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.

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