not get to experience K'naan, a songwriter and rapper from Somalia. He put on an absolutely incredible and moving performance that all audience members enjoyed.
Currently majority of the class is at one of the condos enjoying a barbecued dinner while we share stories from our trip so far and of the amazing time we're having. More stories to come!

James Franco!!!

Ahhhhh!!! we saw James Franco yesterday!! We didn't get a picture because we were all so star struck.

So here's the dish.... Ted, Chris, Grace and I (Steph) were standing in Slamdance (which is a festival also in Park City during this time, featuring some of the films not accepted in  Sundance) and no one else was around, then all of a sudden two guys and a lady walk in straight to the elevator. Then we realize it was James Franco!!! He walked right by Ted and he started freaking out, whispered it to me and I hit Grace to turn around. It all happened so fast and we were literally star struck. Then he was gone, up to the third floor to do an interview with CNN. It was so awesome though, he is even better looking in person. Can't wait to see him host the Oscars!!

Video footage from Sami!!

Day Four

Time for some Jay.

Well so far Sundance has been nothing short of a good time. Had a couple of star sightings so far. Lil Jon was just getting off the mountain when we saw him. I have currently seen one movie and it was amazing. It was called Pete Smalls Is Dead. Met the director and the star of the movie. Park City is nuts on the first weekend, but don't worry I am handling business for the boys. These next six days should be nothing short of one of the best experiences of my life. Utah and Park City needed an upgrade, and of course, I was the answer. First indie horror film tonight, should be real nice. HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Message from Virginia!!

The Sundancers!!!
We scored lots of tickets at the box office last night and most students have already seen their first Sundance 2011 film.  Last night, Alison Clark, Jenna McCay, Maddy Aliotti and I saw the premiere screening of  PARIAH at the Eccles Theatere.  It is the story of a 17 year old African American, lesbian girl struggling with coming out to her parents who are not prepared to accept that their daughter is gay.  The Eccles is located at Park City High School and is the largest theater venue in PC with 1350 seats.  The screening was completely sold out.  We did have to wait in the great snowy outdoors for about 30 minutes before getting into the theater.  (Brrrr!)  The film was fantastic.  It was a fine example of a classic Sundance Indie film:  low budget, a relatively unknown yet phenomenal cast, first time female director (Dee Rees), very compelling, character driven and excellent script.  After the Question and Answer session with Director, Producer, and Cast which follows every Sundance screening, Alison, Jenna, Maddy and I met the lead actress (Adepero Oduye) - see photo.  She was a hugger!  ;-)  A great start to this year’s festival!!
The whole group waiting for the shuttle in Park City, Utah

The Group in front of the Sundance 2011 Box Office

Maddy, Alison, Jenna, Virginia

Jenna, Adepero Oduye, Alison, Maddy

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Park City!!

Steph here!
Packing last night was crazy! I kept thinking my suitcase was too heavy and taking things out. Here's a picture of my suitcase!!
I brought TONS of layers!! Boots, hats, scarfs and lots of socks!!

We met at the airport this morning around 9 and got ready for our flight to Salt Lake City! We landed here at 1:45 (mountain time), got our luggage, hopped on a shuttle, and headed to Park City!
Here's all of us at the airport:

When we got into Park City we checked into our condos, got movie tickets, went to dinner and then explored main street! Our condos are awesome!! They are so nice. We have three bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms. I'll get some pics up tomorrow, but as for now I'm tired.... more tomorrow after we explore Park City!!

Oh yeah... here's an awesome pic of the mountains from our plane!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Take a look inside DJ's Suitcase!

I packed two pairs of trendy shoes, and I'm relying on my basketball shoes [with lots of grip] to get me through the snow. After that, it's basically a few pairs of jeans, a couple beanies, a couple flannels, a couple thermals, two smaller jackets, and my favorite Big Ol' Eskimo jacket. I have some thick socks, that Bank Robber Ski Mask, and a scarf, but I think I need to add some gloves before we head out in 4 days.

Lastly, I made this playlist for those moments to calm down and get some shut-eye. This could be on the plane, on a random couch, at night in bed, or any other time when sleep is much needed [especially after an exciting midnight premiere or something]. So, if anyone wants any of these songs, I can pop them in a zip file and shoot em your way. Hope everyone else's packing goes well!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A message from Virginia :)

This is the 14th year that I have taken a group of St. Mary’s College students to the Sundance Film Festival.  Once again, I feel tremendously grateful and privileged to embark upon this adventure with a group of intelligent, engaging, hardworking, wise, and insightful young women and men.  In preparation for this course and prior to January, these dedicated students viewed and reviewed 10 independent films from Sundance past and read Party in a Box, a book that chronicles the history of the first 20 years of the festival.  In the 9 days (27 hours) of class meetings we’ve spent together on campus, and in addition to course instruction, they have engaged in lively discussions about these films and readings, about what makes a film independent or mainstream, and about the mythic dimensions of film.  In addition, these diligent scholars have viewed and reviewed 4 documentary films from Sundance past and read 2 books on the mythic dimensions of our culture and times: The Power of Myth and The Sacred Santa.   At the festival, the students will view anywhere from 15 to 30 films in 9 days.  Some may even top the 30 mark!  Yes, depending upon their schedules, finances, energy and interests, it is certainly feasible to see 4 films in a day at the festival - which I have done myself more than once !  We have had 2 guest speakers this year.  Our first speaker was Debbie Brubaker - a very accomplished San Francisco based film producer who has had numerous feature films premiere at Sundance, and who has another film premiering at Sundance this year, a documentary entitled “Miss Representation” (directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome).  Our second speaker will be 2004 St. Mary’s graduate and Sundance Film Festival Course alumnus, Robert Ogden Barnum, a film producer, distributor, and Chief Operating Officer of Benaroya Pictures.  In a few short years, and through extraordinary focus, diligence and the fortitude to take calculated risks, Robert, a complete outsider in the film industry before attending Sundance in 2004, has successfully established himself as a film producer and distributor with numerous films to his credit.  Now, 7 years after his first experience of Sundance, a film that Robert produced is premiering at the festival entitled “Margin Call” starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci.  I want to warmly welcome all of our readers to this first ever Sundance Film Festival blog and express a very special thanks to Stephanie Milz, currently a student in this course, who has taken the lead to make this blog possible.  Thank you, Stephanie!  We are so fortunate to have you at the helm of this endeavor.  On behalf of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival class, we thank our readers for your interest in our journey and look forward to sharing our adventures with you at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Here's a little bit of information about our amazing professor!

Virginia Saenz McCarthy earned her BA from St. Mary’s College in 1981 with a double major in English and Religious Studies.  In 1985, she earned her Masters Degree in Contemporary Theology from St. Mary’s College.  From 1981 - 1988, she taught Religious Studies at Moreau High School in Hayward.  From 1988 to 1992, in addition to teaching, Virginia pursued her interest in the transformative power of film through learning the craft of screenwriting and exploring the rich filmmaking culture of the San Francisco Bay Area.  From 1997 to the present, she has been teaching the January Term Sundance Film Festival course at St. Mary’s College.  In 1993, Virginia began working as a Script Supervisor on feature films and to date has 17 features to her credit.  Her credits include 2 films that received numerous Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations: “In the Bedroom” (which premiered at Sundance 2001) and “Little Children,” as well as “La Mission” (which premiered at Sundance 2009).  Click on the following link for a complete list of Virginia Saenz McCarthy’s film credits:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pre-Ordering Tickets!

Steph here!
I pre-ordered my tickets yesterday. I got tickets for 10 films, while 5 of the ones I really wanted to see were all wait-listed! So I'm going to try and get tickets from the box office when we get there. I REALLY want to see On The Ledge and My Idiot Brother, but they are wait listed. I'll camp out at the box office over night to get tickets! I did get tickets for Here and The Details, luckily. I'm VERY excited to see! I'll let you all know how they are after I see them :)

Debbie Brubaker came into class yesterday and talked to us about the life of a producer. Her resume was VERY impressive, it filled the front and back! We also watched the trailers for some of the movies she's worked on. She also talked to us about her documentary this year premiering at Sundance. It's called Miss Representation and discusses how women are portrayed by mainstream media. Every screening is already wait listed. Congrats to Debbie!
Here's the link to the movie summary:


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

10 days till Sundance!!

The countdown is officially on... 10 more days till we're Park City bound!!

Some of the group were chosen in the individual ticket lottery to pre-order tickets so we're all trying to make our schedules! It's hard picking movies because from the descriptions they all look so good!

Here's the link to the film list on the Sundance Festival page: